Between 1953 and 1978 hurricanes, which are tropical cyclones occurring in the Atlantic Ocean were given short and distinctive female names by the U.S National Weather Service, however, since 1979 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has used both female and male names. Naming hurricanes in this way is designed to allow people to identify with particular hurricanes easier, avoiding confusion between different storm systems and therefore raising public awareness should that be required. Prior to the current naming process, a system utilizing the storms location was used which identified a hurricane by latitude and longitude, but this system led to confusion for both the public and professional meteorologists alike due to its complex nature.
The names of hurricanes alternate between male and female names as well as following an alphabetical order, for example: Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika etc. It is assumed by many people that once used, a name for a hurricane will never be used again, however it is only those hurricanes which are particularly notable (which usually implies a costly hurricane in terms of money, lives or both) which have their names retired. Retiring a name is primarily for sensitivity and respect to the affected people or communities, with a permanent replacement name then decided upon by the WMO. A recent notorious hurricane was Katrina in 2005 which resulted in a death toll of 1,464 the majority of which were in the city of New Orleans. Katrina will therefore be a name which will not be used again and has been replaced with Katia.
Six lists of 21 names exist, alternating between male with female and following the alphabet, but exclude the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z, hence 21 names not 26. The 2005 hurricane list followed list number 3, 2006 was list number 4 and so on, the 2005 list, with its replacement name for Katrina will therefore be used again in 2011.
If during the year all the names are used (ie more than 21 recorded hurricanes) then the Greek alphabet is used (Alpha, Beta, Gamma etc), however these names cannot be retired like the names in the usual lists. The first time the Greek alphabet was required for naming purposes was in 2005, the same year as Hurricane Katrina, when 28 hurricanes were experienced.
The 2008 list (number 6) is below:
Arthur Bertha Cristobal Dolly Edouard Fay Gustav Hanna Ike Josephine Kyle Laura Marco Nana Omar Paloma Rene Sally Teddy Vicky Wilfred