Hurricane “Lisa?” Hurricane “Matthew?” Who picks storm names, and what’s next on the list?

Nobody can guess how serious the next hurricane will be, but you might be able to find out what it will be named.

First, the name of a hurricane will depend on where it originates. The world is roughly divided into six major basins where storm activity occurs. Each basin has an organization that comes up with lists of names a few years in advance.

Weather events aren’t eligible for a name until they transform from a tropical depression into a tropical storm. When tropical storms reach a certain velocity, they become cyclones, which North Americans call hurricanes.

The basins don’t all follow the same rules for coming up with the names. In one basin, they don’t always use human names. But according to the National Hurricane Center, the namers for the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific basins share a common system. Male and female names alternate in alphabetical order, and the gender that the list starts with alternates every year. The lists are recycled every six years.

Letters that rarely begin names, like Q and X, are excluded from consideration, and hurricane names can be retired from the list if they’ve caused a certain level of destruction. If there are so many storms in one region that all the alphabetical names are used up, additional storms get their names from the Greek alphabet would be called “Alpha,” “Beta,” and so on.

The following are the remaining alphabetical names on the 2016 Atlantic Tropical storm list: Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, Walter

Would you want to have a hurricane with your name? Why or why not?

And what’s the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons?


  1. FORTUNE MASIIWA -  October 13, 2016 - 12:17 am


  2. Sherry R. Saulsbury -  October 5, 2016 - 11:16 pm

    I’m was very intrigued by your story bout’ hurricanes, I learned a lot from it all. Thanks.
    But I actually think the next storm will be called NELLY or NEHEMIAH!!!

  3. Brianna -  May 11, 2015 - 2:49 pm

    Can you please name the next hurricane!!!! – Brianna !!!!

    • Sherry R. Saulsbury -  October 5, 2016 - 11:18 pm

      Sorry.. they dropped Matthew in your face.

  4. online shoes -  March 29, 2011 - 6:55 pm

    Impressive, definitely superb material. This blog is absolutely awesome. I bookmarked it all of which certainly return again.

  5. Eye of the Storm -  September 22, 2010 - 5:50 pm

    Names are used because it is more fun that way. Imagine Numbering hurricanes! 5 was a pretty bad storm, no 2 was worse etc etc…

    • RedLeafRenegade -  October 21, 2015 - 11:52 am

      Will there ever be a Hurricane Jeff? :)

  6. From New Zealand -  September 6, 2010 - 6:30 pm

    They used to always be male names until womens liberation got involved around 1970.

  7. Malik -  August 31, 2010 - 7:34 am

    WHEN WILL HURRICANE EARL HAPPEN!??? And is there ever going to be a “Hurricane Obama”?

  8. Mark Billingsley -  August 31, 2010 - 12:40 am

    I can’t tell you exactly who picks the names. I do know that feminine names prevail for awhile, then masculine names are in vogue.

    • Meg -  October 7, 2016 - 10:02 am

      Yes, the title of this article lead me to believe that I would find out who or what committee decides which names to use, regardless of gender.

  9. a travel writer is a good job? -  August 30, 2010 - 4:11 pm

    Don’t be so sensitive to a gender problem, instead try to come to terms and solve a problem if there is any. For example a byproduct of excess is art work. In my case I am too dull and too lazy. Nyan!

  10. #1 Skillet fan -  August 30, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    Is there ever going to be a “Hurricane Obama”?

  11. ida -  August 30, 2010 - 3:16 pm

    Interesting stuff.
    There was a hurricane this year named after me, and for the enitire time, my sister said, “Get away from me, you natural distater.” She was joking, but it was extremely annoying!

  12. Alan Turner -  August 30, 2010 - 1:45 pm

    Give conjunctions a try and use them correctly

  13. darrah -  August 30, 2010 - 1:41 pm


  14. darrah -  August 30, 2010 - 1:40 pm

    when will hurricane earl happen!!?!?!?

  15. John Jones -  August 30, 2010 - 1:33 pm

    The use of male names for hurricanes flies in the face of tradition where the earth and its natural phenomena are universally regarded as feminine.

    The urge to masculinize our feminine agencies could only have been thought up by a bureaucrat or by a self-absorbed, unworldy scientist.

    It’s a pity.

  16. HURRICANE EARL | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 30, 2010 - 12:33 pm

    [...] DUKE OF EARL” in the “EYE” of the “HURRICANE EARL” finally has found his Dukedom — for his Dutchess or Queen if it isn’t a girl? and [...]

  17. iluvmykids -  August 30, 2010 - 12:01 pm

    Real interesting stuff. Good job dictionary.com for the information you give on the HOT WORDS.

  18. kayla -  August 30, 2010 - 11:55 am

    pray for them who could get hit by EARL!!!!

  19. CP -  August 30, 2010 - 11:54 am

    Interesting info..
    But I don’t think they should name disasters using people’s names!
    I know several people who have gotten “teased” because they happen to share a name with a current hurricane.


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