What happens if we run out of hurricane names this season?

Tropical storms, disturbances in the Atlantic, Sept. 13, 2020. [NOAA satellite image]

It’s been a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, with earliest-in-history named storms forming since mid-May. And now, we’re close to running out of names.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. Every season, there are 21 chosen names in alphabetical order, with the lists repeating every seven years unless a storm is so deadly or destructive the name is retired. If there are more than 21 named storms, the names then move to the Greek alphabet.

This hurricane season, which officially began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, there have so far been 18 named storms. As of Sunday, there were three active named storms — Sally, Paulette and Rene — as well as a tropical depression and a new tropical disturbance.

National Hurricane Center graphic

That leaves just three names left: Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. It’s a pretty sure bet the list will run out before the season’s over, something that’s only happened once, in 2005. That season, there were 27 named storms, 14 of which were hurricanes, and seven of those major hurricanes.

Once Wilfred and has come and gone, storms will be given the following names: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi and Omega.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at [email protected]