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Greek alphabet in use to name storms

The busy hurricane season continues and for the second time on record, the Greek alphabet is being used to name storms, as the list of 21 Atlantic tropical storm names for 2020 were exhausted.

Tropical Storm Wilfred dissipated last Friday (Sept 18) giving way to the first storm to take a name from the first letter of the Greek alphabet – subtropical storm Alpha.

Alpha came mere hours after Tropical Storm Wilfred, which formed in the eastern Atlantic. Alpha’s maximum sustained winds Friday morning were almost 40 mph; however, it weakened over the weekend.

Wilfred was centered about 630 miles (1,015 kilometers) west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest near 17 mph (28 kph).

Subtropical storm Beta, which formed as a tropical depression in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico last Thursday night, reached tropical storm status last Friday evening and moved near Texas and Louisiana with heavy rainfall.

October 2005 was the first time the Hurricane Center used the Greek alphabet when the last named storm was Zeta and six names were utilized from the Greek alphabet. This was a record-breaking year with devastating hurricanes including Katrina, Rita and Wilma, whose names have since been retired.

On Monday, the US National Hurricane Centre issued advisories on five tropical cyclones over the Atlantic basin (Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy and Vicky). This ties the record for the greatest number of tropical cyclones in that basin at one time; the last set was in September 1971.

Four simultaneous named tropical storms or hurricanes have happened six other times since the 1960s.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) uses rotating lists of names in alphabetical order for tropical cyclones. Male and female names are alternated, and the lists are used every six years.

If a hurricane is particularly devastating or deadly, its name is retired and a new one selected.

The WMO explained that the hurricane name lists include just 21 letters out of 26 because it is difficult to find six appropriate names for the six rotating lists starting with Q, U, X, Y and Z.

Furthermore, due to the geographical coverage of the storms throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean, names must reflect a balance between French, Spanish and English names. They also have to respect societal sensitivities.

The 2020 exhausted list of names are Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Wilfred and Vicky.

The Atlantic hurricane season is expected to end November 30.

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