How are names chosen? At the advent of naming storms, all hurricanes were female. Male names weren't integrated into the list of Mother Nature's fury until 1978, and not until the following year for Atlantic storms. And despite the ungodly wrath that hurricanes can unleash, the earliest hurricane naming system -- dating back hundreds of years in the West Indies -- used saints' names, coinciding with the feast day on which the hurricane hit.
In the current naming system, all letters are used, alphabetically, except for Q, U and Z. Atlantic Ocean hurricanes get English, French or Spanish names in a nod to the countries bordering the ocean. The WMO now uses six lists of hurricane names that are rotated. When a storm causes particular suffering, that name is retired and another one added at the WMO's annual meeting. You may easily recognize the disaster associated with some of the retired names: Andrew, Hugo, Camille, Katrina.
If more than 21 named storms rip through the Atlantic in one season, the list goes Greek: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and down the alphabet. The names lined up for 2010 are:
The list for the Eastern Northern Pacific storms -- for example, hurricanes that threaten Mexico -- for 2010 is:
For more on the names picked for storms in the Central Pacific, Western Pacific, Australia, Indian Ocean and specific island regions, check out the National Hurricane Center.