September 19, 2021

Tropical Storm Rose Forms, Hurricane Season Set To Exhaust The List Of Names...Again

Tropical Storm Rose formed way out in the eastern Atlantic Ocean on Sunday evening, becoming the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season's 17th named storm. We seem to be on track to exhaust this season's official list of names for only the third time, which would rank this year among 2005 and 2020 in terms of hyperactivity. 

Peter and Rose

There's not much to say about these storms. Peter and Rose (which sounds like they could be an awful 60s folk duo) are both puttering away out in the Atlantic Ocean. Peter is a few hundred miles northeast of the Leeward Islands, while Rose is out near the Cabo Verde Islands. 

Neither of the two storms is very impressive. Peter is struggling against wind shear and Rose is on a doomed track that will terminate with its demise by the end of next week.

Both of the storms should fall apart before they reach land, and neither will come anywhere close to the United States or Puerto Rico.

We're (Probably) Going To Run Out Of Names

Barring some unprecedented and unforeseen shutdown of all tropical activity in the Atlantic Ocean for the rest of the year, it's extremely likely that we're going to run out of names again.

We only have four names left on 2021's list after Rose: Sam, Teresa, Victor, and Wanda.

One of the biggest "whoa" moments of the historic and hyperactive 2020 hurricane season is that we ran out of names by the middle of September when Tropical Storm Wilfred formed.

There are only 21 names on each season's list of hurricane names. We skip the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z for lack of suitable replacements should one be retired.

If 22 or more storms ever developed in a single year, the plan was to fall back on the Greek alphabet to name each additional storm.

We burned through nine Greek letters in 2020, including five (!) major hurricanes and two—Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota—required retirement. The tracking map was an impossible mess to follow.

There was no plan to have to retire Greek-named storms. After all, up until 2020, storms at the very end of the list were usually weak afterthoughts that formed in November or December.

Add in the fact that several Greek letters sound the same (Zeta, Eta, and Theta each overlapped at one point) and it's no surprise that the fallback names weren't long for this world.

As a result, the World Meteorological Organization met earlier this year and decided to ditch the Greek alphabet and invent a supplemental list of hurricane names to fall back on if we ever had 22 or more named storms in a single year. (They created a similar list for the eastern Pacific basin.)

If (really, when) we reach Wanda, we'll roll over to the supplemental list for the remainder of the 2021 hurricane season, beginning with the name Adria and working down from there.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.