The 2021 Hurricane Season Won't Use Greek Letters For Storms Forecasters used nine Greek letters to name the final storms of last year's Atlantic hurricane season. This year, the National Hurricane Center has a new plan.

The 2021 Hurricane Season Won't Use Greek Letters For Storms

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


There were 30 named storms in last year's Atlantic hurricane season, which gave the world yet another reason to chalk up 2020 as a disaster.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: We begin with breaking news tonight from the Gulf Coast - Hurricane Hanna slamming into the Texas shore.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Teddy is a big boy this afternoon - winds now up to 140 miles per hour.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Overnight, the slow-moving Hurricane Sally grinding toward shore.

MARTIN: For the National Hurricane Center and its director, Ken Graham, it was historic.

KEN GRAHAM: What a record, a record season, the most we've recorded in 170 years of record keeping.


In fact, there were so many storms that the usual list of alphabetized names for storms was too short.

GRAHAM: We have a list that rotates every six years, so that's a standing list that repeats. So if we run out of names - and that's only happened twice, 2005 and 2020...

INSKEEP: Forecasters turned then to the Greek alphabet.

GRAHAM: So we had Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, all in a row, and we had Iota.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Not one iota of difference between one storm and another, it would seem after a while. But the names got confusing, and people started mixing up the storms.

GRAHAM: Some of those were very difficult to translate into other languages. In our region, we have French, we have Portuguese, Spanish and English. You know, those names have to be as pronounceable as we can in all the languages, not offensive in any language and, really, we don't want any of those to have any alternate meanings.

MARTIN: Difficult challenge. On the advice of the World Meteorological Organization, Greek letters will no longer be used to name hurricanes. Forecasters this year will have a supplemental list of names to choose from, from Adria (ph) to Will, just in case.


Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.