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Greek letters to be dropped for hurricane names

A satellite image of Hurricane Nicole in 2019 (File photograph)

The World Meteorological Organisation has announced that it will drop Greek letters as names for late-season hurricanes.

The Greek alphabet has been used twice before when the usual storm name list has been exhausted.

But the international body admitted this week that the policy had caused confusion and said it would revert to the start of the English alphabet if it ran out of names.

A spokesman for the WMO said: “There is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used within the region.

“The pronunciation of several of the Greek letters – Zeta, Eta, Theta – are similar and occur in succession.

“In 2020, this resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously, which led to messaging challenges rather than streamlined and clear communication.”

The WMO added that Eta and Iota had caused extensive damage last November when they struck the same area of Nicaragua two weeks apart and were responsible for at least 272 deaths.

It said, because of the damage caused, both names would usually be retired even if the Greek alphabet policy retained.

The WMO also retired Laura in the wake of Hurricane Laura which battered Louisiana last year, and Dorian, after the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian hammered the Bahamas in 2019.

Dorian will be replaced by Dexter in the 2025 names list, and Laura will be replaced by Leah in the 2026 names list.

A total of 93 names have been retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named under the present system.

The Greek alphabet was used to name storms for just the second time last year after the Atlantic reported a record-breaking 30 named storms.

The 2020 season got off to an early and rapid start with a record nine named storms between May and July.

The season also ended late, with two major hurricanes in November recorded for the first time.

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Published March 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 19, 2021 at 3:24 pm)

Greek letters to be dropped for hurricane names

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