Each hurricane season, there's a list of names (in alphabetical order) that's used to identify tropical storms & hurricanes. This makes it easier to keep track of storms...especially in terms of keeping records. Plus, it leads to LESS confusion when tracking multiple storms at once.
Before the 1950s, storms were numbered every year...1,2,3, etc...talk about confusion. Then, in the early 1950s...storms were briefly named after the phonetic alphabet: Able, Baker, Charlie...etc. By 1953, the United States decided to start giving storms strictly female names (in alphabetical order), and that continued until the 1970s.
It wasn't until 1979 when another change was made...which included adding men names to the list. So, men & women names would now be used in an alternating fashion...and that's how it's used to this day.
However, there aren't random names that are chosen from year to year. An international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has put together 6 different lists of names that are in rotation...and each list will repeat every six years. For example, the list of names used this year (2012) will be repeated in 2018....and the list used in 2014 will be repeated in 2020, etc. Click the link below to look at the lists that are set up for the next 6 years:http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml#atl
The only time a list will be altered is if a name has to be retired due to it being a destructive/costly storm...or a storm that has taken a lot of lives. In this case, the WMO will remove that name & decide on a new one to take its place (the rest of the list will remain the same). The most recent storm name that was retired was Irene back in 2011 (in 2017, it'll be replaced with Irma).
There are 21 names for each hurricane season list. If a season has so many storms that it goes through the entire list, then the Greek Alphabet will be used (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, etc.) The last time this happened was in 2005.
Meteorologist Deitra Tate