As unusual Atlantic disturbance in the second week of January turned into Hurricane Alex, making it the first hurricane of 2016.
It was the first Atlantic hurricane in January since Alice in 1955, and the first to form in that month since 1938, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s historical hurricane tracker database.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, but storms have, on an occasion, formed before and after that date
Alex became the strongest January hurricane on record when its winds reached an estimated 85 mph. This surpassed the 80 mph peak of both Alice and the 1938 hurricane.
In the end, Alex was downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall in the Azores.
Bonnie and Colin follow Alex in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season.
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms with sustained wind speed of 39 miles per hour have been named by the National Hurricane Centre in the United States. Originally, all tropical storms had female names.
The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men’s and women’s names were including in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists.
In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The first storm in the Atlantic named for a male was Hurricane Bob.
Before that, storms were named with the longitude and latitude of where they originated, but naming them after people’s names was deemed to be less confusing.
Storm names are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organisation.
There are six lists of 21 names, in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. The list of storm names is repeated every six years.
The only time that there is a change in the list if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO, the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it. Hence, Cayman won’t be seeing another Hurricane Ivan and the Sister Islands won’t be seeing another Hurricane Paloma.
We will also never see a Hurricane Zorro or Tropical Storm Quentin, as the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used in the list.
In the event that there are more than 21 storms in a season, additional names are taken from the Greek alphabet, beginning with Alpha and then Beta.