Until the early 1950s, tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked by year and the order in which they occurred during that year. After the 1950s tropical storms and hurricanes started to become named storms.
Before the 1950s, tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked only by the order in which the storms occurred. Communications personnel then learned it was easier and less confusing just to give the storms a name – especially if there is more than one tropical storm or hurricane at one time.
Female names started being used in 1953 for the United States. Then in 1978 both male and female names were used for Northern Pacific storms.
This then was the case for the Atlantic starting in 1979.
(Here’s a look at 2016 Atlantic names)
There’s a strict procedure of naming the storms. The storms are named off a list of alternating male and female names and are used on a six-year rotation. The World Meteorological Organization names the storms, not NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.
The only reason to retire a name is if that storm was deadly or costly. Also if there happens to be more than 21 named storms in one tropical season, any additional storms will be named from the Greek alphabet.
The last time we used the Greek alphabet was in 2005.