Irene photographed from space.
The current list of potential hurricane names for the Atlantic Basin is created and monitored by the World Meteorological Association. There are six lists that work in rotation; so this year's list will be used again in 2017. Each letter of the alphabet gets a name except for Q, U, X, Y, and Z. In the event that more than 21 hurricanes spawn in a single season, meteorologists dip into the Greek alphabet for names.
In the USA, hurricanes were originally named for where they made landfall or how hard the affected area was hit. But that got a little cumbersome. So, during WWII, female names were used. Shortly after the war ended, names were assigned based on the military phonetic alphabet. But between 1945 and 1953, enough hurricanes had spawned to exhaust that roster and officials went back to conventional names adding male monikers to the list.
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