The hurricane names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) headquartered in Geneva. The WMO is in charge of updating the six weather regions of the world (the United States is in region four, which consists of North America, Central America and the Caribbean).
For Atlantic tropical storms, the National Hurricane Center created six lists of hurricane names that are maintained and updated by the WMO through an international voting committee. The lists contain French, Spanish, Dutch and English names because "hurricanes affect other nations and are tracked by the public and weather services of many countries," according to NOAA.
The six lists are kept in constant rotation. For example, the 2010 name list will be used again in 2016.
While names of hurricanes previously included names from A to Z (for example, hurricane names from 1958 included Udele, Virgy, Wilna, Xrae, Yurith and Zorna), current lists exclude Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are not enough names starting with these letters to include them.
The lists do change, however. If a storm is especially devastating, such as 2005's Katrina , a vote is taken by the WMO to determine whether it would be inappropriate to use the name again. If a name is taken off the list, another name that shares its first letter is selected and voted to replace it, Feltgen said.
The names on the six lists can be pretty unique. For example, names planned for 2010 hurricanes include Gaston, Otto, Shary and Virginie.
A storm earns its hurricane handle once it has been identified to have a counterclockwise circulation and wind speeds of 39 mph (63 kph) or greater. It is then assigned the next name alphabetically in line from the year's current name list by the Tropical Prediction Center in Miami.