Ian And Fiona Retired As Hurricane Names

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Hurricane Committee has officially retired two names from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names due to the death and destruction they caused in Central America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Fiona and Ian will no longer be used, and Farrah and Idris will replace them in the lists of names.

The WMO uses the names to communicate storm warnings and to alert people about potentially life-threatening risks. The names are repeated every six years, unless a storm is so deadly that its name is retired. In total, 96 names have been retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named under the current system.

The Hurricane Committee focuses on operational priorities, including providing forecasts and warnings for wind, storm surge, and flooding hazards, as well as impact assessments. The committee consists of experts from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and serves North America, Central America, and the Caribbean (WMO Regional Association IV).

Fiona was a large and powerful hurricane that hit communities in the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos. It then moved northward over the western Atlantic and struck Canada as a strong post-tropical cyclone in September 2022, causing significant damage and loss of life along its path. The storm brought devastating freshwater flooding to Puerto Rico and was responsible for 29 direct and indirect fatalities. Fiona is the costliest extreme weather event on record in Atlantic Canada.

Ian was a large and powerful Category 4 hurricane that struck western Cuba as a major hurricane and made landfall in southwestern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. Ian caused a devastating storm surge in southwestern Florida and was responsible for over 150 direct and indirect deaths and over US$112 billion in damage in the United States, making it the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history and the third costliest in the United States.

The WMO Hurricane Committee’s annual session took place in San José, Costa Rica, from 27 to 31 March. It was the first face-to-face meeting since 2019 and allowed for increased collaboration in advance of the upcoming season.

The committee’s work is critical to keeping nations coordinated well before the next storm threatens. The impacts from a single storm can affect multiple countries, so it is vital to have a plan, coordinate efforts, and share challenges and best practices. The WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas, said that the UN Early Warnings for All initiative seeks to ensure that everyone has access to warnings of life-threatening winds, storm surge, and rainfall in the next five years, especially in Small Island Developing States, which are on the frontlines of climate change.

The Hurricane Committee hosted a high-level panel on Hurricane Early Warnings for All as part of activities to roll out the initiative. Its objective is to ensure that hurricane warnings are understood and acted upon by the most exposed and vulnerable in the broader context of disaster resilience.

Tropical cyclones caused an average of 43 deaths and US$78 million losses per day globally and have also been responsible for one-third of both deaths and economic losses from weather-, climate-, and water-related disasters, according to WMO statistics from 1970-2019. The death toll has fallen dramatically during the 50-year period thanks to improvements in forecasting, warning, and disaster risk reduction coordinated by WMO’s Tropical Cyclone Programme.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report projects that the global proportion of tropical cyclones that reach very intense (Category 4-5) levels, along with their peak winds and rainfall rates, is expected to increase with climate warming. Developing countries and small islands are on the frontlines.