We just ran out of 2020 tropical storm names. Here's what happens next

With the formation of Tropical Storm Wilfred, we're going to need our backup plan.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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NASA and NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured this view of Tropical Storm Rene on Sept. 8.

NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (Eosdis)

It's been an Atlantic hurricane season for the record books, and we're not even close to done yet. Tropical Storm Wilfred just took the last moniker on the list of available names for 2020. That leaves us with plan B: storms named after the letters of the Greek alphabet.

The National Hurricane Center tweeted the news of Wilfred's formation on Friday, saying, "Get out the Greek alphabet for the rest of 2020."

The World Meteorological Organization maintains a rotating list of storm names and assigns 21 names to each Atlantic hurricane season. The season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, so we may end up getting pretty deep into the Greek alphabet before it's all over.

NOAA had earlier predicted an above-normal hurricane season, and that forecast has come true. We may have to shift our expectations for what constitutes a "normal" hurricane season. Research shows that hurricanes are getting stronger and wetter.

The very first Tropical Storm Alpha formed in October 2005 during an epic and damaging Atlantic hurricane season. That season resulted in 27 named storms, including six Greek letters.  

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Some storms might sound familiar. That's because Atlantic storm names are recycled every six years. "The only time there is a change in the list is 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," NOAA said.  

We might not have to wait long for Tropical Storm Alpha to earn its name. The National Hurricane Center is tracking a tropical depression known as Twenty-Two. "Slow-moving depression close to tropical storm strength," the agency tweeted on Friday.

This year's Atlantic season is one more sign of a global uptick in storm, flooding and fire activity in recent years. At this rate, the Greek alphabet will get quite a workout in the Atlantic in 2020.