National Weather Service has put together six list of names for the Atlantic Ocean. The list goes in alphabetical order from A thru' W, skipping Q's & U's. Each storm or hurricane as it develops in chronological order is given the next name in the list.
In case there are more than 21 storms/hurricanes in a year, Greek alphabet names are used for the next set of storm in that year: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on.
If a storm forms in the off-season, it will take the next name in the list based on the current calendar date. For example,The 2010 Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean began on June 1, 2010, and will end on November 30, 2010. If a tropical cyclone forms on December 28th, it would take the name from the previous season's list of names. If a storm forms in February, it would be named from the subsequent season's list of names.
Also, if any storm/hurricane is very deadly and devastating, that name gets retired from the list. That's the only time the list changes. Example: Charley (2004), Katrina (2005), Gustuv (2008) have been retired from the lists so that they don't repeat again.
The naming of storms/hurricane was first introduced in the year 1953. It used to be all female names, only in 1979 male names were added to the list.
Names are used over longitude/lattitude identification methods for effective communication across the miles.
For this year, Earl could be followed by Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie, Walter, Alpha, Beta, Gama, Delta... Ok! Enough with that!
In case you are interested, here are the six lists for Atlantic Ocean:
2010 list will repeat again on 2016 (hopefully there are no retiring names this year), 2011 list be repeated on 2017 and so on...