Who decides on the names of hurricanes?

Typhoons are always referred to by number in Japan. If you watch Japanese news and CNN, it’s not always clear whether they’re talking about the same storm system or not.

I don’t know what other countries in the western Pacific do.

Please always add a link to the column you’re discussing: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a891027.html

Sorry. Will do from now on.

The weather service gets lots of nasty mail every year from folks who were disappointed by wrong forecasts. These letters are sorted by first name initials, and once a year, twenty-six letters are drawn. Those who write several nasty letters in a year are more likely to have a storm named after them. Naturally, those named Xavier and Yolanda are pretty much SOL.
Glad to help out.
–Nott, the large