Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Winter Storm Names

We've been naming tropical storms and hurricanes for decades now, and the system works pretty well. So, this year, the folks at the Weather Channel thought they would start doing the same thing for winter storms as well. Reaction from the meteorological community has been...well, mixed. For instance, the National Weather Service issued a memo instructing its employees to not reference TWC's winter storm names in any of its products.

And, that's the problem. For storm names to be "official", this sort of thing really needs to come from whoever is primarily "in charge" of issuing weather-related watches/warnings and such, which in our case, is NOAA. Despite what TWC's true intentions are, given that they're a private for-profit enterprise, it's going to come across as "gimmicky" coming from them. But if the National Weather Service started doing the same thing, of course, everyone would adopt the names. If the Weather Channel (plus a few others) are the only ones using the names, and the majority of media is avoiding them altogether, what's the point? I think that alone makes it unsuccessful. Credit TWC for trying, though, and if they stick with it for the next few years, maybe it'll eventually catch on. If NWS ever does decide to implement a similar naming policy, we'll know where they got the idea. (Maybe the fact that it was the Weather Channel's idea is precisely why NWS may never do it?) Either way, only when this sort of thing comes from an official agency will it get any traction.

As far as whether winter storms need to be named in the first place goes; since we don't really get much in the way of "winter weather" where I live, I can't really comment on how useful it would be. I also can't really comment on what the threshold for naming should be. Naming a winter storm in North Dakota (state slogan: Winter Lives Here) seems like overkill to me, but we shouldn't apply "East Coast bias" to this system, either. (In other words, we can't just name the storms that are going to affect the Northeast. North Dakotans are people, too!) So, I don't know...but I do know that people in North Carolina will freak out at the prospect of a winter storm regardless of whether it has a name attached to it.

I will say this, though. If the official naming of winter storms would result in less use of annoying names that are applied after the fact such as "Snowmaggedon" or "Snowpocalypse", then I'm for it.

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