A few weeks ago, Farmers’ Almanac editor Peter Geiger took a call from a distraught reader who had just been hit by her insurance company with a “named storm deductible,” on the grounds that The Weather Channel had assigned a name to the winter storm that damaged her home.
The popular cable network began the practice of naming winter storms this past autumn. The first named storm was Athena, which hit the East Coast in early November. Though hurricanes have been named since 1945 by a variety of official agencies, most recently under the auspices of the international World Meteorological Organization, winter storms have never been named prior to this year.
When it announced the decision to begin doing so, The Weather Channel said there would be many benefits to assigning names to winter storms, including raising awareness, improving the ability to follow an individual storm’s progress using social media, and greater clarity of reporting when multiple storms strike different regions.
The decision drew some criticism, most notably from Joel Myers, founder and president of Accuweather, who believes naming winter storms will do more harm than good.
“In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety. We have explored this issue for 20 years and have found that this is not good science and will mislead the public. Winter storms are very different from hurricanes. Hurricanes are well-defined storms following a path that can be tracked. Winter storms are often erratic, affecting different areas unevenly. Their centers may not be well-defined. There may be multiple centers and they often shift. One area may get a blizzard, while places not too far away may experience rain or fog, or nothing at all. Naming a winter storm that may deliver such varied weather will create more confusion in the public and the emergency management community,” said Myers
The names the Weather Channel reserved for the 2012-13 winter season are: Athena, Brutus, Caesar, Draco, Euclid, Freyer, Gandolf, Helen, Iago, Jove, Khan, Luna, Magnus, Nemo, Orko, Plato, Q, Rocky, Saturn, Triton, Ukko, Virgil, Walda, Xerxes, Yogi, and Zeus. So far, we’ve been through about half of these names. As I write this, winter storm Luna is battering the Mid-Atlantic states.
What do you think of named winter storms? Do you like it, or is it all just a bunch of hot (er, cold?) air?