The Weather Channel recently announced it will name significant winter storms starting this season. Much like how the National Hurricane Center assigns names to tropical storms in order to better track their progress and potential damage, the weather giant is now offering a similar service. While some critics question the legitimacy of their motivations as a ploy to sensationalize the weather and thus boost the channel’s ratings, The Weather Channel claims the end result will be more clarity and awareness.
Nomen es numen is a latin phrase meaning “to name is to know.” Once we can name something, we can identify it. We catalog it in our minds; we hold onto it and own it for yourselves. I already feel this way about winter storms that hit the PNW, following them from their roots in the Gulf of Alaska to the flanks of the Cascades. Now they will have a name, perhaps even a personality. Instead of referring to The Inaugural Day Storm or the MLK Storm, we can now refer to Draco and Freyr. I only hope that some of the best names fall to our PNW storms. I look forward to a fierce blast of icy wind from our first named storm; I imagine myself shaking my fist at the sky, questioning et tu Brutus? I hope to peer upon the gray skies of Gandolf and the windy mob ushering in Helen. I can only wonder if a full moon powder run will be in order after a visit from Luna.
Perhaps some of the better names will fall to eastern storms. Maybe we will end up with Winter Storm Q. Or perhaps Winter Storm Orko will hover out there like a UFO, and strange men named Mork(o) will flock to the ski area.
The Weather Channel has not fully explained how it will choose which storms to name. Storms will be named at a maximum of three days out; even The Weather Channel knows that reliable forecasts do not extend past that time frame. According to their website other factors include “disruptive impacts including snowfall, ice, wind and temperature. In addition, the time of day (rush hour vs. overnight) and the day of the week (weekday school and work travel vs. weekends) will be taken into consideration in the process the meteorological team will use to name storms.”
Social media seems to also play a role in the naming of storms. The Weather Channel wants its users to engage on Twitter and Facebook. They suggest using hashtags and storm names to join the weather conversation. I, for one, look forward to tweeting: Forecast calling for another 6-10. Bring it on #Magnus.
It is possible that storms offering significant snowfall won’t be named at all. Maybe the Storm With No Name will drop 12″ of fresh and everyone will forget to call in sick to work. That would be a pity. Except, of course, for those that pay no attention to the names and follow the forecast the old fashion way. Who knows. The No Name Storm might be this season’s best kept secret.
For now, I’m just waiting on #Athena.
- Social media drove The Weather Channel to begin naming winter storms (chron.com)
- Are you ready for Winter Storm Rocky? (news.blogs.cnn.com)