Winter Weather WhatNot: The Two Sides to Naming Winter Storms

As the holiday season is knocking on our doors, so is the transitional period between the end of thunderstorms and severe weather, and the beginning of snow, sleet, and freezing rain for many. And for avid viewers of The Weather Channel like myself, then that means hearing more names than you may even hear during your typical hurricane season.

Let’s face it, the idea of naming winter storms has been a controversial subject in the meteorology community ever since the TWC folks announced their plans. Many groups were up in arms and were not ready to hop on board, including the National Weather Service. Other individuals, myself included, openly wondered if this was a mere publicity stunt for the network, hoping to use storms to boost ratings and social media engagement.

However, two years into this experiment, the positives of naming winter storms has begun to reveal itself. In a world where social media is very heavily relied upon for up-to-the-minute information, being able to categorize that information under a name is much easier than naming every other storm a “snowpocalypse” and then the rest either “snowmageddon” or a “superstorm”. Honestly, I’ve become quite happy with not having to hear those three names every few weeks from many of the major media networks.

Furthermore, being able to put a name to an impending danger has a sort of different weight to the general public than not. In a society where we have become accustomed to hurricanes threatening our shores, being able to say definitively what the storm is that will be impacting an area seems to make it easier to communicate the information in a more effective manner.

Of course, this system devised by the fine folks in Atlanta is not without its flaws in my opinion. While I appreciate the efforts made to develop this system, a private media company attempting to practically legislate how storms are classified feels off pudding. The National Weather Service understandably would be the best place to have take over these responsibilities. Additionally, the criteria for naming these storms needs further clarification and understanding, as I feel they become very muddied when it comes to the beginning and end of the winter season. For example, we are already two names into the 2015-16 season, and have yet to reach Thanksgiving. The names certainly have proven their benefit, but may prove confusing when we talk about a system with both snow and rain, and even potentially severe weather.

In the end, perspectives about The Weather Channel’s winter storm naming procedure have developed just like the network’s usage and coverage using them. Here’s hoping this latest development continues to take steps forward to benefit the public and meteorology as a whole.


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