Those cute and trendy winter storm names are not made up by official sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS), the American Meteorological Society (AMS), or even the organization that names hurricanes: the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Since 2012, the Weather Channel (TWC) has assigned the monikers.
“It’s simply easier to communicate about a complex storm if it has a name,” said TWC hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross in an interview with ThoughtCo.Com.
And, it doesn’t hurt that social media hashtags with the cute storm names will direst right back to the Weather Channel.
NOAA, NWS, AMS, WMO and Accuweather do not support naming winter storms.
In an article on the Accuweather website, Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather Founder and President said, “A unilateral decision by The Weather Channel to name winter storms will create confusion, rather than delivering critical and important safety and planning information to the public,” He added, “… in deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety and is doing a disservice to the field of meteorology and public service.”
“We have explored this issue for 20 years,” continued Dr. Myers, “and have found that this is not good science and importantly will actually mislead the public. Winter storms are very different from hurricanes.”
Naming of hurricanes makes sense because they are well-defined storms following a path that can be tracked and predicted. Hurricanes have a life of many days and often weeks, move deliberately, and primarily affect a well-defined area of impact in all four quadrants, centered around the Eye-Path.™
“By contrast, winter storms are often erratic, affecting different areas unevenly. Winter storms often develop, dissipate, and reform with two to three centers, often delivering snow in only one quadrant, while places not too far away from a blizzard may experience rain or fog, or nothing at all. As a result, the public will not know what action to take when there is a “named” storm, or may take the wrong action.
By contrast, some of the most severe winter events affect only limited areas, such as lake effect snow or freezing rain, which are not even associated with a predicted storm center. Under the Weather Channel system, these might not even be named, yet they can cause death and destruction.”
AccuWeather believes that naming winter storms by The Weather Channel will increase confusion in the public and the emergency management community.
How does The Weather Channel decide which storms will be named?
TWC’s website lists a committee which is composed of three members: Tom Niziol, winter weather expert; Stu Ostro, senior meteorologist and senior director for Weather Communications; and Jonathan Erdman, digital/senior meteorologist for weather.com. Based on a thorough discussion of meteorological and societal factors that could produce a winter storm, a decision is made to name or not name. It is important to note that the decision to name a storm is solely held by this committee of meteorologists. Their criteria usually consists of, but is not limited to:
- Evidence from forecast maps and models that the storm is shaping up to be one of historic or record-breaking proportions
- NWS has issued a winter storm warning
- If the storm is forecast to impact an area of at least 400,000 square miles, a population of at least 2 million people, or both
If the answers to all of the above are “yes,” it’s very likely the storm will be named.
Names will generally be assigned at least 48 hours before a storm is forecast to impact a location. Each subsequent winter storm is given the next available name on the list. This year’s list was taken from popular baby names from Aiden to Zoey.