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    Nemo Controversy: Should We Name Every Big Storm?
    By Hank Campbell | February 10th 2013 07:58 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Does naming every large storm something new and distinct help?

    When all those media companies in midtown Manhattan wanted to put on their election push and remind America global warming would only happen if they voted for the wrong guy, they were disappointed that Hurricane Sandy was not actually a hurricane any more - so they called it Superstorm Sandy.  It was good marketing.

    A few days ago, I got an email from the Weather Channel outlining all of their coverage for winter storm Nemo and where they would have meteorologists, etc.

    Nemo? I thought. When did we start naming every storm that comes along?  I had assumed exaggerating Sandy - though the revitalization of a lot of antiquated, decrepit buildings on the east coast with nationwide taxpayer money is certainly a good stimulus plan - was a one-off. At least it had been a hurricane.  It's tradition that big weather events, like tropical storms and hurricanes, get names, but those are recent traditions. In 1950 the National Hurricane Center started naming storms, but it had only been done by the military before that; when you are fighting a war in the Pacific, you have all kinds of giant storms to deal with so it helps to know which one is coming and which one is leaving, since everything arrived and left by boat or plane.

    Here is the intro to the email:
    Winter Storm Nemo is bringing snow to the Great Lakes states on its way to the Northeast U.S. and The Weather Company (TWC) meteorologists believe it is a potentially historic, crippling blizzard that will seriously impact people throughout the Northeast. Forecasts include a STORM:CON 10 index for Boston, the first issuing of a “10” on this new winter weather index; with a potential 2-3 ft. of snowfall expected, as well as similar amounts in parts of Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maine, with wind gusts along parts of the coast that could reach hurricane force along with coastal flooding.
    I saw it and assumed that was a Jules Verne homage from "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" but it could just have easily been a Disney cartoon fish. Other than thinking it an odd name - when I was young storms were only named after women, there were no men and no fictional characters - it didn't bother me. 

    So why not name every storm?  Competitors to the Weather Channel do not like it but that is to be expected. If the Weather Channel gets to be the authority on names then people will assume they are the authority on lots of things. They did it with Snowtober in 2011 and that got thrown around Twitter a lot so they postulate that names for all big storms make them easier to follow.  They may have a point. Living in the remote part of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, I had lots of snowstorms that knocked out power and made it impossible to drive - luckily (well, just on those few occasions) our house was heated by wood anyway, and we went to the creek and knocked holes in the ice and got water. But I couldn't tell you what any of them were called.  How will I gripe to my kids about how easy they have it without a name they can Google to see if I am exaggerating?

    And the names The Weather Channel has on the list are at least interesting; Draco, Gandolf and Walda.

    Accuweather is not amused. Joel Meyer, founder and president, issued a statement: "In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, the Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety," he said. "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."

    Accuweather uses its own trademarked names for all kinds of things, so they aren't copying Weather Channel's "STORM:CON 10 index" either.  Accuweather has been making up dopey names for its forecasting techniques for decades.   It is probably only a concern to competitors because naming the thing Nemo worked. It got them here on Science 2.0 and weather doesn't usually do that, unless it leads to something extraordinary, like getting the president to believe in global warming again.

    Most meteorologists aren't buying global warming either, so their definition of science is suspect. If science is so important to them, there should be more outrage when meteorologists blame a snow storm on a nuclear power plant.

    Comments

    The Weather Channel really ought to end this pointless publicity stunt of naming winter storms. What gives them the right to do this? Even the National Weather Service had this to say: "The National Weather Service does not name winter storms because a winter storm's impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins."

    Of course TWC seems to have gone way downhill ever since they were purchased by NBC. I used to turn on TWC first thing in the morning, but now Al Roker just makes me nauseous with all his clowning and self-promotion. Oh LOOK! Al's lost some more weight! It's Al's birthday! Al's on the cover of "Parade" magazine! Al's written a new book! Al's run another marathon! Hooray for Al!

    Hank
    I agree, except the same argument can be made for hurricanes and tropical storms - they all have different effects in different places and the government took over the right to use names for no real reason other than what Weather Channel used. I mentioned Sandy because it got all the attention when it was not a hurricane. The rule for naming is completely arbitrary so it's a marketing gimmick, but so is Accuweather's "Doppler Radar" and plenty of other 'Now with Chemical X' claims regarding weather prognostication.