Friday, October 5, 2012

Naming winter storms touches off a fight

It's our job to give you all the weather news, and sometimes that means taking you beyond cold fronts and low pressure systems -- into what's happening behind the scenes.

And behind the scenes, the two for-profit giants of the meteorology world are embroiled in a spat over naming winter storms.

The Weather Channel recently announced that it will name "noteworthy" winter storms. It says doing so will make it easier for the public to keep track of developing winter storms and plan accordingly.

In other words, the way the National Hurricane Center affixes names -- in alphabetical order -- to tropical storms and hurricanes, the Weather Channel plans to do the same in winter. Most of the names date back to famous names in Greek and Roman history, but the Finnish name Ukko also is on the list for 2012-13.

I'll give you a link to the Weather Channel's story and list of names later. But back to the dispute.

A few days after Atlanta-based Weather Channel made its announcement, Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather issued a news release, criticizing the idea. AccuWeather officials say the storm-naming will confuse the public, rather than help.

Let's try to be even-handed here.

The Weather Channel says major winter storms already have been named -- such as "The President's Day Storm" and "Snowmageddon."

"Naming winter storms will raise awareness, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact on the public overall," says Tom Niziol of the Weather Channel.

The company says it will not name a storm more than three days before it threatens a metropolitan area, and it will take other factors into consideration -- the time of day and day of week that the storm will strike, for example.

AccuWeather disagrees.

Joel Myers, founder and president of the company, says his company has studied the idea for years and decided it would be doing a disservice to the public.

"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," said Myers, who has a doctorate in meteorology. "We have explored this issue for 20 years and have found that this is not good science and ... will actually mislead the public."

Myers also says many of the worst winter events are localized.

The National Weather Service has not commented on the dispute and apparently plans to remain at arm's length. That means the Weather Channel's names might not get much publicity, beyond the Weather Channel (and perhaps its parent company, NBC).

Here's a link to the story:

And here's a link to the list of names:


Anonymous said...

The Weather Channel has one objective - increase ratings. This bonehead move is nothing but more hype. TWC was once respected. Now they are like our awful local TV stations constantly yelling "the sky is falling".

Anonymous said...

The unstated reason the Weather Channel wants to name winter storms... named storms are easier to sensationalize.

I'll bet they've already got their dark graphics and scary music picked out.

WashuOtaku said...

Only a matter of time before they forget to do actual weather and instead show something like "Eskimo Pawn" or "Climate Change Truckers" instead.

BH said...

Other than the Cleveland Superbomb back in the winter of '78, I can't think of any other decent names. But that was TRULY a storm

Anonymous said...

Naming winter storms is a stupid idea. Period.

Anonymous said...

This is purely about ratings and driving ad clicks to their web site. So if a 3-4" snow affects New York City they will probably give it a name since it will affect millions (ie, all these ads, clicks), but if a blizzard hits Omaha, NE they probably won't since it won't affect that many people.

This is has everything to do driving ratings and ad clicks and almost nothing to do with public safety.

bobcat99 said...

Boooooo!!!! on the Weather Channel.

Anonymous said...

Does "The Weather Channel" do any actual weather anymore? The idea of naming winter storms is asinine.

Homer_H said...

This is almost as dumb as getting in an airplane, flying to where a hurricane is coming, and then standing out in it to show you that it is raining and the wind is blowing. (while you are telling people to evacuate because its not safe to be here)

Anonymous said...

Already calling them "Ice Blast 2012" is bad enough. I can't imagine turning on the TV this winter and seeing "Mike" is headed right for us expecting to drop 3 inches of frozen fury. Why do people always feel the need to name things?

Anonymous said...

From the looks of the list, it's just an excuse for a serious SciFi geek to use his favorite hero and villain names of all time.

This is only one of many things I've said...

I don't don't care what they name them as long as What's-Her-Name McBooty-Skirt gives me the updates on the 6's and 9's.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is a dumb idea, but I take issue with the comments of Joel Myers. I don't know what it is about the process of obtaining a meteorology degree, but somewhere in the process, the student becomes convinced no one who doesn't have their degree can do any adult function without the help of a meteorologist. What is it with these clowns? They think we will never have any idea that a storm is coming unless they interrupt broadcast programming and scream at us for hours that the storm is coming. God forbid we should go to a window and open it. Some of them think they are more qualified to determine airport activity than the FAA.

But this is pretty amazing coming from the Weather Channel, a 24-hour weather network that only shows about 5 hours of weather a day, because they're too busy showing Coast Guard work and photography wizards to be bothered with actual weather. Until they remember how stupid and lost the masses are without them.