Why The Weather Channel Names Winter Storms

winter
The Weather Channel has named winter storms since 2012. Patrizia Savarese / Getty Images

The Great Blizzard of 1888. The Perfect Storm. The Storm of the Century. These titles, as well as the loss and damages caused by the winter storms that bear them, will long be remembered by U.S. residents. But is it their title that makes each easier to remember?

The Weather Channel would say yes.

Ever since the 2012-2013 winter season, The Weather Channel (TWC) has given every significant winter storm event it forecasts and tracks a unique name.

Their argument for doing this? "It's simply easier to communicate about a complex storm if it has a name," says TWC hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross. Even so, an official system for naming winter storms has never existed in the United States. The closest example would be the National Weather Service (NWS) Buffalo, NY office, which has unofficially named its lake effect snow events for several years. 

Used in TWC Forecasts ONLY

When it comes to naming winter storms, not all meteorologists agree with Norcross' sentiments.

Besides The Weather Channel, no other leading private or government weather organization (not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS), nor AccuWeather) has chosen to adopt the practice of using names in their official forecasts. One reason for this is The Weather Channel didn't bother to collaborate or consult with weather bigwigs like NOAA, the American Meteorological Society (AMS), or the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (which oversees hurricane naming) before implementing this new practice.

 

But their reasons against supporting the Weather Channel's move aren't purely egotistical. Many have true concerns that naming winter storms isn't a good idea. For one, snowstorms are broad and unorganized systems (unlike hurricanes, which are well-defined). Another downside is that snowstorms can cause varying weather conditions from location to location; for example, one region may receive blizzard conditions, while another may only see rain, and this could be misleading to the public.

  

As a result of this, don't expect to see mentions of "Winter Storm so-and-so" anywhere except in forecasts issued by TWC, Weather Underground (a TWC subsidiary), and NBC Universal (which owns TWC).

How Names are Chosen

Unlike Atlantic hurricane names which are chosen by the WMO, The Weather Channel's winter storm names aren't assigned by any one specific group. In 2012 (the first year names were used) the list was compiled by a group of TWC senior meteorologists. In every year since, that same group has worked with students of Bozeman High School to develop the list.

When choosing winter storm names, only those which have never shown up on any past Atlantic hurricane list are considered. Many of those chosen are taken from Greek and Roman mythology.

Names for the upcoming winter season are typically announced every October (unlike hurricane names, which are recycled every six years.)

Criteria for Naming Winter Storms 

How does The Weather Channel decide which storms will be named?

To the chagrin of the professional weather community, there are no strict scientific criteria that must be met before a winter storm can earn a name. Ultimately, the decision is up to TWC senior meteorologists to make.

Some of the things they take into consideration include:

  • If it's evident from the forecast maps and models that the storm is shaping up to be one of historic or record-breaking proportions
  • If the 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.

The following names will be used for the winter of 2016-2017: 

The Weather Channel's Winter Storm Names

Winter 2017-201AidenBenjiChloeDylanEthanFrankieGraysonHunterIngaJaxonKalaniLiamMateoNoahOliverPollyQuinnRileySkylarTobyUmaVioletWilburXantoYvonneZoey

Where do you stand in the winter storm names debate?

Regardless of whether you're pro or con, remember to take a cue from Shakespeare...a winter storm, by any other name, would still be as hazardous.

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Means, Tiffany. "Why The Weather Channel Names Winter Storms." ThoughtCo, Oct. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/why-the-weather-channel-names-winter-storms-3444521. Means, Tiffany. (2017, October 11). Why The Weather Channel Names Winter Storms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-the-weather-channel-names-winter-storms-3444521 Means, Tiffany. "Why The Weather Channel Names Winter Storms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-the-weather-channel-names-winter-storms-3444521 (accessed January 18, 2018).