On Tuesday, The Weather Channel announced that they would be naming winter storms beginning this season. The reaction on Twitter was swift and mocking, and perhaps for good reason. The Weather Channel insists that there is real benefit to this, including raising awareness and improving communication. The research supporting these assertions was conspicuously absent.
Supporters of this idea insist that the naming of tropical storms was received with similar ridicule. I wouldn’t be surprised, but the ideas are not entirely consistent. For one, tropical systems spend most of their time over the ocean, and there are few landmarks to use as reference points. Since multiple storms may be in existence at once, some naming scheme is required. Tropical systems also have well-defined and consistent criteria for naming. The Weather Channel’s scheme is vaguely defined and depends on geography, time of day, day of the week, etc.
The Weather Channel has the weight to try to make this work. With their recent acquisition of Weather Underground, they are the most influential private sector weather player. However, I can see AccuWeather ignoring the names out of spite, and the National Weather Service ignoring them out of indifference. Will local media use the names? Without the backing of an organization like the WMO, I don’t see all of the players coming together on this.
Europe has apparently been naming extratropical systems, and I’m not sure what effect (if any) it has had on the public. I’m not necessarily opposed to the naming of winter storms (though it’s sorely tempting to use a slippery slope argument), but I need convincing that it’s a useful act. Perhaps next spring we’ll have some data to work with. Or not. This seems to be more about ratings than science.