Rating snow storms

It may be January, but with the relatively warm December we had, I’m not ready to start thinking about snow (spoiler alert: I’m never ready to think about snow). But snow is bound to happen at some point, and the Weather Channel will be sure to name the storm. Humans like to assign numbers to things. We have ratings for tornadoes, we have ratings for hurricanes, but we don’t have ratings for snow storms. Or do we?

Paul Kocin and Louis Uccelini developed the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) in 2014. NESIS considers the snow depth, the area, and the affected population. This last part makes it pretty unique among meteorological numbers. Meteorological phenomena are often considered without thought for population (for example, the National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning even if no one lives in the affected area). Tornadoes are rated based on damage (not wind speed!), which sort of proxies population, but not exactly.

NESIS doesn’t seem to be widely used, and it’s almost certainly unknown outside of the weather community. Maybe because we don’t tend to see snow storms as disasters in the same way that tornadoes and hurricanes are? It would be nice to see it catch on, though.