The Washington Post

Weather Channel to name winter storms for second year

Shunting aside criticism that it was unilaterally and arrogantly attempting to seize control of weather communications, the Weather Channel has announced that it will name winter storms once again this coming winter.

TWC’s press materials stress storm names help it share information about storms more easily, bridging the gap between television and social media.

“Improving communications is a key part of The Weather Channel’s core mission to keep the public safe and informed in severe-weather events,” its press release says. “The storm-naming program raises awareness and reduces the risks, danger, and confusion for residents in the storms’ paths.”

TWC unveiled its list of storm names late this afternoon, developed by high school Latin students in Bozeman, Montana and drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. The list begins with Atlas and ends with Zephyr.

Winter 2013-2014 storm names. (The Weather Channel)

Last winter was TWC’s first foray into storm naming. Some names caught on better than others, but Nemo – the name assigned to the blizzard which socked New England in February – spread like wildfire across media platforms.

“The winter storm names enabled simpler and more focused communications around forecasts and preparedness information on The Weather Channel and in other media outlets, and during the big storms like Nemo, the names became a handy way for the public to receive and exchange information,” says Bryan Norcross, a senior meteorologist at TWC.

In at least one case, a local effort to name a storm overshadowed TWC’s. In Washington, D.C., the snow (or rain) storm that affected the East Coast in early March was named “Snowquester” by us here at the Capital Weather Gang.  The Weather Channel, meanwhile named this same storm Saturn.

“[The Weather Channel’s] Saturn moniker was uttered on U.S. TV 291 times [March 5 into March 6], but only 24 instances were on stations other than The Weather Channel,” said Dave Armon, president of Critical Mention- a firm which provides global media intelligence. “In other words, Snowquester [which was mentioned 122 times] was six times more viral than Saturn.”

Related: Storm names: In defense of Snowquester

When it was announced, critics of TWC’s storm naming plan  worried it might confuse the public if TWC called the storm one name without buy-in from other weather information providers  – from the National Weather Service to TV broadcasters.

Related: Weather Channel to name winter storms: a publicity and power play with possible value

“In making this change unilaterally, The Weather Channel has essentially tossed effective risk communication out the window and their partners in the National Weather Service and other corners of the “weather community” under the bus,” wrote Nate Johnson a broadcast meteorologist in Raleigh.

Related: TV weathercasters criticize unilateral action by The Weather Channel on storm naming

“Who died and made them King?”, tweeted Richmond broadcast meteorologist Andrew Freiden.

AccuWeather expressed concerns about a “lack of strict criteria” for winter storms.

But Leigh Baldwin & Co., an investment brokerage, called the naming initiative “a stroke of marketing genius.”

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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