“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.”