As I write this, another storm is sweeping through the nation.
Heavy snow and ice left tens of thousands without power, grounded air flights and made driving a misery. Does it help to know that the storm is female—Winter Storm Electra? Of course, any storm named after an ancient Greek who helped kill her mother and gave her name to a sexual hang-up is bound to be unpleasant.
US snow cover—Winter Storm Electra didn’t feel like a girly storm!
In the past, only tropical storms were named. Typhoons started getting names in 1945.The practice spread to Atlantic hurricanes by 1950. However, cold storms remained nameless. A few earned titles like Snowmageddon , but in general, US blizzards were anonymous.
It was different in Europe. Europeans have been naming winter storms since 1954. The Free University of Berlin gives the most recognized names. Since 2002, the Free University started the “Adopt-a-Vortex” scheme that allows anyone to adopt and name a winter storm. The university uses the money to run its weather program and the name is recognized all over Central Europe.
Oo-la-la! The European blizzards have had names since 1954, Source: NASA
So, in 2012, the senior meteorologists at The Weather Channel chose 26 names for US blizzards. A storm gets its name three days before it hits and none of the names are used by hurricanes. TWC felt that this would make it easier for viewers to keep track of the upcoming blizzards and add a bit of interest.
Talk about creating a storm! The National Weather Service refused to recognize the names. It pointed out that tropical storms have a precise definition and there are all types of winter storms. Nor’easters roaring up the coast are very different from the powder dusters bringing snow to the Rockies’ ski slopes. A stiff memo told officials to refrain from using names. Some media, like Accuweather and the New York Times refuse to use the names. Others services do. Naming blizzards has produced some hot arguments in the weather community.
Are blizzards more enjoyable if they have a friendly name? (Yes, there is a car under there.) Source NOAA
Should US blizzards have names or should they remain anonymous? Would Christmas be more fun if we knew that not only Santa Claus but also Winter Storm Hercules was coming to town? What do you think?
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.