Girly Storms

Jan 29, 2016
Car Snowed In


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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?

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Thanks to the person who

Thanks to the person who suggested
California or SE Arizona. Arizona I have heard gets really hot in the summer but it is a dry heat, good for my sinuses. But No way am I going to California. Too many earthquakes.

I hope all of you on staff of

I hope all of you on staff of Farmer's Almanac has read my posts. I am not kidding, I want something pertenant to the Central Coast of California, not just some jumble of Los Angeles Basin bedroom communities.

Farmer's Almanac has ALWAYS been a good source of true and accurate weather prediction. NOW, it is just a BS version of its former self.

Come on, FA, us Central Coast of Californis ranchers NEED a viable prediction of what the hell is in store for us. So far, for the past two years, it has been wretched!!!!!

Hi, PJ, First, thank you—for

Hi, PJ, First, thank you—for your loyalty to this Almanac, for your high expectations of it, and in no small way, your patience in waiting for a response. Many of the staff were away for the holidays and we are still catching up with email. To that point, one editor traveled to California, the San Francisco area, in particular, but just this morning—in an unrelated conversation—commented on the severity of the drought in your state.
We truly sympathize with you, and your neighbors and friends, who are suffering with this extreme dryness. It is hard to read this; you describe the effects so very passionately. When the Midwest experienced its worst drought a couple of summers ago, we heard from readers facing similar challenges. They too were looking for relief from the Almanac.
Our forecast areas—the 16 US regions—are not determined by population, but were carved out by our meteorologist, based on the climatological movement of weather systems. You can read How We Predict the Weather in every issue (see page 202 in the 2014 Old Farmer's Almanac). That explains (I hope) the averages/normals that are written into each region's predictions. You can also read about how well we did. Some years are better than others, sometimes the prediction for temp is better than that for precip and snowfall (as was the case for the 2012–13 seasons). We do not expect to be 100% accurate; we do not believe anyone can be. We aim for our traditional 80% accuracy rate. But as a reader, I think you know that.
I wish we could make it rain but we can not. I wish that the forecast you need is the one you would read on our pages and the one that you would get. If I may offer a glimmer of hope, the forecast for January 2014 in Region 16 is for above normal rainfall. I—we—hear your frustration and your desperation. Thank you again for your faith in us.
Janice Stillman, Editor

I still need a comment from

I still need a comment from one of the Farmer's Almanac weather staff:

WHY DON'T YOU SHOW A MORE DETAILED WEATHER PREDICTION, FOR THE MOST POPULATED STATE IN THE UNION?? Just because Farmer's Almanac started in some Eastern Seaboard State does Not justify your confining your predictions to the Eastern Seaboard.

Be ADVISED, we out here in California need accurate and long range forcasts, for the next 5 months.

I have a ranch that NEEDS rain, and desperately! I have lost countless trees, base plants, and my spring water (which used to provide water for our 22 acres, including our pool. We have lost countless wonderful flowering plants around the house, and myfavorite old lavender bushes. We CAN'T water, because we DON'T know what is still available, in our well.

Show us Californians what we NEED, in order to keep our ranches healthy and strong!!!!!!!

Hello PJ, I'm a blogger,

Hello PJ,

I'm a blogger, not part of the weather staff, but I have been working with California weather for decades.

Here is my take -- in most years that have had similar climate factors, California had dry to normal rain in winter -- not enough to break the drought or ease restrictions on water use. In 60% of similar years, Northern California had wet conditions towards the end of winter -- you may remember "Miracle March".

Watch the Tropical Pacific -- experts are predicting a summer  El Nino. Pay close attention to where the Pacific warms -- if the waters off of the coast of South America warm, historically California gets fantastic rainfall. If they remain cooler than normal, then historically the drought continues -- think of 2004.

Let's not gie them names.

Let's not gie them names. Blizzards don't go into extra days over 3 or 4 I believe. Let them stay anonomys. Blizzards are not as often as hurricanes. Speaking of which, now that hurricanes carry male names, why not call them himmicanes. (:

Here at the Almanac, we won't

Here at the Almanac, we won't be using names.

I like the himmicane joke. Unfortunately, the poor tropical storms have some real gender issues, alternating between male and female names.

Now look. We live out here in

Now look. We live out here in the Central Coast of California. We have had this drought for almost two years, now.

Considering that California has the MOST POPULATION of ANY state in the USA, I would think you could at least give us accurate, detailed and complete forecasts of weather of our area.

I see these elaborate displays of possible weather changes that you give for the eastern seaboard.

NOW, I would like to see you folks acknowledge the most populated state in the Union by giving us at least a prediction for all of the county seats in each county in California, not just a jumble of those in the Los Angeles Basin. THIS is NOT adequate!!

Please advise!!

Give the storms a name. How

Give the storms a name. How many times can we identify a storm as the "no-name" storm that hit Massachusetts?

Frequently spectacular storms

Frequently spectacular storms end up earning their own names -- like Snowmaggedon or the Halloween Blizzard.

The scientific community will probably never name the winter storms, but the Weather Channel has been having fun and will be glad to give you named storms all winter.

I think that naming tropical

I think that naming tropical cyclones is silly and that naming winter storms is even sillier. Yes we need a way to identify tropical storms and maybe winter storms, but numbering would be much more practical, meaningful, and less controversial. Remember in the 70s when there was this great brouhaha because all of the tropical storms were given feminine names? How we have to put up with masculine names too. Next, it was suggested that the names were racist because there were no African-American names. What silliness is going to come along next?

Um, no. From Snopes dot

Um, no.

From Snopes dot com:

"In July 2003, Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee (a member of the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, and an ardent supporter of the civil rights leadership) criticized the weather establishment for its selection of names with which to christen hurricanes, stating that 'All racial groups should be represented.' Her comment was prompted by the 2003 list of hurricane names, which for the first time included French and Spanish appellations (derived from languages spoken in areas that border the Atlantic Ocean, where such storms occur), and she expressed the hope that in the future such lists 'would try to be inclusive of African American names' as well."

Asking for more inclusivity is a completely different thing than asserting racism.

Nice point and good research!

Nice point and good research!

The name issues frequently

The name issues frequently become silly. However, the National Hurricane Center discovered that people found it easier to keep track of the named storms and paid more attention to warnings. Naming strong tropical storms saved lives. Now every country in the world names them.

I personally hate the snow.

I personally hate the snow. When it came here in Philadelphia PA I was plenty scared. I have been injured in snow, and since the time of youth I donot like it at all. I wish it would stay in the far north; and please don't give it any nice names.

If you do not like snow, I

If you do not like snow, I would suggest you move to the Central Coast of California, or to SE Arizona. You will not encounter much snow at either location. Good luck, I hope you find your ideal location.

If moving is an option, there

If moving is an option, there are certainly a lot of Southern states that usually avoid the snow. However, last December, more than 6,800 cities broke their snowfall records -- even San Diego and Orlando had trace amounts!

I was a child in Buffalo New

I was a child in Buffalo New York -- home of "Lake Effect" snow. Sometimes the snow came up to the second story window. It was too deep to play in and made struggling my way to school a nightmare.

I can sympathise with you. So far most of the winter storm names are from Greek and Roman mythology.

This season has been great

This season has been great for the ski resorts in the Mid Atlantic. The recent cold snaps in November and December has led to an earlier ski season.. the last 2 years many ski resorts in VA and WV were forced to open late due to the warm temperatures. The cold temps have proved to be very conducive for snow making. Winter 2013-14 is starting off pretty well & I hope January and February continue to be active with more bitterly cold blasts to come. Here's to hoping for a GREAT ski season in 2014!!

Happy New Year everybody!

We in Maine agree with you,

We in Maine agree with you, pamela670!

A couple of years ago we had a Halloween blizzard and then virtually no snow at all for the rest of the winter to the detriment of both our winter spirits and our local economy.

As much as we wish it wasn't quite so cold (I work for the power company and it sure would be nice to get last week's ice off the power lines & tree limbs), the snow is wonderful.

As soon as it gets a tad warmer (i.e. above 0F), I'll be back outside with my snowshoes!

It looks like you and

It looks like you and pamela670 will get your wishes this month. Unfortunately, the unusually cold Arctic air seems to part of the package. Good luck for those power lines!

Looking ahead, it looks like

Looking ahead, it looks like you will have a wonderful, snowy January!

I just wish we could get a

I just wish we could get a good snow storm here in tidewater.

Actually, both King William

Actually, both King William and Suffolk counties had traces to snow on December 12! You had to be up late to see it before it melted.

I hope the next snow lasts long enough to see.

If folks enjoy naming storms,

If folks enjoy naming storms, why not? Most of us are too uptight and stressed. A little fun would do us good. When I scan the weather website, I have found it easier and more interesting to track storms that have names.

You and the weather channel

You and the weather channel agree -- they are trying to add more enjoyment to the weather.

I'm sorry, Evelyn, but you

I'm sorry, Evelyn, but you are wrong. The Weather Channel is simply trying to drive up traffic to its site.

They got the idea to do this when Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast US in October 2012. People were googling "sandy + storm" and swamping TWC's web site.

Someone (or someones) at TWC put two and two together and voila: the naming of winter storms began. And the more folks like you use the names and make it seem like TWC just wants to have fun, the more you help them with their new marketing strategy.

It's a shame. I used to like TWC. Now I avoid them. Besides, I already pay for the National Weather Service with my tax dollars, and I find their forecasts very reliable, so I'll stick with weather dot gov. :-)

Like I said, they were trying

Like I said, they were trying to help people keep track of storms and drive up interest -- which they also saw as increasing their viewership. They saw naming storms working in Europe and tried it here to mixed results.

The government site gives some lovely details and you frequently see their graphics in my blogs.

Personally, I find it foolish

Personally, I find it foolish to name every new winter storm that rolls along. Winter storms are very complex because they're hard to keep track of. Many are divided into multiple different areas of energy and may not even be the same disturbance! and yet, they get the same name. I find it kind of funny that its only December 18 and we're already at letter H in the alphabet! It seems like this winter will be much more active than recent years. I think we'll zoom through the whole alphabet before winter is even over.
We haven't seen any snow here in Greensboro area in North Carolina yet.. which isn't unexpected because most of our snow comes in the deep winter but it is frustrating how we couldn't get any snow out of all the cold we had to deal with. When will the winter season finally start to get going for us in the upper southeast?

Spot on, keymn76!

Spot on, keymn76!

The scientific community

The scientific community completely agrees with you for the reasons you cited.

Hopefully some of these later storms will give you some decent snow.



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