Girly Storms

January 29, 2016
Car Snowed In

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 articles. 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.