A winter storm by any other name

The Weather Channel (TWC), which started naming winter storms other than hurricanes in November 2012, tagged a post-Christmas storm as “Eboni” as it sweeps from the West through the Midwest this week with blizzard like conditions and is headed for New England.

Five years ago, it called a nor’easter “Winter Storm Athena” and the naming circus began.

Many meteorologists criticised the naming and the National Weather Service, which comes up with the names of Hurricanes, refused to acknowledge the practice and asked its employees to avoid using the labels applied by TWC.  The NWS has an “official policy” that states they have “no plans to consider naming winter storms” that are in progress.

Same for AccuWeather.  In 2013, their president said: “The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety.  We have found this is not good science and will mislead the public.”

TWC responded with: “The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”

The Associated Press Stylebook, used by many media organizations as a guide, says: “Do not use names created by private agencies or other organizations.”

Notes Tiffany Means on ThoughtCo:

Ever since the 2012-2013 winter season, The Weather Channel (TWC) has given every significant winter storm event it forecasts and tracks a unique name.
Their argument for doing this? “It’s simply easier to communicate about a complex storm if it has a name,” says TWC hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross. Even so, an official system for naming winter storms has never existed in the United States. The closest example would be the National Weather Service (NWS) Buffalo, NY office, which has unofficially named its lake effect snow events for several years.

Writes Dennis Mersereau on MentalFloss.com:

One of the major arguments against assigning names to winter storms is that The Weather Channel went about classifying these storms on their own with names they chose using seemingly arbitrary criteria they invented. They received no input or collaboration from the National Weather Service, which as the federal government’s official weather forecasting agency is tasked with responsibilities like issuing official warnings and classifying and naming hurricanes. Neither the National Weather Service, competing private weather outlets (like AccuWeather), nor a majority of news outlets honor the network’s naming system. The Weather Channel unilaterally calling a snowstorm “Winter Storm Xerxes,” for example, can breed confusion instead of cohesion if others don’t use the name.

Critics say The Weather Channel came up with naming storms other than hurricanes to help its ratings.  TWC says it uses names to help its audience track storms and not get confused with other disturbances.

So the winter storm that TWC calls “Eboni” surges eastward.  The NWC calls it just “a winter storm.”  Those affected by it may just call it a “pain in the ass.”

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