Thu, Dec
20
2012

Don't Encourage Them, You Idiots!

Winter Storm Names

So, I've learned that hurricanes and tropical cyclones are now not the only major storms to have official names. Soon after the mayhem of Hurricane Sandy, I was a little perturbed to hear that Winter Storm Athena was taking aim at the city of New York. "Winter Storm Athena"? After having passed through a number of blizzards and storms named by month and year, or by ridiculous CNN-style nicknames (I mean, come on, "Snowmaggeddon"?), "Winter Storm Athena" just felt like it had delusions of grandeur. Who in their right mind was naming what had previously been unnamed.

Turns out, it's the Weather Channel, which I believe may be overstepping a little bit. The names of hurricanes are generally picked by international bodies with ties to national governments. Mind you, the Weather Network is using a similar rationale as when the hurricanes were first named: to more easily tell them apart:

"During the upcoming 2012-13 winter season The Weather Channel will name noteworthy winter storms. Our goal is to better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events. The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation."

(Link)

On the other hand, I'm suspicious. What is the criteria for naming these storms? The National Hurricane Centre has clear measurements (wind speed and location) that determine whether a storm is tropical storm or a hurricane worthy of a name. No such criteria seems to apply to the Weather Channel's list of names.

Could it be that the Weather Network is picking names in order to better hype up oncoming storms for CNN? I mean, which sounds more ominous: "a November blizzard", "a Nor'easter" or "Winter Storm Athena"? And what about the other names coming up? Draco is due to arrive in Chicago tomorrow. And later in the year, might we be affected by "Winter Storm Q" (imagine the gadgets that could come into play). And how much lightning will emanate from "Winter Storm Zeus"?

I'm reminded of a story by E.B. White as he described media coverage of a New England hurricane. At one point, he was unsure if the newscasters were pro-storm or anti-storm. I've often felt that CNN reporters are sort of cheering on these natural disasters, and now they've given them nicknames for the storms to live up to.

Nice going, guys. Nice going.


P.S: Cue up William Shatner to report on the onslaught of "Winter Storm Khan". You geeks know what I mean...


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