When The Weather Channel (TWC) unilaterally announced it would start naming winter storms last month, it was widely panned and greeted with ridicule and concern. The network has now named its first two storms of the season – Athena and Brutus – and the scoffing has risen again.
Yesterday as a nor’easter approached much of the area recently ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, TWC named it ‘Winter Storm Athena.’ Another storm that is arriving in Montana today has been dubbed ‘Winter Storm Brutus.’
TWC’s Bryan Norcross said when the naming scheme was announced, “The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”
Many found it ironic that a “weather network” that now includes as much non-weather programming as weather related material chose to exert itself in such a manner. Reality shows and docudramas have become as common on TWC as forecasts and storm coverage so it is little wonder most view the naming as little more than a marketing gimmick.
Other weather outlets have been far less flattering to the media property’s plans.
Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather Founder and President, said, “In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety. We have explored this issue for 20 years and have found that this is not good science and will mislead the public.”
Myers thoughts were echoed throughout the professional weather community and TWC was largely derided.
The fact TWC did this without consulting other professional companies and organizations made it even more troubling. No consultation occurred with the National Weather Service, the only official source of weather information, or with the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
Meteorologist James Spann said flatly that the decision to name storms, “Needs to be coordinated with NWS and other private sector interests for sure.”
The naming of hurricanes and typhoons is a collaborative effort amongst the world’s weather agencies. The World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists and storms are only named when they reach specific meteorological criteria. By contrast, TWC’s winter storm naming is arbitrary and not based on science but rather subjective criteria.
The National Weather Service issued a statement saying it would not offer an opinion on the decision by a private enterprise to name storms. However the service said, “A winter storm’s impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins.”
As “Athena” received its name, the agency told its offices and forecasters that they were not to use TWC’s naming. “TWC has named the nor’easter “Athena.” The NWS does not use name[s for] winter storms in our products. Please refrain from using the term Athena in any of our products.”
Time will tell whether TWC’s naming scheme lasts but the ridicule over the naming continues for now.
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