few years ago, I had the television on in the background. A winter
storm was headed our way, and the weather forecasts were updating
things a bit more frequently each hour or so, and in a fun new
twist, they had even named the storm.
finished up what I was working on and went to the living room,
started watching television with my wife, and a news update came
on. The person delivering the weather began talking about a totally
different storm. Or so it seemed. Eventually, it became apparent
she was talking about the same storm, but using a different name.
done some research into the matter, and it turns out that the
naming of winter storms is kind of a controversial subject in
weather communities. The main reasons seem to stem from two ideas:
(1) Unlike tropical storms—you know, the annual naming of hurricanes
and such—there are no officially created and utilized lists of
storm names for the winter. There is no agency or effort recognized
as the official this or that responsible for naming falling snow
around the world this winter. (2) Winter storms are more common
on a nationwide level than something like hurricanes. And beyond
storm frequency, the idea of what to name, when to rename if a
storm breaks apart and reforms, and all sorts of other difficulties
come into play.
sources seem to point to The Weather Channel as the evil entity
in winter storm naming. Although there are records dating back
plenty of years (even centuries) assigning names to winter storms,
it is The Weather Channel that seems to get credit for kicking
off the trend in recent years, when they began naming them in
the 2012-2013 winter. (Appears that was motivated by naming a
Halloween storm in 2011.)
the end, most places seem to suggest one common element in the
practice: ratings. Ok, not ratings specifically, but the idea
of creating memorable, sensationalized, buzz-worthy news. (“Snow
on the way” doesn’t exactly get you moving, especially in locations
used to heavy accumulation totals. “Winter Storm Douglas arriving
late morning” has a bit of weight to it. I mean, after all, it’s
significant enough to get a name. Perhaps I should pay attention.)
starts because of that note pointing out no one is recognized
for creating a single list to use. And, frankly, I don’t know
that anyone would want to do the job. With swirling weather patterns
delivering snow and ice and such all over the country at different
times, what kind of list might need to be prepared?
are no specific qualifications that are universally cited and
agreed upon. A national source might have something that pertains
to wind speeds, visibility, duration, potential accumulation totals
and such. On the other hand, your local news Doppler Weather Radar
8600 420K Report with Spiffy Jim wants to be your source for weather
accuracy. So, they have a region mapped out… their viewing region…
and if a might flake drop, the darn thing gets a name.
lists for naming storms. Some national. Some local. Nor’easter
Alice and Nor’easter Craig both headed our way. It’s the same
darn storm. Ugh.
I didn’t start this essay to talk about naming the arriving snow
wanted to mention bomb cyclones.
much like the lists for naming winter weather patterns, I’ve noticed
that we seem to be hearing a ton of new terms being used. Some
make sense. Thundersnow? I actually get that one. Thunder and
lightning during a snow storm. That name works.
then, there it is… bomb cyclone.
term seems to have found its official way into the meteorological
world around 1980. While the term bomb had some informal use prior
to that, it was a paper released forty years ago that seems to
have given some direction and specifics to the idea. (That was
when measurable attributes apparently were outlined and accepted
for the concept.)
of this is great, but it also outlines the problem. It’s one thing
when everyone understands what you’re talking about. Perhaps not
specifics, but general expectations. I may not know exactly what
conditions need to be met for a storm to be called a blizzard,
but I know it’s going to be a lot of craziness and to stay off
the roads if it isn’t essential. Same idea when a hurricane is
again, I may not be the person to ask about any of this. After
all, the majority of my weather reports these days are provided
by the cows in the field around the corner from my house. I learned
when I was a kid what to expect when cows are lying down, so that’s
when I check to make sure I have an umbrella.
bomb cyclones. Hmm… maybe this is a movie idea I need to try and