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Not Just for Summer Anymore
October 2, 2012 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The Weather Channel is teaming with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s Hydrologic Prediction Center (HPC) to name winter storms in the US starting with the 2012-2013 winter season.

"The process for naming a winter storm will reflect a more complete assessment of several variables that combine to produce disruptive impacts including snowfall, ice, wind and temperature. In addition, the time of day (rush hour vs. overnight) and the day of the week (weekday school and work travel vs. weekends) will be taken into consideration in the process the meteorological team will use to name storms."

Names chosen for 2012-13 storms include Iago, Orko, Q, Gandolf, Virgil, and Xerkes. The full list of names for the 2012-2013 is available.

Naming winter storms is common in Europe. The names from the Free University of Berlin are widely used.
Names are also used by the National Weather Service in Buffalo, NY for lake-effect storms.
Jeff Masters of Weather Underground has more information.
posted by aabbbiee (55 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I suppose that after Snowmageddeon, Snowpocalypse, Snowtober, and the Snowtorious B.I.G. it was getting tough coming up with new names that followed that pattern.

It looks like the people who came up with the list of names are a bunch of nerds and geeks, so I'm excited.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is awesome news, for reasons I cannot identify. I don't know why this makes me quite so happy, but it does.
posted by nickmark at 11:14 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now if only they'd introduce a severity scale that ranged from "Winter Wonderland" to "Class 3 Kill Storm"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:15 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Corporate involvement in official storm naming? They should call the next big one "David Foster Wallace."
posted by gubo at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I get that they want to keep the names different from the names used for hurricanes, but those names are awful. Do you see anyone other than a particularly dedicated weather nerd ever talking about when Gandolf shut down the roads and his kids missed school for two days?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bilzzardammerung?
posted by dortmunder at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


If they decide to put faces with the names, I suggest Tim Conway in a wizard robe for "Gandolf".
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I like that only people who work 9-5 on weekdays will suffer from winter storms. Everyone else has to come in anyway.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looks like Winter Storm Arby's is going to be piling up the snow like savory, delicious roast beef.
posted by boo_radley at 11:21 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gotta admit, I'm kind of disappointed by some of these. I mean, Q? Really? And Yogi? And I'm predicting a ton of "Gandolf! Like the guy from Lord of the Rings!"
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2012


I can't wait for Winter Storm KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:23 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you see anyone other than a particularly dedicated weather nerd ever talking about when Gandolf shut down the roads and his kids missed school for two days?

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

THIS REALLY ICY BRIDGE!
posted by kmz at 11:26 AM on October 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


Q: The Broadway Express subway line in New York City.

Right, that's the Q we were all thinking of.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:26 AM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


As long as they're giving them nerd names, can we call one of them The Paul and Storm Storm?
posted by bondcliff at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2012


Historically speaking, having the ability to name something gives a person some sort of power or control over it. Parents get to name their children. Adam and Eve got to name the creatures they encountered. When Moses asked God what his name was, he responded "I am" (Yawheh). It was God's way of saying, "I am not giving you a name because it is I who have power and control over you."

Why in the world would we name storms? I would suggest it is because we want to feel some sort of power and control over them. By giving them names, it allows us to feel like we have something over them.
posted by flarbuse at 11:30 AM on October 2, 2012


Back when I lived in Vermont, we also named all our winter storms.

Snow.
posted by General Malaise at 11:30 AM on October 2, 2012


Why in the world would we name storms? I would suggest it is because we want to feel some sort of power and control over them. By giving them names, it allows us to feel like we have something over them.

As a former resident of hurricane country, I'd suggest it's so the conversation about when we replaced the deck would end with "a tree knocked the old one off during Fran" without an ensuing ten minute conversation about what storm I mean.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


"And it looks like Winter Storm Khan is going to experience some bombogenesis as it moves off the East Coast within the next twenty-four hours. Because of that, a small craft advisory is now in effect...."
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2012


They're expecting snow this winter? That would certainly be a change from 2011-12.
posted by tommasz at 11:33 AM on October 2, 2012


My first reaction: This is stooopid.

My second reaction: Feeling kind of gypped that the big storms we had in the past don't have memorable names to recall them by. (Like, Fred of '78! or Mabel, December '00.)

My third reaction: Ugh, I have a long commute, I really don't want to think about winter. (Can't we just enjoy the frickin fall colors and lalalalaforgetwhatcomesafterthat.)
posted by NorthernLite at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if Yogi winds up being the deadliest winter storm in the history of the United States?

I am become Yogi, destroyer of Colorado.
posted by Redfield at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hear that Americans have twenty-six different words for snow.
posted by zamboni at 11:43 AM on October 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gandalf
posted by Petrot at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if Yogi winds up being the deadliest winter storm in the history of the United States?

That would be unbear-able ...
posted by carter at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the idea but it does seem like they really picked a poor theme for the names. I can't wait for the first one to stir up outrage when it involves a character from such "controversial" fiction as Tom Sawyer or when Blizzard Snuffalumpagus kills 50 people or whatever.

I wonder how long until thunderstorms start getting bad enough to warrant names, too? This is kind of a scary development if you're willing to look past the (likely decisive) venal marketing aspect of it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:47 AM on October 2, 2012


I remember back in the day when the practice of naming all hurricanes after women was being challanged. It was claimed that hurricanes must be female because they are changeable and unpredictable like women who can never make up their minds. Someone (Betty Fridan, I think) replied, "Snow storms should all be named after men, then, because you never know how many inches you are going to get, or how long they are going to last." This was not received well.
posted by pbrim at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Twitter is having fun with a Rejected TWC Storm Names hashtag.
posted by COD at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2012


dortmunder: "Bilzzardammerung?"

Blizznarok!
posted by symbioid at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2012


Activision-take-over-of-Blizzard
posted by symbioid at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2012


Do you see anyone other than a particularly dedicated weather nerd ever talking about when Gandolf shut down the roads and his kids missed school for two days?
  Gandalf halted. Snow was thick on his hood and shoulders; it was already ankle deep around his boots.
  'This is what I feared,' he said. 'What do you say now, Aragorn?'
  'That I feared it too,' Aragorn answered, 'but less than other things. I knew the risk of snow, though it seldom falls so heavily so far south, save high up in the mountains. But we are not high yet; we are still far down, where the paths are usually open all winter.'
  [...]
  'This will be the death of the halflings, Galdalf,' said Boromir. 'It is useless to sit here until the snow goes over our heads. We must do something to save ourselves.'
The Lord of the Rings, Chapter 3 : "The Ring Goes South"

So, yeah, I think they'll be cool with that one.
posted by eriko at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blizznarok!

The snow death of the Universe.
posted by eriko at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2012


They do spell it Gandolf at the Weather Channel, and describe it "A character in a 1896 fantasy novel in a pseudo-medieval countryside." The Hobbit was published in 1937. Are they wrong twice, or is this a reference to another character?
posted by aabbbiee at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


A character in a 1896 fantasy novel in a pseudo-medieval countryside

The Well at the World's End
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:10 PM on October 2, 2012


I'm also confused as to when they will name these storms.
Tropical storms and hurricanes get names when they meet certain objective criteria.
This is so vaguely worded and the definition appears to be on "disruption," which is very subjective. What is disruptive in DC, for instance, would not even phase people in North Dakota or Chicago.
posted by aabbbiee at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2012


The Saul Zaentz Company owns and vigorously defends trademarks associated with LotR. "Gandolf" may be an attempt to avoid litigation.
posted by zamboni at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2012


the definition appears to be on "disruption," which is very subjective.

objective measures: power outages, deaths, closings
posted by stbalbach at 12:29 PM on October 2, 2012


The list claims Orko was chosen as a name after the thunder god in Basque mythology, but I prefer to think that the naming committee included a Masters of the Universe fan.
posted by mysterpigg at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"So I'm caught in the middle of 'Winter Storm Gandalf' or whatever the fuck they're calling it, and I'm trying to just make it to the subway, 'cause there are no buses or cabs or anything, and I'm up to my knees in a snowdrift, and I can barely see anything from the horizontal snow, and the fact that it's dark at 4:30; and this punk-ass Elf kid just brushes right by me, walking ON the snow like it's nothing! WALKING ON THE FUCKING SNOW. I mean, what the fuck is that? Where do you even learn to do that? Do they teach it to you in Elf school? Is there some kind of ring you can wear? Does it even fucking snow in Rivendell?

Man, Elves are dicks."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:33 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like to imagine that they came up with the names first and then someone had to hurry and write up Super Literary Reasons for each of the names, when really you know that it was just a bunch of weathermen getting blitzed on cheap beer and yelling out names from Star Trek and Harry Potter and various Disney movies.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:37 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hell fucking yes, this Buffalo native loves a good winter storm. I'm not surprised that the guy in charge of this is from the Buffalo office, where the names were by category. 2006's was insects, and who doesn't fondly recall Lake Storm Aphid...

The edit window allows me to add that this past years were all cows.
posted by troika at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate the Weather Sensationalism Channel.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2012


The question then begs to ask “Why aren’t winter storms named?”

Yes. Someone at weather.com wrote that sentence. Really.
posted by crackingdes at 1:14 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have so many questions. For this to work, they need objective criteria for when a storm should be named. With tropical systems, we have that objective criteria (wind speed) that distinguishes a depression, from a tropical storm, from a hurricane. So what is the criteria for winter storms? What is the threshold that must be crossed before a winter weather event is deserving of a name? The other interesting difference between tropical systems and winter storms is that the tropical systems always form over the ocean and track over water for days or weeks before they strike land (if they ever do). So it gets a name, and a personality, and the drama builds, and sometimes it hits and sometimes it doesn't. Winter storms play out over a much shorter time frame. They often spin up, follow a path, and then move out all within a matter of 24-48 hours. Some winter storms do form over the the ocean but some do not. Can a storm that is a real gorilla...but stays just off the coast with little or no impact to land have a name? "Wow, we were lucky...winter storm Seymour just missed us today". Is that how this will work? Or will a name be given only after the severe impact of a storm has been realized in a particular area? It just seems like the type of thing that could be very lame, and then nobody will care.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2012


This'll make buying cocaine over craigslist so much more confusing.
posted by mannequito at 1:28 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seymour Zamboni - I think the names will be applied to many storms, but only popularly used for the huuuge ones, like that year that DC had Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, and The Other One all in one year. At some point you need to be able to differentiate. I mean, they had been naming storms in Buffalo since 1998 and I only became aware of it years later when writing a thing about October snowstorms. I wish I would have know there were cat-named storms and tree-named storms and whatever, too. I mean, Lake Storm Banana totally derailed our 2004 Christmas Eve plans.

It would have been much easier to take if we'd known it was Lake Storm Banana.
posted by troika at 1:36 PM on October 2, 2012


Oh good, a name I can yell and shake my fist at when I'm sitting in traffic because that 10" blizzard and a day off turned out to be 1" and a really shitty commute.
posted by kingbenny at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2012


The "Chicago is getting 6 inches tonight" (or whatever) double entendre joke is getting old; this will make it worse.

"We are predicted to get 5" from Iago tomorrow morning , but that's nothing compared to the Boston area, they are getting absolutely slammed by Gandalf as we speak!"
posted by Fig at 2:27 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really seems like the current ad hoc process of deciding when to name a storm isn't going to change much from a scientific perspective, it's just that there's now a "better" way to come up with names for big storms. Since it's easier to name them that way, it'll probably happen more often than before, and I'm sure we'll benefit socially from the additional panic, but it also seems fairly likely to annoy someone into developing a more rigorous approach, so hopefully in the long run it'll help something other than the viewership of your local news affiliate.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2012


Big, snowy, windy, angry winter storm Gork to be followed by should-have-been-snow freezing rain during winter storm Mork.

Also, HOLY BALLS EDIT WINDOW WHAT
posted by Slackermagee at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2012


we already have names for our winter storms here in michigan

december, january, february ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:59 PM on October 2, 2012


The list claims Orko was chosen as a name after the thunder god in Basque mythology, but I prefer to think that the naming committee included a Masters of the Universe fan.

My reaction was that at least someone remembers that Google social network thingy.
posted by dhartung at 5:54 PM on October 2, 2012


"Finally, it might even be fun and entertaining and that in itself should breed interest from our viewing public and our digital users."

It took the entire article but at least they came clean about the real reason they are doing this.
posted by fueling depth at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2012


The push back from other members of the meteorological community has begun.

posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:44 AM on October 3, 2012


Some good links about the pushback: they're "tossing... the 'weather community' under the bus"; it was "at best, a poor decision"; this is "self-serving and not in the interest of effective weather communication"; and, while we're at it, "Who died and made them King?!"

As part of the backlash, people are also coming up with their own names using the hashtag #RejectedTWCNames on Twitter.
posted by k8lin at 10:25 PM on October 3, 2012


I'm glad to see the pushback, particularly the comments about the current storm in the northern states that is going unnamed. I feel that these names will used mostly for storms that threaten East Coast cities, particularly DC and New York.
posted by aabbbiee at 10:08 AM on October 5, 2012


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