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11/07/2012

Naming Winter Storms ... Good Or Bad Idea?

We have seen a unique battleground setting up, not in the atmosphere but between sources for weather info. The Weather Channel decided earlier this year that they were going to name winter storms on their own... that meant this was not accepted in the meteorological community or by the National Weather Service.

 

TWC Naming Storms

 

The names themselves have been a source of a lot of jokes and I cannot argue that they seem almost laughable. Nemo? Regardless of the names, the next logical question we must ask is how are they determining what storms should be named? Here is what TWC says...

 

"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."

 

Hmm, that seems vague? Regardelss, it happened today ... TWC named the Nor'easter that I have forecasted for about 8 days Athena. Here is a look at this storm...

 

StormViewHD 1

 

 

As the battle is now intensifying, the National Weather Service clearly doesn't think this or any winter storm should have a name and the NWS sent out this message today...

 

TWC HAS NAMED THE NOR'EASTER "ATHENA.." THE NWS DOES NOT USE NAME WINTER STORMS IN OUR PRODUCTS. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING THE TERM ATHENA IN ANY OF OUR PRODUCTS.

 

This is kind of leading to a battle on how we refer to winter storms and I have a very distinct opinion on this...

 

 

My Thoughts On Naming Winter Storms...

 

As you know, the idea of naming storms is not something new to my science. We have been naming hurricanes and tropical systems for years. The difference is that we have a distinct and definable criteria for naming tropical systems according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. A system gets a name when it becomes a "Tropical Storm" which is defined as winds from 39 mph to 73 mph. Any hurricane is then defined from category 1 to category 5 using the following criteria...

 

 

Category Sustained Winds

Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds

1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

 

What you see is a clear, consistent, and definable system for naming tropical systems. As you know we also have a system we use to classify tornadoes named the Enhanced Fujita scale. Again, what you will see it is a clear and definable classification scheme from EF-0 tornadoes all the way to EF-5. What you may not know is that Theodore Fujita originally created the scale all the way up to F-12!

 

Fujita1002

 

Though advanced research, we found winds could really never go over what Theodore Fujita found to be F-5 and ultimately that is where the scale ends. In recent years, we have revised the F-scale into what you now know as the EF tornado scale. The new EF scale has clear and definable ways to classify tornadoes.

 

Fujita2

 

The truth is naming winter storms is not a good or bad idea, but it needs a clear and definable classification scheme. TWC is stating they will use things like "disruptive impacts, time of day, and day of week" to determine if a storm gets a name. Who is to say that a storm on the weekend is more important than a storm during the week? Do we name hurricanes or classify tornadoes only if they occur during the week and just throw out the weekend events? How can TWC tell YOU if a storm is disruptive to YOUR life? Does 3" of snow in Alaska classify as disruptive or is that 3" of snow in Indiana somehow more disruptive? The fact is the entire naming scheme is subjective and defies science.

 

It is clear the NWS wants to distance themselves from this naming scheme and I 100% agree with them. It appears like a poorly thought out idea that is almost a slap in the face of science. The direct criteria they state should be used to name storms is vague and subjective. I cannot see TWC's naming of winter storms to be of any use to the meteorological community or the public. I actually find the entire process to be an embarrassment to the meteorological community.

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Is this a blatant cry for attention or a good idea despite the incredibly subjective criteria used to name storms! Just follow the link below to my facebook page and click "LIKE" and let me know what you think!

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marc-Weinberg/171330336238674#!/pages/Marc-Weinberg/171330336238674

 

 

 

Comments

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well... I cannot see any 'good' reasoning behind name these storms.
Why didn't they call hurricane sandy a winter storm? There was a lot of snow there...

And while I'm here, a somewhat unrelated matter. I always wondered if these storms could ever become tropical systems when off the coast? Like if this one met criteria for tropical storm in wind speeds, would it be called one. (or is that even possible)? :)

Mike L, I was wondering the same thing about Sandy. It produced feet of snow, but I guess that wasn't disruptive enough for their definition?

A nor'easter like this could not become a tropical system. Tropical Systems are warm core by nature and these nor'easters are cold core lows.

Ahh, that clears things up quite a bit
Thanks

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