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Why The Weather Channel Names Winter Storms


David Wasserman © Getty Images

In October of 2012, The Weather Channel (TWC) announced its decision to begin naming winter storms. Here's what you need to know to understand how this new practice works. 

The Controversy

One of the first things to mention is this: only TWC and its subsidiary, Weather Underground, participate in the naming of winter storms. (Several news media companies are also referring to these names in their on-air and online reports.)

None of the leading weather companies and organizations--not the NOAA National Weather Service, nor AccuWeather--have adopted using names in their official forecasts. This is largely due to the fact that there was no coordination with NOAA, the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (which oversees hurricane naming), or others prior to the plan "roll out."  

The Benefit of Using Storm Names

The Weather Channel's rationale for naming winter storms is that names make a storm easier to track, and therefore, easier to prepare for. However, while TWC considers the naming of winter storms to to be a success, there are those who would argue that by not making a unified decision along with other private and government weather agencies to do so, TWC has in fact helped to confuse the public and emergency management officials.

How Names are Chosen

Unlike Atlantic hurricane names which are chosen by the WMO, The Weather Channel's winter storm names aren't assigned by any one specific group. In 2012 (the first year names were used) the list was compiled by a group of TWC senior meteorologists. This year, that same group worked with students of Bozeman High School to develop the list.

Another difference between TWC's winter storm names and hurricane names is that names for the upcoming winter season are usually announced every October, whereas hurricane names are released every six years.

When choosing winter storm names, only those which have never shown up on any past Atlantic hurricane list are considered. Many of those chosen are taken from Greek and Roman mythology.

Criteria for Naming Winter Storms 

How does The Weather Channel decide which storms will be named?

To the chagrin of the professional weather community, there is no strict scientific criteria that must be met before a winter storm can earn a name. Ultimately, the decision is up to TWC senior meteorologists to make. Some of the things they take into consideration include:

  • Whether or not the storm is forecast to impact a population center or multiple states,
  • If it's evident from the forecast maps and models that the storm is shaping up to be one of historic or record-breaking proportions, and
  • If the NWS plans to issue a winter storm warning. (This criterion is new for 2013.) 

If the answers to all of the above are "yes," it's very likely the storm in question will be named. 

Names will generally be assigned at least 48 hours before a storm is forecast to impact a location. Each subsequent winter storm is given the next available name on the list.

A complete list of predetermined winter storm names for last year's and this year's winter seasons can be found below. 

The Weather Channel Winter Storm Names Lists

2012-2013 Winter Season 2013-2014 Winter Season
Athena Atlas
Brutus Boreas
Caesar Cleon
Draco Dion
Euclid Electra
Freyr Falco
Gandolf Gemini
Helen Hercules
Iago Ion
Jove Janus
Kahn Kronos
Luna Leon
Magnus Maximus
Nemo Nika
Orko Orion
Plato Pax
Q Quintus
Rocky Rex
Saturn Seneca
Triton Titan
Ukko Ulysses
Virgil Vulcan
Walda Wiley
Xerxes Xenia
Yogi Yona
Zeus Zephyr


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