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Weather Channel Will Start Naming Winter Storms

A person uses cross country skis to get up 26th Street NW near P Street in the snow in Washington in 2010.
Alex Brandon
A person uses cross country skis to get up 26th Street NW near P Street in the snow in Washington in 2010.

For a long time now, winter storms that cause significant headaches are named posthumously. Think about the Knickerbocker Storm of 1922, which got its name after it collapsed the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C, or the School House Blizzard of 1888, which killed hundreds, including many students making their way to school.

Today, the Weather Channel announced it will be naming winter storms before they impact an area. In its release about the new convention, The Weather Channel says part of the reason winter storms are not named is because there is nothing equivalent to the National Hurricane Center for winter storms.

"The National Centers for Environmental Prediction's Hydrologic Prediction Center (HPC) does issue discussions and snowfall forecasts on a national scale but it does not fill the same role as the NHC in naming storms," the Weather Channel said. "Therefore, it would be a great benefit for a partner in the weather industry to take on the responsibility of developing a new concept."

The big question now is how the Weather Channel will decide when to name a storm. The Hurricane Center, for example, uses wind speed to determine when a storm deserves a name. The organization says it will use more qualitative methods to determine a named winter storm.

The Weather Channel explains:

"Often a weather system that is expected to strike a metropolitan area three days from now has not even completely formed in the atmosphere. Therefore, naming of winter storms will be limited to no more than three days before impact to ensure there is moderate to strong confidence the system will produce significant effects on a populated area. In addition, the impacts from winter systems are not as simple to quantify as tropical systems where a system is named once the winds exceed a certain threshold.

"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."

The Weather Channel also released an inaugural list of names for this upcoming winter. They include Athena, Brutus, Caesar, Rocky and Zeus.

The Weather Channel says naming the storms will result in clearer communication about the systems.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.