Weather Channel Decision to Name Winter Storms Predicted to Increase Confusion in Public Safety
AccuWeather spokespeople say this unilateral initiative is not supported by science, and believe the naming of winter storms by The Weather Channel will increase confusion in the emergency management community.
A unilateral decision by The Weather Channel to name winter storms will create confusion, rather than delivering critical and important safety and planning information to the public, said AccuWeather, Inc., representatives today.
AccuWeather teams' examination of the issue over many years has found no benefit to users of weather forecasts by the initiative recently announced by The Weather Channel.
“In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety and is doing a disservice to the field of meteorology and public service,” said Joel Myers, AccuWeather founder and president in a news release issued Wednesday afternoon.
Myers pointed to a reported statement by The Weather Channel’s spokesman that storms affecting many people would get names and that those affecting few people would not be named, highlighting the arbitrary nature of the unpublished criteria.
“We have explored this issue for 20 years,” said Myers, “and have found that this is not good science, and importantly will actually mislead the public. Winter storms are very different from hurricanes.”
Naming of hurricanes makes sense, indicated AccuWeather managers, because they are well-defined storms following a path that can be tracked and predicted. Hurricanes have a life of many days and often weeks, move deliberately, and primarily affect a well-defined area of impact in all four quadrants, centered around the Eye-Path, Myers stated.
By contrast, winter storms are often erratic, affecting different areas unevenly, he stated. Winter storms often develop, dissipate, and reform with two to three centers, often delivering snow in only one quadrant, while places not too far away from a blizzard may experience rain or fog, or nothing at all. "As a result, the public will not know what action to take when there is a 'named' storm, or may take the wrong action," stated Myers.
By contrast, some of the most severe winter events affect only limited areas, such as lake effect snow or freezing rain, which are not even associated with a predicted storm center. Under the Weather Channel system, these might not even be named, yet they can cause death and destruction.