How Do Winter Storms Get Their Names?
The United States has a knack for naming things. It doesn't matter what it is; whether we like it or not, we will find a name for it. One of those things we like to name is storms, and it's what we've done in America for years. We've been doing it for a long time for hurricanes, but did you know that this wasn't always the case for winter storms (snow storms, blizzards, etc.)?
It's a relatively recent occurrence for winter storms in the United States to be given names. This, of course, is something that we're pretty familiar with in Buffalo now since we got hit with two pretty bad winter storms last year. That IPA blew into the area and dumped several feet of snow on Western and Central New York, then winter storm Elliott followed and wreaked havoc on the area.
Where Do Snowstorm Names Come From?
Locally in Western New York, county officials have had an unofficial tradition of naming storms after local beers like Pills Mafia or Ebenezer IPA, but on a national level, storm names aren't decided by any sort of government agency.
According to the American Meteorological Society, winter storm names are picked by The Weather Channel. This practice was started in 2011 as a way to help identify different winter storms across the country as social media became a bigger part of our lives in the 21st century.
Officials from The Weather Channel have selected 26 names to be used during this year's winter weather season.
To be named, a winter storm has to meet, or eventually meet, at least one of the following criteria:
- NWS winter storm, blizzard, or ice storm warnings covering a population of at least 2 million.
- NWS winter storm, blizzard, or ice storm warnings covering at least an area of 400,000 square kilometers, or slightly larger than the state of Montana.
While The Weather Channel does name winter storms, government agencies like the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration do not name winter storms and have gone on record to say they have no plans to do so anytime soon.
The National Weather Service does not name winter storms because a winter storm's impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins.
-Susan Buchanan, Spokesperson for the National Weather Service
The National Weather Service issued an official memo in 2012 saying they would not acknowledge The Weather Channel's storm names, and it went further to advise local NWS offices not to do so either.
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