Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:50 PM GMT on October 02, 2012
October is here, and its time to start thinking about how the coming winter's storm might compare to mighty blizzards of years past. Do you remember the North American blizzard of February 4, 2010? No? Well, do you remember Snowmageddon, the massive February 2010 Nor'easter that dumped up to 38" of snow in the mid-Atlantic, and killed 41 people? The two storms are the same, but having a simple name for the snowstorm like "Snowmageddon" helps us identify and remember the impacts of the storm. Naming a major winter storm makes even more sense if it is done before the storm hits, to aid in raising awareness of the storm, and to reduce the risks the public faces. That's exactly what The Weather Channel is going to do for the U.S. this winter, they announced in a press release today. A group of senior meteorologists at The Weather Channel chose 26 names for the upcoming winter of 2012 - 2013. The only criteria was to select names that are not and have never been on any of the hurricane lists produced by the National Hurricane Center or National Weather Service. Naming of a winter storm will occur no earlier than three days prior to it hitting, to ensure there is strong confidence that the system could have significant impact on large populations. There is no national center for monitoring winter storms like we have for hurricanes with the National Hurricane Center, so I think it makes sense for The Weather Channel to take this step.
Figure 1. Snowmageddon in Maryland: February 4, 2010. Image credit: wunderphotographer chills.
U.S. winter storm names for winter of 2012 - 2013
Athena -- The Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, inspirations, justice, mathematics and all things wonderful
Brutus -- Roman Senator and best known assassin of Julius
Caesar -- Title used by Roman and Byzantine Emperors
Draco -- The first legislator of Athens in Ancient
Euclid -- A mathematician in Ancient Greece, the Father of Geometry
Freyr -- A Norse god associated with fair weather, among other things
Gandolf -- A character in a 1896 fantasy novel in a pseudo-medieval countryside
Helen – In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus
Iago -- Enemy of Othello in Shakespeare’s play, Othello
Jove -- The English name for Jupiter, the Roman god of light and sky.
Kahn -- Mongolian conqueror and emperor of the Mongol Empire
Luna -- The divine embodiment of the moon in Roman mythology
Magnus -- The Father of Europe, Charlemagne the Great, in Latin: Carolus Magnus
Nemo -- A Greek boy’s name meaning “from the valley”, means “nobody” in Latin
Orko -- The thunder god in Basque mythology
Plato -- Greek philosopher and mathematician, who was named by his wrestling coach
Q -- The Broadway Express subway line in New York City
Rocky -- A single mountain in the Rockies
Saturn -- Roman god of time, among other things who had a planet named after him
Triton -- In Greek mythology, the messenger of the deep sea, son of Poseidon
Ukko -- In Finnish mythology, the god of the sky and weather
Virgil -- One of ancient Rome’s greatest poets
Walda -- Name from Old German meaning “ruler”
Xerxes -- The fourth king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Xerxes the Great
Yogi -- People who do yoga
Zeus -- In Greek mythology, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and the gods who lived there
I expect that this year The Weather Channel will be pretty conservative about assigning names, and only the very strongest winter storms will get named. For the eastern 2/3 of the country, storms that receive a ranking of "notable" or higher on NOAA's Regional Snowfall Index (RSI) or Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) are the only ones fairly certain to get named this winter. We only had one such storm during the winter of 2011 - 2012 (Snowtober, on October 29 - 31, 2011.) Thus, if we have another wimpy winter like last winter, we probably won't get to see the Wrath of Khan.
Naming of Winter Storms in Europe
Various organizations in Europe have been naming their winter storms since 1954, and the public has reacted positively to this practice. The names given by the Free University of Berlin are the most widely used, and have been in existence since 1954. Their meteorologists traditionally name all lows and highs that influence the Central European weather. In November 2002, the Free University began an Adopt-a-Vortex scheme, which allows anyone to buy a storm name. The money raised is used by the meteorology department to maintain weather observations at the university. Over 1,800 participants from 15 European countries plus Brazil, Japan and the United States have participated. So far in 2012, 90 European low pressure systems have been given names.
Figure 2. A huge wave from Winter Storm Klaus rolls into Santander, Spain, in this wunderphoto taken by wunderphotographer lunada on January 24, 2009. Klaus had a central pressure of 967 mb at its peak on the morning of January 24, and brought sustained winds of 59 mph, gusting to 81 mph, to Santander. Wind gusts as high as 124 mph (199 km/hr) occurred along the northern coast of Spain, and the storm killed at least 26 people in Spain, France, and Italy.
Naming of Lake Effect Winter Storms by NWS Buffalo
Tom Niziol, The Weather Channel's winter storm expert, was meteorologist-in-charge of the Buffalo, New York NWS office until January 2012. He tells me that for over ten years, the Buffalo NWS has been naming lake-effect storms. This was done only after the event occurred, to avoid any confusion, but was very popular with users. The names were chosen on a yearly basis by having the office staff vote for one of several themes--such as insects, heavenly bodies, famous scientists, minerals, Native American tribes, etc. Last winter, eight storms were named after breeds of cows (?!), as seen at the NWS Buffalo Lake Effect web page. I was not asked to contribute to this year's list of U.S. winter storms, but will lobby for next year's list of names to be taken from famous monsters--Rodan, Ghidorah, Nessie, Kong, Bunnicula, etc.
Figure 3. The most significant lake-effect snow storm of the winter of 2011 - 2012 was named Lake Effect Storm Evolene by the NWS office in Buffalo, New York. Image credit: NWS Buffalo Lake Effect web page.
The Methuselah of Atlantic tropical storms, Tropical Storm Nadine, is slowly weakening over cool 22 - 24°C waters. Nadine will have accumulated 20 days as a tropical cyclone later today, but the end is in sight. Wind shear will rise to 30 knots and ocean temperatures will drop to 20°C by Thursday, which should cause Nadine to transition to an extratropical storm as it passes by the northern Azores Islands on Thursday and Friday.
96L off the coast of Africa no threat to land
A tropical wave that emerged off the coast of Africa over the weekend (Invest 96L) has a moderate amount of spin and a large area of heavy thunderstorms that is growing more organized. The storm is located about 925 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, and is headed northwest at 10 - 15 mph. Wind shear is a moderate 10 knots, and is predicted to remain light to moderate, 5 - 15 knots, through Friday. The atmosphere surrounding 96L is fairly moist, and the disturbance does have a good degree of model support for becoming a tropical depression by late in the week. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 96L a 70% chance of becoming a tropical depression by Thursday morning. 96L is likely to get pulled northwards by a large trough of low pressure over the Central Atlantic late this week, and should not be a threat to the Lesser Antilles Islands.
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