Friday, January 18, 2013

Naming storms

Apparently the Weather Channel has decided that winter storms are jealous of hurricanes and think they deserve their own names. So they have unilaterally decided to name winter storms.

At first I was annoyed by this but now I just laugh. Because the names are so crazy. I thought they were Greek/Roman mythological names, but there's a Euclid in there (last I checked, he was a real guy?) And there's Freyr in there, which sounds Norse to me. (And Q. The only "Q" I know is from Star Trek.). And Gandolf (not to be confused with Gandalf, Middle-Earthers) is Norse too, I think.

So to me, it sounds like either a bunch of TWC staffers were sitting around playing D and D one day, or maybe using whatever chemical substance they use to relax, and someone said, "Hey, you know what would be cool? Naming winter storms." And someone else was like, "Yeah, let's, like, use mythology names and junk." And so it began. And then they got to I and couldn't come up with any mythological person whose name started with I - so they went with Iago, which most educated people know from Shakespeare (though there is also a St. Iago, and I guess the parrot in "Aladdin" was named Iago)

(Apparently Gizmodo either tracked down, or made up, explanations for each name. And the Y storm is going to be Yogi? I'm sorry, that just makes me think of a bear talking about pic-a-nic baskets).

I admit, I think this is a dumb and rather self-aggrandizing idea. Yes, the Weather Channel claims it will "raise awareness" (apparently in our culture, lack of awareness of things that are dangerous is a major problem. I'd argue that's not the case, if anything, we're so aware of every damn thing that can affect us that we can no longer differentiate between major threats - like a blizzard in Nebraska - and minor threats - like being exposed to dental x-rays on a yearly basis)

And also: "A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness."

Yeah, but - Yogi? I get that it also refers to an ascetic practitioner of some Hindu practices, but I suspect that like most Americans of my generation, I'm going to think of that goofy bear. And that's not going to help me think of the storm as a threat.

And also, Khan - I suspect most of us with even a grain of geekiness in us are going to respond with our best captain-Kirk-esque "KHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!" if that one comes across the airwaves. (What are we up to, now? I stopped paying attention around Gandolf....)

My cynical interpretation of their reasons?

Naming a storm raises awareness. (Of our channel, and the stunt we are pulling here)

Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress. (Okay, maybe. But you could also call it "the large storm that originated in Nebraska" or something. And anyway, don't most people only really care about a storm when it's over them, or over some place where they are traveling?)

A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.(This could seriously backfire: see, "Yogi.")

In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication. (Read as: "We don't think enough people are Tweeting about us already")

A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future. (Uh, I remember how the old-timers used to talk about the "drought of summer 1936," or the "really bad snow storm in 1958." It seemed they remembered it just fine, and I think a year or a season plus a year makes for remembering better than a name does).

But, whatever. Whatever floats Jim Cantore's boat these days. But I don't have to take the names seriously.

What will they do in the future when they use these up? Use names from literature? Cartoons? Movies? Old band names?


Dave E. said...

If they are going to name winter storms then I want them to name Arctic air masses like the one bearing down on the Midwest tonight. Maybe they could use the names of famous cold-hearted people and characters.

Arctic air mass Scrooge, Arctic air mass Antoinette, Legree...there are plenty to choose from.

Kate P said...

Old band names? As long as they don't name one "Slayer"--that'd be really alarming.