Wait, why are we naming winter storms now?

Illustration for article titled Wait, why are we naming winter storms now?

Winter storms weren't named at all until two years ago. So why did we start all of a sudden?


Naming Hurricanes and tropical storms has a long history, but names for winter storms only built up steam in the last couple years. And, unlike tropical storms or hurricanes, it's not the National Weather Services that is naming them, it's The Weather Channel.

NPR took a look at the research of University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley, who says that the reason we're naming winter storms is the same as the reason we might nickname a car or a computer — it behaves as though it has a mind of its own. "When something behaves unexpectedly, it's not obvious why this person or that thing behaved as it did, that's when a mind is needed," Epley said. And winter storms do seem to be behaving in increasingly unexpected — and dangerous — ways.


But even though the impacts of winter storms seem to be getting increasingly severe, winter storms and tropical storms work in very different ways, and what makes sense for one kind of storm (naming), may not make sense for another. The NWS says that due to the nature of winter storms, which are not as clearly bounded and do not have as easily predicted paths as tropical storms, they prefer to rate the strength of winter storms after the fact, instead of giving them names.

So, should winter storms be named? And, if they are, who should be responsible for it?

Image: Lake Superior ice caves / Department of Interior's Twitter feed.

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The Weather Channel naming storms is a blatant attempt to boost ratings, and it should be ignored. The Weather Channel sucks for weather anyways. Everything is sensationalized and useful information just gets lost in the noise.