In recent weeks we’ve seen storm Abigail and Barney hit the UK and we already know that the next storm will be named Clodagh. So why have the Met Office started naming storms this year?
Forecasting severe weather has improved and 5 day forecasts are now as good as a 3 day forecast. The general public also has more choices than ever to access weather information. This can be through TV, radio, apps and social media. It is however reported that after a severe weather event it’s common to hear people say “I didn’t know”. Due to this low awareness, the UK’s Met Office and the Irish Meteorological Service (Met Éireann) announced a plan to name storms this year to address this. To kick off the campaign they encouraged the general public to suggest names for the storms.
Other countries also name storms, and in Germany this has been done since the 1950’s. In the USA they only started naming storms in 2012 – 2013 although have named hurricanes since 1950. It’s thought that by naming significant storms it’ll increase public awareness of severe weather and therefore, improve appropriate responses to warnings.
The Weather Company (TWC) in America began naming winter storms in 2012-13, citing the importance of communicating in social media, especially Twitter, which requires the use of a hash tag. After three years of experience, TWC has reported that “Twitter alone provides an incredible reach where routinely we see more than one billion people receiving tweets using the storm name. Millions of tweets are sent using the hash tag from government agencies, school districts, utilities, businesses, and the general public. These hash tags also allow the National Weather Service and others to find real-time weather data tweeted by citizens that can be used in nowcasts and other storm reports.”
In my opinion, storm awareness has been increased and storm Abigail and Barney were widely discussed on the TV, radio and social media. It’s only hoped that members of the public make sensible choices when receiving warnings of severe storms and take action to ensure their own safety. A full list of storm names can be found here: www.metoffice.gov.uk/uk-storm-centre