Not everyone is happy with Hercules

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

For the last week and a half a storm of rare magnitude and intensity has buffetted the North Atlantic Basin. It began its life as a pool of cold air coming off the Canadian Shield that formed a low pressure system which then impacted the whole US East Coast. Temperatures plummeted as the storm intensified and many regions and cities hit record low temperatures.

As the storm cut a swathe across the East Coast, The Weather Channel, an American weather and media company, continued the practice they began three years ago of naming significant winter storm systems. The current storm received the name, 'Hercules'.

As soon as it had been named other media outlets and social media users immediately adopted the title. The name spread as the storm moved into the North Atlantic ocean and prepared to send a large swell – the largest in recent history – to all of west-facing Europe. The 'Hercules storm' fast became an event of international significance.

However, despite the widespread acceptance of the name not everyone is happy about its use. In the US, the government run National Weather Service (NWS) has asked its forecasters not to use the name Hercules nor any other name The Weather Channel gives to storms. Last November NWS spokesperson Susan Buchanan stated, "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."

Unlike tropical cyclones, which are small, closed systems that make it easy for forecasters to delineate lifecycle and area of impact, winter storms can morph and change making it difficult to track and potentially dangerous to name.

US private weather company Accuweather, a competitor of The Weather Company, also disagree with the practice. Last October their CEO, Barry Lee Myers, said, “In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety and is doing a disservice to the field of meteorology and public service.”

Lee Myers also admitted, “They are a media company, and we live in a free country.” Before adding, “We just see confusion resulting when people want to know how a storm will affect them.”

The charge of media spin is contentious and appears not entirely unfounded. Rather than picking random, neutral names, as is the practice of all government agencies that name cyclones (or hurricanes and typhoons), The Weather Channel chooses more grandiose names in an apparent attempt to sensationalise the storm. Before Hercules they named previous systems Brutus, Caesar, Gandolf, and Khan.

In defence of The Weather Channel's practice a senior director, Bryan Norcross, said, "The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation."

In Australia the convention of naming Australian tropical cyclones began in 1964. However, between 1887 and 1902 Clement Wragge, Government meteorologist in Queensland, initiated the practice by naming weather systems after anything from mythological creatures to politicians who annoyed him.

Click here to see the best videos and photos from the swell as it hits Europe.

Comments

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 2:14pm

I can just see future weather systems being individually named by all and sundry. "Ajax the Great", "The Tasman Titan", "Oliver's Onion Ring" and "Bob's Low".

Where do I get the t-shirt?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 2:24pm

What about commercial sponsorship of storms? Could be a real boon for The Weather Channel, not to mention a chance for Surf laundry powder to increase market share.  

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 3:14pm

Oh God. NO!

I can just imagine it: "Wednesday's captured fetch is brought to you by Retrograde, the new single by James Blake. Grab his new album 'Overgrown' at all good records stores today".

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 3:18pm

Um.. how do you know James Blake's new single and album name..

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 3:19pm

Shit. I knew someone was going to question this. I erm, Googled it. 

There. Honestly!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 4:06pm

"Pardon me for the delay in posting this, but I’ve been laid up for the past three days as a result of Sinus Infection Fred.

Fred brought with him congestion levels that I haven’t seen since 2011’s Seasonal Flu Ethel and temperatures rose to 101.1 degrees, not quite high enough to surpass the fever of 102.9 degrees I saw with Stomach Bug Dennis in 2007.

I don’t actually give a name to every ailment that hits me because that would be ridiculous. The folks atThe Weather Channel, however, may embrace it."

Worth a read.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 4:59pm

You'll have to excuse me, worst case of the runs since 2009's Diarrhea Diane.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 6:41pm

My runs are different, running from ex's that produce a name to a kid that supposedly is mine...?

All of my weather storms now, are called the "Snip" easy as then, got papers to prove it...?

Blanks as well.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 4:10pm

Type "The Weather Channel Hercules" into Google and you'll see TWC has caused a lot of controversy in deciding to name storms. Interstingly, they've also got a few people who agree with the convention, mostly marketing people who think it's, sigh, "great branding".

carpetman's picture
carpetman's picture
carpetman Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 4:58pm

Didn't Mini Cooper sponsor a storm in Europe a few years back? or was that just a interweb hoax?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 5:29pm

The Weather Channel are definitely copping heat now!

patty's picture
patty's picture
patty Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 8:37pm

Howsabout the Mick Lowe pressure system?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 at 8:45pm

I reckon we could easily round up some federal government support for the Austrade swells. 

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 10 Jan 2014 at 11:16am

Bloody hell. Here I am thinking I've penned a couple of in-house weather jokes for the nerds amongst us, and no-one from Swellnet even picked up on the hilarity of my 'captured fetch' line, or even the 'Austrade swell' lick. If they didn't, then nobody did.

I'm going back to my day job.

sunstroke's picture
sunstroke's picture
sunstroke Friday, 10 Jan 2014 at 7:29pm

Here's one for you Ben.

The John Howard.

It was only a little storm, but well & truely outstayed its welcome.

In the end, it didn't do much except take all the Surfers guns!