Paul Gross' annual rant on naming of winter storms

Paul calls naming winter storms 'ridiculous'


DETROIT – If you were like most people, you spent a fair amount of Sunday indoors, watching football and perhaps flipping over to The Weather Channel at some point. You probably noticed their meteorologists referring to our approaching storm by the name "Carly."

So why don’t you hear the Local4Casters (or anybody else) call winter storms by names? Because it’s ridiculous.

The Weather Channel staff just decided themselves a few years ago to start naming significant winter storms. That’s it. There is nothing official about this. The National Weather Service has explicitly stated that they will not do this, and neither will we at Local 4. You don’t see these storms called by name on NBC Nightly News, either.

So why did The Weather Channel start doing this? There’s one reason: It’s all about hype and trying to sensationalize to get people to watch.

Hurricanes are given names because there can be two (or more) storms existing at the same time, and having names makes it easy for the public to focus on the one storm with potential impact on where they live. It reduces confusion. Plus, hurricanes create a significant risk to life and property over a large area.

There is no need whatsoever to name winter storms. Rarely are there ever two completely different significant winter storms affecting the same region of the country. There’s no confusion by the public as to which storm their local meteorologists are talking about. Furthermore, naming winter storms instills unnecessary fear into some people because you are assigning a perceived similar level of risk from that winter storm as from a hurricane.

It’s all about hype, and I conveyed this directly to my colleague (and friend) at The Weather Channel who helped develop this -- right in front of my colleagues at an American Meteorological Society conference. But as I also told him, now that the cat is out of the bag, we’ll never get it back.

So, please don’t buy into the hype. We Local4Casters are very responsible about our winter storm coverage. We will tell you honestly just how impactful a storm will be, and also be very honest about our certainty or uncertainty.

Don’t get me started about severe winter storms in Europe. There, people can actually pay money to name a storm.

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