Should the UK start naming storms?

December 28, 2013 — 5 Comments


Should the UK start naming storms?

The number, frequency and rapid movement of recent UK storms has meant that, for many people and the media, one anonymous unnamed storm has merged into another. Identifying impacts and explaining the specific nature and different characteristics of each storm is often confusing.  The current procedure of UK storm nomenclature is by date, such as “the 2013 Dec23-24 storm” or, for more infamous specific high impact events, randomly adopted names are used, such as StJude.  Storm identification in the UK seems, therefore, to be rather an ad hoc, random, informal and possibly even disorganised process.  For a country that experiences a lot of storms and, seemingly, an increasing number of intense meteorological events, it would seem like a timely idea to START NAMING UK STORMS!

Naming storms that impact Germany and Central Europe has been a tradition at the Institute for Meteorology of the Free University (FU) Berlin since 1954. They run an interesting adopt-a-vortex scheme that allows users to (pay?) to adopt a LOW. more here… Some forecasters in the UK use the Berlin vortex Euro-names already, especially on twitter.  Other professional forecasters fear that using such storm names will not help public understanding of meteorological events (not least because some of the worst UK storms are wave depressions that are spawned by rapid cyclogenesis from more persistent parent lows; this is more complex than a hurricane which tends to stay as one system).

Better known are the names given to hurricanes and typhoons in the Atlantic and Pacific since 1945.  Names like Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan are iconic in the public imagination and formally arranged by the World Meteorological Organisation using a formal alphabetical list. Whilst UK storms are not usually on the same scale as tropical hurricanes, they nervetheless have the potential for significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

There are several benefits of naming storms, not least a heightened public awareness if storms have unique names.  With storm damage and intensity set to increase for the UK and considering Atlantic storms arrive here first in Europe, it seems like a good idea to start our own system of storm naming. The UKMO or could run such a scheme and funds raised could be charitable or go towards funding the scheme.

A scheme similar to that of Adopt-A-Vortex where the public can pay to name a storm would help fund it.

Have your say below and, as a community we might be able to ask the UKMO to consider this as a proposal, you never know!

5 responses to Should the UK start naming storms?


    The Met Office (who I think would be the designated namers in the region) refuse to name them, at least before they occur. The Free University of Berlin name every low and high in the European area (some are missed though) which are widely used. The Danes and the Swedes have recently resolved to name storms, though the Danes did say a unified European name would be desirable. Personally I see value in the German names as they produce charts and life histories for the lows and highs which also support the FUB students. however, I think anglicisation of some of the names would be desirable (as the French adapt names for Francophone ears) for some storms. Personally I would support a unified European naming system which evolved with “Xaver” with individual met offices adapting the FUB name to their own language. The poles used Ksawery, their equivalent to Xaver. The English would be Xavier, maybe Javier. As for Erich, the French and the UK could be happy with Eric. I don’t know if it would be helpful though, as there has been some controversy regarding in the US.


    I don’t exactly know why they don’t name them, just some vague recollection of them being especially unwilling to name them beforehand (link lost to the memory long ago). I would suppose that an FUB naming system would be too much for the Met Office to consider, and a Norwegian model favoured, if any (naming of extreme weather events, wind, water, etc…) though it seems something I think the Met Office seems bodily opposed to. They appear to be quite conservative in regards to their warnings and advisories. They persist with “gales” and “severe gales” (which to me have little meaning) when other nations speak of storms, full storms and “orkans”. I think the insurance industry are somewhat ahead of them with their “European windstorms”, though an accepted definition is weak. Following the St. Jude storm I did see a UK weather forecaster say “wind storm” though. I think it would be helpful initially if the Met Office and BBC adopted a unified nomenclature for such storms, especially since the sting jet theory was brought forward (though I know it is itself not fully resolved). I guess change must overcome the accepted idea that the UK does not have extreme weather.


      Thank you for taking the time to reply in such detail. Interesting material. I like your idea that (we) “need to overcome the accepted idea that the UK does not have extreme weather”

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