Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Snow: Ready for 'Athena?'

The Weather Channel names first storm. Will anyone salute?

Snow: Ready for 'Athena?'

A pedestrian walks along Broad Street through a winter storm, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A pedestrian walks along Broad Street through a winter storm, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This won't matter much to people in Pittsburgh or even Harrisburg, but the Weather Channel has decreed that our imminent snowstorm merits a name, Athena.

Thus its controversial experiment to name winter storms in the tropical-storm tradition has begun.

The cable giant says that naming "makes communications and information sharing easier, enabling consumers to better understand forecasts."

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Don't expect anyone else to honor TWC's convention, however.

In its own emphatic way, the government has said it wants no parts of it, and Joel Myers, the founder of Accu-Weather Inc., is still steaming about the concept.

Myers calls the winter-storm naming a "clever media device" that in the end could undermine the credibility of meteorologists.

He said Accu-Weather has looked at winter-storm naming, but, "We’ve always rejected it."

He argued that winter storms have little in common with their distant tropical cousins. For example, winter storms can have multiple centers, unlike tropical storms.

The government imposes a hard criterion for a named tropical storm -- peak winds of at least 39 m.p.h.

It would be all but impossible to establish such a criterion for a winter storm, Myers argued.

"Winter storms are totally different," Myers said. "The effects on different places are variable. It’s going to be random and arbitrary.

"Are you going to name an inch of slush?"

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
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