Would Hurricane Katrina have been even more devastating if it hadn't been named? Would people take more notice of blizzards more seriously if a strong front were named after a Greek god or goddess? That's what the Weather Channel is thinking. The company announced Tuesday that it would name major winter storms during the upcoming season.
"The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation," the company said in its official announcement. "Winter storms occur on a time and space scale that is similar to tropical systems."
The company says that by naming storms, they will be easier to remember and refer to in the future and people will have an easier time getting word out about the storm on social media.
So say long to "Snowmageddon" and hello to storms named after mythological figures. Names chosen for 2012-2013 winter storms include Athena, Gandolf, Khan, Plato, Rocky, and Zeus. Like hurricanes and tropical storms, winter storms will be named in alphabetical order.
It's unclear how the company will decide whether to name a specific storm, but it said it will take potential impacts such as expected snowfall, temperature, time of day (rush hour vs. overnight), and day of the week (weekdays vs. weekends) into account. Storms will be named no more than three days before they're expected to hit a metropolitan area.
The move isn't without precedent: In Europe, some agencies have been naming winter storms since the mid-1950s.
Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who runs the Weather Underground blog, wrote that the move "makes sense" and could "reduce the risks the public faces." The National Hurricane Center is in charge of naming tropical storms and hurricanes, but with no national winter weather monitoring service, Masters says The Weather Channel is a good company to take on the task.
Don't expect too many upcoming named winter storms, however: Masters says the station will likely be "pretty conservative about assigning names, and only the strongest winter storms will get named." He suggested that only one of last winter's storms would have been named.
"If we have another wimpy winter like last winter, we probably won't get to see the Wrath of Khan," he wrote.
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com.