The recently introduced system for naming the storms that sweep across Ireland and Great Britain every winter was thrown into disarray this season. Things started conventionally enough: the Met Office and their Irish counterparts Met Éireann announced the list of 21 alphabetical names that would be used to name each storm. One week later, Storm Aileen brought the usual high winds and travel disruption. The next storm should have been Brian...
However, the Atlantic hurricane season and the Northern European storm season overlap by a couple of months (the official end of the hurricane season is November 30th). The Americans have their own alphabetical storm naming convention and they had started much earlier in the year. They were already up to ‘O’ and Ophelia was the easternmost hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic when it spun northwards towards Ireland. The second storm of the season was a hurricane that was no longer a hurricane that was born Ophelia, but was to be renamed Brian? Luckily, the Met Office saw the implications and referred to the second storm of the season as Ex-Ophelia. ‘Brian’ arrived a week later.
Names Increase Awareness
Every year people have a good laugh about the unthreatening names of the storms, but the truth is in talking about them, however lightheartedly, people are aware that there is severe weather and might think twice about venturing out or making a long car journey and that reduces the numbers of casualties.
Helen Chivers of the Met Office spoke about the decision to name storms to the BBC’s Today Programme back in February 2017:
“The increase in people’s awareness of when severe weather is on the way and what they need to do about it when it comes has been really huge.”
The Met Office examined social media platform Twitter and observed that 81,000 tweets referencing Storm Barbara were sent in the build up to the deluge. The storm caused a lot of damage just before Christmas 2016. A named storm gives everyone something to talk about and prepare for in a way that just another windy day doesn’t.
The UK and Ireland storm season isn’t freak weather like the floods that hit Greece this week. The fact that we have a season (and expect there to be multiple storms in it) means that we can prepare. When the warnings come for the next named storm, we can take the relevant precautions, think carefully about our travel plans and prepare our properties for the worst the winter can throw at us.
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