Naming the Storm: Making Weather in the UK Stand Out

So, we've had Abigail, which was quickly followed by Barney. For the record, the next time you walk outside your house and find felled trees, or if the power goes off in your home, the name you need to be cursing at the top of your voice is Clodagh. After she dies down, there will be Desmonds everywhere hiding from the potential wrath of the nation. So, why are we now naming our storms in the UK?

The US have long been in the business of naming their hurricanes and tropical cyclones, but for the first time in the UK, we have taken the step of giving their storm weather a 'single authoritative system' or a representation. As put by the Met Office, who recently ran a social media campaign to help name the future and forecasted storms, it is state on their website,

"The naming of storms should ... aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies. In this way the public will be better placed to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe"

Basically, it is seen that naming particularly prominent weather systems gives it more relevance, therefore it becomes more recognised or more visible, and when people take more notice of inclement weather, they tend to be more prepared. So, how do you come by the name of a storm? Well, believe it or not, it is not a random process. At least not on the other side of the Atlantic. The process is maybe not Scientific, but it is very regulated these days by a committee of the World Meteorological Organization.

Prior to a designated list of names being used, storms had sometimes been named by referencing events that characterised a particular storm

"In the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily. An Atlantic storm that ripped off the mast of a boat named Antje became known as Antje's hurricane. Then the mid-1900's saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms." [Source]

Specific storm naming in North America has been going on since 1953. Originally maintained from lists originated by the US National Hurricane Centre, and originally containing 6 rotating lists of female-only names, with male names only being introduced in 1979.

The designated UK storm names for 2015/16. Source: Met Office The designated UK storm names for 2015/16. Source: Met Office

So certain types of storms, which are prominent enough to warranty weather warnings, are all given names which rotate and reset at the start of each year. So, if next year, the first storm of the 2016 in the US was called Ana, then that storm name would not be reused again until 2022. the UK's approach to the naming system follows the US to some extent in the naming. For example, the US system, which was formulated in the early 1950s does not include names that begin with the letters Q, U, X, Y or Z. This dates back a while, but to a time where there were not as many recognisable names beginning with these letters. Apologies to all Quentins, Xaviers and Zaras. However, the UK has decided that as this is a test-phase for storm naming, the names that have been chosen for the UK storms will not reset at the end of this year, and these names will be current until the end of 2016.

Only time will tell if it has an effect. Obviously, just because you know what a storm is called, doesn't mean you reason with it any more than you can now, but anything that brings more caution to the approach of storms and inclement weather, the better.

As we have re-blogged about just today, from the BBC website, Storm Barney - the second named storm in the UK this year - much like Storm Abigail a few days previous devastated the UK, leaving tens of thousands without power in the UK, and causing chaos and disruption in large measure. Although power cuts due to weather can't be prevented, they can be eased, and our business is geared up to help and advise those who want to back themselves, their families or the businesses up with a standby generator system.

If you are considering a backup generator and you need any help or advice, please don't hesitate to call us. We can help you spec the right unit for your needs and advise you throughout the process from classification to delivery. Call us on 01437 700123 or email

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