8 Sep 2015

Met Office to name wind storms: how will it work?

Today, the Met Office announced that in conjunction with the Irish national meteorological service, Met Éireann, it will be carrying out a pilot project to name wind storms that affect the UK and Ireland.

One of the main tasks of a national meteorological service is to maintain public safety through severe weather warnings and forecasts.

By working together, the Met Office and Met Éireann hope that naming storms will raise awareness of severe weather and ensure that the message reaches as many people as possible.


In years gone by, storms have been unofficially named. Take the St Jude’s day storm, for example, which hit southern England on 28 October 2013.

Winds widely reached 70-80mph, causing significant disruption. Four people were killed, trees were blown over and there were power cuts.

How will it work?

During autumn and winter, when storms that hit the UK can potentially be at their strongest, the Met Office and Met Éireann stjude_storm_MO_wpwill give them names.

Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service at the Met Office, said: “The aim of this pilot is to provide a single authoritative naming system for the storms that affect UK and Ireland.”

Naming storms, such has hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons in other parts of the world has proved hugely successful in ensuring that as many people as possible get the severe weather message.

A storm will be named when it is felt to have the potential to cause ‘medium’ or ‘high’ wind impacts on the UK and/or Ireland, where a yellow, amber or red warning will be issued.

Who picks the storm names?

The naming of storms will operate on a similar principle used to name hurricanes by the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Great Storm Of 1987When a shortlist of names has been drawn up from public suggestions, the finalised names will follow the alphabet from A to Z, alternating between male and female names.

However, if a name has previously been associated with a storm that has had devastating impacts in other parts of the world – Katrina for example – it will not be used.

The same can be said for a storm in the future that has big impacts. In this case, the name will be retired from that point onwards.

Is it a good idea?

In my opinion, it is a good idea, as in recent years storms have unofficially been given names, which subsequently end up sticking anyway.

During autumn and winter, when a succession of severe storms can cross the UK and Ireland, there can sometimes be confusion about which storm is arriving when.

However, being able to say that storm X will arrive on Wednesday, followed by storm Y on Friday, will improve the clarity of the severe weather message significantly.

I only have one reservation about this new naming system, and that is to do with the threshold at which it is deemed necessary to metoffice_warnings_MO_wpgive a storm a name.

Different parts of the UK and Ireland have varying thresholds for given strengths of wind, which will also vary depending on how far into the season they hit.

For example, a storm with 60mph winds will have a bigger impact earlier in autumn than later, because there are more leaves on the trees, which act as sails, making them more prone to being blown over.

In addition, a 60mph wind storm will have much more of an impact in the densely populated parts of south east England than it will in the rural Highlands of Scotland.

This needs to be carefully considered, as named storms could end up being damp squibs, which will give the impression that the forecast has been wrong.

If you could name a storm, what would it be and why? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or by getting in touch on Twitter – @liamdutton

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