Easter weekend 2016 witnessed an angry visitor land on the shores of the UK. First disrupting the peace in Cornwall, subsequently working her way north-eastwards towards Norfolk, Katie the Storm was the 11th named storm since the system began last year as a public project. She was a bit of a hotshot: here on Easter Sunday night; gone Easter Monday. One could think it was an extra special ‘Dyngus’ morning – a Polish tradition where you splash a bit (or a lot!) of water onto anyone you see that day, usually before 12 noon. Just like Katie did. Anyway…
Although her lifespan was short, she managed to cause some damage. With inland gust speeds of up to 70mph, coastal up to 80mph (though peaking at 106mph), she broke power lines and left 27 thousand homes throughout the UK without electricity by the afternoon; she ripped roofs, diverted planes and ensured that her presence was known through heightened water levels in rivers.
She then went on to pester the rest of Northern Europe.
What interests me is the system of naming these UK storms and what constitutes the physical criteria to become a qualified named storm. The Met Office and The Met Éireann (the Irish service) began this as a pilot project, with thousands of names being suggested via Facebook and Twitter, and the list for the 2015/2016 season now having been finalised. I would definitely like to find out how they came to choose the names they chose; there must have been some form of debate between the staff along the lines of, “No guys, we can’t have a storm named Barney, that’s a purple dinos…. Uh, fine, let’s have Barney”.
This had not been in place before 2015, so you might wonder why all of a sudden, the UK is copying the hurricane-naming system seen over in the States. “We noticed that various organisations during the last couple of winters, when we have had bad storms, started giving names to them”, said a M.O spokesperson to the Guardian. This would often lead to confusion, where a single event would be known to different people under different names.
“The naming of storms using a single authoritative system should aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies.” – The Met Office
For a storm to qualify for a name, it must be forecasted to have medium to high impact from winds, with a yellow (“be aware”), amber (“be prepared”) or red warning (“take action”), as given out by the National Severe Weather Warning Service. If an already developed, named storm (or its remnants) is making its way to our shores from the Atlantic, its ex-original name will be used throughout.
On that note, the missing letters Q, U, X, Y, Z are as such to comply with the North American convention of naming hurricanes.
Here’s hoping that Lawrence and its descendants tone it down a bit.