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Why did the Weather Channel start naming winter storms?

Turns out there's a method to the madness, and it's all Twitter's doing

Hashtagging a storm name may keep your friends high and dry this winter; photo courtesy of Ulf Bodin/Flickr

Hashtagging a storm name may keep your friends high and dry this winter; photo courtesy of Ulf Bodin/Flickr

Many of us might not have realized it, but last year the Weather Channel started doing an unusual thing: they started naming winter storms. Names have always been assigned to tropical storms and hurricanes, but had never really been attached to winter storms, so why did the popular weather outlet decide to start the trend?

In an article released earlier this week the company explained why they felt the need to personify winter weather. “The decision to begin naming storms came about as part of The Weather Channel’s program to find the best possible ways to communicate severe weather information on all distribution platforms, including social media.”

That’s right, social media is one of the driving factors behind naming winter storms. The release went on to explain that storms with names are easier to hashtag on Twitter—a resource that has been huge in helping the media source spread the dangers of these winter storms in order to keep people prepared and safe. The source also maintains that names themselves make people realize and understand the severity of winter storms like last winter’s Winter Storm Nemo, which dropped three feet of snow across New England in early February, killing 14 people. That particular storm generated a billion-plus impressions on Twitter alone.

“Our first year of naming storms proved that it works, and we’re thrilled with the results,” said meteorologist and storm specialist Bryan Norcross in the Weather Channel report. “The winter storm names enabled simpler and more focused communications around forecasts and preparedness information.”

The storm names for the 2013-2014 season have already been selected by a group of students at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana, and are primarily of Greek and Roman descent. Expect to hear the names Atlas, Hercules, and Rex from weathermen and women around the nation this year. It’s a bizarre twist to the social media era, but hopefully the naming of winter storms will do us all some good and prevent some of the devastation and tragedy of years past.