A storm called Nemo?

The unofficial moniker has picked up steam, much to the chagrin of weather experts

by Lindsey Wiebe

Pedestrians cross a snow-covered street in Toronto, Friday. (Frank Gunn/CP)

It’s short, sweet, and — let’s face it — eminently tweetable. And it’s certainly catchier than the alternatives: “major winter storm” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

But unlike, say, Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, the winter storm many are calling Nemo isn’t officially sanctioned as such. The former two come to us via the United States’ National Weather Service. Nemo is a creation of the Weather Channel, part of a bid by the U.S.-based weather behemoth to, in their own words, “better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events.”

“The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation,” the channel said last fall, when they announced plans for winter storm naming. (Still to come: winter storms Orko, Q, Rocky and Yogi. Yes, yogi, like the yoga practitioner.)

The move has rubbed plenty of weather experts and watchers the wrong way. “We’re not using that arbitrary name for the storm. It’s meaningless,” Washington Post weather editor Jason Samenow told Poynter, while the idea prompted an LOL from Boston Globe weather blogger David Epstein. ”We don’t name winter storms,” U.S. National Weather Service agency spokeswoman Susan Buchanan told Bloomberg Businessweek. The outlet said the weather service had “actively fought” the naming effort.

Some speculated on less pure motivations for winter storm naming: “Giving a name to a blizzard encourages a certain level of hysteria, which in turn could help bump up The Weather Channel’s ratings,” wrote Jared Newman at TIME‘s Techland blog.

Those who’ve abstained from Nemo include the New York Timessticking with ‘big storm’, as of Friday afternoon — and the Wall Street Journal and CNN, both of which opted for a straightforward ‘blizzard.’ Most major Canadian outlets seemed to be following the same trajectory, mentioning Nemo mainly to scrutinize the naming convention.

Canada’s own Weather Network is another holdout: “We don’t support that private media or weather players assume the responsibility of naming winter storms,” Pierre Morrissette, chief executive officer of Weather Network owner Pelmorex Media Inc., told the Globe and Mail. “It’s really government domain – it has decided to name hurricanes with very clear standards and criteria. If every player decided to name storms or issue their own alerts it would lead to confusion.”

But the naming battle may already be lost online. The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed showed no qualms over embracing the moniker, the former opting for an all-caps ‘BLINDING NEMO’ headline. And the #nemo hashtag soared in popularity Friday, trending in Canada and the United States, and getting plugged in tweets by New York and New Jersey governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.

The Weather Channel’s own meteorologist Bryan Norcross summed things up succinctly: “The fact is that Twitter needs a hashtag,” he told the New York Times.

And in perhaps the best — or worst — sign of widespread adoption, the Nemo parody accounts have already emerged. Who doesn’t love a good fish-meets-weather-map mash-up?




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A storm called Nemo?

  1. Nemo is an “arbitrary name” but Sandy makes total sense. WTF

  2. Let us not forget “White Juan”!!

  3. Nemo = omeN

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