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Dublin: 1 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

Who is to blame for the 'Beast from the East'?

The extreme weather is coming, but what of its scary name?

The original Beast from the East.
The original Beast from the East.
Image: Bongarts/Getty Images

I THINK WE’VE all been pretty well acquainted with the so-called ‘Beast from the East’.

Whether it’s the already perceptible chill in the air, or the empty bread shelves in shops, its Siberian claws have already started to dig in around the country.

In the coming days though, Ireland is expected to be hit on a second front as ‘Storm Emma’ approaches from the west.

Met Éireann is concerned enough about these two weather events to have issued a number of weather warnings, but neither of the events have yet been officially named by meteorologists in Ireland or the UK.

So what is the difference between the two and where did the names come from?

As we’ve previously explained, the so-called Beast from the East is a polar vortex of freezing cold air that has been moving westwards across Europe.

The name is rather self-explanatory, with air usually reserved for the Russian winter invading the west. The actual moniker goes back years though.

Back in 2012 there was a similar eastern-influenced cold snap and the UK media started using the term as a shorthand, quite possibly influenced by heavyweight boxer Nikolai Valuev.

The seven-foot-tall Russian man-mountain was a former world champion in the years previous and was well-known to UK audiences because of a fight against Britain’s David Haye in 2009.

Haye famously defied the odds to beat Nikolai ‘Beast from the East’ Valuev in a world title bout that was billed as billed as ‘David vs. Goliath’.

When the cold snap rolled round in 2012 the nickname was in the lexicon of tabloid sub-editors and the UK’s Met Office gave the name a measure of legitimacy when it started using the term itself.

It seems that exactly the same thing has happened this time around.

Some media started using the term again and the UK’s Met Office took on the nickname last week, along with a nifty video showing the path of the cold air across Europe.

Ireland’s Met Éireann has been a lot more restrained and hasn’t used the sensationalist name.

Met Éireann has started using the term Storm Emma, but it didn’t officially christen it that.

In fact, according to the official naming chart, the next Atlantic storm in these islands is due to be called Hector.

The storm is currently over the Atlantic ocean and a Status Red warning has been issued by Portuguese authorities in Madeira .

The Portuguese have called it Storm Emma and Met Éireann’s Evelyn Cusack referenced it today while giving this rather stark forecast:

The cold polar easterly air is in over Ireland now, that will produce some showers this evening, tonight and tomorrow and then some scattered showers on Thursday.Then as Emma comes in, it’s well out at the moment, as that comes in it’s going to clash with the cold polar air and that’s going to produce the continuous precipitation, the continuous snow that we are still forecasting for Thursday evening, Thursday night and for Friday.

Accompanied by strong to gale force easterly winds. So,that’s if you like, the second snow event.

Say my name, say my name

The naming and categorising of weather events has been somewhat of a developing story over the past couple of years and this latest nomenclature has some of the elements of what’s gone before.

Often, as is the case here, it stems from the media trying to get a jump on forecasters.

PastedImage-8994 Source: Twitter/MSHelicat

The end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 saw a series of storms one after another, so much so that the public were struggling to keep up.

‘Storm Christine’ was one such example where a name took off, driven by the media and people online, rather than any official reason.

While Met Éireann and their UK counterparts were reluctant to get involved, they began jointly naming storms in the winter of 2015, with storm Abigail the first such named storm.

Following from that, Met Éireann began its colour-coding system of warnings that saw interest peak in when Atlantic Hurricane Ophelia prompted a Status Red warning in October.

Since then, Status Yellow warnings have become almost commonplace during the winter months and have perhaps prompted the eagerness to give the impending event a chilling title.

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