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Saidhbhín, Christoph and Phoebe: Names of 2020-2021 storms announced

The naming of storms has been shown to raise awareness of severe weather and help people stay safe.

Phoebe Buffay would probably write a song about having  a storm named after her.
Phoebe Buffay would probably write a song about having a storm named after her.
Image: Friends/Warner Brothers

MET ÉIREANN, THE UK Met Office and the Dutch National Weather Service (KNMI) have unveiled the list of names for the 2020/21 storm season.

The three national meteorological services worked together to compile the list of names based on suggestions from the public, and an effort to reflect the three nations’ diversity.

Naming storms was first introduced by Met Éireann and the UK Met Office in 2015 and they were joined by the KNMI in 2019, forming the West group. The Southwest group consists of Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium.

Once a storm is named by any National Met Service globally, that name is retained if the storm moves into our waters. For example, Ophelia and Lorenzo were named by the National Hurricane Center in the US and Emma by the IPMA in Portugal.

The names are in alphabetical order, alternating between genders. Following the NHC convention, names beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used.

2020-21_graphics_wheel_V2 Source: Met Éireann

The naming of storms by national meteorological services has been shown to raise awareness of severe weather and help people stay safe.

A storm is named when Orange or Red-level winds are forecast to impact over a wide land area. Orange or Red-level gusts can occur in exposed areas without the event being named. In addition, there may be high impact rain or snow associated with the storm system.

storm-name-list Source: Met Éireann

Evelyn Cusack, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann and Chair of the European Met Services’ Storm Naming Working Group, said the naming of storms by, as well as colour-coding weather warnings, “provides a clear, authoritative and consistent message to the public and prompts people to take action to prevent harm to themselves or to their property”.

“The storm names also add an extra interest for people with particular excitement in a family when one of their names appears in the list. We mostly pick names that can be easily pronounced but some are less generally recognised.

“Perhaps we won’t get as far as Heulwen, a striking Welsh girl’s name, but for the non-Welsh among us we have included an aide to pronounce it just in case (Hail–wen). But although I would love in theory to be able to use the Irish name Saidhbhín if we get that far down the list it will have been a really punishing season,” Cusack said.

Will Lang, Head of the National Severe Weather Warning Service at the UK Met Office, noted that the impacts from Storm Ciara and Dennis earlier this year “are still fresh in many people’s minds and although it’s too early to anticipate what weather this autumn and winter will bring, we are prepared with a new list of names to help raise awareness of severe weather before it hits”.

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More storms than previous years? 

In a statement issued today, Met Éireann said there is “heightened awareness now of weather warnings through social media as well as through traditional radio and TV”.

“This awareness has been catapulted into the public arena by the colour-coding of warnings and this storm-naming scheme. People really feel that the number of storms have risen and the weather has gotten worse.”

The statement noted that “after a lengthy, fine spring and a pretty good June”, this summer became increasingly unsettled, culminating in two storms at the end of August, Ellen and Francis, resulting in extensive flooding in the south.

Met Éireann said a similar pattern happened in August 1986, which also had two storms.

The first was on 5 August 1986, a storm which would be a named storm nowadays, and the second one was ex-Hurricane Charley – Kilcoole in Co Wicklow had 200mm of rain in 24 hours, the wettest day on record.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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