The naming of storms fiasco enters its fifth season

The named storm project is entering its fifth season and according to the Met Office it’s a resounding success. That maybe the tack they are taking in the media, but in private I get the distinct feeling that it’s proving much more trouble than it’s worth, with any usefulness it can provide in advertising the arrival of adverse weather in the UK of little value – after all isn’t that what national severe weather warnings are for? I make it that there have been 35 named storms in the last 4 seasons and more and more of them are being claimed and named each season by Met Eireann (31%), and now Meteo France have got in on the act, and some storms don’t even require naming because they already have a name being the tail end of a tropical cyclone. If in the future the Icelandic Met service where to start naming storms there would be very few that the Met Office could claim as their own.

Here is a series of charts for each season that shows the gale index [GI] at 55°N 5°W from the objective LWT for each named storms. As you can see relatively few of the ‘named’ storms also have a GI that exceeds 50.

Gale Index derived from 6 hour Objective LWT analysis

The table below shows a complete list of all named storms and the highest speed for each of them that I’ve copied from the Met Office Storm Center.

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A good many of these ‘named’ storms never lived up to being labelled a ‘storm’ at all and severely underperformed. To be honest most of these were named by Met Eireann and is a product of their severe warning system that is threshold rather than impact based. It’s also noticeable just how many times the Met Office use the highest gust from the Needles on the Isle of Wight or Capel Curig in Wales (40%) seemingly to justify the naming of that particular storm. In my opinion wind means or gusts from sites such as these should be excluded because they are unrepresentative of a low level station:-

  • The Needles old battery anemometer sits atop a 393 foot chalk cliff, on top of a 30ft coastguard lookout building and just for good measure on top of a 30 foot anemograph tower and severely exposed to winds from the south or southwest.
  • Capel Curig lies on a small hillock (216 M AMSL) in a steep sided valley in Snowdonia renown for funneling of winds especially those from the west or southwest.
  • High Bradfield is as its name suggests just too high at 395 M (1295 feet) AMSL to be considered a low level station, the site has since closed which is a pity.

Just before the storm naming project began in 2015 there was a storm that affected the UK but because of Scotia Myopia no one spotted it, me neither. I retrospectively looked back and named it the forgotten storm of the 9th of January 2015. Westerly gusts in the early hours reached 113 mph at Stornoway, which also recorded a 10 minute mean speed of 77 mph. Now that’s a storm. A storm that many locals across northern Scotland will remember for a long time.

The highest gust in all those 35 named storms in the last 4 years was 106 mph which occurred with storm Katie in 2016 at where other than the dodgy Needles old battery site. Can you even remember that? In fact can you remember just one of those 35 named storms? I didn’t think so. I rest my case.

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