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.

Named Storms

SeasonName of StormDate NamedDate of ImpactOriginatorHighest Gust MPH
2015-16Abigail10 November 201512- 13 November 201584 (South Uist)
Barney16 November 201517 - 18 November 201585 (Aberdaron)
Clodagh28 November 201529 November 201597 (High Bradfield)
Desmond4 December 20155 - 6 December 201581 (Capel Curig)
Eva22 December 201524 December 2015Met Eireann83 (Capel Curig)
Frank28 December 201529 - 30 December 201585 (South Uist)
Gertrude28 January 201629 January 2016105 (Lerwick)
Henry30 January 20161 - 2 February 201690 (South Uist)
Imogen7 February 20167 February 201696 (Needles)
Jake1 March 20162 March 201683 (Mace Head)
Katie25 March 201627 - 28 March 2016106 (Needles)
2016-17Angus19 November 201620 November 201684 (Guernsey)
Barbara20 December 201623 - 24 December 201683 (Sella Ness)
Conor23 December 201625 - 26 December 201694 (Sella Ness)
Doris21 February 201723 February 201794 (Capel Curig)
Ewan25 February 2017 26 February 2017
Met Eireann75 (Capel Curig)
12 September 2017 12 - 13 September 201783 (Needles)
Ophelia11 October 201716 - 17 October 2017NHC90 (Capel Curig)
Brian19 October 201721 October 2017Met Eireann
85 (Needles)
Caroline5 December 20177 December 201793 (Fair Isle)
Dylan29 December 201730 - 31 December 2017Met Eireann76 (Islay)
Eleanor1 January 20182 - 3 January 201890 (Orlock Head)
Fionn16 January 201816 January 2018Met Eireann85 (Mace Head)
David17 January 2018 18 January 2018Meteo France93 (Capel Curig)
Georgina23 January 201824 January 2018Met Eireann85 (South Uist)
Hector13 June 201813 - 14 June 2018Met Eireann74 (Orlock Head)
2018-19Ali18 September 201819 September 201891 (Killowen)
Bronagh20 September 201820 - 21 September 201878 (Needles)
Callum10 October 201812 - 13 October 2018Met Eireann
86 (Capel Curig)
Deirdre14 December 201815 - 16 December 201876 (St Bees Head)
Erik7 February 20198 - 9 February 2019Met Eireann
86 (Capel Curig)
Freya1 March 20193 - 4 March 201976 (Swansea)
Gareth11 March 201912-13 March 2019Met Eireann81 (Malin Head)
Hannah26 April 201927 April 2019Met Eireann82 (Aberdaron)
2019-20Lorenzo2 October 20192 - 3 October 2019NHC63 (Mace Head)
Atiyah6 December 20198-9 December 201983 (Needles)
Brendan11 January 202013-14 January 2020Met EireannStorm what storm?
Ciara5 February 20208-9 February 202097 (Needles)
Dennis11 February 202015-16 February 202091 (Aberdaron)
Jorge27 February 202028 February - 1 March 2020Met EireannStorm what storm?
Ellen18 August 202019-20 August 2020Met Eireann

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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