Why is it France and Spain have named twice as many storms as the UK this winter?

The Problem

If you look at the number of named storms there has been this year it does make you wonder if the meteorological services responsible for issuing them are are all playing by the same rules when it comes to naming a storm. This year up until now, France and Spain have named a total of 13 storms, whist the UKMO, Met Eireann and KNMI have only named five, and one of these was named by the Spanish weather service AEMet. Surely it can’t be down to the ferocity of the extratropical lows that regularly pass close to or directly across the country? I think the reason, and I could be making a wrong assumption here, is that as soon as they issue an amber warning for wind (maybe for rain too), they name have to give that low a name, just as Met Eireann have been doing for the last five years. I have seen numerous occasions this winter when severe gales have affected the western and northern Isles of Scotland which never receive a yellow, let alone an amber warning. This simply just wouldn’t happen if that strength of wind were to affect parts of Spain or France. So the root problem as far as I can see is the impact based warning system we use.

A possible answer

The simple answer would be to name every significant low pressure that affects Europe, just as the the Institute of Meteorology in Berlin have been doing since 2002 with their adopt-a-vortex initiative. The Institute have been using the money they collect from people who adopt a high or a low to maintain observations from the climate station (10381) and keep it open. Of course this idea could never work because of all the in fighting you would get from each of the European weather services about what constitutes a ‘significant’ low and what names are going to be feature in the list, and not that dissimilar to the problems faced by the organisers of the Eurovision song contest.

In conclusion

Storm Jorge changed all this, and now that’s happened I don’t think it will be long before it happens again, so watch out for storm Norberto, it could be arriving at a place near you later this week!

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