1.4 Name Our Storms: Improving Communication of Severe Weather in the UK

Monday, 8 January 2018: 9:30 AM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Dee Cotgrove, Met Office, Exeter, UK

Name our Storms– improving communication of severe weather in the UK

Dee Cotgrove Executive Head of Media and Communications, Met Office

During autumn and winter 2015-16 and 2016-17 the Met Office (the UKs Met Service) and Met Eireann, the Irish Met Service ran a pilot project to name wind storms that were expected to affect the UK and Ireland: the ‘Name our Storms’ project.

So why did we decide to do this?

Insights from attending AMS meetings about the hurricane naming system and the issues and benefits of adhoc naming of other storm systems – notably Storm Sandy - indicated that there may be benefits in establishing an official system for naming UK storms. I thus proposed that the Met Office consider a UK storm naming system. I hoped this would enhance public awareness of official forecasts and warnings, and support the NMS authoritative voice.

How did we set this up?

A joint communications and forecasting team was established to take this concept forward. We consulted with EUMETNET who recognised that introducing a single Europe-wide storm naming system may be impractical. Greater integration through 'building blocks' of regional schemes by adjacent nations was recommended. The UK Met Eireann ‘Name our Storms’ intiative is one of those building blocks.

The aim of the initiative was to aid the communication of approaching severe weather and help keep the public, property and businesses safe. In the UK, the naming process is linked to National Severe Weather Warnings with storms being named when there were forecast to be medium or high wind impacts. Public engagement at an early stage was important and, pre-launch, the Met Office invited names to be submitted via social media. Over 10,000 suggested names were submitted. Together with Met Éireann, an alphabetical list of storm names was then selected and compiled for each year.

So what has been the outcome?

Storm naming has been hugely visible with names being widely reported in the media and trending on social media. The names have also been useful for retrospective discussion and assessment of events. There are of course some challenges associated with officially ‘naming’ each storm and in managing the media messaging before, during and after a storm is named. Importantly though, we have collected evidence that storm naming has helped raise the profile of severe weather and increase public engagement and action, and thus we have decided to formally adopt storm naming as part of our warning system. The Storm Naming initiative has won an international AMEC award for Evaluation. Western European NMSs are now considering also introducing storm naming.

As storm naming has now been formally adopted as part of the official storm warning system in the UK, I’d like to share our experiences with the meteorological community at AMS where the idea was first spawned.

Dee Cotgrove, Executive Head of Media and Communications, Met Office

August 2017

Supplementary URL: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/barometer/uk-storm-centre/uk-storm-centre

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