The Origin of Frankenstorm: Your Tax Dollars at Work

If you have yet to hear the name “Frankenstorm” in reference to Sandy and the hybrid cyclone she will become after making landfall, get ready to hear it a lot.  You will no doubt wonder, “Who came up with that name?”  You might think it was The Weather Channel or some other meteorologist having fun on Twitter.

Well, you’re wrong.  It was actually an employee (or likely a group of employees) of the federal government that works for the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC).  The HPC is a division of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), which falls under the umbrella of NOAA.  NOAA itself is under the Department of Commerce.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, the HPC issued their daily, preliminary extended forecast discussion.  To prove this was online (and is still online), here’s a screen shot of the discussion:

The infamous quote comes at the end of the first paragraph:

[THE STORM] SHOULD SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN, INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE LINES OF “FRANKENSTORM”, AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY’S GOTHIC CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS.

 

Yeah, we get why you’re calling it Frankenstorm. We don’t need an explanation.

Here are some of the problems with the timing of this name as well as the name itself:

  1. The storm was five days out at the time.  It could still miss or never materialize.  Then, you’re just opening “Frankenstorm” up to be a running joke about terrible forecasts.
  2. The name takes away from Sandy – you know, the hurricane that has killed 21 people in the Caribbean.  It gives the public the perception that this is something different than Sandy.  Meteorologically, it might be different, but the public doesn’t care about the dynamics or thermodynamics.  All they care about is how it will impact them.  In that case, “Frankenstorm” will share a lot of similarities with Sandy.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know what will happen when this storm hits.  Names like “Snowmageddon” came about after the storm had passed and we realized everything would be OK after some cleanup.  Can you imagine someone tweeting “AP reports 10 fatalities in association with #Frankenstorm”?  That’s incredibly stupid.

Hopefully no one will be killed in this storm and the name “Frankenstorm” can remain as a fun nickname for the event.  Still, if everything works out, it doesn’t make it OK to name the storm beforehand for all the reasons listed above.  Maybe the forecaster didn’t realize this would take off like it has.  I mean, who reads HPC discussions anyway?  Well, TV meteorologists do, and TV loves them some fun nicknames.  In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not recognizing how far and wide your words can reach when they are broadcast for all to hear/see.

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This entry was posted in Autumn Weather, Forecasting, Humor, Tropical Weather, Winter Weather and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Origin of Frankenstorm: Your Tax Dollars at Work

  1. George says:

    It is a stupid name.

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