Meteorologists have long used names for tropical storms and hurricanes. But who determined that the winter weather the Triangle is experiencing should be called “Jonas?”
The name is the brainchild of The Weather Channel, which began naming winter storms in 2012 to simplify communication and forecasts. Meteorologist Bryan Norcross, the channel’s senior hurricane specialist, said the names are designed to help track communication on social media.
“We knew we needed hashtags,” Norcross said. “It’s been extraordinarily successful ... given the fact that it’s just one media outlet that’s doing it.”
The storm names appear to be catching on. “Winter Storm Jonas” is now a trending search term according to Google Trends, and “Jonas” is a popular hashtag on Twitter.
Norcross said the names also help focus public attention on winter weather systems and make it easier for people to remember one storm from another. Jonas is the 10th named storm this winter.
“People perk up when a storm is named,” he said. “We’ve known that with our experience with tropical storms and hurricanes.”
The Weather Channel determines the impact of a storm based on the same thresholds The National Weather Service uses for winter weather warnings, as well as the area and number of people a storm is likely to affect. If the impact of a winter storm is large enough, usually meaning it will affect more than 2 million people, it gets a name.
The National Weather Service does not use the storm names. In 2012, the service released a statement that said, “A winter storm’s impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins.”
Norcross said he has had many friendly conversations with representatives from The National Weather Service, and that The Weather Channel hopes the government adopts the new system.
The names themselves come not from The Weather Channel boardroom, but from a classroom at Bozeman High School in Montana.
When winter storm Brutus hit Bozeman in 2012, one student noticed The Weather Channel’s storm names all related to ancient Rome and Greece. The school’s Latin club decided to come up with a list of names rooted in the ancient language – enough for four years of storms named A to Z – and email it to the TV channel.
“We literally didn’t have anyone’s contact info so we sent it to anyone and everyone,” said Latin teacher Erika Shupe. “We never knew if they would get back to us.”
The Weather Channel began a partnership with the club that is now three years strong. “For us, it’s a way that Latin can live on and be used practically,” Shupe said.
Jonas comes from Ionas, the Latin spelling of the name Jonah.