WBEZ | Weather Channel http://www.wbez.org/tags/weather-channel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Meet the Star Trek-loving meteorologist who named Winter Storm Khan http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/meet-star-trek-loving-meteorologist-who-named-winter-storm-khan-105160 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/snow storm chicago AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://bcove.me/6norrxha" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The first thing you should know about the man who named <a href="http://www.weather.com/news/weather-winter/why-we-named-khan-20130125">Winter Storm Khan</a> &ndash; which is expected to leave<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/25/winter-storm-khan-wrath-video_n_2551143.html?utm_hp_ref=green">&nbsp;2 to 4 inches of snow between Ohio and the mid-Atlantic</a> this weekend &ndash; is that he lives in Miami Beach, Fla.</p><p>When I reached <a href="http://www.wunderground.com/blog/bnorcross/show.html">Bryan Norcross</a>, the Weather Channel&rsquo;s Senior Executive Director of Weather Content and Senior Hurricane Specialist, at home Friday afternoon, he cheerfully reported that the weather there was a sunny 77 degrees.</p><p>So while much of the rest of the country shivers through single-digit temperatures, the man who helped spark the controversy over <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-07/news/ct-talk-winter-storm-athena-1108-20121107_1_enterprise-products-and-services-opinion-about-private-weather-winter-storms">the Weather Channel&rsquo;s move to start naming winter storms this past fall</a> can walk around in shorts and flip-flops</p><p>If you&#39;ll recall, the cable channel&#39;s decision irritated critics who thought the task of naming storms should be reserved for some quasi-governmental agency, like the World Meteorological Organization, which names hurricanes in the Atlantic, or the National Weather Service, perhaps. Andrew Freiden, a Richmond, Va. meteorologist who was quoted in the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/weather-channel-to-name-winter-storms-a-publicity-and-power-play-with-possible-value/2012/10/02/efa49318-0c98-11e2-bb5e-492c0d30bff6_blog.html">Capital Weather Gang blog</a>, put it this way: &ldquo;Weather Channel to name Winter Storms! First Thought: &ldquo;Who died and made them King?!&rdquo;</p><p>Honestly, we here at the WBEZ web team weren&rsquo;t all that interested in the controversy. We just wanted to know: <a href="http://www.weather.com/news/winter-storm-names-20121001">Khan? Draco? <em>Gandolf?!</em></a> Who picked these names? And were they, like, mega sci-fi/fantasy buffs or what?</p><p>The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.</p><p>&ldquo;Meteorologists tend to be &ndash; what would you call it &ndash; <em>Star Trek</em>, <em>Star Wars</em>, <em>Lord of the Rings</em> enthusiasts,&rdquo; Norcross said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re more inclined towards sci-fi than the general population.&rdquo; So much so that in addition to their choice of Khan, Norcross and company considered naming a storm after Lt. Uhura. &ldquo;We thought about a bunch of Star Trek names,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But we didn&rsquo;t want words that were hard to say or funny to read. It was a trial-and-error process.&rdquo;</p><p>The Weather Channel considered superhero names, too. (My reaction: &ldquo;You mean like Winter Storm Spider-Man?!&rdquo; How amazing would that have been?) Their choice for &ldquo;J&rdquo; was almost Jor-El, Superman&rsquo;s father.</p><p>Ultimately Norcross steered his team away from those choices. &ldquo;I have a list of names that pulled directly out of popular culture in a variety of ways,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Then we got to thinking, is this going to cause any issue?&rdquo; (You know, like, say, copyright infringement.) &ldquo;Then it occurred to me that many of these [pop-culture names] are derived from something else. Why not avoid the issue, and then it makes a better story anyway?&rdquo;</p><p>So those storm names that seem plucked directly from the comics? Draco may be Harry Potter&rsquo;s snide classmate, but he is also, apparently, &ldquo;the first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece.&rdquo; Norcross and company settled on Greek and Roman mythology for the public face of their inspiration, picking names like Athena, Brutus and Helen. (There is a smattering of other weather-related gods in there, too, like Orko, the Basque god of thunder.) When explaining the double meanings of some other names, Norcross now points to the more old-school usages and derivations in order to avoid any controversy or unwanted business attention.</p><p>For example, Winter Storm Gandolf &ndash; which brought blizzard conditions to the Rockies in early January &ndash; is spelled with an &ldquo;o&rdquo; while Tolkien&rsquo;s gray wizard Gandalf spells his name with an &ldquo;a.&rdquo; Tolkien took inspiration for Gandalf&rsquo;s name from a character in William Morris&rsquo; 1896 novel <em>A Well at the World&rsquo;s End</em>; hence the Weather Channel&rsquo;s citation for its winter storm name: &ldquo;Gandolf:&nbsp;A character in a 1896 fantasy novel in a pseudo-medieval countryside.&rdquo;</p><p>Norcross said he likes the alternative spelling because it gets people talking. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen it on tweets &ndash; &lsquo;Oh, they&rsquo;ve misspelled Gandalf!&rsquo;&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Then I tell them the story behind the name and they say, &lsquo;Oh, that&rsquo;s interesting.&rsquo; Now we&rsquo;ve told a story that makes people have some kind of identification with the name.&rdquo;</p><p>That desire for social media engagement, Norcross said, was ultimately the final motivation for the whole naming enterprise anyway. &ldquo;The thing that ticked us over was Twitter, and the need for a hashtag for a storm,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;Anything of any consequence needs a hashtag. So what are you going to put? #Snow?&rdquo;</p><p>Whatever names they choose down the road &ndash; they&#39;ve yet to choose next year&#39;s names &ndash; they&#39;ll have their work cut out for them. Climatologists, including Norcross&#39; former Weather Channel colleague Heidi Cullen, predict that global warming will increase the frequency and intensity of&nbsp; storms, including the snowy kind. That means Norcross and his colleagues have a lot of new names to pick out.</p><p>You can check out more of what Cullen has to say about the impact of climate change on weather in the audio below.</p><p>Then, if you want to help the Weather Channel out, you can submit your suggestions for winter storm names at feedback.weather.com. Me? I suggest that in keeping with tradition, they name one of next year&rsquo;s storms <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_(Marvel_Comics)">Storm</a>. You know, like, &quot;a disturbance of the normal condition of the atmosphere.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F76466723" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Heidi Cullen spoke at an event presented by Elmhurst College in March of 2012 Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/heidi-cullen-weather-future-96942">here</a>&nbsp;to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 26 Jan 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/meet-star-trek-loving-meteorologist-who-named-winter-storm-khan-105160 Big storms are big business for the weather channel http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-07-27/big-storms-are-big-business-weather-channel-89765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-28/119934351_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's a little strange hearing a rundown of a television network's big and successful year that talks not only about audience growth, but also about deadly hurricanes, crippling drought, and a major heat wave. The Weather Channel isn't glad anyone is suffering, obviously, but it's been pretty good business for them. They aren't afraid to tell you how well they did during the Groundhog Day winter storm, or during the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Fifty million people watched The Weather Channel during the week of the Joplin tornado, they'll tell you.</p><p>Speaking to television critics on Wednesday, the Weather Channel personnel — executive Bob Walker, on-air meteorologists Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams, and hurricane expert Dr. Rick Knabb — stressed the expansion of content across platforms and the importance of what they do and everything you hear about from everybody else, but it all comes down to the fact that weather is one of those things where people don't necessarily have the option of losing interest. Walker pointed out late in the session that the channel's data indicates that 90 percent of the U.S. population checks the weather in one way or another every day. <em>Every day. </em></p><p>They walk a fine line, because they don't want to be tagged as irresponsible or exploitative. In fact, Abrams showed a little irritation talking about how she doesn't like to be lumped in with fools (my word, not hers) who, for instance, are trying to get the most dramatic shot by "standing on the seawall in Galveston when there's a storm coming ashore." (Galveston and that sea wall came up again later during a similar disclaiming of bad tactics. One sure does get the feeling that the Weather Channel people were particularly appalled by something that <em>somebody </em>at <em>some </em>network shot there.) At the same time, they know that storm coverage sucks in eyeballs in a way that maps don't; that it has universal appeal.</p><p>It's an odd business. It's a mix of the most mundane and utilitarian of content — <em>it's going to rain; bring an umbrella</em> — and the most dramatic and frightening — <em>get in the basement, WE'RE SERIOUS, YOU COULD DIE</em>. They build their reputation, in part, on their ubiquity in the in-between times. Their mobile app has been downloaded 40 million times, and that's not just so people can watch tornado coverage and snowstorm coverage. Ninety percent of the population doesn't watch disaster coverage every day; they check the <em>weather</em> every day.</p><p>Every network that comes here has an interest in giving the people what they want, and this one is no different. They openly acknowledge that earthquakes aren't really weather, and tsunamis aren't really weather, but they covered the earthquake in Haiti and prepared for possible tsunamis in Hawaii after the earthquakes in Japan simply because their customers expected them to and believed they were equipped to. They've expanded their definition of the mission to include, in effect, "weather plus other important naturally occurring events."</p><p>And — like, it seems, absolutely everybody else on cable — they've got a foot in reality shows. Just today, they announced that they'll be airing <em>Coast Guard: Alaska</em>, a show that seems to be in the great unscripted-TV tradition of Burly Men Doing Important Sweaty Work.</p><p>Of course, like everyone, they've got things they really <em>don't</em> want to be part of, and one of those is a discussion of whether humans contribute to climate change, which they were asked about in the first three questions of the day. Yes, the entire panel agreed, the climate is changing. But as to whether any of that has anything to do with human beings, they take no position. There are lots of factors, they say. We're still learning.</p><p>Earthquakes? Yes. Tsunamis? They're on it. Hot-button political issues like a yes or no on whether humans are contributing to climate change? No, thanks. And don't ask them about whether we're heading for another Ice Age, either — somebody tried it, and it led to the explanation of something sort of interesting: that is a question for climatologists (who study climate over the very, very long haul), not meteorologists (who study the climate over the next 90 days or so).</p><p>You learn something new every day. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1311868118?&gn=Big+Storms+Are+Big+Business+For+The+Weather+Channel&ev=event2&ch=93568166&h1=TCA+2011,Television,Monkey+See,Environment,Arts+%26+Life&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=138760146&c7=1138&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1138&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110727&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=138703588,126677694,93568166&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 12:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-07-27/big-storms-are-big-business-weather-channel-89765