WBEZ | Bryan Norcross http://www.wbez.org/tags/bryan-norcross 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