Future Tense

Weather Channel To Start Naming Winter Storms After Roman Gods, Subway Lines, and People Who Do Yoga


The February 5-6, 2010 North American blizzard, a.k.a. “Snowmageddon.”

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Snowmageddon. Snowzilla. Snowpocalypse. All names that we can retire now that The Weather Channel has decided to plow into the winter-storm-moniker business.

The cable network announced this morning that it will begin naming noteworthy winter storm systems this year in a bid to boost ratings public awareness and coordinate response efforts. The National Hurricane Center has been naming tropical storms since the 1950s, but it doesn’t track blizzards in the same way. The Weather Channel says that’s a void worth filling: While summer squalls and tornadoes are too localized and short-lived to merit official names, winter storms are more comparable to tropical systems in their size and speed. From the channel’s news story on its own announcement:


In addition to providing information about significant winter storms by referring to them by name, the name itself will make communication and information sharing in the constantly expanding world of social media much easier.  As an example, hash tagging a storm based on its name will provide a one-stop shop to exchange all of the latest information on the impending high-impact weather system.


Don’t expect to get walloped this winter by an Agnes or a Charlie, though. Instead, the Weather Channel has brewed up a list of names borrowed from mythology, ancient history, and, um, yoga. Here’s its roster for the 2012-13 season, with brief explanations of each name’s origin:

  • Athena: The Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, inspirations, justice, mathematics and all things wonderful.
  • Brutus: Roman Senator and best known assassin of Julius Caesar.
  • Caesar: Title used by Roman and Byzantine emperors.*
  • Draco: The first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece.
  • Euclid: A mathematician in Ancient Greece, the father of geometry.
  • Freyr: A Norse god associated with fair weather, among other things.
  • Gandolf: A character in a 1896 fantasy novel in a pseudo-medieval countryside.
  • Helen: In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus.
  • Iago: Enemy of Othello in Shakespeare’s play, Othello.
  • Jove: The English name for Jupiter, the Roman god of light and sky.
  • Khan: Mongolian conqueror and emperor of the Mongol empire.
  • Luna: The divine embodiment of the moon in Roman mythology.
  • Magnus: The Father of Europe, Charlemagne the Great, in Latin: Carolus Magnus.
  • Nemo: A Greek boy’s name meaning “from the valley,” means “nobody” in Latin.
  • Orko: The thunder god in Basque mythology.
  • Plato: Greek philosopher and mathematician, who was named by his wrestling coach.
  • Q: The Broadway Express subway line in New York City.
  • Rocky: A single mountain in the Rockies.
  • Saturn: Roman god of time, also the namesake of the planet Saturn in our solar system.
  • Triton: In Greek mythology, the messenger of the deep sea, son of Poseidon.
  • Ukko: In Finnish mythology, the god of the sky and weather.
  • Virgil: One of ancient Rome’s greatest poets.
  • Walda: Name from Old German meaning “ruler.”
  • Xerxes: The fourth king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Xerxes the Great.
  • Yogi: People who do yoga.
  • Zeus: In Greek mythology, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and the gods who lived there.


The concept of naming winter storms makes sense, if only to spare the Twittersphere from having to come up with ever-more-awkward snow-related portmanteaux. But while a few of The Weather Channel’s choices are inspired—Winter Storm Iago has a suitably sinister ring—others are mystifying. Are we supposed to root for Winter Storm Rocky to beat the odds and knock out power to the Philadelphia area? How will Lord of the Rings fans feel when Gandolf turns deadly? (Spelling it “Gandolf” instead of “Gandalf” only confuses the issue.) And Yogi, really?

It’s probably too late to change the list for the upcoming season, but maybe we can at least offer some better suggestions for the following year’s list. Readers?

*Update, 3:39 p.m.: Due to a technical glitch, this post originally left off the first three storm names: Athena, Brutus, and Caesar.