Winter Storm ‘Mars’: The Weather Channel Defiantly Continues Naming Snowstorms

Winter Storm Mars is projected to hit New England Monday into early Tuesday, bringing significant snowfall for the Boston area and necessitating a blizzard warning for Cape Cod. The Weather Channel named the storm Sunday afternoon after it was determined that the related winter storm warnings would affect more than two million people in the New England region.

The concept of naming winter storms has been a controversial one. The National Weather Service and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) strongly disagree with the practice. The Weather Channel, which is privately owned, began to issue names in November 2012 to any winter storm that it considered to be “disruptive.” Their position is that naming a winter storm will simplify and improve their ability to communicate information to their audience, thereby making their warnings and advisories more effective.

AccuWeather, another privately-owned weather forecasting media company that disagrees with The Weather Channel‘s policy, has accused them of adopting it for publicity’s sake. The National Weather Service responded at the time through spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, saying that naming winter storms as if they are hurricanes is a practice that will only serve to confuse the public, hardly illuminating them.

“The National Weather Service does not name winter storms because 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.”

This hasn’t stopped politicians and social media users from running with The Weather Channel‘s chosen names for winter storms — so what is Winter Storm Mars, and who will be affected? New England has already gotten walloped by snow due to a storm dubbed Winter Storm Lexi by The Weather Channel, which dumped over a foot of snow in parts of the region on Friday. The heavy, wet snow resulted in fallen trees and power outages for approximately 180,000 customers, and a falling tree limb killed a 6-year-old girl in her Canton, Massachusetts backyard.

Winter Storm Mars is expected to dump as many as 18 inches of snow on Cape Cod, which is under an official blizzard warning. The Weather Channel is also predicting wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour for eastern New England, and is warning of potential downed tree limbs and power lines in southeastern Massachusetts due to heavy, wet snow similar to what was seen with Lexi, as well as moderate coastal flooding.

Boston Public Schools have already announced an inclement weather closing for Monday, February 8. A few inches could accumulate as far west as the Jersey Shore and the New York City tristate area, the majority of which is expected to culminate in four to eight inches for Suffolk County on eastern Long Island, which is under a winter storm warning. New York City, as well as Westchester and Nassau counties, are under a simple winter weather advisory, with the city expecting no more than three inches of total snowfall.

[Image courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images]