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Sunday 27 May 2018

Weather forecasters in war of words over a tempest that dare not speak its name

Evelyn Cusack has taken Liam Dutton to task
Evelyn Cusack has taken Liam Dutton to task
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

It was a storm in a teacup over a tempest that dare not speak its name.

First Met Éireann was criticised by Channel 4 weather presenter Liam Dutton for naming Storm Fionn - which he dismissed as "a squeeze in the isobars".

But then the UK Met office was forced to defend its decision not to name the storm, whose ferocity caught much of the UK off guard yesterday.

Close to 150,000 customers were left without power after winds gusting to 134kmh ripped through the UK, toppling trees, damaging homes and bringing rail service and traffic to a halt as lorries jack-knifed on motorways.

Some 15,000 children were kept home from school while 35cm of snow fell on Dumfries, Scotland, and elsewhere.

A weather warning remains in place today for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

But Dutton had claimed that Met Éireann had overreacted by naming Storm Fionn, tweeting: "It needs no more than a standard weather warning.

"It's not even a low pressure with a storm centre, just a squeeze in the isobars. What next? Naming raindrops? It's ridiculous!"

Met Éireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack defended the decision to name Fionn. "That presenter was saying 'this is ridiculous, Fionn isn't really a storm'. But it was a storm in the sense that it fulfilled our Orange-level weather warning."

BBC weather presenter Sara Thornton tweeted: "The impacts from this storm warranted a name; my gut feeling is that if Met Éireann hadn't got in and named a separate system Storm Fionn on Tuesday, this storm would have been named that. They should have moved on to Storm Georgina."

The claims and counter claims swirling over the decision to name or not to name the storm prompted the UK Met Office to explain itself last night. "It's been a complex meteorological picture over the last few days, with a number of weather warnings in force across the UK," the Met said in its blog.

"Because of the way the system developed, there was a degree of uncertainty over the strength of the expected winds and precisely which areas would see the greatest impacts, about which we gave regular updates on our website and social media channels through the week.

"The warnings were constantly under review to ensure they reflected the expected level of impacts and also whether the low pressure system would meet our storm-naming criteria, which in this case it didn't.

"It is important that we don't enter into the world of speculation around when storms will be named.

"More often than not the impacts from the weather systems affecting the UK will be within the norm for the time of year, so it is important that names are used in the right context."

Irish Independent

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