Soaked riverside communities fearing the arrival of Storm Ellen have been surprised to see the third named storm in month officially designated as Storm Jorge.
Jorge’s apparent jumping of the alphabetic queue has left many asking how the naming system works.
According to the Met Office, Storm Ellen was due to be the next name for a low pressure system fulfilling their named-storm criteria – after Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis brought devastating deluges earlier this month.
But, it explained, the Spanish meteorological service – Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET) – got their name in first when they named the weather system sweeping in off the Atlantic on Thursday.
AEMET forms part of the south-west Europe storm naming group, along with the Met Office.
The Met Office said: “It is convention for all other national meteorological services to then use that name when referring to the low pressure.
“As such the system will not be named Ellen but will align with our European partners and be referred to as ‘Jorge’.
“The fact that the system may have a different name than some expected should not influence their response.”
Although the name of the storm is perhaps top of the list of concerns for anyone with floodwater already over-topping their mantlepieces, the move has prompted some comment on social media.
One Twitter user said: “I didn’t vote to leave the EU to have my storm named Jorge and not Ellen! #Brexitshambles.”
The Met Office began naming storms in 2015. Abigail – the first to be designated – brought a wave of heavy rain and hurricane force winds to Scotland and Ireland in November of that year.
The rationale is that the naming helps with communication through the media of the dangers and disruption of approaching severe weather allowing the public to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.
The UK system works in partnership with Met Office’s Irish and Dutch equivalent and each of the three nations can declare a named storm.
#StormJorge (named by AEMET, the Spanish meteorological service) is the latest in a series of Atlantic storms this month & is due to affect Ireland from early Sat. Rain will extend countrywide from the W tonight, before the storm arrives.
— Met Éireann (@MetEireann) February 27, 2020
The criteria is when the impending weather system has the potential to cause an amber or red weather warning. But they can also be declared in other circumstances – specifically if heavy rain could lead to flooding.
The list of storm names is complied every year by the three national weather services, taking into account thousands of suggestions from the public and “some of the more popular names and names that reflect the diversity of Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands”.
Despite the pan-European system that led to Jorge elbowing out Ellen, there is still some capacity for confusion when western Europe is influenced by the remnants of North Atlantic hurricanes which are named in a totally separate system by the United States’ National Weather Service.
If and when Storm Ellen arrives, it will be followed by Francis and, if it is an exceptionally stormy year, we could get all the way to Storm Willow. In common with US practice, the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used to name storms.