Met Office honours civil servants with storm names

Officials who work to protect the public could see severe-weather events named after them
Ciarán Fearon, Debi Garft, Regina Simmons and Stuart Sampson Photos: Met Office

By Jim Dunton

01 Sep 2023

Civil servants whose jobs are dedicated to keeping people safe from flooding and other severe weather events could see future storms named in their honour, the Met Office has said.

The government-owned national weather service began naming storms in 2015 as part of a strategy to help communicate the risks of severe weather. It produces an annual list of potential storm names in partnership with Ireland’s Met Éireann and KNMI of the Netherlands.

Its just-published list of storm names for the 2023-24 season includes names proposed by members of the public from across the nations. But it also directly connects to professionals at the Environment Agency, National Resources Wales, Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure and a former official at the Scottish Government’s flooding team.

Met Office head of situational awareness Will Lang leads responses in times of severe weather. He said naming storms helped to "ease communication" of severe weather warnings and provided "clarity when people could be impacted by the weather".

“It’s great to be able to recognise the collaborative efforts of some of our partners across the UK with the inclusion of names from some partner organisations,” he said.

“Working across different agencies allows us to help as many people as possible be prepared for severe weather.”

Although the 2023-24 list contains 21 potential storm names, most are likely to go unused. In 2022-23 only two storms – Antoni and Betty – were named by the Met Office, Met Éireann and KNMI, although two other storms that impacted the UK were named by other organisations.

Civil engineer Ciarán Fearon, who works at the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, is third on the list for potential storm names, making him the most likely official to see his name go down in meteorological history.

Fearon uses Met Office forecasts on a regular basis and ensures key information is shared on river levels, coastal flooding and other impacts of severe weather. 

“With the effects of climate change, we are more aware than ever of how weather can affect us all in every aspect of our daily lives,” he said. “In my role with the Department for Infrastructure I work closely with local communities in Northern Ireland and multi-agency partners to help keep everyone as warned and informed as possible.

“We need to respect each weather event and this work, particularly during periods of severe weather and storms, helps to ensure that we are all as well-prepared as possible to help reduce the impact of such events.”

Debi Garft, who recently retired as senior policy officer in the Scottish Government’s flooding team, is fourth on the list.

Lower down the list – which will be worked through in alphabetical order – are Natural Resources Wales’ Regina Simmons, who is a team leader for “warning and informing”, and Environment Agency water-resources security of supply manager Stuart Sampson.

Sampson, who has helped manage water supplies through a series of droughts over nearly 20 years, said naming storms helped people to talk about them with clarity and common understanding.

"Everyone knows what you mean by Hurricane Katrina for example, you know the magnitude and impacts that had on America,” he said of the 2005 storm that devastated New Orleans and its surrounding areas. “But if you said 'the low pressured cyclone' it would not resonate as much.”

The Met Office said storms will get named when they’re deemed to have the potential to cause “medium” or “high” impacts in the UK, Ireland or the Netherlands. Wind is the primary consideration for naming a storm, but rain or snow are also considerations.

The full list of potential storm names for 2023-24 is: Agnes, Babet, Ciaran, Debi, Elin, Fergus, Gerrit, Henk, Isha, Jocelyn, Kathleen, Lilian, Minnie, Nicholas, Olga, Piet, Regina, Stuart, Tamiko, Vincent, and Walid.

In line with the US National Hurricane Center naming convention, names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are excluded.

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