Friday, 8 February 2013

Snow Storm Fears (The Weather Channel must die. Long live the Weather Channel!)

Yesterday, as I pottered about my daily business, I became aware, via the modern osmotic process of absorbing social media trends, that the GTA (Greater Toronto Area - for my readers from further afield) was due to receive a substantial snow fall come that evening and into Friday morning.

After sating my giddiness for fresh snow with a little dance, I did what I suspect many across Canada and the N.E of the US did at some point yesterday, and flicked on the Weather Channel. (Hardcore Canadians forgive my giddy response to snow, I grew up in Manchester, England where slush comes but once a year and real snow is rare.) Now, I understand the limitations and challenges of any 24 hour rolling  news format, but the Weather Channel's Storm Watch coverage (which is still on now- quick, flick to channel 23) just smacks me as ridiculously sensational.

The Weather Channel's Storm Watch

Beyond giving us the forecast amount of snow (approx. 25cm) and the radar of the region, the Weather Channel's coverage is telling us of a possible Toronto record snowfall for, wait for it...the 21st century. So basically, a little more snow than in the last 12 years, wow O...M...G. Even a soggy Mancunian doesn't think -6°C and a max of 30cm snow is scarily extreme. When they cut to their "storm hunter" in the field this morning, a poor presenter stood out on a junction in Hamilton, I'd had enough and had to switch off my TV.

If I'm annoyed by the storm's coverage here, I spare a thought for those in the US where the Weather Channel seem to have succeeded in their ongoing drive to name absolutely every weather system. For this particular storm, (which in fact looks likely to deposit much more snow on the east coast than in the GTA), they have come up with Nemo, apparently because in Greek it's a boy's name meaning "from the valley"!? I prefer to think it is after the little fishy fellow from the eponymously titled animated movie.

Myself and others such as Time columnist Mr Poniewozik seem to be fighting a losing battle on the storm naming front.

As people in the GTA today are supposed to be filled with fear, awe, excitement, and panic about the weather, rather than further bashing the Weather Channel's coverage of events I'd rather finish this short post by reflecting on what their coverage highlights about our modern society.

Does such sensationalist coverage effect how we perceive and even interact with such winter flurries? Does it help people justify their lazy snow day? Beyond helping preparation and preventative measures does it serve another function in society?

For me, it is telling that as an urban society like that of the GTA has become more and more detached from the natural landscape and climate, people's desire for detailed weather forecasts and TV coverage of what is going on outside their hermetic centrally heated bubbles has increased hugely.

If, like me, you hate, but also actually love following such crazed and frenzied weather coverage, check out the twitter hashtag #stormwatch for the best/worst of the sensationalism!

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