While hundreds of weather reports warn viewers to beware the wrath of Winter Storm Nemo, they should be more worried about the wrath of Canada's top weather executive.
Pierre Morrissette, chief executive officer of Pelmorex Media Inc. (which owns Canada's Weather Network), is hot enough to melt all of the snow that has fallen in the last 24 hours after listening to weather reports refer to the storm by a name made up by the U.S.-based granddaddy of all weather services – the Weather Channel.
The Atlanta-based company decided late last year that it would start unilaterally naming winter storms, much to the chagrin of many in the weather industry who prefer to leave that task to governments. Hurricanes and tornadoes are traditionally given names not for marketing reasons, but to help raise awareness amongst people who could be in the storm's path.
While the Weather Channel owns a stake in the Canadian Weather Network, the independently run Canadian operation promises to simply call a storm a storm.
You feel strongly that we shouldn't name snowstorms. What's the big deal?
We don't support that private media or weather players assume the responsibility of naming winter storms. It's really government domain – it has decided to name hurricanes with very clear standards and criteria. If every player decided to name storms or issue their own alerts it would lead to confusion. The most appropriate and respectful thing to do is to be respectful of what the authorities decide – and they haven't decided to name these storms – and then disseminate information to the public in a timely manner. It's not our responsibly to name things.
You are in every Canadian home with basic cable or better. How do you handle storm coverage? Do you feel the need to tart it up?
We are licenced to operate the national alerting aggregation system that disseminates alerts from all authorized government agencies. There is very clear criteria for these alerts. The whole purpose it to protect the public and give rapid warnings about imminent threats to life or property.
Does the media, including you, make too big a deal out of a little snow?When there is a major storm in some part of the country, we go into storm watch to alert the public about what will happen. That is just responsible reporting about an important event. We don't treat it as a marketing event. It's a weather climatic event that basically has an impact on public safety and lives. But now, it's also of great interest to the public so of course more people will tune into their favorite sources of this information. Something special is happening – but we shouldn't be presenting these things with a lot of hype; we should be simply alerting the public.