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When Did We Start Naming Winter Storms?

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As Winter Storm Nemo heads east, here's a look back at the decision to start giving these storms names.

In 2012, The Weather Channel announced that it will be naming “noteworthy winter storms,” just as tropical storms are named. “The fact is,” writes Tom Nizioli on The Weather Channel’s website, “a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”

A Storm By Any Other Name

According to The Weather Channel's logic, there are many benefits that come with assigning names to winter storms. A name gives the weather system a personality, which raises both awareness and the ability to follow its progress through social media. A name allows for clearer communications when multiple storms hit different areas of the country. Plus, naming a storm makes it easier to remember that storm—and refer to it—in the future.

But not everyone is on board with this plan. In fact, it has created a great deal of controversy in the meteorological community. Joel N. Myers, founder and president of Accuweather, has even said that naming storms will actually do more to confuse the public than to inform it. “In unilaterally deciding to name winter storms, The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety,” Myers said in a statement. “We have explored this issue for 20 years and have found that this is not good science and will mislead the public."

Myers’ criticism is that hurricanes and winter storms are very different beasts. There are strict guidelines—including sustained winds of 39 mph for a tropical storm and 74 mph for a hurricane—that distinguish other storms from those types of systems. In addition, Myers says, hurricanes have well-defined centers, unlike erratic winter storms, which can have multiple shifting centers and often affect different areas in different ways. “One area may get a blizzard, while places not too far away may experience rain or fog, or nothing at all,” he said. “Naming a winter storm that may deliver such varied weather will create more confusion in the public and the emergency management community."

The First Rule Of The Name Game Is...

Still, storms won't just be named willy nilly—The Weather Channel has established rules to determine which storms get monikers, though the process isn’t as clear cut or defined as the one that determines when systems become tropical storms and hurricanes. “Naming of winter storms will be limited to no more than three days before impact to ensure there is moderate to strong confidence the system will produce significant effects on a populated area,” Nizioli writes. The process will also include “a more complete assessment of several variables that combine to produce disruptive impacts including snowfall, ice, wind and temperature." The time of day a storm is slated to hit will also be taken into consideration.

After The Weather Channel announced its intentions to name winter storms, the National Weather Service said it had no plans to follow suit, though it does rate the severity of winter storms after the fact using the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale.

Will A Winter Storm Be Named After Me?

If your parents have a thing for Greek gods and historical figures, then maybe: Besides Athena, The Weather Channel has reserved Brutus, Caesar, Draco, Euclid, Freyer, Gandolf, Helen, Iago, Jove, Khan, Luna, Magnus, Nemo, Orko, Plato, Q, Rocky, Saturn, Triton, Ukko, Virgil, Walda, Xerxes, Yogi, and Zeus as names for winter storms.

What do you think of The Weather Channel’s decision to name winter storms? Is this going to catch on?

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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