Back when I was in college at the University of Missouri studying to become a meteorologist, our meteorology club conducted a rather informal forecasting contest. Almost everyone in our department participated including professors, graduate students and undergrads like myself. I was so excited after my first semester participating in the contest. Heading into the Christmas break I was in second place. I’ll never forget the day my advisor, Professor Darkow saw me looking at the standings and congratulated me on my early success saying something like, “Congratulations, freshmen often do pretty well as we haven’t had a chance yet to mess with your thinking”. He was kidding of course.
My rookie year of forecasting fell into a small slump once the snow started falling in January. My score took a hit after our first big snow. I did ok forecasting the snow but, I hadn’t learned yet that when there is snow on the ground, a clear sky and light wind, the models tend to be much too warm. (especially back then) It was a mistake that I quickly learned from and it was then that I realized most forecasts aren’t perfect and present an opportunity to learn from that imperfection and make the next forecast better.
That leads me to the reason I’m writing today’s blog. Almost eight years ago while driving back from a school visit in Texarkana, an idea popped into my head. That idea was to conduct a forecasting contest for area elementary and middle school students similar to the one that I participated in during my college years. It would be the perfect way to give kids a little taste of what it’s like to be a meteorologist. A few months later the Weathernator Forecasting Contest was born. Each January I visit classrooms around the area that are taking part in the contest and show them how to make a forecast. During the month of February, the forecasting begins using the forecasting contest page on this website. I provide all the information needed to make a forecast and the kids use it to create their weather outlooks. Their forecasts get points for inaccuracy. The lowest score wins.
It’s that time of year where I’m signing up classrooms to participate in the 2020 version of the contest.
Teachers, if you think this is an activity that your class would enjoy and would like more information on how it works, click here to go to the forecasting contest page. There I explain in more detail what is involved. After reading about the contest, if you decide you’d like to participate, don’t delay too long as spots are limited. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Facebook at Todd Warren Weather
I look forward to the contest each year as it always amazes me just how much the kids’ forecasts improve as the contest moves along. It’s very gratifying to see them learn from their forecast mistakes and make their next one better just as I did many years ago and still do today.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!