Welcome to the CYC Weather Challenge 2020

Welcome to the Chicago Yacht Club Weather Challenge (CYCWXC—all the cool meteorologist types call weather “wx”).

Key links:

We’re your hosts and guides, Matt Gallagher and Winn Soldani.  As you may know, we are graduates of the Penn State University Online Certificate in Weather Forecasting (which at the time was novel in being online; nowadays it’s the only way to get a degree from a university, it seems).  As part of that program we went through something called the “Wx Challenge”—this is a program where students and faculty from Universities around the world compete to forecast the weather in a series of cities around the US.

And it is an alternately humbling and exhilarating thing to do.  You have good days, bad.  Things you are good at (say temperature) and not so good at (rain).  And every day you have to lay your forecast out there on the line for all to see when you nail it and when you bust.

After we gave our weather seminar last week at CYC, we thought we could take the Wx Challenge model and try it here at CYC and with our friends in the broader sailing community at CASRA and the Storm Trysail Club.  Anyone can enter though! 

We have a lot of people who are super in tune with the weather and who rely on models an awful lot to guide their day-to-day and sailing lives.  We thought it would be fun and perhaps educational to have a little challenge of our own.  So we’ve set this up for all of our fun.

There will be more to come, but here’s how the challenge works at a high level:

  • There will be the opportunity to submit 15 forecasts, across three weeks and three cities:  Chicago O’Hare (KORD), Providence (KPVD), and Miami (KMIA).  You can choose to try to win a week, two weeks, or be grand champion across all weeks.
  • At or before 7 PM CDT the night before the forecast day (so, for example, before 7 PM CDT on Sunday May 21 for the Monday May 22 forecast) you will go to this site and enter your forecast.  The forecast will be for midnight to midnight local the next day for the city being forecast!
  • The forecast will have several elements to it:
    • The high temperature for the period from midnight to midnight for the day being forecasts
    • The low temperature for the same period
    • The liquid precipitation (let’s hope we’re done with snow, but it has been a strange May) down to the hundredths of an inch.
    • The maximum windspeed for the day
    • And the coup de grace—because we’re sailors and our apps can tell us this–the wind speed and direction at noon 

The rules are detailed, but the general idea is that there will be error points assigned for forecast misses.  The error schemes for each variable are a little different (particularly for wind direction, which has a sliding scale) but the idea is the bigger the miss, the bigger the penalty. If you hit all six numbers exactly (which is extraordinarily unlikely), you’d have zero points.  If you miss a forecast, we’ll substitute climatology in from you so you won’t get a complete bust, but the format encourages regular participation!

At the end of each week we’ll total up the error points.  Lowest point total wins.  There will be prizes for each week’s winner and for the forecaster with the fewest error points across the three weeks.  We’ll also crown an overall winner with the lowest error point total, after a few throwouts.  Again, we want to encourage you to play!

Finally, you won’t do this alone!  We’re collecting resources for you and will publish them before the contest begins so you have easy access to tools like the pros use.  In addition, while this is still in process, we’re working on “celebrity” forecasters to come in and discuss the forecast challenges and review what actually happened.  These may include famous sailing weather forecasters, well-known sailors, and some other professionals in the field.

We’re excited to get started.  If you have any questions, post a comment below and we’ll do our best to respond.

This blog will be our main way of communication to you, so please be sure to follow it. We expect to be posting Monday – Friday while we’re running the contest, with education, commentary, results. Click on “follow” in the lower right for options on how to get notified when we post new content here.

Thanks to our generous sponsor for this contest, Doyle Sails Midwest!

Click here to register; learn more about the rules.

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