Computer-Based Weather Forecasts Turn In Good Showing

May 19, 1998

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --- Can a computer program win a weather forecasting contest? Not yet, but a Penn State statistical weather forecasting program did beat the consensus forecast in the 1996-97 National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest.

"The computer program came in 20th out of 737 participants," says Dr. Robert Vislocky, research assistant in meteorology. "Not too bad for a quick and dirty prototype program."

Vislocky took his ideas, which he and Dr. J. Michael Fritsch, professor of meteorology, tested at Penn State, and created an automated forecasting system called Advanced Model Output Statistics, AMOS, for the weather contest. AMOS ingests routinely available weather data and, by applying statistical processes for the specific forecast location, predicts precipitation and maximum and minimum temperatures.

Although AMOS was designed for only the cities and variables important for this contest, Vislocky points out that the system can be expanded to forecast for any location and for a vast array of parameters.

The National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest is held each year and pits all ranges of forecasters against each other in a 26-week contest. For each two-week block, participants prepare a daily forecast for the same city. The forecasts are due by 7:00 p.m. and cover the period beginning six hours later to 30 hours later. After two weeks, the contest moves on to the next city.

The 1996-97 contest began with 737 participants and ended with 383 active -- those who continued to prepare forecasts. Sixty-seven professional meteorologists, 166 freshmen and sophomores, 324 juniors and seniors and 180 graduate students participated in the contest.

The consensus forecast, consisting of the average of all the human forecasts entered, came in twenty-third, the researchers report in a recent article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Two National Weather Service computer programs came in 175th and 266th.

"We are especially gratified to have beaten the consensus," says Vislocky. "Consensus is hard to beat because it represents the cumulative knowledge of all the forecasters in the contest, and this is the first time a computer program has been able to beat it over an extensive verification period.

"Anyone can perform well for one of the cities just from good fortune, but sustaining that kind of accuracy without good forecasting ability is not possible over the length of the contest." While computers play an important part in weather forecasting today, they have mostly focused on dynamic modeling of weather systems, not statistical modeling.

"Not nearly as much money has been devoted to the development of statistical forecast techniques as has gone into other forecast methods," says Vislocky. "As a result, statistical applications in meteorology have not progressed as rapidly. Many other aspects of the weather forecasting process have become more automated. Now, with the development of AMOS, the actual forecasts can benefit as well."

While Vislocky admits that a program like AMOS will almost always have difficulty beating the very best forecasters, especially when there is ample time to prepare the forecast as in the contest, a fairly preliminary statistical program like AMOS did beat 97 percent of all the original entrants and 90 percent of all professional forecasters. If this type of program proves to be as accurate as most humans, there are numerous practical applications.

"It takes a while for a human to do a forecast," notes Vislocky of Penn State. "If users want continuous updates around the clock for thousands of different cities and variables, human forecasters would be hard pressed to satisfy even a small portion of that need. A computer program like AMOS could supply that information in a timely manner for any parameter and any location in the world."
-end-


Penn State

Related Computer Program Articles from Brightsurf:

UCLA computer scientists set benchmarks to optimize quantum computer performance
Two UCLA computer scientists have shown that existing compilers, which tell quantum computers how to use their circuits to execute quantum programs, inhibit the computers' ability to achieve optimal performance.

Scientists develop free computer program to map blood flow 'landscape' in tumors
Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have created a computer program for scientists at no charge that lets users readily quantify the structural and functional changes in the blood flow networks feeding tumors.

Computer-based weather forecast: New algorithm outperforms mainframe computer systems
The exponential growth in computer processing power seen over the past 60 years may soon come to a halt.

Computer program designed to calculate the economic impact of forest fires
Visual Seveif software measures the economic impact of a fire, taking into account both material resources and their utility for leisure and recreation, the landscape's value and, now, carbon fixation.

Computer program predicts risk of deadly irregular heart beats
Combining a wealth of information derived from previous studies with data from more than 500 patients, an international team led by researchers from Johns Hopkins has developed a computer-based set of rules that more accurately predicts when patients with a rare heart condition might benefit -- or not -- from lifesaving implanted defibrillators.

Computer program developed to find 'leakage' in quantum computers
A new computer program that spots when information in a quantum computer is escaping to unwanted states will give users of this promising technology the ability to check its reliability without any technical knowledge for the first time.

Computer program aids food safety experts with pathogen testing
Cornell University scientists have developed a computer program, Environmental Monitoring With an Agent-Based Model of Listeria (EnABLe), to simulate the most likely locations in a processing facility where the deadly food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes might be found.

This computer program makes pharma patents airtight
Routes to making life-saving medications and other pharmaceutical compounds are among the most carefully protected trade secrets in global industry.

Computer program looks five minutes into the future
Scientists from the University of Bonn have developed software that can look minutes into the future: The program learns the typical sequence of actions, such as cooking, from video sequences.

Computer program finds new uses for old drugs
Researchers at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a computer program to find new indications for old drugs.

Read More: Computer Program News and Computer Program Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.