MELBOURNE, FLA.—“This isn’t something you can win by just going to weather.com and using their forecast,” said Tony McGee, the Florida Institute of Technology meteorology graduate student who won the 2012-13 WxChallenge Tournament. “I used all the skills I’ve gained throughout my meteorological education and refined through seven years of participation in WxChallenge.”
He was one of 2,122 contenders from all over the country, competing against other top students, faculty meteorologists and alumni since fall 2012. McGee took the top honor at a culminating event in May, after doing well enough with a series of weather forecasts in both fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters to qualify for the tournament. He won the 2012-13 WxChallenge Tournament trophy.
Contestants in the annual event make forecasts consisting of the high and low temperatures, wind speed and precipitation amount at a given location. The standard schedule rotates through five cities in each of the two semesters, with two weeks of forecasting for each city. A score is computed each day based on how close the forecast is to the observations. At the end of the academic year, the forecasters with the best cumulative scores can enter the final tournament, which is modeled on the NCAA college basketball tournament with 64 slots. This year, the playoff city was Wichita, Kan.
Wichita was “definitely an interesting city,” said McGee. “We saw temperatures range from 25 to 84 degrees, several days with winds over 30 mph and many days with lots of rain.”
Steven Lazarus, Florida Tech professor of meteorology, has watched McGee’s progress. “While some of our students have performed well in the WxChallenge during the past, no one has come close to what Tony has accomplished here,” he said. “I don’t know how to illustrate how incredibly intense this contest is. Tony is a very impressive student. He’s being courted now for professional positions.”
Florida Tech offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology.