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Fall 2001

Seasonal forecast wins meteorologist $50,000 in Aquila Prize kickoff

Andrew Weingarten, a meteorologist for an energy brokerage firm in Louisville, Kentucky, won $50,000 in the first phase of the Aquila Prize, a three-year weather forecasting competition. The award recognized the most accurate forecasts for the 2001 winter season (January-April) for 13 U.S. cities.

Weingarten beat out 55 entrants, including both individuals and organizations. His forecasts were evaluated by Aquila, a multinational energy marketing and risk management firm. Contest results were independently verified by the AMS through the University of Arizona. Temperature data for verification were provided by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Both the AMS and NOAA participated in developing rules for the contest.

In the first phase, participants submitted probabilistic forecasts of heating degree days for Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Des Moines, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, and Tucson. Heating degree days are among the parameters used by the energy industry to project winter fuel consumption. Competitors posted their forecasts on an Aquila Web site (see below), where details on future phases of the contest are also available.

The heating degree day forecasts were verified using rank probability skill score (RPSS), which compares the skill of the contestant's forecast to climatology. Computed over all 13 cities, Weingarten's RPSS provided a 45% improvement over climatology, more than twice the improvement seen in the average across all participants.

Weingarten, a meteorology graduate of the University of Oklahoma, was a weather reporter for radio and television before joining APB Energy in 1999. He provides daily weather forecasts and analysis to the energy brokerage firm, which brings together buyers and sellers of natural gas, power, and related products in the United States and six other countries. Weingarten also provides meteorological services for APB Energy's partner, True Quote, an on-line energy trading firm. "I was stunned and very excited to receive the phone call from Aquila informing me that I had won," says Weingarten. "I guess my 20 years of education and work experience in meteorology has paid off."

The Aquila Prize competition is open to individuals as well as corporations, university groups, and federal or university- affiliated laboratories. The company plans to award $300,000 over three years. "Even though we are just completing the first phase of the contest, we already are seeing a growing interest from the scientific community in finding better ways to improve forecasting," says Ravi Nathan, general manager of Aquila's weather group.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Tue Oct 23 11:26:05 MDT 2001