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The Weather Challenge
University of Oklahoma
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The WxChallenge

WxChallenge Overview

The WxChallenge is a collegiate focused meteorological forecast competition. It is a non-profit entity, whose income is used to maintain necessary infrastructure, promote the competition to students and faculty, and provide non-cash awards for excellence in forecasting. Forecasters from higher education institutions from across the United States and Canada predict the high and low temperature, maximum sustained wind speed, and total precipitation from select locations across the United States. The competition runs for 10 weeks in the Fall semester and 10 weeks in the Spring semester. During this time, there are a total of 10 locations in which forecasts are made. There is an additional three week tournament following the end of the Spring semester for the top 64 overall best forecasters.

Scoring of forecasts is done by assessing error points based on the degree of accuracy between the forecasts and the verified meteorological measurements. For each forecast city, trophies are awarded to the winner and runner-up in each of the four categories: Freshman/Sophomore student, Junior/Senior student, MS/PhD student, and Faculty/Staff.

The competition is completely online and web based. The servers running the contest are based at the National Weather Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. Day-to-day management, public relations, and program and webpage coding are done by the WxChallenge Manager (Brad Illston). The WxChallenge is a project developed at the Univ. of Oklahoma to bring a state-of-the-art, fun, and exciting forecasting contest to students in colleges and universities across the country. It was started in 2006 and has been active ever since. Some of the key features of the contest include:

  • Complete web-based forecast entry.
  • Per semester or full year enrollment options.
  • Specific class breakdowns for professors to track their students separate from the rest of the University.
  • Up-to-the-hour live scoring.
  • Public data files of all forecasts immediately following the close of forecasts each day.
  • Online forums for each school to privately discuss forecasts and other pertinent information.
  • Hypothetical verification tools to generate hypothetical scores and standings.
  • ...much, much more.

WxChallenge History

The WxChallenge started in early 2005 as an idea by Brad Illston at OU to create a more dynamic and engaging forecast contest. Over the next few months, OU prototyped an Internet, web-based forecast contest with the goal to provide students with an integrated system built upon simple forecast submission and rapid forecast verification. An advisory board was established consisting of professionals from multiple universities who had lengthy experience in forecast contests.

In the fall of 2005, the WxChallenge began its beta period with a handful of schools and began official operations in the fall of 2006 with 55 participating universities, 41 classrooms, and nearly 1600 participants. Currently, the WxChallenge has been used at 80 universities, 76 classrooms, and by over 2000 participants in its short span.

Advisory Board

The WxChallenge is governed by an advisory board, which makes all decisions regarding the contest. The task of the WxChallenge Advisory Board is to be the democratic voice in any contest related issues and spur additional innovation in the operations of the contest. The advisory board members also serve as mediators to solve any disputes or controversies that might arise during the competition. These members have been active in forecasting contests for many years and have a thorough understanding of all of the rules. Their unbiased input prevents a single person or group to take control of the contest and allows the contest to be run fairly and justly. The current advisory board consists of:

Current Advisory Board Members
  • Brad Illston - National Manager - Univ. of Oklahoma - 2005-2013
  • Dr. Jeff Basara - Univ. of Oklahoma - 2005-2013 (Term ends June 2015)
  • Dr. Chris Weiss - Texas Tech - 2005-2013 (Term ends June 2014)
  • Dr. Gary Lackmann - North Carolina St. Univ. - 2011-2013 (Term ends June 2015)
  • Dr. Larry Hopper - Univ. of Louisiana at Monroe - 2011-2013 (Term ends June 2014)
Previous Advisory Board Members
  • Mike Voss - San Jose St. Univ. - 2005-2010

Weather Challenge Finances

The WxChallenge is operated on the campus of the University of Oklahoma (OU).  As such, WxChallenge maintains a University of Oklahoma account that is managed by an OU approved financial administrator not directly affiliated with the WxChallenge, and is subject to all rules and regulations maintained by the University of Oklahoma regarding accounting and oversight.  This includes regular, mandatory audits by OU personnel. In fact, the WxChallenge account was audited in FY 2008, FY 2009, FY 2010, and FY 2011 and demonstrated accounting that was able to track every cent (literally) associated with WxChallenge.  For more information on the policies and procedures associated with the audit of University of Oklahoma financial accounts, please refer to:


Detailed financial information is not publicly published (e.g., on the WxChallenge website).  However, appropriate summaries can be provided based on OU regulations to authorized and approved requests.

Quotes from Faculty and WxChallenge Local Managers

The following are unrequested quotes that the WxChallenge Manager received through various correspondences with faculty and local mangers involved in the contest.

“The contest is an excellent motivator and teaching opportunity. What you have put together out there is much more elegant.”

“This contest has really fired up the students here in our new program.  Great team building!”

“We're doing a forecasting seminar class that's been inspired by the contest.”

 “The WxChallenge is a great service to our community.”

“Thanks again for all of the time that you must have to put into making this run so smoothly and for making this such a beneficial educational experience for so many students.”

“All of the cities presented forecasting challenges, and my students really learned a great deal from making predictable mistakes. At age 60, I learned some things, too.”

All content, unless otherwise stated, is copyright ©2014 Univ. of Oklahoma
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