Today’s Forecast: Sunny with a Chance of Applause

UC Davis Student Earns Medal in Collegiate Weather Forecasting Competition

by Tiffany Dobbyn May 28, 2024

Allan Lee, a graduate student in atmospheric science, earned a 1st place medal during the Wx Challenge. Photo by: Jael Mackendorf, UC Davis.Weather forecasting is a complex and challenging task. But UC Davis graduate student Allan Lee is up for that challenge.

Lee, who is earning his master’s degree in atmospheric science, participated in the WxChallenge, a collegiate weather forecasting competition where students and faculty across North America compete in predicting weather conditions for specific cities. They forecast variables like temperature and precipitation in a series of rounds with a different city chosen for each round. The forecasters are broken up into different categories: freshman/sophomore, junior/senior, graduate student, and faculty.

Lee earned himself a first-place medal for being the top graduate student forecaster for two weeks of forecasting the weather for Dallas, TX. Adele Igel, associate professor with the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, presented the medal to Lee and congratulated him on a job well done.

“I like weather because it’s different almost every day,” Lee said. “I never get bored with it. there’s always something new to look at. It’s surprising when things don’t go as planned, so it’s even more interesting those days.”

Lee was handed the medal during a weather forecasting class taught by Matt Igel, assistant adjunct professor with the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and got a round of applause from his fellow students and professors.

Lee was one of 12 UC Davis students from the atmospheric science program who participated in the competition. The contest spans an academic year, or participants can opt to forecast half the year. During the 2023-2024 academic year, 1,295 people participated with 721 of them forecasting for the full year. After the regular season, the top forecasters qualify for a single-elimination tournament. That’s when participants compete head-to-head in a bracket-style format.

Igel said this is the first time that three UC Davis students made it to the playoffs, including Lee. She said Lee finished 8th overall in the regular season.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Igel said. She also added a fun story about Lee’s strong finish. “I want to say who didn’t place in the top 8, that would be the author of your forecasting textbook,” she said during the class presentation. That author happens to be a professor who taught the Igels when they were undergraduates at North Carolina State University.

Future forecasters

First-year student Paul Green and sophomore Aidan Carter were in the top 40 in their category. Green, a native of California’s central coast, started to pay close attention to the weather during the COVID-19 pandemic when he tuned into the Weather Channel often. He became intrigued with weather phenomena and is motivated to enter the WxChallenge again.

“Weather is such an important part of everyone’s everyday life, yet a lot of people are uneducated about the weather,” Green said. “I think there are a lot of ways we can integrate it into education and get people to think about the weather more.”

Igel said students of hers first started competing in the contest in 2018 when one of her students asked how she could bolster her resume when applying for forecasting jobs.
Associate Professor Adele Igel presents graduate student Allan Lee with the 1st place medal for being the top graduate student forecaster for two weeks of forecasting during the Wx Challenge. Photo by: Jael Mackendorf, UC Davis.

“I said let’s sign up for this competition,” Igel explained. “That student is now a National Weather Service [NWS] forecaster in Midland, Texas, and she’s transferring to San Diego soon. She got her dream job at NWS straight out of UC Davis. Those jobs are very competitive.”

Lee has been participating in the WxChallenge since 2019 when he was an undergrad and he’s made it the tournament every year since 2021. Lee aspires to start a career in forecasting, and Igel is hopeful that he will have similar success thanks to his hard work forecasting almost daily during the WxChallenge.

“Allan has a strong desire to continue in forecasting, and I’d like to think that participation in this competition will help him get a job someday doing that,” Igel said. “For me, that’s rewarding, to be able to help students this way.”
Media Resources

Adele Igel, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources,
Tiffany Dobbyn, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,

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