Benefits of Success: World Climate Service in the USBR Forecast Rodeo

US Bureau of Reclamation Press Release

On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced the winners of their Subseasonal Climate Forecast Rodeo, which took place between April 2017 and April 2018. Prescient Weather participated in the contest and  performed very well, ranking first for all categories combined and second in all but one of the individual forecast categories.  By outperforming most competitors, Prescient Weather reinforced the strength and value of its World Climate Service, an industry-leading product that delivers guidance and tools for long-range weather forecasting.

An example subseasonal ensemble forecast model progression

Since the advent of weather forecasting, the accuracy of traditional short-range forecasts has increased steadily, and people and businesses around the world now regularly use 7-10 day forecasts to help plan activities and manage risk.   As weather forecasts have improved, users have inevitably sought to look beyond the normal 10-15 day forecast horizon for long-range information that helps them know what to expect.

The time horizon beyond the usual 10-15 day weather forecast is known as the subseasonal range, and the practice of subseasonal forecasting has recently emerged as a viable but challenging opportunity.  Demand for reliable and credible subseasonal forecast guidance has begun to increase rapidly, and in response to this need Prescient Weather has developed a suite of subseasonal forecast tools as part of its World Climate Service.  Prescient Weather was therefore well-positioned to participate in the Forecast Rodeo when it was first announced in late 2016.

As noted by the USBR announcement, however, Prescient Weather elected to withdraw from the contest and forgo any potential award after the year-long period of forecast submissions.  Competitor “bgzimmerman” (Brian Zimmerman) also withdrew from the contest, and these decisions to withdraw were made in collaboration after discussion between the two parties.  As stated by the USBR press release, “In addition to these teams, two other teams outperformed the benchmarks over the 12-month competition. Team bgzimmerman had the highest average score in each of the temperature categories and was the only team to beat the benchmarks in the five-to-six-week temperature category. Team PRXWX outperformed the benchmarks in all categories except for five-to-six-week temperature category. Rather than seek prize purses in exchange for their forecast methods, these teams elected to withdraw from the competition and formed a partnership to commercialize their techniques.”

In hindsight, the greatest benefit Prescient Weather received from participation in the contest was establishing a relationship with Brian Zimmerman.   By a happy coincidence, Brian chose to use his real name in his contest username, and therefore it was possible for Prescient Weather to identify Brian and initiate the discussion that led to the mutual decision to protect intellectual property, combine capabilities, and create a new and industry-leading subseasonal forecast capability.

The USBR press release goes on to state: “This partnership between competitors highlights the benefits of prize competitions and spurring innovation and relationships that would not have been otherwise formed. This also allowed for direct commercialization of a research methodology which is another a positive outcome of these competitions.”  The collaboration between Prescient Weather and Brian Zimmerman will bolster Prescient Weather’s ability to provide the best seasonal and subseasonal forecasts available today by consistently developing innovative subseasonal forecast methodologies, data sources, and applications.

Prescient Weather is excited to have Brian Zimmerman as part of the World Climate Service team, and his vision for the opportunity associated with subseasonal forecasts is closely aligned with the aims and direction of Prescient Weather.   Further refinement and operational implementation of the contest-leading forecast scheme is ongoing, and World Climate Service users can look forward to a product upgrade for summer 2019 that will include the Forecast Rodeo temperature forecast system.