Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
April 5, 1996

Cool, but sunny . . . I think

by Steve Sullivan
Harbor a deep desire for Willard Scott's job? Think the folks at the National Weather Service are a bunch of ninnies? Want to tell people when it is going to rain on their parade -- with authority?

Then Iowa State invites you to "Forecasting for MT206," the World Wide Web page that will put your weather prognostication skills to the test -- literally.

"Forecasting" has been set up on the Web for the 250 Iowa State students enrolled this semester in an introductory meteorology course, but it is open to anyone who has access to the Internet.

"Forecasting" offers the opportunity to guess the next day's weather in Des Moines, Minneapolis or Atlanta, Ga. The tools of weather analysis available on "Forecasting" include updated-hourly surface weather maps of the United States, satellite pictures, upper air analysis data and weather information from other Web sites. Amateur forecasters can study the maps and other data, and then proceed to a daily quiz. The quiz includes 12 questions covering such issues as precipitation, cloud cover, wind direction and noon and 6 a.m. temperatures.

A meteorology graduate student inputs the correct answers daily and the computer grades all quizzes. Meteorology 206 students are expected to do the quiz at least 25 times during the semester.

"We have created a non-threatening, entertaining way for people to learn about the science of meteorology. Even people who have 'science phobia' enjoy this experience," said Doug Yarger, professor of meteorological science. "When filling out the course evaluation, the majority of students say they got the most out of the forecasting exercises."

"Forecasting" provides students an opportunity to access and familiarize themselves with the tools professionals use to predict weather patterns.

"The common joke is that the National Weather Service is no good. But after amateurs try to predict the weather, they learn that the NWS people aren't so bad and that maybe our expectations are too high," Yarger said. "Those people are actually pretty sharp."

The URL for "Forecasting" is To register for the forecasting quiz, click on the "Getting Started" icon and scroll to the section on Classnet registration. When asked for class name, type in: mt206. When asked for user name and password, type in your e-mail address and password. Yarger recommends that you e-mail him at to let him know you have registered. He will need to approve your registration before you can enter a forecast.

Forecast scores usually are available the day after the quiz has been taken. To check scores, click on the "Grades" icon on the "mt206" home page.

"Forecasting," available weekdays, will be in operation until the end of spring semester. Eventually, it could be a year- round Web page, Yarger said.

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