March 20, 2006
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Weather forecasting in the Big Dance
professor designed a
new type of contest for
the NCAA Tournament
By Jeremy Davidson
Daily News Editor
Filling out a bracket in the NCAA
Basketball March Madness Tour-
nament is not an exact science. At
least, if you're trying to predict the
final score. Perry Samson, professor
of atmospheric, oceanic and space
sciences, has designed a different
contest that does follow a science:
predicting which team's campus will
have the hotter temperature on the
day of the game.
Here's how it works: Contestants
in the Weather Dance make their
predictions at the competition's
guessing which competing school's
campus will have the higher tem-
perature on game day. One point
is awarded for each correct predic-
tion. The contestant with the highest
overall score will win the opportu-
nity to go tornado chasing with a
group of researchers from the Uni-
versity of Michigan and Texas Tech.
Each school will send six students
on a trip to tornado-prone areas of
the Great Plains to monitor torna-
does. One of the spots reserved for
the University will be given to the
winner of the contest.
"It's going to be like one of these
scenes from 'Twister,' " Samson said.
Samson said he designed the contest
to spark people's interest in meteorol-
ogy, and to promote the opportunities
in his department.
Despite the sophisticated scoring
system, Samson has run into some
trouble with the scoring process
- some campuses have reported the
same temperature on game day.
"We call them nail-biters," Samson
said, "I had to go and do some research
on each of these campuses and figure
out which thermometer best repre-
sented the campus."
Samson said this had resolved all
the ties at this point. "If there's still a
tie after that, we might just flip a coin
There are currently 720 participants
competing across the country for the
opportunity to tag along with the storm
chasers. One hundred and fifty people
are competing in Samson's class for
a different prize: the opportunity to
enter one of 10 wind tunnels on cam-
pus. These tunnels, tucked away in the
Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Building
on North Campus, simulate winds of
up to 150 miles per hour. The winner
or winners from Samson's class will
present a report of the experience in
Unlike typical March Madness
brackets, the Weather Dance contes-
tants can make predictions for either
the men's tournament, the women's
tournament or both. Right now, there
are about 120 participants in the wom-
en's tournament who Samson said are
"actively playing," which he said meant
they have a score higher than zero. The
highest score for the women's tourna-
ment nationally is 15 of 16.
In the men's tournament, there are
about 430 active participants.
Currently the highest national score
for the men's tournament is 37 of 56.
As of yesterday afternoon, LSA
junior Justin Houseman was the Uni-
versity's leading scorer. He was lead-
ing by only one point, with a score of
34 correct picks out of 56.
Houseman is a student in Samson's
extreme weather class.
"I think it would be awesome to go
in the wind tunnel," he said.
LSA sophomore Michael Hurwitz,
another student from Samson's class,
is also participating in the contest.
"Perry seemed extremely enthusi-
astic about the tournament, and it got
me kind of excited," Hurwitz said.
Hurwitz said he used the forecast-
ing models and tactics he learned in
Samson's class to pick which campus
would be warmer or colder.
"I had a few upsets, but overall I
was pleased with my results," Hur-
Samson said the department has
received a number of requests from
people who want to participate in
"Unless you are a winner, it's only
open to majors in our department,"
The Department of Meteorology
and Space Sciences offers a number
of summer projects in addition to the
storm-chasers expedition. One project
will take students to the Greenland ice
sheet to measure sunlight exposure.
The team that is heading on the
storm-chasing expedition is working
on developing a mobile wireless inter-
net system for the vans they are tak-
ing on the trip. The system will enable
them to get live images of the storms
they are chasing, and share data with
each other while in the field.
LSA sophomore Michael Hurwitz filled out his NCAA Tournament bracket
according to which team's campus will have hotter weather on gameday.
600 courses. 7,000 students. Unlimited possibilities.
POWER OF SUMMER
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