Schoolgirl crowned champion weather forecaster after taking on the pros12 August 2020
A 12-year-old from Reading who took on the experts in a weather forecasting game run by the University of Reading has been named the champion school player.
Ruth Harper, who attends Kendrick School, was among more than 70 school pupils to sign up for the Weather Game, a ‘fantasy league-style’ game that challenged players to predict the weather in locations all over the world using professional forecasting websites as a guide.
The six-week game came to a close last weekend, with the winners of the five closely-contested categories all named on Monday. Another of the winners was revealed as a soon-to-be Reading Master’s student, who had signed up in the Guest category to learn a bit more about forecasting ahead of starting his Meteorology course this September.
'No easy task'
As well as topping the School league table, Ruth finished 11th overall, beating dozens of experienced researchers at their own game.
With the COVID-19 lockdown and school holidays limiting activities on offer for children this summer, she turned to the Weather Game for entertainment. It was also a chance to battle against her brother, eight-year-old Aidan, who remarkably finished fourth in the School category himself.
Ruth said: “I really enjoyed participating in the Weather Game as I often find it frustrating when forecasts aren’t accurate and my family and I end up in a thunderstorm when it was supposed to be bright and sunny. So I thought it would be fun to give it a shot and see how hard it can be.
“If there is anything that the Weather Game has taught me, it is that weather forecasting is no easy task.”
Explaining her champion forecasting methods, Ruth said: “In the first week, I looked at the weather that everyone had to forecast and was confused. I had never encountered having to predict hours of sunshine or millimetres of precipitation. So I took a few wild guesses and ended up earning the highest score of mine throughout the six weeks.
“Over the following weeks, the things that I was confused about at first became clearer, though hours of sunshine still baffle me slightly.”
'Beneficial for my course'
The Guest category winner, Aaron Readle, 25, is a Physics graduate living in Ipswich who will be starting the MSc Applied Meteorology Master’s course at Reading next month, having worked graduate tutor jobs for the past year. He topped the table of 104 Guest players and finished an impressive fifth overall.
Aaron said: “Weather impacts our daily lives. My hobbies include sailing, mountaineering and flying, where understanding the evolution of weather is of particular importance.
“This definitely piqued my interest in finding out how different measurements are taken in meteorology and the instrumentation used for forecasters. Knowing how measurements are made and the necessary instruments to do so before my course starts will certainly be beneficial.”
First ever public Weather Game
The Weather Game has been run for Meteorology staff and students at Reading for several years, but this was the first time it had been opened up to the public.
Players were encouraged to look at numerous professional forecasts to spot similarities and differences, and then use their intuition to predict things like total rainfall, total sunshine and temperature highs and lows over each weekend.
The expert data included measurements taken at the University of Reading’s Atmospheric Observatory, where staff and students get first-hand experience of how weather elements are recorded.
Also taking part were students and staff at the University of Oklahoma in the US, where some students from Reading spend the third year of their degree courses, and at the NUIST-Reading Academy in Nanjing, China, which is also partnered with Reading’s Department of Meteorology.
Reading emerged victorious on average, with four of the top five players also being based there.
Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, Head of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, said: “Congratulations to all of the winners of our first ever public Weather Game. We were hugely impressed with the accuracy of the predictions as players took on the infamously difficult task of weather forecasting.
“Even more pleasing than the quality of the predictions was the fact that more than 200 people from all over the world were able to take a closer look at how weather is forecast. Hopefully by questioning the data and making their own estimates they now have a greater understanding of how difficult forecasts are to make and why they vary so much.
“Any School and Guest players who enjoyed the Weather Game are welcome to join us as students at Reading, where many well-known televisions forecasters learnt their trade. There are a wealth of careers open to Meteorology graduates, including helping the world cope with the effects of climate change, keeping astronauts safe in space, and harnessing nature to produce renewable energy.”
The winner in each category was awarded a copy of the book 100 Years of Reading Weather, written by University of Reading meteorologists Stephen Burt and Dr Roger Brugge.
The Department of Meteorology hope to play another public edition of the game in the future. Follow @UniRdg_Met on Twitter to keep up to date.