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Student ‘Snowstradamus’ Accurately Predicts All Penn State Snow Days

Everyone loves a good snow day. It’s even better when you can confidently count on a snow day before you go to bed at night. There are countless places to look for predictions and projections, but I place all of my faith in senior meteorology student Andrew Markowitz.

Remember the back-to-back snow days before Thanksgiving? (Of course you do — it was in the line dance.) Well, Andrew called both of them. Every day off so far this semester? He predicted those too. He’s batting 1.000 and it made me sit down and wonder, “How does he do it?”

Meteorology wasn’t just something Andrew decided to study when he arrived at Penn State nearly four years ago. He’s been measuring snow in his yard since he was five. He even delivered a weather report on NBC 10 at the age of seven.

Predicting the weather might seem like part of Andrew’s DNA, but he doesn’t like to compare himself to the likes of Al Roker or Jim Cantore. In fact, he has no intention of following in their footsteps.

Instead, he’s pursuing a degree in weather risk management. He hopes to take his degree and turn it into a career where he advises companies and helps them prepare for natural disasters ahead of time.

Going into this line of work brings a certain level of difficulty that you don’t usually get with forecasting temperatures and precipitation, and it’s this challenge Markowitz enjoys.

“For example, you could use long-range forecasts to determine natural gas demand and how that affects the markets,” Markowitz said.

Even though it isn’t his focus here at Penn State, Markowitz has gotten pretty good at predicting the class cancellations that make room for us to “snowlong.” And that got me wondering — how does he do it?

When it comes to modeling, Markowitz explains, “there are different computer models that take the weather that is currently being observed and simulate the conditions in the future based on atmospheric physics.”

Using a combination of the GFS, NAM, ECMWF, and a healthy dose of weatherman intuition, Andrew develops models similar to what you see below:

Based on these models, which he posts to his Twitter account, Markowitz comes up with percentage estimations of how likely we are to have the day off. And honestly, his percentages are closer to my heart than most exam grades.

To determine the percentages, Markowitz takes the timing of the storm, his confidence in the model, and the snow and ice blend that makes up each event. He’s far more skilled than Brick Tamland, but his projections made me think of my favorite Anchor Man line:

During our back-to-back snow days last semester, Markowitz even had the opportunity to join Mike Bettes of the Weather Channel along with some of his other meteorology friends to report on the storm on live TV.

That’s the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, but Markowitz and company showed just how excellent the Penn State meteorology program is with their expertise.

To get your own taste of weather wizardry, give Andrew a follow on Twitter and join me in being a true Snowstradamus believer.

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About the Author

Ryan Haines

Ryan is a senior majoring in Economics with a minor in German. Hailing from Lancaster, PA you might be surprised to hear that he is not Amish. Reach out with questions and comments at [email protected] or on Twitter @HyanRaines.

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