Monsoon

The University of Arizona recently launched a new game, in which the public can estimate rain measurements during the monsoon season and win prizes. 

The game, called “Southwest Monsoon Fantasy Forecasts,” is aimed at engaging with the public and giving them a way to start conversations about the monsoon, said Zackry Guido, assistant research professor at the Arizona Institutes for Resilience at the University of Arizona.

“Each month, players can make a projection of total rainfall for that month at five cities across the Southwest,” he said.

These five cities are Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Albuquerque and El Paso. 

Guido said before players make their rainfall predictions, they will be given some assistance.

“We have some data visualizations that people can use to help them make their estimates. … We give descriptive statistics like the mean and the median,” he said.

Players can guess how much rainfall each of the five cities will get each month. They will make their predictions one month at a time for the months of July, August and September. 

Guido said that people must make their guesses at least one week before the start of the month so people can’t use weather forecasts to help predict rainfall.

“They have to make their guesses a week before the beginning of each month, so for those of them that have not tuned in already, they don’t have the ability to participate for July,” he said. “But we do offer prizes for August and September, and it is totally possible that very good forecasters can still win the entire game with just two months.”

Several winners each month will receive T-shirts, and there will be two grand-prize winners at the end of the monsoon season.

“The grand prizes are these really cool, high-quality backyard automated weather stations that record such things as rainfall, temperature, humidity,” Guido said.

He said there are two ways that players can earn points.

“They score points based on two criteria,” he said. “One, how accurate their prediction is based on what actually occurred, and then two, how risky their forecast was.”

Guido hopes people will continue to participate in the game and said this provides a new, virtual environment for people to compete in. 

“I would encourage people to still participate. It’s just really fun, and they can see what other people have guessed, and we have leaderboards,” he said. “It’s just what I hope to be an engaging way for people to participate in the monsoon.”

Guido said that he and a team of programmers, climate scientists and social scientists, among others at the University of Arizona, made the game possible.

There are several things they hope to gain from this, one of which is to study the effect the monsoon has on people and how interested they are in it. 

“We’re interested in learning about how the monsoon affects people’s perceptions, moods and how that changes in time,” Guido said. “Why people think future weather will be certain ways.”

Guido said they hope to eventually make this game more of an educational experience for players.

He also said that while he doesn’t think this is the case, they are interested in seeing “if there’s some sort of hidden knowledge among the people that have been living here, some deep-rooted experience with the monsoon that allows them to maybe be better forecasters than the kind of technical systems that we currently have.”

The monsoon game is also connected to their podcast, titled “The Southwest Climate Podcast.”

“We’re going to be talking about people’s guesses and the monsoon each month,” Guido said. “So that’s another way to engage and just encourage people to reach out to us. … This is the best time of year for us, so we like interacting with people that are interested in weather and climate.”

To play, visit monsoonfantasy.

arizona.edu.