A prototype advanced model output statistics (MOS) forecast system that was entered in the 1996–97 National Collegiate Weather Forecast Contest is described and its performance compared to that of widely available objective guidance and to contest participants. The prototype system uses an optimal blend of aviation (AVN) and nested grid model (NGM) MOS forecasts, explicit output from the NGM and Eta guidance, and the latest surface weather observations from the forecast site. The forecasts are totally objective and can be generated quickly on a personal computer. Other “objective” forms of guidance tracked in the contest are 1) the consensus forecast (i.e., the average of the forecasts from all of the human participants), 2) the combination of NGM raw output (for precipitation forecasts) and NGM MOS guidance (for temperature forecasts), and 3) the combination of Eta Model raw output (for precipitation forecasts) and AVN MOS guidance (for temperature forecasts).
Results show that the advanced MOS system finished in 20th place out of 737 original entrants, or better than approximately 97% of the human forecasters who entered the contest. Moreover, the advanced MOS system was slightly better than consensus (23d place). The fact that an objective forecast system finished ahead of consensus is a significant accomplishment since consensus is traditionally a very formidable “opponent” in forecast competitions. Equally significant is that the advanced MOS system was superior to the traditional guidance products available from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Specifically, the combination of NGM raw output and NGM MOS guidance finished in 175th place, and the combination of Eta Model raw output and AVN MOS guidance finished in 266th place. The latter result is most intriguing since the proposed elimination of all NGM products would likely result in a serious degradation of objective products disseminated by NCEP, unless they are replaced with equal or better substitutes.On the other hand, the positive performance of the prototype advanced MOS system shows that it is possible to create a single objective product that is not only superior to currently available objective guidance products, but is also on par with some of the better human forecasters.