NOAA Makes Monkey Out of Chimp: Agency Out-Forecasts Trained Chimpanzee - Who Knew?

Dec 01, 2010, 08:00 ET from National Center for Public Policy Research

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NOAA made a monkey out of Dr. James Hansimian, The National Center for Public Policy Research's trained hurricane-forecasting chimp, by producing a more accurate hurricane forecast for 2010.

Today marks the official end of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. While it is still possible that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecast will be wrong, as hurricanes sometimes occur outside the official season, one thing is certain: NOAA did better than our trained chimp.

Dr. Hansimian predicted 6-8 hurricanes this year in his late-March forecast, while NOAA predicted 8-12 hurricanes in its most recent forecast, issued on August 5. There have been 12 hurricanes so far in 2010.

"It turns out that a trained chimp tossing dice over a craps table isn't a very reliable methodology for predicting hurricanes. Who knew?" said David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Still, the chimp was closer to the mark this year than NOAA was in 2005 when it predicted 7-9 hurricanes and we ended up having 15. And, unlike NOAA, Dr. Hansimian used no taxpayer dollars for his ill-fated forecast."

Dr. Hansimian's reaction to the news that he and his $2 dice produced results inferior to that of a $5 billion federal agency may be found in a new video. The video, containing Dr. Hansimian's March forecast and his reaction when he learned of his loss to NOAA, can be found at http://www.nationalcenter.org/HurricaneForecast.html.

In May, The National Center for Public Policy Research said a trained chimp could better predict hurricanes than NOAA and challenged the agency to add Dr. Hansimian as an honorary member of its hurricane specialists unit if the chimp produced a better forecast. In return, if NOAA produced a better forecast, the policy group promised to issue a mea culpa on its website. NOAA never accepted the challenge.

"Dr. Hansimian doesn't plan to issue another hurricane forecast," said Ridenour. "He feels strongly that failure to get the forecast right even once undermines his credibility and public confidence. He has no wish to ape the behavior of other forecasters."

Dr. Hansimian's failure to accurately predict this year's hurricane total puts him in good company. Others that missed the mark include: Colorado State University, which had predicted, 10; WSI-the Weather Channel, 10; Florida State University, 10; and Weather Research Center, 5.

Assuming the 2010 hurricane number holds at 12, NOAA will have correctly forecast the number of Atlantic hurricanes for only the second time in seven years.

The National Center's reasons for issuing a hurricane forecast made by a chimpanzee can be found here: http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR_Hurricane_Forecast_051810.html.

Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or dalmasi@nationalcenter.org, or Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or jkent@nationalcenter.org

SOURCE National Center for Public Policy Research



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