For an inaugural competition, last year’s AtmoCup was pretty successfull overall with North Carolina State scoring points at the buzzer to top Colorado State and take home the grand prize.


After the NCSU and CSU finishes of 59 and 58 points respectively, University of Albany won the (imaginary) bronze medal with 49 points. Then came the steep drop-off with 4th place Penn State scoring 33 points, and 5th place Oklahoma tallying 19. While participation in the 2017 challenge was incredibly widespread with over 40 universities scoring at least a point, parity atop the standings was less than desirable. Because we’re aiming for even bigger participation this year, we’re increasing the stakes by awarding even bigger prizes to our winners including a grand prize of $250 along with the AtmoCup trophy for the AMS chapter or ATMO program of the top finishing university. The competition begins at 0z this coming Monday, January 22 and concludes precisely at 0z June 1 (UPDATE: Now concludes 0z July 1). We’ve changed a few rules this year, so allow us to introduce to y’all the 2018 AtmoCup Challenge.

Who can play?

You can play!

Whether you’re a student, faculty member, alumni, or just a fan, you can compete in the AtmoCup and help your school’s ATMO program (or pretend ATMO program, we’re not gonna check) earn points. This should be an obvious caveat, but We’ll mention it anyway: once you pick a school, you’re tied to them for the entire competition. Many mets, especially in academia, have been part of multiple ATMO programs for various degrees and/or faculty positions. In these cases, we recommend you compete for your current or most recent school, but the choice is up to you.

How can you score points?

Storm Chasing

If you’re the first to see a tornado out on a chase, claim it for your school! Tweet us a photo/video of it (@atmolife) and use the hashtag #AtmoCup2018. It is your responsibility to provide adequate verification that the media you sent us is in fact yours and from the tornado you say it is. If we catch you cheating, you will personally be disqualified from competing. Since you’re not gonna cheat though, if we accept your claim, you will earn your school 3 points. You can claim as many tornadoes for your school as you see, and earn 3 points for each one of them.

Since tornado claiming puts certain schools at a geographical advantage, we have decided to open up the storm chase claims to additional meteorological phenomena. Below is our complete list of extreme weather, that if we accept your verification, will earn you points for your program each time you submit a claim.

  • Tornado: 3 points
  • Hail > 2″: 1 point
  • Hail > 4″: 2 points
  • Waterspout: 1 point
  • Thundersnow (can be claimed on a per-storm basis, not per-lightning strike): 1 point lightning, 1 point thunder, 3 points both
  • White-out Blizzard: 1 point
  • Freezing rain accretion > 1″: 1 point
  • Freezing rain accretion > 2″: 2 points
  • Haboob: 2 points
  • Turning around and not drowning: 1 point
  • Heat burst: 5 points
  • Snownado: 100 points (has to be a legit tornado in a snowstorm)

Right here is where we should probably mention that you should storm chase responsibly, and that we are not liable for anything stupid you do while you’re out on these meteorology themed scavenger hunts.

UPDATE (2/8/18): You have 24 hours to claim a storm from the time it occurs. We can’t allow last-minute shakeups to the standings caused by a few folks submitting their full set of chasing footage from the season all at once.

The Weather Challenge

Ahh yes, good ‘ol WX Challenge. That forecasting competition you participated in during your freshman intro to meteorology lab for about 3 weeks until you began using’s predictions every day or neglected to enter a forecast all together (You’re damn right I copied and pasted this joke from last year’s preview). This time the WX Challenge is worth something far more valuable than extra credit: Sweet delicious AtmoCup points for your school. This year’s contest spans from Jan 30 – Apr 27 and includes several point earning opportunities.

  • Forecast Cities (5 cities, 2-weeks each)
    • 3 points awarded to the schools with the top individual and overall scores.
    • 2 points awarded to the schools with the 2nd place individual and overall scores.
    • 1 point awarded to the schools with the 3rd place individual and overall scores.
  • Individual Tournament City (1 city, 2 weeks)
    • 5 points awarded to the school with the 1st place individual finisher.
    • 4 points awarded to the school with the 2nd place individual finisher.
    • 3 points awarded to the school with the 3rd place individual finisher.
    • 2 points awarded to the school with the 4th place individual finisher.
    • 1 point awarded to the school with the 5th place individual finisher.
  • Team Competition City (1 city, 2 weeks)
    • 5 points awarded to the 1st place school.
    • 4 points awarded to the 2nd place school.
    • 3 points awarded to the 3rd place school.
    • 2 points awarded to the 4th place school.
    • 1 point awarded to the 5th place school.

We’ve changed up our WX Challenge scoring system a bit here. Last year, we rewarded the schools with the top cumulative scores (individual and overall), which included the fall results before the AtmoCup competition began. This year, what you did last fall has no bearing on the result aside from your placement in the tournament cities. Furthermore, the team competition city appears to be a new addition by the WX Challenge. My assumption is that this is the same bracket-style competition as the individual tournament city, except now your schools’ consensus scores are going head-to-head. If this isn’t the case, we may tweak our point system slightly while letting you know in advance.

We realize that signing up for WX Challenge with your school requires being an active student/faculty member, therefore this is the only component of the challenge in which alumni/fans are not eligible to compete in.

NCAA Basketball Tournament

This part of the challenge was super fun last year.

Since we meteorologists pride ourselves on our ability to predict the future, it’s time to apply this skill to the only thing more chaotic than Mother Nature, March Madness. Come tourney time, we will create an online group in which you can submit your bracket. ONE PER PERSON, DANGIT. The point scoring will be similar to the WX Challenge cumulative scoring, but with more people earning points: 10 points to the school of the user with the 1st place bracket, 9 points for 2nd place, 8 points for 3rd place, … , 1 point for 10th place.

In 2017 we had an even 50 people enter our bracket challenge. Let’s try to get over a 100 this year.

Writing for AtmoLife

We’re really excited to introduce our new 2018 category because of the shameless self-promotion it brings us. This part of the challenge is simple. Write an article for AtmoLife, and as long as it meets our rigorous journalistic standards, you’ll earn your school 2 AtmoCup points. Each individual earns points for their first 2 articles, and each school earns points for their first 5 articles. You’re obviously welcome to continue writing articles for us after you’ve reached your point limit, but we thought we’d put a lid on the scoring in case one person runs away with it.

If you’d like to write with us, click here and tell us a little about yourself. Then we’ll add you as a contributor. You won’t initially have user permissions to publish or add media (photos, videos, etc.) so just paste the URLs of what you’d like to add, or let us know what stuff you want, and we’ll add it for you. As editors, we may kick your article back to you for revisions, so don’t be discouraged if that happens. You’ll earn the points upon our publication of your article.

We reserve the right to not publish anything you submit to us, but if you follow these basic ground rules you’ll probably see your post on our website pretty quickly:

  • Topic must be at least loosely related to atmospheric science.
  • Topic must be something that would be interesting to a wide group of people. (A local forecast for your hometown probably isn’t interesting unless some huge storm is coming.)
  • Don’t write anything offensive or put down others in the meteorology community.
  • For the love of God and all that is holy, proofread your work.

This replaces our Instagram challenge from last year, which was, for lack of a better word, meh.

Random Bonus Points

This part of the contest is entirely subjective and points are awarded at the sole discretion of our AtmoCup Commissioner. We love #wxtwitter here at AtmoLife, and when somebody on #wxtwitter tweets something great, especially relating to the AtmoCup, we feel compelled to reward them.

We also may award a random bonus point here and there for various accomplishments such as:

  • A perfect score on a daily WX Challenge prediction during a tough event to forecast
  • An exceptionally badass pic/vid of the tornado/haboob/blizzard/etc. you claimed
  • Having the funniest name for your March Madness bracket

But again, these are entirely subjective. Thankfully, this category of points will be few and far between. Unless you’re exceptionally great at pandering, they will likely have little impact on the outcome of the overall result.

What prizes can you win?

As we already mentioned, the top scoring university takes home the coveted AtmoCup trophy along with $250 for their ATMO program or AMS chapter. You can use your hard-earned prize money for that field trip to the local NWS office or TV station your chapter has been planning, or maybe you can spend it on some fun extra curricular event. $250 can get you a dozen cases of Natty! Do whatever you want with it, as long as you share it with the other students from your school. Sorry alumni and fans, prize money you helped your school win is for current students, but fear not because there’s another cash prize you can win.

The Bettes Award – 2017 Winner: Danny Rodriguez, Colorado College

The top individual point scorer for our 2018 competition will take home a piece of imaginary hardware and starting this year, a real cash prize of $50. Named after the well known meteorologist (famous for running in front of my moving vehicle on a dirt road during a May 30th, 2013 storm chase), the winner of this award displays a consistent and possibly aggressive zeal for mother nature.

The Rochelle Achievement – 2017 Winner: Brandon Black, NC State

We encourage your pandering during this competition, and at our discretion, we award bonus points for the more creative attempts. The single most creative pandering attempt during the 2018 AtmoCup season will also earn The Rochelle Achievement. Named after the famous E-F4 tornado that many folks in meteorology commonly exalt with a bonus Fujita Scale point, The Rochelle Achievement is awarded to the AtmoCup participant with the most creatively earned bonus point. Brandon of NC State took home this imaginary award last year by giving AtmoLife a shoutout on a weather baloon launch.

3st Place Medal – 2017 Winner: NC State


NC State really cleaned up in last year’s award ceremony due primarily to their constant and widespread efforts. For every successful attempt at scoring AtmoCup points, they had about 2 or 3 unsuccessful pandering whiffs that came across as uninteresting or obnoxious. When someone from your university becomes overly thirsty for points, we quench that thirst with the 3st place medal. This medal will bounce around throughout the competition, as it is awarded at our discretion to the university most recently guilty of excessive pandering. Whoever holds this imaginary medal on June 1st takes it home.

Now get out there and earn some dang points.