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UCLA

Today's Bruin Forecast

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By Patty Park '91

Published Aug 20, 2015 8:00 AM


UCLA’s staff meteorologist has predicted campus weather for 33 years.

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James Murakami at his weather station atop the Math Sciences Building.
Photo by Christelle Snow.

Will it be a warm day for the Bruins? Cloudy or clear? Rain or shine?

To answer those questions every morning, campus meteorologist James Murakami ‘82 logs on to his computer to review the data collected on the departmental weather server overnight. Then he’s off to his weather station atop the Math Sciences Building, where instruments measure wind, temperature, humidity and rainfall.

The final prediction is in his daily weather report — covering the Westwood campus, with a more detailed forecast of the greater Los Angeles region — posted on the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies website, UCLA Newsroom’s daily morning digest and the homepage at ucla.edu.

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One of the many charts Murakami uses to prepare his forecasts. Photo by Christelle Snow.

“The weather here is pretty consistent,” says Murakami, who has been at his post for more than three decades. But still, he notes, trying to accurately forecast the weather can be a challenge. “While I may not be forecasting a hurricane or a tornado, it can be clear skies at UCLA, mostly clear in Santa Monica and completely overcast in Malibu. And on a rare occasion, I can introduce the possibility for severe thunderstorms rumbling near the campus.”

Murakami, who became fascinated with weather at the age of 12, says forecasting the weather is 40 percent science, 30 percent art and 30 percent luck. “I analyze many different computer model forecasts, which differ in weather outcomes,” he says. And while the science is important, he notes, there's an art in choosing which pieces of the weather puzzle will determine tomorrow's weather — a process called “massaging” the numerical model forecasts. “The luck comes when your forecast verifies even if the pieces of the puzzle didn't come together the way you expected.”

Luckily for friends and colleagues, Murakami — who studied meteorology at UCLA, where he received his B.S. in atmospheric sciences in 1982 – is happy to field their questions. Should I have an outdoor wedding on this day? Do you think it’ll rain there during my vacation? And of course, during the UCLA football season: What’s the weather expected to be for the Chancellor’s Bruin Day Game Party?

“I love watching the clouds and figuring out what’s going on,” says Murakami, who leads K-12 students and teachers on atmospheric science tours, including visits to his rooftop weather station. When he’s not busy forecasting rain or shine for Bruins, he enjoys following the weather occurring around the world, particularly tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

“I have a great job,” he says. “I get to vicariously watch the weather not just here, but across the country.”

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