Weather Forecast Preparation Lab

Meteorology 215, Weather Forecast Preparation Lab

Course Syllabus, Spring Semester 2019 

Instructor: Paul Mykolajtchuk, 530 Walker,

Local WxChallenge Manager: Kyle Imhoff, 606D Walker,

Class Meeting Times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 6 pm – 7:15 pm, 607 Walker

Course Designation: Undergraduate Elective 

Brief Course Description: Students will learn basic forecasting techniques, as well as utilize forecasting resources in order to forecast for the annual WxChallenge forecasting contest. An introduction to forecasting resources will be emphasized in the beginning of the class. In following weeks leading up to the forecasting contest, practice forecasts utilizing these forecasting techniques will be stressed. The final two-thirds of the semester will involve forecasts for five cities, each for two consecutive weeks. Final scores will be assessed through attendance (80%), forecast discussions (10%), and forecast accuracy (10%). It is highly encouraged that students take this course in both the fall and spring semesters. This course can be repeated for eight semesters. For students to compete as part of the Penn State WxChallenge team, the student must have signed up for WxChallenge in both the spring and fall semesters. 

For ten weeks, students will be forecasting for five cities, each for two consecutive weeks. During these ten weeks, discussion concerning the forecast will take place. Furthermore, an emphasis will be placed on where forecast accuracy can be improved from the previous day, and why. Toward the end of the spring semester, there will be both an Individual Tournament City, and a Team Competition City. The WxChallenge contest runs through spring break, so forecasts must also be submitted during that time. Emphasis will also be placed on model versus observation based forecasting. Discussion among forecasters is encouraged, but independent forecasts are expected from all students. Submitting consistent identical forecasts goes against Penn State policy on academic integrity. As a result, any forecasters involved in submitting repeated identical forecasts will be suspended from the contest, and will receive an F for the course.  

Prerequisites or concurrent courses: METEO 101, METEO 200A and METEO 200B, or METEO 201. 

Course materials:  Course materials, including PowerPoints and forecasting links, will be shared through Canvas.  

Course Expectations: Students will improve forecasting ability in developing forecasts for the five cities selected by the WxChallenge. 

Course Objectives: Students will experience forecasting for cities in various different climates, and gain both a broad and specific understanding in forecasting. Students will also gain an understanding in how differing forecast factors impact the overall forecast in these differing climates. 

Course Outcomes: Students will gain additional insight in what goes into an accurate forecast.

Course Materials: No textbooks are required for this course.  

Office Hours: I have an open door policy. 


  • Attendance: 80%
    • Students are expected to attend and participate in every class, unless there is an excused conflict. Examples of an excused conflict include illness and academic trips (e.g. NWA, AMS). Any absences should be emailed before the missed class.
    • Each student has 3 free unexcused absences. After the fourth unexcused absence, the student’s attendance grade will drop 2% for each additional unexcused absence.
    • Each student has 3 free unexcused tardy days. After the fourth unexcused tardy, the student’s attendance grade will drop 1% for each additional unexcused tardy.
  • Forecast Discussions: 10%
    • Students will give daily presentations to aid classmates in creating forecasts. These presentations will follow a schedule.
    • Each presentation will be graded on completeness. Each presentation must have:
      • Analysis of previous forecasts (if necessary). However, climatology, influential topographic features, or a long range outlook may be utilized instead (for new cities in the WxChallenge).
      • Current observations (either upper air, surface, or both).
      • The most uncertain forecast variable: the variable that should be focused on during the forecast.
      • A layout of all of the forecast factors.
    • As students will likely present multiple times throughout the semester, the average of the highest presentations will be used. The lowest graded presentation will be dropped.
    • Students are expected to contribute to these discussions, and these discussions should be free of disruptions.
  • Forecast Accuracy: 10%
    • Each forecast city represents 20% of this section, or 2% of the total grade.
    • Missing a forecast outside of the city not counted within the WxChallenge (also known as the drop city), will result in a 2% deduction per forecast per city.
    • Placement: Each city will be 2% of the performance mark. The “drop city” will be given a 2% regardless of the score.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 20, 2% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 30, 1.33% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 40, 0.67% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score greater than 40, 0% will be given for the city. 
  • The following scale will be used for grades: A (93-100%), A- (90-92%), B+ (87-89%), B (83-86%), B- (80-83%), C+ (75-79%), C (70-74%), D (60-69%), F (0-59%).  

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own or in designated lab groups (when permitted), including quizzes, draft report sections, and the final snowfall measurement report.  Students who present other people’s work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see  To learn more, see Penn State’s Plagiarism Tutorial for Students

Course Copyright: All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.  For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy. 

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website (  

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations. 

Class Emergencies and Weather Delays: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

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Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
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Disclaimer Statement: Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.