Applications of Computers to Meteorology

Syllabus document

 Meteo 473 – Fall 2020
Applications of Computers to Meteorology

Instructor: George S. Young
E-Mail: – Note: you get faster response with this e-mail address than with Canvas messaging. E-mail pings me when your message arrives, Canvas does not.
Office hours: Office hours are currently planned for the course's Zoom Hangout room.  The the Zoom link in the Hangout page further down in this module.

  • Tuesdays: 2-4 pm
  • Fridays 8-10 am

If these times don't work, let me know and I'll move them or add to them.

In addition, I'll be in the Hangout room during business hours on weekdays whenever I'm not doing something that requires my focused attention.  If you see my Porco Roso  avatar there, then I'm logged in.  I'll be stealth (mic and camera OFF) until someone calls out "Hey, Dr. Young", at which point I'll shift from whatever I'm working on to answering your questions.


Zach Moon
Office hours: In the course Hangout room on Zoom

  • Tuesday: 9-11 am
  • Thursday: 5-7 pm

Dylan Steinkruger
Office hours: In the course Hangout room on Zoom

  • Monday: 6-8 pm
  • Wednesday: Noon-2 pm 

Remote Learning Rooms

The University has approximately 45 designated Remote Learning Rooms at University Park for students to use to view their remote classes individually or together in small groups, while social distancing and wearing masks, this fall. These spaces are smaller general purpose classrooms that have not been scheduled for classes because social distancing (due to COVID-19) did not permit for the necessary occupancy. So these rooms are free for this use. In addition to regular student spaces on campus that have had seating adjusted for social distancing, these rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for access for remote classes. Students will need to bring their own devices. Room locations and capacity are available by selecting the “Remote Learning Rooms” option on the campus map a (Links to an external site.).

Prerequisites: CMPSC 101, CMPSC 201, CMPSC 202 or METEO 273

Course Expectations 

  • Learn through guided practice those computer skills of value in the commercial sector: creation, manipulation, distribution, and explanation of large meteorological data sets.  
  • Learn through guided practice the means by which you can keep pace with the evolving job market by learning new skills "on the fly", allowing you to acquire new knowledge as needed instead of memorizing all there is to know. 


  1. Students can demonstrate skills in using computers to develop and apply numerical algorithms for the solution of atmospheric problems (relate to program objectives 1 and 3)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use new programming knowledge as needed for solving problems (relate to program objectives 1 and 3)
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to work in a team to produce a final product (relate to program objective 3)


  1. Students can demonstrate a working knowledge of relevant computer languages and how they may be applied to the analysis and display of atmospheric data (relate to program outcomes a and d)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to locate and develop programming methods for application to atmospheric problems (relate to program outcome d)
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to work in teams and to meet deadlines (relate to program outcome d)
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to document their methodology within a computer code (relate to program outcomes d and e)
  5. Students can demonstrate the ability to use the Worldwide Web for dissemination of results (relate to program outcome e) 

Course Rationale

Dissemination: Building a career in Meteorology requires finding a customer for your meteorological knowledge. To succeed, you must both produce information the customer needs AND deliver that information to the customer when and where they need it. In the pre-Internet era, the information delivery bottleneck of television, radio, newspapers limited the market for weather forecasts to those customers who needed only a small amount of general information. As statistical weather forecasts improved to the point where they could fill those limited needs, the market for weather forecasters shrank. The advent of the Internet, with its ability to deliver large amounts of tailored information to individual customers, has reopened the market for weather forecasts and related services. The result has been a boom in forecasting jobs and a parallel boom in openings for Meteorologists with skills in the automated creation and distribution of weather products. This course exists to acquaint you with this career track and prepare you to face its challenges.

Collaboration: The same communications revolution that is revitalizing weather forecasting is enhancing the productivity of Atmospheric Science researchers. The savvy researcher of today uses Internet-based communications, search, and data distribution skills to speed the analysis of large data sets. In Atmospheric Science research, as in weather forecasting, speed is life.  Likewise, distance is power.  If you can work remotely with others, you can leverage the abilities of the entire world to solve your problems.  More and more, teams span the globe!

Agility: The skills needed to harness these computer-based communications and collaboration revolutions change with startling speed. The cutting-edge tools of today are apt to be all but obsolete a few years from now. This course is, therefore, designed to teach you how to learn and maintain computer expertise via a rapidly changing skill set. Thus, rather than focus on a fixed set of tools, we will be striving to master the most efficient ways of learning new tools on the fly. It's going to be a wild ride, one that will last for the rest of your life.

Teaming: Many of the skills needed to ride the "wave of change" involve dealing with teams of remote coworkers and searching for the tools needed to do your work efficiently. The best way to learn these skills is by teaming up to tackle a real project. This approach matches the day-to-day routine in a weather products corporation or research lab, so the course is organized along those lines. The instructional team is here to teach you the teamwork, remote collaboration, tool learning, and data manipulation skills required to prosper in this environment. There is no guarantee that there will be an expert available on every tool you need. There will, however, always be someone who can guide you in discovering how to use the tools.

The class is divided into two- or four-person Tiger teams (your choice). All of the Tiger teams will be working towards developing their own set if Python programs for meteorological data analysis and display.  Collaboration both within teams and between teams will be essential for completion of a viable product.  Due to the rapid advance of computer technology, we have the tools to operate geographically dispersed Tiger teams.  And because work environments are evolving to exploit those capabilities for a myriad of purposes, they’re here to stay.  To operate effectively in the future, we’ll need to perfect our ability to team in the cloud, hence our virtual synchronous Tiger teams.

Tiger Teams work best when the members collaborate closely.  The optimal approach is to pair up, with one person in each pair focusing on method research and the other on coding.  Pair members should switch off tasks every work session.  You can switch more often if you want.  To get the most out of your team’s two coding pairs (if you’ve chosen a 4-member team), break up each of the project milestones into more-or-less independent tasks and assign each task to one pair or the other.  You can always rebalance the load on the fly if one task proves easier or harder than you anticipated.  The team leader will coordinate all this, with each member of the team serving as leader for one of the four milestones.

The boot camp component at the start of the course exists to support team projects. It will take the form of hands-on demonstration sessions with both the students and professor using the same software to practice new skills. The focus will be on translating what you already know about programming into Python, learning effective ways to look up answers to syntax and methodology questions, learning how to debug a program efficiently and above all learning how to work together when you’re spatially remote.  Once the project is underway the specific tools relevant to your project will be learned “on the fly” using these web search skills. The team leader for each milestone should begin searching for useful online reference materials a week before work on a milestone is due to start. That way, you'll have the wheat sorted from the chaff by the time your team is ready to start programming. Pick and bookmark those sites that provide information in the style YOU are most comfortable with.


Class times and places:

Lecture Recordings

Each Zoom lecture will be recorded to the cloud.  You'll find these under the Cloud Recordings tab of the course Canvas site's Zoom page.  You can bring up the page using the Zoom item in the blue menu on the left-hand side of Canvas.  Lecture videos should be posted automatically within a few hours of their occurrence.  There is a practice video there now that you can experiment with.  You can look at old lectures whenever you want. 

Syllabus Statement for Courses Requiring Cameras for Assessment Only

University Policy: This course may require you to have a webcam for class sessions and assessments. Classes and assessments may be conducted using Zoom or other technology selected by your instructor which may use your computer’s webcam or other technologies to communicate, monitor, and/or record classes, class activities, and assessments. Assessments may also be conducted using proctoring software, which may listen to you, monitor your computer screen, view you and your surroundings, and record (including visual and audio recordings) all activity during the proctoring process. Please contact your instructor if you are unable to comply or have any questions or concerns.

Meteo 473 Policy: Since we don't have any exams, we don't need to use webcams to ensure academic integrity during them.  Thus, webcams are of use in 473 simply as another means of providing feedback to your teammates and instructors.  If you're happier with just voice or chat, feel free to use those communication channels instead. 

Textbooks and Such

Boot Camp – You can do a web search for “Python tutorial” and “Python introduction”.  There are many online resources to choose from.  Pick one that fits your style!  The Boot Camp module has a sub-module devoted to guiding you through this selection.

Help – We’ll be using the Spyder integrated development environment (IDE) from Anaconda (currently the best free Python distribution for scientists).  If you click help in Spyder, you’ll find a menu of links to the online documentation for all the tools we’ll be using: Python 3.8, Numpy, Scipy, and Matplotlib.  Or course, you can always just search for these online directly!

Textbooks There is no required text book for this course.  I am, however, quite fond of the paperback version of Alex Decaria’s “Python Programming and Visualization for Scientists”.  Nothing quite beats a programming book written by a real meteorologist.  There are also several popular self-instruction series to choose from. These are mostly useful if you like to learn programming while sitting on the beach rather than at a terminal.  If you like reading from a screen though, there are LOTS of resources available, starting with:

Assistance with Textbooks

Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, (Links to an external site.)). For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit (Links to an external site.)

Assessment Tools

  • Required written/oral assignments

Boot Camp - The 473 boot camp exists to ensure that all students learn the prerequisite material for the course. Therefore failure to pass the boot camp assignment with a grade of at least 60 will be considered a failing grade for the course. Successful completion of boot camp entitles you to continue in 473. Failure in boot camp should lead you to drop the course and retake the prerequisites rather than accept the F.

Course grade is based on successful completion of team tasks, evaluated in four milestones (and boot camp which counts as an additional milestone). In addition, the average of the milestone grades will be curved up or down for each student based on your contributions to the team and class.

For each milestone a Team Assignment grade will be determined by the Instructor. Note, the team leader for that milestone gets two identical copies of that grade (to motivate energetic leadership).  Points are assigned for successful completion and documentation of tasks as specified in the milestone document.  The available points sum to 100 per milestone.  All assignments, including the bootcamp, weight equally in the final grade.

Each team member's assignment grade will be adjusted relative to the team assignment grade based on the Instructor's assessment of their contribution to the team during that milestone. The team self-assessment will play a role in this grade assignment so make sure your task leader knows what you contributed.

  • Examination policy

Meteo 473 has no examinations.

  • Grading policy

All assignments are due by the date and time specified.  Work turned in with a later milestone will be given ½ points and will contribute to the leadership grade of that milestone rather than the one for which it was assigned.  Any work turned in after the due date of the last milestone will be given a grade of zero.

Academic integrity: For boot camp assignments you will be required to do your own work. You can ask questions of the instructional team, search the web, your old programs, or any books that you want, and pick each other’s brains, but you cannot copy each other’s code. For the project part of the course you are required to turn in your own team's work for each milestone assignment. While it is expected that your group will freely exchange advice and assistance with other teams, the work you turn in must be your own team's. Programs copied from others, including persons not taking the course, will be given a grade of zero. If, however, you find a public domain utility on the web that you feel it would be to your advantage to use, you may ask for my permission to incorporate it (with appropriate credit given) into your project. I will decide whether to grant such advance permission on a case-by-case basis based on whether the code in question is a general purpose utility freely available to the global public. Any work not meeting these standards will receive a grade of zero.

Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy: (Links to an external site.), which this course adopts.

Preliminary Assignment Schedule (subject to change)

  • Boot camp classes - August 26, 28, September 4, 9, 11, 16, 18
  • Boot camp assignment (milestone 0) – due 8 am Monday, September 23
  • Milestone 1 – due 8 am Monday, October 14
  • Milestone 2 – due 8 am Monday, November 4
  • Milestone 3 - due 8 am Monday, December 2
  • Milestone 4 – due 8 am Monday, December 16 

University Policies

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: ( (Links to an external site.)). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( (Links to an external site.)).

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: (Links to an external site.). 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. 


Regular attendance is critical for building on the skills and knowledge developed throughout the class. Students who participate have a more complete understanding of the material presented and are more likely to succeed in the class. This is true whether your attendance is face-to-face or remote.  This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: (Links to an external site.), and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy: (Links to an external site.), and Religious Observance Policy: (Links to an external site.). Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  In all cases, you should inform me in advance, when possible. Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean there is work that cannot be made up, hurting your grade in this class..   In addition to illness, legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews).  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help: (Links to an external site.) .  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form: (Links to an external site.), at least one week prior to the activity. 

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated ( (Links to an external site.)) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage (Links to an external site.)

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS) (Links to an external site.): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses (Links to an external site.)
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail (see (Links to an external site.)) to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40 ( (Links to an external site.)). To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion.  If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript. 

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made. 

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page ( (Links to an external site.)), including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the ITS Help Desk ( (Links to an external site.)). 


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review some general Netiquette guidelines (Links to an external site.) that should be followed when communicating in this course. 

Disruptive Behavior

Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct (Links to an external site.)

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response (Links to an external site.) website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (Links to an external site.)

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

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.