Forecasting Practicum

Meteorology 415:  Forecasting Practicum

Spring 2020 

COURSE DESCRIPTION.  Modern techniques in weather analysis and forecasting 

INSTRUCTOR. Dr. Jon Nese, 518 Walker, 863-4076,, Twitter: @jmnese

OFFICE HOURS. Mon 9:00-10:00 AM, Tue 9:00-10:00 AM, Thu 8:00-9:00 AM

WHEN / WHERE. Tuesday & Thursday, 12:05 - 2:50 PM, 607 Walker      


ENROLLMENT POLICY.  Students who do not meet the prerequisite may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor.  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor.  Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of the Student Code of Conduct. 

MATERIALS.  Penn State i-Clicker.  You are required to have one for this course and to register it by Tuesday, January 21. 

COURSE PHILOSOPHY.  This class is not a “lab” course nor is it a “theoretical” course. In some ways it is a combination, and in other ways it is neither. The term “practicum” simply means a practical section of a course of study. The basic premise of this course is to introduce you to operational meteorology and to provide “hands-on” experience in making forecasts. This course will utilize many other topics and some of the theory that you have covered in previous meteorology courses – this prior knowledge is essential to consistently making accurate forecasts. In addition, the course will provide you with the opportunity to understand the costs and benefits of using numerical weather prediction models.

Some of you may be taking this course because you have aspirations of becoming an operational meteorologist. Others may be taking this course just to gain some basic understanding of forecasting and just “get your feet wet.” This course will be greatly beneficial to both groups – it will provide the foundation necessary for those who want to make a career out of forecasting and will also provide a thorough exposure to the subject matter that others not interested in a career will learn the basics. 

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND (AND TO KEEP YOUR SANITY).  It is important to note that the best students may not be the best forecasters!  Forecasting is not about how much you know or how well you can replicate a certain set of instructions. It is about being able to apply your knowledge to what the real atmosphere does and to be able to adjust to new situations. It also requires you to be able to interpret and assess model guidance correctly and responsibly. Forecasting is not easy and it can be very frustrating (even to professionals!). You will make bad forecasts and you will “miss the boat” on some occasions – prepare yourself mentally now.

Paul Knight, a former instructor of this course, introduced the 10,000 hour rule to the class at the beginning of each semester (this idea was taken from a book called “Outliers: The Story of Success” written by Malcolm Gladwell). The basic idea is that it takes 10,000 hours to be able to consider yourself an expert in a particular skill – this concept certainly applies to weather forecasting as well. You will not be an expert in forecasting by the end of this course, but you will have the tools necessary to become one over time. Do not get discouraged and keep trying; if you apply yourself, you will get better.  

CLASS NOTES: This course will depend heavily on Canvas for sharing of course materials, including lectures, verifications, quizzes, journal submissions, etc. 


  • Week 1 & 2: Introduction and course mechanics
  • Weeks 3-5:  Contest One; Lectures; Daily quizzes, map disco and forecast reviews
  • Weeks 6-10: Contest Two; Daily quizzes and map disco; Student-led lectures and forecast reviews
  • Weeks 11-15: Contest Three; Daily quizzes and map disco; Student-led forecast reviews 


Weather Journals (15% of your grade): Starting during Contest Two, you will be required to create weather journals. These journals are a way for you to learn from your mistakes and to take notes on what you have observed about model errors/biases/advantages. Rubric will be provided on Canvas and details discussed in class. 

Forecasting Contests (45% of your grade): You will be required to participate in three weather forecasting “contests.” These contests will assess forecast accuracy on an individual level as well as compare how each student is doing in comparison to the rest of the class. Grades will be based on how well you score relative to your classmates. However, you will not “fail” this portion of the grade if you struggle all semester.  If you show up and make an effort, you will get at least approximately 70-75% of this grade.  So, remember – show up and make an effort! If you miss forecasts or do not show up – you will NOT get that credit. Contest 1 will be 10% of your overall grade, Contest 2 will be 15% of your grade, and Contest 3 will be 20% of your grade. 

Student-Led Lectures (10% of your grade): The best way to learn is by teaching others. You will present lectures based off presentations created by myself and previous Meteo 415 students. You must supplement this prior work with new information – if you simply present what’s already done, your grade will reflect that. 

Forecast Reviews (15% of your grade): You will present forecast verifications and reviews during Contests Two and Three. 

Individual Assignments / Daily Quizzes (10% of your grade):

Throughout the semester, some homework will be given to supplement what is taught in class and to provide additional insight into the field of observational meteorology. Daily quizzes each morning will be given using the i-Clicker system and on paper. 

Final Presentation (5% of your grade) You will be paired up and assigned a paper to read about forecasting.  You will then present the key elements of that paper to the class during the final week.  

GRADING. The breakdown of your course grade, and grading scale, are as follows: 

Letter Grade/Average 

  • A >= 90%
  • B 80 – 90%
  • C 70 – 80%
  • D 60 – 70 %
  • F< 60% 

ATTENDANCE POLICY   This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: , and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: . Please also see the Illness Verification Policy there.  

COURSE COPYRIGHT.  All course materials that students receive or have online access to are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use, 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 violates this policy. 


  • To demonstrate the ability to produce forecasts of a variety of weather variables for atmospheric systems that occur throughout the year
  • To demonstrate the ability to use numerical weather prediction models to guide the creation of weather forecasts


  • To demonstrate knowledge of the Norwegian cyclone model and other conceptual models to be used as a framework for the creation of a weather forecast
  • To demonstrate knowledge of the roles of both the upper-level flow (e.g., the jet stream) and the thermodynamic structure in determining the expected evolution of the atmosphere at various locations
  • To demonstrate knowledge of how orography and large bodies of water affect various aspects of local weather such as cloud and precipitation patterns
  • To demonstrate the ability to use dynamic, statistical, and ensemble numerical forecasts of the atmosphere to diagnose quantitatively the likely atmospheric conditions at a specific location
  • To demonstrate the ability to create and disseminate a useful weather forecast based on current observations and numerical forecasts of the atmosphere 

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY.  Integrity is fundamental not only to one’s experience at the university, but remains essential throughout one’s career.  For information about the EMS Policy, which this course adopts, see:  Here’s a brief interpretation of that integrity policy, as it applies specifically to this course:  

ACCOMODATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES.  Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into its educational programs. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( ). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( ). 

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. 

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 ( and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage 

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 well-being.  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 (CAPS) at University Park: 814-863-0395

Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400

Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741