Advanced Forecasting Practicum

Meteo 416 – Advanced Forecasting Practicum

Course Syllabus, Spring 2020 Semester 


Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 814-863-8253,
Office Hours: By appointment or Mondays 4:00-5:00 pm 

Class Meeting Times & Location
Monday & Wednesday – 1:25-3:20, 607 Walker 

Course Description

Competitive, simulated, operational, real-time forecasting focusing on the techniques of prediction and issues of verification of both short-term forecasts of mesoscale weather phenomena and medium-range synoptic scale patterns. 

The goal of this course is to provide multiple learning opportunities in forecasting both short-term mesoscale and medium-range synoptic-scale weather-phenomena, to become familiar with tools that help refine these predictions, and to discover the formidable challenges of verifying mesoscale forecasts.  Because this course will use real-time data which are unlike the classic lab exercise, it is important to have multiple opportunities to maximize the “learning by doing” experience.  With this in mind, forecasting will include probabilistic  “Zone” forecasts mainly on Mondays  and “Threat” forecasts mainly Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, there will be a continuing homework assignment in the form of a medium-range forecasting contest designed to practice identifying major weather hazards in the 7-21 day time frame. 

Required textbooks

There is no required text for this course.  Course materials will be uploaded to Canvas throughout the semester.  

Course Objectives

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to produce short-term forecasts of a variety of weather variables for atmospheric systems that occur throughout the year.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use real-time observations and numerical weather predictions to guide the creation of timely short-term probabilistic and threat weather forecasts at a variety of locations.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to add value to medium-range and sub-seasonal  global numerical model forecasts by identifying the potential important weather anomalies and hazards with lead-times of 7-21 days. 

Course Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to lead discussions and verifications of mesoscale forecasts using satellite, radar, and surface observations.
  2. Students can demonstrate a knowledge of a variety of forecast verification tools and measures of forecast skill.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to use knowledge of synoptic climatology, teleconnections and medium-range NWP guidance to identify potential weather hazards with lead-lead times up to three weeks.
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to create and disseminate a useful real-time mesoscale weather prediction under time constraints, based on current observations and numerical forecasts of the atmosphere.
  5. Students can demonstrate discernment among a wide variety of data sources and evaluate their applicability to the forecast problem. 

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 415 and a concurrent/pre-requisite of METEO 414.  

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:  If you are not in compliance with the listed prerequisites and have not already contacted me, please do so immediately. 

Examinations and Grading

  • Forecasting Contests: 40%
  • In-class map discussions and general participation 20%
  • Forecast Verifications: 20% 
  • Quizzes (COMET modules, Journal Articles) 20% 

Course marks will be assigned as: 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%).

Forecasting Contests (40% of final mark)

  • 20% of forecasting contest mark: Medium-Range Weather Hazard Forecasts (January 28 – April 9) 
  • 50% of forecasting contest mark: Probabilistic Zone Forecasts 
    Contest 1 (before spring break) worth 20%
    Contest 2 (after spring break) worth 30%
  • 30% of forecasting contest mark: Threat Forecasts 
    Contest 1 (before spring break) worth 10%
    Contest 2 (after spring break) worth 20% 

In the case of a student absence on a forecast date, an excused absence will result in the student being awarded the class average forecast score, while an unexcused absence will result in the student being awarded the worst forecast score from the class. 

In-Class Map Discussions and General Participation (20% of final mark)

All students should develop a daily habit of remaining “in touch” with current Northern Hemisphere weather patterns and model trends. Students are expected to contribute to discussions concerning that day's (or the recent) weather patterns.  The instructor may also choose and question students randomly during the discussions.  Students who frequently arrive late or who have unexcused absences from class may be penalized. 

Forecast Verifications (20% of final mark)

Each week, a Zone “verification team” (3 students) will be responsible for participating in a map discussion (10-15 minutes) on Monday, then leading a class discussion and verification of the Zone forecast on Wednesday (20-30 minutes).  The Wednesday powerpoint presentation should include verifications (with sources) and a thorough analysis of the synoptic/mesoscale features involved (using at least four “tools” – satellite, radar, surface maps, etc.) along with any other relevant charts, guidance and documents.  Each team will lead four of these post-mortems. Students that are not part of the verification team are expected to participate through critical evaluation of the verification team’s presentation. 

Quizzes (COMET Modules, Journal Articles) (20% of final mark)

You will complete several on-line modules, read several technical papers and will be quizzed on most Mondays to assess your understanding of the material.

Lectures and Modules.  This is not a formal lecture course. Real-time discussions of the weather will form the basis for exploring topics.  COMET modules, on-line articles and journal papers will supplement the in-class discussions. 

Module/Paper/Lecture Topics (Tentative Schedule)

Week of | Topic  (Mon/Tues/Wed)

  • Jan 13 No class Monday/Wednesday (AMS)
  • Jan 20 No class Monday Overview/Course Mechanics
  • Jan 27 Quiz (Modules 1), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast            
  • Feb 3 Quiz (Modules 2), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • Feb 10 Quiz (Modules 3), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • Feb 17 Quiz (Modules 4), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Feb 24 Quiz (Modules 5), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Mar 2 Quiz (Modules 6), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Spring Break No class
  • Mar 16 Quiz (Modules 7), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Mar 23 Quiz (Modules 8), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Mar 30 Quiz (Modules 9), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast         
  • Apr 6 Quiz (Modules 10), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast       
  • Apr 13 Quiz (Modules 11), THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast       
  • Apr 20 Quiz (Modules 12), THREATcast/ /ZONEcast                   
  • Apr 27 Quiz (Modules 13), THREATcast/ /ZONEcast  

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to work the exams and quizzes on their own and hand in homework problem sets and write project papers (group or individual) in their own words using proper citations. Students are not to copy exam or quiz answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  

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.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. 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. 


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and labs.  Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other 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:   

Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form:, at least one week prior to the activity. 

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: 

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 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): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
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 or through Canvas. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail (see 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 ( 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.


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 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


In the case of an emergency, we will follow the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Critical Incident Plan (  In the event of an evacuation, we will follow posted evacuation routes and gather at the Designated Meeting Site.  Evacuation routes for all EMS buildings are available at  For more information regarding actions to take during particular emergencies, please see the Penn State Emergency Action Guides

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 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

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.