Forecasting Practicum

Meteorology 415:  Forecasting Practicum

Spring 2021 

COURSE DESCRIPTION.  Modern techniques in weather analysis and forecasting 

Dr. Jon Nese, 518 Walker,, @jmnese  (814) 441-3089

By appointment, email or Zoom

Tue & Thu, 12:05 - 2:50 PM, remotely and (perhaps) 607 Walker … no class on “Wellness Days” – Tuesday Feb.9 and Thursday March 11.     


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.  

SUGGESTED MATERIALS.  Synoptic Analysis and Forecasting, by Sean Milrad:  Available free online through Penn State libraries: 

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 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 only 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 NWP guidance correctly and responsibly. Forecasting is not easy and it can be very frustrating. You will make bad forecasts and you will “miss the boat” on some occasions – prepare yourself mentally. 

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, journal submissions, etc., and for you to submit homework. 


  • Weeks 1-4:  Introductory lectures; Course mechanics; Experimental forecasting; Quizzes; Homeworks
  • Weeks 5-7:  Contest 1; Lectures; Quizzes; Instructor-led map discussions and forecast reviews; Student-led lectures (and possibly forecast reviews)
  • Weeks 8-11: Contest 2; Daily quizzes; Student-led lectures and forecast reviews
  • Weeks 12-15: Contest 3; Daily quizzes; Student-led forecast reviews; Guest speakers 


Forecasting Contests (50% of grade):  You will participate in three weather forecasting contests which will assess forecast accuracy on an individual level as well as compare how you are doing to the rest of the class. Grades will be based on how well you score relative to your classmates. However, note that you will not “fail” this portion of the grade, even 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 fail to submit forecasts or do not show up – you will NOT get that credit. Contest 1 will be 15% of your overall grade, Contest 2 will be 15% of your grade, and Contest 3 will be 20% of your grade.

Forecast Reviews (20% of grade): You will present forecast verifications and reviews during Contests 2 and 3 (and possibly Contest 1) 

Weather Journals (10% of grade):  Starting during Contest 2, 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 your forecasting and model errors, biases, and advantages. Rubric will be provided on Canvas and details discussed in class. 

Lectures (10% of grade):  The best way to learn is by teaching others. You will present lectures based on 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. Details to come. 

Homework / Quizzes (10% of grade):  Mainly early in the semester, homework will be given to supplement what is taught in class and to provide additional insight into forecasting. Quizzes will be given through Zoom polling (and potentially in-person). 

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

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

ATTENDANCE POLICY.  There’s a long version and a short version.  Here’s the short version.  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 in person or remote. As long as we are remote synchronous, I expect you to attend class unless there’s a serious emergency (or your connection fails, in which case you must contact me immediately).  This is especially true on days when you are presenting or days when we are forecasting, because forecasting is real time and cannot be replaced.  I understand the stress of the pandemic, and I will work with you in emergencies, but the bottom line is … this class will work best for you and me if you simply attend every day. 

Now here’s the long version.  The University recognizes that, on exceptional occasions, students may miss a class meeting to participate in a regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activity (such as field trips, debate trips, choir trips, and athletic contests), or due to unavoidable or other legitimate circumstances such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, religious observance, participation in local, state, and federal government elections, or post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as elections or employment and graduate school final interviews).  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.  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.  You should be prepared to provide documentation for participation in University-approved activities, as well as for career-related interviews.  You should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form, at least one week prior to the activity. 

Use the symptom checker of the Penn State GO app every day to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.  If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are otherwise not feeling well, DO NOT COME TO CLASS, and seek the advice of a medical professional as appropriate.  If you have been notified or know yourself that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, DO NOT COME TO CLASS and please make sure you have been reported as a close contact. I cannot stress this strongly enough. We are counting on you to help contain the spread of the virus (and other illnesses) on campus.  If you need to isolate (because you are infected) or quarantine (because you were a close contact to an infected person), the Student Support Services Office will let both of us know when you are allowed to attend class again.  If you attend class before the approved date, it will be a student conduct violation, because you are endangering the health of your classmates and me.  While you are in isolation or quarantine, I will work with you to help you maintain progress in the course as you are able.  [This may include participating remotely, watching the recorded class, and/or completing asynchronous course content.]  If you are not in class on your assigned day, you may be contacted by the instructor or the TA to check up on you and make sure you are okay. 

According to University guidelines, and because of the distancing procedures in place for in-person classes, if someone in the class tests positive, we will continue with our regularly scheduled classes. 


  • 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 

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. 

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY.  Integrity is fundamental not only to one’s experience at the university, but remains essential throughout one’s career.  This course follows the EMS academic integrity procedures ( ). Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

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

REPORTING EDUCATION EQUITY CONCERNS.  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.