Applications of Computers to Meteorology

 Meteo 473 – Fall 2018 Applications of Computers to Meteorology 

  • Instructor: George S. Young
    • E-Mail: - Do not use Canvas messaging. I don’t check it regularly.
    • Office hours: Office – 620 Walker – MW 10:10 - 11:00 
  • TA: Zhiyuan Jiang (John)
    • E-Mail:
    • Office hours: 607 Walker – Tuesday 1:00-3:00

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

If you don’t know how to program already, do not take Meteo 473!  If in doubt, see the instructor. 

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 Content

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.

The same communications revolution that is revitalizing weather forecasting is enhancing the productivity of Meteorological researchers. The savvy researcher of today uses Internet-based communications, search, and data distribution skills to speed the analysis of large data sets. In Meteorological research, as in weather forecasting, speed is life.

The skills needed to harness this computer-based communications revolution 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.

Many of the skills needed to ride the "wave of change" involve dealing with teams of coworkers and searching for the tools needed to do your work efficiently. The best way to learn them is by teaming up and tackling a real project. This approach matches the day-to-day routine in a weather products corporation, so the course is organized along those lines. Our class corporation will be a student owned, faculty managed organization and VERY unofficial. You are the ones who will do the development work on our product and field it on the web for the whole world to use. The professor is here to teach you the teamwork, 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. To enhance the spread of your newfound skills, the course grades will be heavily weighted by the amount of technical assistance you provide your classmates.

The class is divided into four-person Tiger teams. All of the Tiger teams will be working towards developing their own frontal mapping and display system. Although all teams will be working from the same set of model forecasts (at least initially) there will be room for great diversity among the products. Collaboration both within teams and between teams will be essential for completion of a viable product. The grading system strongly rewards teamwork on both levels. Thus, to get a high grade, you must work to assure that your classmates also do well in this course. This system should ensure that we learn the teamwork practiced on real-life projects.

Each Tiger team will have access to four Windows/Linux workstations in the classroom. Thus, a four-person Tiger team splits into two 2-person sub-teams and still have two computers to spare for computationally intensive tasks. One way of using this advantage is to have one sub-team searching for the best way to do a task while the other sub-team implements it. Because the Department has yet more workstations in the Weather Station and terminal room, the Tiger teams can work together anytime, not just when class is in session. Indeed, you will need to do so in order to finish the project by semester's end.

The boot camp component 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. Once the project is underway the specific tools relevant to your project will be learned “on the fly” using web search, supplemented by materials in the “lecture” folder on Canvas. 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.

Good luck, the radar meteorologists of the world are counting on you.


Class times and places:

MW 8:00 - 9:55 in 607 Walker

Textbooks and Such

Boot Camp – A complete online set of lecture notes for the Meteo 473 Boot Camp is available at course Canvas. This will be our primary background material during the first four weeks of class.

Help – Python lacks a built in help (because it has no integrated development environment, at least as we’ve installed it at Penn State, but online help is abundant.  We’ll emphasize the use of this help during Boot Camp.

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, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit  

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 leadership contributions to the team and class. Details of the team assignment grading criteria, the individual productivity adjustment curve, and the leadership curve (guru points) follow.

   For each milestone a Team Assignment grade will be determined by the Instructor. Note, the task leader for that milestone gets two identical copies of that grade.         90-100% = Program and documentation were both successful and elegant. Numerous glory-level goals were addressed         80-89% = Program accomplished all assigned goals and documentation was clear on all topics. Hitting the high end of this range will require addressing some glory-level tasks.         70-79% = Programs accomplished most goals and documentation was clear on most topics.         60-69% = Programs accomplished some goals, documentation was clear on some topics.         50-59% = Programs compiled but crashed, documentation could be read but was unclear, etc.         0% = Program did not compile/interpret.

See the individual assignments for further details!

    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.

    Leadership grades are somewhat different as they curve a student's final course average upwards based Instructor assessment of helpfulness to class as a whole. If someone has helped you or your group in such a way that we may not have seen them in action, please e-mail the Instructor with a short message explaining what they did and why it helped. These points accumulate

10% = Selfless Guru        
5% = Frequently posted answers to peer questions to the bulletin board and helped others on-line or in person        
0% = Did not help except by doing assigned tasks

Note to ensure a good grade in the course it is important to help others outside your group as well as doing well on the group assignments.

  • Examination policy

Meteo 473 has no examinations.

  • Grading policy

All assignments are due by the date and time specified.  Late work will be given a grade of zero.

    Academic integrity: For boot camp assignments you will be required to do your own work. You can check the web, your old programs, or any books that you want, but you may not consult other persons via any means of communication. For the project part of the course you are required to turn in your own team's work for each 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:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

Preliminary Assignment Schedule (subject to change

Boot camp classes - August 20, 22, 27, 29, September 5

Boot camp assignment (milestone 0) – due 4 pm Friday, September 7

Milestone 1 – due 4 pm Friday, September 27

Milestone 2 – due 4 pm Friday, October 19

Milestone 3 - due 4 pm Friday, November 9

Milestone 4 – due 4 pm Friday December 5  

University Policies

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

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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.

w 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 quizzes.  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. 

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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 

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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. 

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (, 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 ( 


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:

Accessible Syllabus

Notes: Any syllabus posted online (e.g. a Word/PDF file or an online syllabus) should make destinations clickable links such as is done throughout this page. Also, in order to comply with Penn State Policy AD69(Accessibility of Penn State Web Pages,, PDF documents cannot be the sole source of presenting online information. Such documents include syllabi, homework assignments, and scanned notes.  

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.