Weather Forecast Preparation Lab

Meteorology 215, Weather Forecast Preparation Lab

Course Syllabus, Spring Semester 2018

Instructor: Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 863­8253,

Local WxChallenge Manager: Kyle Imhoff, 606D Walker,

Class Meeting Times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 6 pm – 7:15 pm, 607 Walker

Course Designation: Undergraduate Elective

Brief Course Description: Students will learn basic weather forecasting techniques and identify appropriate sources of weather information that will assist them in weather forecast preparation. Forecast accuracy will be judged against peer groups at Penn State and several other institutions of higher learning across the U.S. and Canada through the WxChallenge, a national weather forecasting contest. Satisfactory performance is determined through attendance records and weather forecast contest results. The course should be taken in BOTH the fall and spring semesters each year for maximum learning potential. METEO 215 may be repeated up to 8 times.

The majority of the class time will involve an evaluation and discussion for five different U.S. cities, each for two consecutive weeks. Cities from different climate regimes will help familiarize students with forecasting challenges from across the country. In addition, the previous day’s weather forecast difficulties and ways to improve forecast accuracy will be discussed. The remaining weeks of the semester will be devoted to in-depth analysis of forecast errors and ways to keep improving forecast quality. An emphasis will be placed on discussing the physical justifications behind each forecasted variable. While forecast discussion amongst forecasters and/or teams is encouraged, each forecaster is responsible for making their own independent forecast. Submitting frequent identical or near-identical forecasts is considered inappropriate behavior and all forecasters involved will be subject to suspension from the contest, and will receive an F for the course for violating academic integrity.

Prerequisites or concurrent courses: METEO 101, METEO 200A and METEO 200B, or METEO 201.

Course materials: Course materials will be shared through canvas.

Course Expectations: Students will improve weather analysis and forecasting skills by preparing weather forecasts for cities as designated by the WxChallenge.

Course Objectives: Students will gain experience in forecasting for a variety of cities within the United States. Students will also learn about how various weather processes may affect the forecasted variables.

Course Outcomes: Students will have an improved understanding of the process and rigor involved in making accurate weather forecasts.


  • Attendance/Participation: 75%
    • Students are expected to attend and engage in every class, except for valid excuses. Examples of valid excuses include, but are not limited to: illness, conflicting examinations, conflicting classes, and approved travel. Excuses must be emailed to the instructor prior to class time.
    • Each student has 3 free unexcused absences. After the fourth unexcused absence, the student’s attendance grade will drop 3% for each subsequent unexcused absence.
  • Presentation: 20%
    • Students will prepare daily presentations to aid classmates in creating forecasts.
    • Each presentation will be graded on the completeness. Each presentation must have:
      • Analysis of previous forecasts (if applicable). Otherwise, a view of climatology, influential topographic features, long range outlook may be utilized instead (for new cities).
      • Analysis of current weather pattern (observations, not model analysis).
      • Summary of events affecting the forecast.
      • The forecast variable with the most uncertainty, or the variable the class should most focus on.
    • Since students will likely present multiple times throughout the semester, the average of the highest presentations will be used. The lowest graded presentation will be dropped.
    • Feedback on each presentation will be emailed to the student by the instructor. Ensuing presentations will also be graded on the student’s synthesis of this feedback into their presentation to the class.
  • Performance: 5%
    • Each forecast city represents 20% of this mark – or 1% of your total grade.
    • Missing a forecast outside of the city not counted within the WxChallenge (also known as the drop city), will result in a 2% deduction per forecast per city.
    • The higher of the placement or improvement score will be used.
    • Placement: Each city will be 1% of the performance mark. The “drop city” will be given a 1% regardless of the score.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 20, 1% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 30, 0.66% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 40, 0.33% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score greater than 30, 0% will be given for the city.
    • Improvement: Each city will be 1% of the performance mark. The “drop city” will be given a 1% regardless of the score. If the student shows significant growth, or Meteo 215 Syllabus – Spring 2018 Page 2 an equitable amount of effort, as a forecaster the student will receive 1%.

  • Grades 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%).

Academic Integrity Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own or in designated lab groups (when permitted), including quizzes, draft report sections, and the final snowfall measurement report. 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. For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see 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.

Class Emergencies and 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

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.