Introduction to Programming Techniques for Meteorology

METEO 273: Introduction to Programming Techniques for Meteorology (Spring 2018)

METEO 273-001

  • Course instructor: Ying Pan (
  • Class times: Monday and Friday, 08:00 AM – 09:55 AM
  • Class location: 126 Walker 

METEO 273-002

  • Course instructor: Melissa Gervais (
  • Class times: Monday and Friday, 03:35 PM – 05:30 PM
  • Class location: 126 Walker 

METEO 273 (001&002)

Prerequisites: METEO 101, METEO 201

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:

Required textbooks: None

Internet materials and links: 

Course Expectations 

The objectives of this course are to:

  1. Understand fundamental programming concepts, such as variables, flow control, syntax, etc.;
  2. Apply these concepts to solve meteorological problems;
  3. Get familiar with Linux and MATLAB;
  4. Practice good programming habits. 

After this course, the students should be able to:

  1. Break a problem down into parts and translate each part into a piece of code to solve the problem.
  2. Read and modify code written by other people to suit their own purposes.
  3. Debug and fix code.
  4. Learn a new programming language easily (e.g., METEO 473). 

Course Content 

The course is roughly divided into the following parts: 

Introduction to programming

  • Learn general concepts of programming that apply to most languages.
  • Get familiar with the workflow and syntax of MATLAB. 

Diving deeper

  • Explore more advanced programing topics.
  • Learn good programming practices.
  • Get experience in formulating a problem, splitting up the problem into smaller parts, and designing algorithms to solve the smaller problems, as well as how to handle bigger projects. 

MATLAB programming

  • Learn how to take advantages of MATLAB’s features.
  • Visualize data with different types of plots. 

Course Policies 

Assessment Policy


  • A number of simple programming problems, given in the beginning of the semester as practice of newly-learned concepts.
  • Objective is to get familiar with programming concepts and syntax.
  • Students will demonstrate their code and solutions to an instructor or TA when they have finished with part or all of the problems. In order to keep evaluators available for the entire class, codes need to be evaluated quickly. Code will need to be well-documented and stylized (clear and readable) for quick evaluation to be possible.
  • Each problem within an exercise will be evaluated as either “pass” or “retry.” Students can retry any number of times before the deadline.


  • Questions of more extensive programming challenges, given in the middle of the semester as practice in problem solving and algorithm development, applying primarily the programming tools and concepts already learned.
  • Objective is to design a program from scratch and to handle larger projects.
  • Assignments will receive a grade based on whether the code runs and performs the required tasks, the software design, and the documentation. 

Examination Policy


  • Questions to test your programming knowledge
  • Objective is to make sure that students understand the material before moving on
  • Can be both in the form of concepts (e.g., “What is boolean?”) and tasks (e.g., “Make a program that displays the first 10 prime numbers”)

Final project

  • Similar to an assignment, but completely individual
  • Objective is to synthesize the skills and knowledge the students have gained in this course
  • Students are not allowed to discuss the final project with anyone other than the course instructor and TA.

There will be no final exam. 

Grading Policy

The following weights are used to determine the final course grade:

  • Exercises: 10 %
  • Quizzes: 20 %
  • Assignments: 40 %
  • Final project: 30 % 

The final grade will reflect the student’s knowledge and skill at the end of the course. A student’s grade will never be lower than the weighted average calculated using the percentages above. However, adjustments may be made to increase the weight of the final project for all students for whom this would increase their grade. 

There will be no grade curving. 

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on exercises and assignments in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Midterms and the final project are entirely individual efforts. Students may communicate with only the instructors and TAs during midterms and with regard to the final project. Students are not to copy problem or exam 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. 


The student is responsible for learning the material in the lectures. Attendance will not be taken and does not affect the final grade. Students must be present at mid-terms to receive a score. If you are going to miss a lecture for a legitimate reason, let the instructor know (preferably ahead of time), and the instructor will help you catch up to speed. 

This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, 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 midterms.  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, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, 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 

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.