Air Quality Forecasting

Meteorology 419: Air Quality Forecasting

Course Syllabus, Spring Semester 2018 

Instructor: Dr. Amy Huff, 402A Walker, 865-2951, 

Office Hours: By appointment; email instructor to set up meeting time 

Lectures: Tuesdays/Thursdays at 12:05-1:20 PM in 607 Walker 

Course Description

This course will provide students with a practical understanding of current techniques in operational air quality forecasting.  The focus will be on ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the two most commonly forecasted pollutants in the United States.  The history of air quality in the U.S. will be discussed to provide context, and the atmospheric chemistry and climatology of O3 and PM2.5 will be summarized to establish the physical background for making forecasts.  Students will learn how to recognize the meteorology conducive for poor air quality events, and they will use modern techniques for air quality forecasting to create their own forecasts of PM2.5 for the Susquehanna Valley region of southeastern Pennsylvania.  Students will also give an air quality weather briefing and present a post-analysis of a regional historical air quality event. 

Course Objectives

  1. Students will be able to create, verify, and analyze air quality forecasts of PM5.
  2. Students will be familiar with the atmospheric chemistry and current climatology of ambient PM5 and O3 in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.
  3. Students will be able to recognize synoptic and mesoscale weather conditions conducive for poor air quality events and for clean air quality conditions. 

Course Prerequisites

To take this course, students must have the background provided in a basic course in chemistry and a basic course in meteorology that covers weather systems governing the transport of air pollution (e.g., Chem 110 and Meteo 3 OR Meteo 101 OR Meteo 200A and Meteo 201B OR Meteo 201).  If you have not completed these prerequisites, then consult with the instructor immediately.  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:

Course Materials

We will use Canvas for this course.  All course materials, including lectures, will be posted to Canvas before each class.  Students will also use Canvas to submit assignments, including PM2.5 forecasts.

Course Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • Attendance and in-class activities 10%
  • PM2.5 forecasts 30%
  • Quizzes (4) 40%
  • Air quality weather briefing 10%
  • Historical air quality event analysis presentation 10% 

There is no final exam in this class. 

Grades will be assigned as A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, and F: < 60%. 

Class Structure and Assignments

Each class will include an air quality weather briefing, a lecture, and in some cases, an in-class activity.  For the first several weeks, the instructor will give the briefings.  Then students will take turns conducting the briefings for the rest of the semester.  Beginning after Spring Break, students will also make historical air quality event presentations during class.  

Specifics regarding assignments and evaluation include: 

  1. Attendance in class is expected. There is no homework in this class, so all learning will be done through in-class lectures, discussion, and activities. 
  1. The grade for the PM5 forecasts will be based on the forecast skill (determined by the median absolute error of student forecasted values), the content of the written forecast discussions, and whether the forecasts were submitted on time. Forecasts are due via Canvas by 11:00 PM each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for the period February 13 through April 26 (excluding Spring Break).  Forecasts are valid for the next day (i.e., Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, respectively). 
  1. Quizzes will be given during class and will last approximately 30 minutes. They will include a combination of multiple choice and short answer questions.  Students will be allowed to make up a quiz only for legitimate reasons that must be approved by the instructor in advance.  
  1. Each student will conduct one 10-minute air quality weather briefing. The grade for the briefing will be based on content and delivery.  The instructor will provide a breakdown of the required elements for the student briefings before they begin, as well as a schedule of days/briefers. 
  1. Each student will make a 15-min presentation on an historical regional air quality event. The grade for the presentation will be based on content and delivery.  The instructor will assign an event to each student; he/she will research and analyze the specifics related to observed air quality and supporting meteorology.  The instructor will provide a breakdown of the required elements for the event analyses before they begin, as well as a schedule of days/presenters.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the  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 StudentsStudents in this class are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own, including quizzes, air quality weather briefings, historical air quality event analyses, and forecast values/written discussions.  

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 PM2.5 forecasts 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 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 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:

Penn State Email Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students’ Penn State e-mail accounts.  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, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor.  To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request.  It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade.  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.


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 and 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: