Computer Methods in Meteorological Analysis and Forecasting

Semester: Spring 2019

Credits: 3.0 

Prof. George S. Young
620 Walker Building – Knock if the door is shut – do not use Canvas messaging
(Please include METEO 474 in the subject line of course-related email correspondence.) 

Teaching Assistant (TA): rotfl 

Course Information:
Course Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 1:25 PM – 3:20 PM
Course Location: 126 Walker Building
Professor Office Hours: Wednesday, 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM; Monday 3:20-4:00 PM 

Course Description: Distribution of scalars and vectors; sampling; regression and correlation in two and three dimensions; time series, statistical forecasting; forecast verification. 

Required Materials: None

Required textbooks:

Data Mining, 4th Edition: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques

by Witten, Frank, Hall, and Pal

Internet materials and links: CANVAS 

Course Objectives: 

  1. To learn those computer methods needed for statistical analysis and forecasting of the weather.
  2. To learn to apply those methods to develop accurate and robust weather forecasting systems. 

Course Outcomes: 

  1. To demonstrate knowledge of the components of automated analysis and forecasting systems, and several techniques used to construct them.
  2. To demonstrate knowledge of several metrics for statistical forecast verification.
  3. To demonstrate the ability to apply statistical models and machine learning techniques to meteorological datasets.
  4. To demonstrate the ability to statistically verify the performance of forecast models. 


Statistics Prerequisite: Stat 301 or Stat 401 or E B F 472 

Note: Meteo 474 is an elective course for undergraduate Meteorology majors. 

Students who do not meet the prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see:  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor.  


Computer Methods of Meteorological Analysis and Forecasting explores the computationally intensive statistical methods used in the development of automated weather analysis and forecasting systems. The focus of the course is on learning to develop and use artificially intelligent automated systems to perform data quality control, quantitative analysis of large meteorological data sets, and weather forecasting. Coverage will include the relevant statistical, mathematical, and computational methods including matrix operations, data quality control, regression analysis, neural network construction, decision tree growth, and forecast system verification. Students will leave the course with an understanding of how to efficiently develop accurate and robust statistical weather analysis and prediction systems. Thus, the course serves as a professional elective for those students wishing to pursue careers in statistical weather forecasting, meteorological data analysis, and associated fields. Meteorology 474 uses a project oriented lecture/lab format to provide students with hands-on experience in developing and testing weather analysis and forecast systems. Students will both code their own forecast system development programs and use off-the-shelf software designed for rapid development and testing of forecast systems. To tackle these assignments, students will use the computer laboratory facilities of the Meteorology Department and meteorological data sets of current interest. A key element of the resulting project reports will be an investigation into the origin of the observed forecast system errors. The class size is tailored to in-class training with the software tools and open discussion with the instructor and classmates. Grading will be based on the assignments and on a mid-term and final examination. 

Assessment Tools: 

Required written/oral assignments 

There will be classroom assignments, which will count toward the course grade. 

There will be an immediate 25% penalty for any assignment handed in late, a 50% penalty after six hours, and no credit will be given for an assignment handed in after the start of the next class.  Professor maintains the right to decline acceptance of a late assignment beyond a certain time.  Neatness, organization, technical soundness, spelling and grammar are important.  While students may consult with their classmates on these assignments, the final product should represent the student’s own work. 

Examination Policy 

One midterm and one final exam will be given.  These will be closed-book, individual written assessments. 

Grading Policy 

  • Exam 1 30%
  • Final Exam 30%
  • Assignments 40% 

Attendance and Participation: Students are required to attend class and participate in all exercises.  Active, thoughtful contributions to class discussions are encouraged.

Regular Add / Drop Deadline is Jan 13, Late Drop Deadline is Apr 5.

Final exam will be scheduled by the university during exams week (April 29 – May 3). 

The course content, topics, and timeline listed here is intended as a guideline, and is subject to modification by the instructors. 

Course content: (details subject to adjustment as semester progresses) 

Weeks / Topics 


  • Introduction to analysis / forecasting systems
  • Basic Statistics: Mean, Standard Deviation
  • Linear Regression, Logistic Regression


  • Statistical Basis of Forecast Verification
  • Verification Techniques
  • Verifying Distribution Forecasts
  • Forecast System Robustness


  • Decision Trees; Growing and Pruning
  • Boosted Trees
  • Data Quality Control
  • Probabilistic Forecasting
  • Data Assimilation


  • Neural Networks
  • Weighting, Objective Functions, and Iterative Improvement
  • Training via Back Propagation
  • Learning Rate vs Convergence


  • Clustering
  • Valuation of Forecasts
  • Value of Probability Forecasts


  • Forecast System Intercomparisons 

Lecture notes will often be placed on CANVAS (, although students are ultimately responsible for their own note-taking.  It is reasonable that material covered during lectures, and through assignments, may appear on tests.  Reading the corresponding sections in the textbook may aid understanding of the course material. 

Academic Integrity Statement: Academic integrity is fundamental not only to one’s experience at the university, but remains essential throughout one’s career.  Students are not to receive unauthorized assistance on any course quizzes or individual assessments.  Students are not to misrepresent the work of others as their own.  Serious offenses may warrant a zero on the assignment or assessment. 

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 the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  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 any sources (e.g. papers or solutions 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." 

If in doubt about how the academic integrity policy applies to a specific situation, students are encouraged to consult with the professor or TA. 

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. 

Attendance: 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. 

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

Penn State E-mail 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 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 (

Netiquette: 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

Safety: 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:

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.