METEO 415 Knight FA14

Forecasting Practicum Tu,Th 8:00-11:00 a.m. Paul Knight Location: 607 Walker Offices: 606A Walker

Meteo 415 Forecasting Practicum

Fall 2014
Tu,Th 8:00-11:00 a.m.
Paul Knight
Location: 607 Walker
Offices: 606A Walker
Office Hours: Wed 11-12noon
Phone: 863-1842

Course Philosophy:

Weather Forecasting offers many opportunities to not only learn much about the atmosphere, but also quite a few things about yourself. Since there are no absolutely perfect predictions and guidance is just that – information that points you in the right direction, how you approach the forecasting challenge does impact your potential as a forecaster.

It is a fact that the ‘best students’ are not always the best forecasters. The expectation that adhering to a certain set of forecast rules and a given method of interpreting computer models will lead to a consistently superior prediction does not always work and in fact can be quite frustrating.

It has been my experience that certain disciplines - when practiced consistently - will lead to increasingly accurate predictions provided enough forecasts are made (see the comic inserts). The 10,000 hour rule** (Gladwell,2008) has clear applicability to your developing as a keen forecaster. Obviously, we will not have that much time during one semester, so the best that can be offered is as many forecasting opportunities as possible to train yourself into a discipline leading to superior forecasting skills.

I will lead you through the steps that I would go through in making a prediction during contest 1 and have added a number of ‘rules of thumb’ that can be tried as an alternative method to NWP. It is very important to remember that there are no litanies of rules that will make you a successful forecaster. I have reviewed and placed on reserve (E&MS Library) a new book, Operational Weather Forecasting, Inness and Dorling, but this still falls short of the skills needed. The best forecasters learn from each prediction and incorporate these experiences to adjust their conceptual models of the atmosphere and then move forward.**

**One of the major challenge for forecasters is to reconcile both the input of raw data (from observations and numerical models) and the conceptual model approach (physical and dynamical processes) to build a realistic three-dimensional image (the diagnosis) of the weather situation and arrive at a good guideline for its short term evolution (the prognosis). [The European Forecaster, June 2014, pp 31]

As you approach the opportunity to learn how to predict the atmosphere in motion, some of you may do so simply to gain an appreciation of the forecast process. There are others who foresee this as career training. It is best to distinguish between these two paths early in the semester.

The Course Plan:

Not everyone wishes to pursue forecasting as a career option, so it does not seem equitable to expect the exact same course outcomes for those ‘surveying’ the forecasting process as those who are committed to weather prediction as a career path. Therefore, after several evaluations (some optional) during the first few weeks of the semester and at the end of the first contest, you will determine which path in this course you will continue by Sept 18. However, to offer a ‘SURVEY’ option there must be at least 5 students selecting this option.


Since some of you are relatively new (green) to synoptic meteorology and a number of you may be a bit rusty (brown) to some techniques, it is best to determine how level the ‘forecasting field’ is during the first two weeks of the course. A few of you may wish to ‘show-off’ what you do know and there will be a few gold sheets to complete.

You are required to complete at least one ‘green’ and two ‘brown’ worksheets by Thursday, Sept 4. You are welcome to complete more if you like. None of the scores will be recorded. Actually, an overall assessment will be given during the first class. The others will be available for distribution during the first and second class. Once again, the gold sheets are optional.

In addition, by the third class – please view these three short videos on the updates on current guidance. There will be a brief quiz on Tuesday, Sept 2 about this material:

Career Forecaster Path (CFP) - starting with Contest 2, the bar will be raised for the number of forecast parameters and sites that you will be forecasting each class period. You will be expected to complete all of the exercises associated with forecast components. You are expected in teams of 2 to prepare and present the assigned forecast lesson to the class and also your ‘mini-MOS’ results. You will also be expected (in teams of 2) to present a forecast review and verification to the class for one of the Contest 3 forecasts. During Contest 3, the bar will be raised even higher as you will forecast farther away and for longer periods of time. Once you have selected this path, you must stay with it through the semester. Career forecasters are expected to complete two differentiator assignments.

Survey Forecaster Path (SFP) – Provided there is a critical mass of 5 or more enrollees, starting with Contest 2, you will follow the basic outline listed in the syllabus. You will be expected to complete the exercises listed. You will be expected in teams of 2 to present the assigned forecast lesson to the class and also your ‘mini-MOS’ results. However, you will forecast for fewer locations and elements in both Contest 2 and 3. Survey path students will complete a forecast verification project (details TBA) and summarize a journal article on weather prediction (preferably from AMS’ Weather & Forecasting).

Differentiators: (only for CPF) While individual tutoring is not possible for this size of a class, you are expected to design your own distinct ‘weather training’ as a way to distinguish yourself by intrinsic motivation. These opportunities are listed below and you must select two to accomplish, one during Contest 2 and another during Contest 3. In addition, there may be an independent study/research opportunity with the NWS Science Officer for 1 credit of Meteorology 496 (separate from the differentiator exercise). These research options will be presented early in the semester and if interested, they must be selected and enrolled by Friday, Sept 5.

During Contest Two (between Sept 23-Oct 23)

  • select one/complete before October 23:
  • Complete the following COMET Module with a quiz grade >80%
  • (Satellite Imagery)
  • Present climatology for one of our city forecasts (5 minutes/each) – must schedule dates by Sept 30
  • Attend Dept Map Discussion (Tues from 12:45-1:15pm)twice; submit a one paragraph summary by following Thursday class.
  • Find two articles of interest in a recent (since 2000) BAMS or Wx & Fcsting Journal and submit the abstracts to Paul Knight at - this will be linked to ##

During Contest Three (between Oct 28-Dec 11)

  • Complete the following COMET Module with a quiz grade >85%
  • (Atmospheric Rivers) – by December 4
  • Create a new business model as a weather entrepreneur (3 pg plan)
  • ##Develop an outline from the instructor approved journal abstract for a 5-8 minute presentation to the class during Contest 3
  • Keep a weather journal for two weeks of weather forecasting (6 predictions) with a specific focus on ‘what did I learn about atmospheric processes’ with each forecast.
  • Complete the following COMET module with a quiz grade >85%
  • (FOG - its processes and impacts on aviation)
  • Lead the Dept Map Discussion – 1x
  • Develop a web app for a weather hobbyist

i-Clickers for Meteo 415:

You are required to purchase an ‘i-Clicker’ for this course and to register it during the first class. These can be purchased at the Bookstore or through – approximate cost is $35. Visit the class ANGEL page to register your i-Clicker – under Week One Folder



  • WEEK ONE: Introduction and course mechanics
  1. (Wednesday forecasts start on Sept 3rd)
  2. (Sept 2 – Sept 18)
  3. D-DAY – September 18th: Select Path for Course
  4. You are welcome to work as teams during Contest 1, however during Contests 2 and 3, all forecasts are expected to be your own.
  1. (Sept 23 – Oct 23)
  2. Sept 23: Max Temp Presentation (Exercise) – due Sept 25
  3. Sept 25: Min Temp Presentation (CIMMS Decipher Exercise) – due Sept 30
  4. Sept 30: Dew point Presentation (Exercise) – due Oct 2
  5. Oct 2: Cloud Cover Presentation (Exercise) – due Oct 7
  6. Oct 7: Surface Visibility Presentation (Exercise) – due Oct 14
  7. Oct 9: Precipitation Occurrence Presentation
  8. Oct 14: Precipitation Amount Presentation (Exercise) – due Oct 16
  9. Oct 16: Precipitation Type Presentation (CAD Exercise) – due Oct 21
  10. Oct 21: Thunderstorm and Lightning Risk Presentation (Radar Exercise) – due Oct 28
  11. Oct 23: Wind Direction and Wind Gust Presentations (2) (Wind Exercise) – due Oct 30
  1. (Oct 28 – Dec 11)

Differentiator Presentations (as needed)
Europe Quiz and Fuzzy Verifications

Grading Metrics:

  1. Rise and Shine Quizzes: 10%
  2. Contest One: 5%
  3. Contest 2: 15%
  4. Contest 3: 25%
  5. Exercises: 20% (Behind the Curtain: 7% or a third of this category)
  6. Presentations (Contest 2): 10%
  7. CFP Post-Forecast Reviews: 5%
  8. (Survey Path: Forecast Review Project - 10%)
  9. CFP Differentiator: 10% (3% first-Contest 2; 7% second-Contest 3)
  10. (Survey Path: W&F Journal Article Summary – 10%)

Modules for Meteo 415:

All who use COMET modules, must register. Go to: 
Include me as the Supervisor/Instructor with and e-mail: 

Academic Integrity:

This course adopts the academic integrity policy of the EMS College, which is described at

This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance policy given at

Program Objectives

Program Objectives are statements that describe the expected accomplishments of graduates during the first few years after graduation

  1. To produce graduates who possess quantitative, scientific reasoning skills that can be applied to atmospheric problems.

  2. To produce graduates who have a general knowledge of a range of atmospheric phenomena and applications, and have expertise in one or more program sub-disciplines or related interdisciplinary areas

  3. To produce graduates who are equipped to contribute to solving problems in the atmospheric sciences and related disciplines, through service in business or as educators, researchers, and leaders in academia, government, the private sector, and civil society.

Program Outcomes

Statements that describe what students are expected to know and are able to do by the time of graduation. These relate to the skills, knowledge and behaviors that students acquire in their matriculation through the program.

  1. Graduates can demonstrate skills for interpreting and applying atmospheric observations
  2. Graduates can demonstrate knowledge of the atmosphere and its evolution
  3. Graduates can demonstrate knowledge of the role of water in the atmosphere
  4. Graduates can demonstrate facility with computer applications to atmospheric problems
  5. Graduates can demonstrate skills for communicating their technical knowledge

Objectives for Meteo 415:

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to produce forecasts of a variety of weather variables for atmospheric systems that occur throughout the year (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use numerical weather prediction models to guide the creation of weather forecasts (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3)

Outcomes for Meteo 415:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the Norwegian cyclone model and other conceptual models to be used as a framework for the creation of a weather forecast (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the roles of both the upper-level flow (e.g., the jet stream) and the thermodynamic structure in determining the expected evolution of the atmosphere at various locations (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how orography and large bodies of water affect various aspects of local weather such as cloud and precipitation patterns (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to use dynamic, statistical, and ensemble numerical forecasts of the atmosphere to diagnose quantitatively the likely atmospheric conditions at a specific location (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  5. Students can demonstrate the ability to create and disseminate a useful weather forecast based on current observations and numerical forecasts of the atmosphere (relate to program outcomes a, b, c, d, and e) 

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Residence Instruction:

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