Weather Communications I

Meteorology 481 - Weather Communications I   (3 credits)

Fall 2017

Course Description. Multi-instructor weather communications survey including forecasting, science teaching and writing, television and radio broadcasting, climate studies, forensics, and industrial applications.

Instructors. Bill Syrett ( and Marisa Ferger (

Office Hours. Bill: Wednesdays 7-10am and by appointment, Marisa: By appointment.

When/Where. Tue & Thu 10:35-11:50AM, 607 Walker (Weather Station Classroom)

Prerequisites. Meteo 101 or Meteo 201

Enrollment policy.  Students who do not meet the prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor.  Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of the Student Code of Conduct (

Course Objectives for Meteo 481.

  • Students can demonstrate knowledge of effective approaches for communicating accurate information about the weather, both via speaking and writing

Course Outcomes for Meteo 481.

  • Students can demonstrate knowledge of the basic principles for creating weather forecasts, and can demonstrate the ability to present a weather forecast in both radio and television broadcasting formats
  • Students can demonstrate the ability to write for a general audience a scientifically accurate summary of an atmospheric topic
  • Students can demonstrate the ability to explain the importance of weather to an audience associated with certain businesses and gain some understanding of the economic impact weather has on business
  • Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role that climatology plays in forensics
  • Students can demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between the atmosphere and the environment

Additional Course Information. This professional elective is required for the Weather Communications option. Meteo 481 serves as a survey of weather communications while covering diverse topics that include the basic principles of weather forecasting, television and radio broadcasting, science writing, forensics, and applied forecasting techniques. Two primary instructors, plus several guest instructors, will lead multiple-week sessions on topics of their expertise. A variety of hands-on learning experiences are planned, including studio time and relevant projects that occasionally involve group work. Successful completion (C or better) of Meteo 481 is required for Weather Comm II (Meteo 482).  In Wx Comm II, e-portfolios are required; therefore we encourage you to become acquainted with their basic design and construction. Google it!

Note: If you are truly interested in broadcast meteorology, we suggest that you watch Weather World regularly (and/or volunteer to help with the show) and shadow the Weather or Not team (Wednesday evenings). There will be an opportunity to audition for Weather or Not this semester as we expect several openings starting in Spring 2018. We also strongly recommend that you begin thinking about a Summer 2018 internship during this semester.

Course Protocol. In most cases, each instructor (or team of instructors) will distribute a mini-course syllabus at the start of their session and will post relevant material on the class Canvas web site or relevant web site. All questions regarding material in each section should be directed to the appropriate session instructor.

Assessment Criteria. Your final grade will be a combination of grades culled from work done in different sections of the course taught by the different instructors, as well as work that spans the course. Here is the breakdown:

  • Bill Syrett’s Sections 30%
  • Marisa Ferger’s Sections 20%
  • Final Exam (comprehensive) 20%   
  • Jon Nese (and other guests) Sections 15%
  • New York Times writing assignments 10%
  • Class Attendance and Participation 5%

With regard to assessments, each instructor will have a slightly different approach to his/her sections – for example, there could be homework, quizzes, or writing assignments. The percentages above reflect the cumulative weight of all assignments given by a particular instructor. Regardless of instructor, late assignments will not be accepted.

Class Attendance – Missed and late arrival to classes will be noted and penalized - attendance sheets will be circulated within the first five minutes of each class. This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance policy given at: You are expected to be in class unless you have an approved excuse, and you are responsible for all you miss.

Participation – You are expected to contribute to discussions in class. Distractions such as 'unlocking' a locked computer, using the internet for non-class related material, or use of cell phones in class will be logged and will result in a reduction in this part of your grade.

Grading Scale. A standard grading scale will apply to the course, shown below:

  • A 90-100
  • B 80-90 
  • C 70-80             
  • D 60-70        
  • F < 60               

 However, we will use the ‘-‘ and ‘+’ system as well. For example, a grade just below 90 may receive a B+.  Also, we may curve the grades, so it is possible that the thresholds will go down (for example, the boundary between A and B may be less than 90). We will never curve up, so if you have a 90.0 you’ll AT LEAST score A-.

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:

New York Times Reading

Each Tuesday starting the second week of the semester, you are required to either pick up a copy of the New York Times or access it online. There will be an assessment of your reading at the start of Thursday's class. Most weeks we will discuss one or two articles chosen by the instructor. On three occasions during the semester you will summarize the chosen article as a homework assignment with details to be given by the instructor at the time. Open an online account here:

METEOROLOGY 481 COURSE OUTLINE (subject to minor changes)

  • Week 1: Aug 21 Introduction and Basic Meteorology
  • Week 2: Aug 28 Basics of Forecasting, Geography
  • Week 3: Sept 4 Communicating Basic Concepts; Data Sources
  • Week 4: Sept 11 Science Writing
  • Week 5: Sept 18 Science Writing
  • Week 6: Sept 25 Emergency Management
  • Week 7: Oct 2 Industrial
  • Week 8: Oct 9 Industrial
  • Week 9: Oct 16 Branding
  • Week 10: Oct 23 Broadcasting/Media Business
  • Week 11: Oct 30 Broadcasting/Media Business
  • Week 12: Nov 6 Broadcasting/Media Business
  • Week 13: Nov 13 Broadcasting/Media Business
  • Nov 20 Thanksgiving Break
  • Week 14: Nov 27 Forensics
  • Week 15: Dec 4 Forensics

Academic integrity. This course follows the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences integrity guidelines that can be found here: 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.

Course Copyright.  All course materials that 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 violates this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website (

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.

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 well-being. 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 (CAPS) at University Park: 814-863-0395

Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400

Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741