Advanced Forecasting Practicum

Meteo 416 – Advanced Forecasting Practicum

Course Syllabus, Spring 2021 Semester 


Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 814-863-8253,
Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-4:30 pm or By appointment 

Class Meeting Times & Location

Monday & Wednesday – 1:25-3:20 pm, Zoom (shift to in-person TBA) 

Course Description

Competitive, simulated, operational, real-time forecasting focusing on the techniques of prediction and issues of verification of both short-term forecasts of mesoscale weather phenomena and medium-range synoptic scale patterns. 

The goal of this course is to provide multiple learning opportunities in forecasting both short-term mesoscale and medium-range synoptic-scale weather-phenomena, to become familiar with tools that help refine these predictions, and to discover the formidable challenges of verifying mesoscale forecasts.  Because this course will use real-time data which are unlike the classic lab exercise, it is important to have multiple opportunities to maximize the “learning by doing” experience.  With this in mind, forecasting will include probabilistic  “Zone” forecasts mainly on Mondays  and “Threat” forecasts mainly Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, there will be a continuing homework assignment in the form of a medium-range forecasting contest designed to practice identifying major weather hazards in the 7-21 day time frame. 

Required textbooks

There is no required text for this course.  Course materials will be uploaded to Canvas throughout the semester.    

Course Objectives

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to produce short-term forecasts of a variety of weather variables for atmospheric systems that occur throughout the year.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use real-time observations and numerical weather predictions to guide the creation of timely short-term probabilistic and threat weather forecasts at a variety of locations.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to add value to medium-range and sub-seasonal  global numerical model forecasts by identifying the potential important weather anomalies and hazards with lead-times of 7-21 days. 

Course Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to lead discussions and verifications of mesoscale forecasts using satellite, radar, and surface observations.
  2. Students can demonstrate a knowledge of a variety of forecast verification tools and measures of forecast skill.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to use knowledge of synoptic climatology, teleconnections and medium-range NWP guidance to identify potential weather hazards with lead-lead times up to three weeks.
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to create and disseminate a useful real-time mesoscale weather prediction under time constraints, based on current observations and numerical forecasts of the atmosphere.
  5. Students can demonstrate discernment among a wide variety of data sources and evaluate their applicability to the forecast problem. 

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 415 and a concurrent/pre-requisite of METEO 414. 

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:  If you are not in compliance with the listed prerequisites and have not already contacted me, please do so immediately. 

Examinations and Grading 

  • Forecasting Contests:40%
  • In-class map discussions and general participation 20%
  • Forecast Verifications: 20%
  • Quizzes (COMET modules, Journal Articles) 20% 

Course marks will be assigned as: A (93-100%), A- (90-92%), B+ (87-89%), B (83-86%), B- (80-83%), C+ (75-79%), C (70-74%), D (60-69%), F (0-59%). 

Forecasting Contests (40% of final mark)

  • 20% of forecasting contest mark: Medium-Range Weather Hazard Forecasts (16 February – 20 April) 
  • 50% of forecasting contest mark: Probabilistic Zone Forecasts
    • Contest 1 (3 February – 10 March) worth 20%
    • Contest 2 (17 March – 28 April) worth 30%
  • 30% of forecasting contest mark: Threat Forecasts
    • Contest 1 (1 February – 8 March) worth 10%
    • Contest 2 (15 March – 26 April) worth 20% 

In the case of a student absence on a forecast date, an excused absence will result in the student being awarded the class average forecast score, while an unexcused absence will result in the student being awarded the worst forecast score from the class. 

In-Class Map Discussions and General Participation (20% of final mark)

All students should develop a daily habit of remaining “in touch” with current Northern Hemisphere weather patterns and model trends. Students are expected to contribute to discussions concerning that day's (or the recent) weather patterns.  The instructor may also choose and question students randomly during the discussions.  Students who frequently arrive late or who have unexcused absences from class may be penalized. 

Forecast Verifications (20% of final mark)

Each week, a Zone “verification team” (3 students) will be responsible for participating in a map discussion (10-20 minutes) on Wednesdays, then leading a class discussion and verification of the Zone forecast on the following Monday (20-30 minutes).  The verification presentation should include verifications (with sources) and a thorough analysis of the synoptic/mesoscale features involved (using at least four “tools” – satellite, radar, surface maps, etc.) along with any other relevant charts, guidance and documents.  Each team will lead three of these post-mortem verifications. Students that are not part of the verification team are expected to participate through critical evaluation of the verification team’s presentation. 

Quizzes (COMET Modules, Journal Articles) (20% of final mark)

You will be asked to complete weekly on-line modules, overviews of forecasting tools, or technical papers on topics in forecasting, and will be quizzed on most Mondays to assess your understanding of the material.  These quizzes will be taken on Canvas. 

Lectures and Modules.  This is not a formal lecture course. Real-time discussions of the weather will form the basis for exploring topics.  COMET modules, on-line articles and journal papers will supplement the in-class discussions. 

Module/Paper/Lecture Topics (Tentative Schedule) 

Week # | Topic  (Mon/Tues HW/Wed)                              

  • 1 (18-20 Jan) No class Monday/No Tues HW/Course Overview
  • 2 (25-27 Jan) Quiz (Mod. 1), Forecast Entry overview, Medium range introduction/No Tues HW/Overview of Ensembles
  • 3 (1-3 Feb) Quiz (Mod. 2)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast  
  • 4 (8-10 Feb) Quiz (Mod. 3)  &THREATcast/No Tues HW/ZONEcast
  • 5 (15-17 Feb) Quiz (Mod. 4)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • 6 (22-24 Feb) Quiz (Mod. 5)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast 
  • 7 (1-3 Mar) Quiz (Mod. 6)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast 
  • 8 (8-10 Mar) Quiz (Mod. 7)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast 
  • 9 (15-17 Mar) Quiz (Mod. 8)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • 10 (22-24 Mar) Quiz (Mod. 9)  &THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast 
  • 11 (29-31 Mar) Quiz (Mod. 10)&THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • 12 (5-7 Apr) Quiz (Mod. 11)&THREATcast/MRcast/No Class Wednesday   
  • 13 (12-14 Apr) Quiz (Mod. 12)&THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • 14 (19-21 Apr) Quiz (Mod. 13)&THREATcast/MRcast/ZONEcast
  • 15 (26-28 Apr) Quiz (Mod. 14)&THREATcast/No Tues HW/ZONEcast                        

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to complete quizzes individually, and forecasts should be submitted individually.  Students are encouraged to discuss the forecast amongst themselves, but copied forecasts or team-submitted forecasts will be considered plagiarism.

This course follows the EMS academic integrity procedures ( 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 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. 

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know.


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. 


Regular attendance is critical for building on the skills and knowledge developed throughout the class. Students who participate have a more complete understanding of the material presented and are more likely to succeed in the class. This is true whether your attendance is in person or remote.  The University recognizes that, on exceptional occasions, students may miss a class meeting to participate in a regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activity (such as field trips, debate trips, choir trips, and athletic contests), or due to unavoidable or other legitimate circumstances such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, religious observance, participation in local, state, and federal government elections, or post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as elections or employment and graduate school final interviews).  In all cases, you should inform me in advance, when possible.  Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean there is work that cannot be made up, hurting your grade in this class.  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:  You should be prepared to provide documentation for participation in University-approved activities, as well as for career-related interviews.  You should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form:, at least one week prior to the activity. 

Course Delivery Format: 

This course is being offered in COVID-mixed mode.  For the first three weeks of the semester (until February 15), all course meetings will be online-only.  The instructor will make a decision on the remaining course delivery based on University guidance, public health conditions, class feedback, and instructor comfort (ie. this course may resume mixed-mode meetings but may also remain online all semester).  Any student may take the course remote the entire semester at their preference.  

In the instance of a return to in-person meetings:

Because of classroom size limitations, you will be asked to attend in person only on certain days. Your schedule of attendance will be given to you or available in Canvas. The attendance schedule is designed with the health and safety of everyone in the class in mind, to ensure that we can maintain safe physical distancing during class time. To maintain appropriate physical distancing and safety of in-person participants, come only on the day you are scheduled, wearing your mask appropriately (i.e., covering your mouth and nose). 

Use the symptom checker of the Penn State GO app every day to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.  If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are otherwise not feeling well, DO NOT COME TO CLASS, and seek the advice of a medical professional as appropriate.  If you have been notified or know yourself that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, DO NOT COME TO CLASS and please make sure you have been reported as a close contact. I cannot stress this strongly enough. We are counting on you to help contain the spread of the virus (and other illnesses) on campus.  If you need to isolate (because you are infected) or quarantine (because you were a close contact to an infected person), the Student Support Services Office will let both of us know when you are allowed to attend class again.  If you attend class before the approved date, it will be a student conduct violation, because you are endangering the health of your classmates and me.  While you are in isolation or quarantine, I will work with you to help you maintain progress in the course as you are able.  [This may include participating remotely, watching the recorded class, and/or completing asynchronous course content.]  If you are not in class on your assigned day, you may be contacted by the instructor or the TA to check up on you and make sure you are okay.

Technical Requirements for web meetings:


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 Outreach Helpdesk ( - for World Campus students) or the ITS Help Desk ( for students at all other campus locations). 

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot. 

Mixed Content

This site (Canvas) is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our technical requirements page to view the mixed content. 

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements. 

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.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

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: 

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:

Accessible Syllabus

Notes: Any syllabus posted online (e.g. a Word/PDF file or an online syllabus) should make destinations clickable links such as is done throughout this page. Also, in order to comply with Penn State Policy AD69(Accessibility of Penn State Web Pages,, PDF documents cannot be the sole source of presenting online information. Such documents include syllabi, homework assignments, and scanned notes.  

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 within policy.  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. 

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


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

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.