Applications of Computers to Meteorology


Fall 2017
Applications of Computers to Meteorology

Course Expectations 

  • Learn through guided practice those computer skills of value in the commercial sector: creation, manipulation, distribution, and explanation of large meteorological data sets.
  • Learn through guided practice the means by which you can keep pace with the evolving job market by learning new skills "on the fly", allowing you to acquire new knowledge as needed instead of memorizing all there is to know.


  1. Students can demonstrate skills in using computers to develop and apply numerical algorithms for the solution of atmospheric problems (relate to program objectives 1 and 3)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use new programming knowledge as needed for solving problems (relate to program objectives 1 and 3)
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to work in a team to produce a final product (relate to program objective 3)


  1. Students can demonstrate a working knowledge of relevant computer languages and how they may be applied to the analysis and display of atmospheric data (relate to program outcomes a and d)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to locate and develop programming methods for application to atmospheric problems (relate to program outcome d)
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to work in teams and to meet deadlines (relate to program outcome d)
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to document their methodology within a computer code (relate to program outcomes d and e)
  5. Students can demonstrate the ability to use the Worldwide Web for dissemination of results (relate to program outcome e) 

Course Content

Building a career in Meteorology requires finding a customer for your meteorological knowledge. To succeed, you must both produce information the customer needs AND deliver that information to the customer when and where they need it. In the pre-Internet era, the information delivery bottleneck of television, radio, newspapers limited the market for weather forecasts to those customers who needed only a small amount of general information. As statistical weather forecasts improved to the point where they could fill those limited needs, the market for weather forecasters shrank. The advent of the Internet, with its ability to deliver large amounts of tailored information to individual customers, has reopened the market for weather forecasts and related services. The result has been a boom in forecasting jobs and a parallel boom in openings for Meteorologists with skills in the automated creation and distribution of weather products. This course exists to acquaint you with this career track and prepare you to face its challenges.

The same communications revolution that is revitalizing weather forecasting is enhancing the productivity of Meteorological researchers. The savvy researcher of today uses Internet-based communications, search, and data distribution skills to speed the analysis of large data sets. In Meteorological research, as in weather forecasting, speed is life.

The skills needed to harness this computer-based communications revolution change with startling speed. The cutting-edge tools of today are apt to be all but obsolete a few years from now. This course is , therefore, designed to teach you how to learn and maintain computer expertise via a rapidly changing skill set. Thus, rather than focus on a fixed set of tools, we will be striving to master the most efficient ways of learning new tools on the fly. It's going to be a wild ride, one that will last for the rest of your life.

Many of the skills needed to ride the "wave of change" involve dealing with teams of coworkers and searching for the tools needed to do your work efficiently. The best way to learn them is by teaming up and tackling a real project. This approach matches the day-to-day routine in a weather products corporation, so the course is organized along those lines. Our class corporation will be a student owned, faculty managed organization and VERY unofficial. You are the ones who will do the development work on our product and field it on the web for the whole world to use. The professor is here to teach you the teamwork, tool learning, and data manipulation skills required to prosper in this environment. There is no guarantee that there will be an expert available on every tool you need. There will, however, always be someone who can guide you in discovering how to use the tools. To enhance the spread of your newfound skills, the course grades will be heavily weighted by the amount of technical assistance you provide your classmates.

The class is divided into four-person Tiger teams. All of the Tiger teams will be working towards developing their own aircraft observation display system. Although all teams will be working from the same set of aircraft observations there will be room for great diversity among the products. Collaboration both within teams and between teams will be essential for completion of a viable product. The grading system strongly rewards teamwork on both levels. Thus, to get a high grade, you must work to assure that your classmates also do well in this course. This system should ensure that we learn the teamwork practiced on real-life projects.

Each Tiger team will have access to four Windows/Linux workstations in the classroom. Thus, a four-person Tiger team splits into two 2-person sub-teams and still have two computers to spare for computationally intensive tasks. One way of using this advantage is to have one sub-team searching for the best way to do a task while the other sub-team implements it. Because the Department has yet more workstations in the Weather Station classroom and terminal room, the Tiger teams can work together anytime, not just when class is in session. Indeed, you will need to do so in order to finish the project by semester's end.

The boot camp component of the course exists to support team projects. It will take the form of hands-on demonstration sessions with both the students and professor using the same software to practice new skills. Once the project is underway the specific tools relevant to your project will be covered the same way as a means of illustrating how to learn new tools. The team leader for each milestone should begin searching for useful online reference materials a week before work on a milestone is due to start. That way, you'll have the wheat sorted from the chaff by the time your team is ready to start programming. Pick and bookmark those sites that provide information in the style YOU are most comfortable with.

Good luck, the synopticians of the world are counting on you.

TIME and LOCATION: Class times and places:

MW 8:00 - 9:55 in Weather Center Classroom (607 Walker)

Office hours: Office – 620 Walker  

MW 10:10 - 11:00


Textbooks and Such

Boot Camp -- A complete online set of lecture notes for the Meteo 473 Boot Camp is available at course Angel site. This will be our primary resource during the first four weeks of class.


  • Python lacks a built in help (because it has no integrated development environment, at least as we’ve installed it at Penn State), but online help is abundant.

Textbooks -- There is no required text book for this course.  I am, however, quite fond of the paperback version of Alex Decaria’s “Python Programming and Visualization for Scientists”.  Nothing quite beats a programming book written by a real meteorologist.  There are also several popular self-instruction series to choose from. These are mostly useful if you like to learn programming while sitting on the beach rather than at a terminal.  If you like reading from a screen though, there are LOTS of resources available, starting with:

Assessment Tools

  • Required written/oral assignments

Boot Camp - The 473 boot camp exists to ensure that all students learn the prerequisite material for the course. Therefore failure to pass the boot camp assignment with a grade of at least 60 will be considered a failing grade for the course. Successful completion of boot camp entitles you to continue in 473. Failure in boot camp should lead you to drop the course and retake the prerequisites rather than accept the F.

Course grade is based on successful completion of team tasks, evaluated in 5 milestones (and boot camp which counts as an addtional milestone). In addition, the average of the milestone grades will be curved up or down for each student based on your leadership contributions to the team and class. Details of the team assignment grading criteria, the individual productivity adjustment curve, and the leadership curve (guru points) follow.

   For each milestone a Team Assignment grade will be determined by the Instructor. Note, the task leader for that milestone gets two identical copies of that grade.

  • 90-100% = Program and documentation were both successful and elegant. Numerous glory-level goals were addressed
  • 80-89% = Program accomplished all assigned goals and documentation was clear on all topics. Hitting the high end of this range will require addressing some glory-level tasks.
  • 70-79% = Programs accomplished most goals and documentation was clear on most topics.
  • 60-69% = Programs accomplished some goals, documentation was clear on some topics.
  • 50-59% = Programs compiled but crashed, documentation could be read but was unclear, etc.
  • 0% = Program did not compile.

Each team member's assignment grade will be adjusted relative to the team assignment grade based on the Instructor's assessment of their contribution to the team during that milestone. The team self-assessment will play a role in this grade assignment so make sure your task leader knows what you contributed.

Leadership grades are somewhat different as they curve a student's final course average upwards based Instructor assessment of helpfulness to class as a whole. If someone has helped you or your group in such a way that we may not have seen them in action, please e-mail the Instructor with a short message explaining what they did and why it helped. These points accumulate

  • 10% = Selfless Guru
  • 5% = Frequently posted answers to peer questions to the bulletin board and helped others on-line or in person
  • 0% = Did not help except by doing assigned tasks

Note to ensure a good grade in the course it is important to help others outside your group as well as doing well on the group assignments.

  • Examination policy

Meteo 473 has no examinations.

  • Grading policy

All assignments are due by the date and time specified.  Late work will be given a grade of zero.

Academic integrity: For boot camp assignments you will be required to do your own work. You can check the web, your old programs, or any books that you want, but you may not consult other persons via any means of communication. For the project part of the course you are required to turn in your own team's work for each assignment. While it is expected that your group will freely exchange advice and assistance with other teams, the work you turn in must be your own team's. Programs copied from others, including persons not taking the course, will be given a grade of zero. If, however, you find a public domain utility on the web that you feel it would be to your advantage to use, you may ask for my permission to incorporate it (with appropriate credit given) into your project. I will decide whether to grant such advance permission on a case-by-case basis based on whether the code in question is a general purpose utility freely available to the global public. Any work not meeting these standards will receive a grade of zero.

Please refer to the Academic Integrity & Research Ethics page on the EMS website: for details of University and College policies.

Preliminary Assignment Schedule (subject to change)

  • Boot camp classes - August 21, 23, 28, 30, September 6
  • Boot camp assignment (milestone 0) – due 4 pm Friday, September 8
  • Milestone 1 – due 4 pm Friday, September 22
  • Milestone 2 – due 4 pm Friday, October 13
  • Milestone 3 - due 4 pm Friday, November 3
  • Milestone 4 – due 4 pm Friday December 1
  • Milestone 5 – due 4 pm Friday December 8


  • Students with Learning 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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) Web site provides contact information for every Penn State campus For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site:

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. 

  • University Attendance Policy

This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, 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, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services 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. 

  • University Prerequisite Policy

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor.  The ten-calendar-day rule is in place so that students can find a substitute course.  Please note that students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct ( 

Prerequisites for EBF 473 are CMPSCI 101, 201, 202 or METEO 297a 

  • Weather Delays

Residence Instruction: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

Those classes or activities beginning at or after the conclusion of the announced delay time will be held as originally scheduled.  For example, a two-hour delay until 10 a.m. due to snow or ice would mean that all classes that begin before 10 a.m. are canceled and will not be held.  Classes beginning at 10 a.m. or later will continue on their regular schedule.

At their discretion, faculty who teach classes that run across multiple periods may decide to hold their class starting at the end of the announced delay time and continuing through the end of the period.  For example, if a two-hour delay is announced, a faculty member whose class normally runs from 9 a.m. to noon could elect to start class at 10 a.m. and continue through noon.  Meteo 473 will follow this policy.

The Meteo 473 Web Pages are maintained by Dr. George Young.
This page was last modified on August 11, 2017.

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