EBF 472 Quantitative Analysis in Earth Sciences

Instructor: Dr. Jon Nese, Tue & Thu, 9:05 – 10:20AM, 220 Hammond Building

EBF 472 Quantitative Analysis in Earth Sciences

Spring  2017 

COURSE DESCRIPTION.  Quantitative analysis of decision-making in the atmospheric and geophysical sciences; exploratory data analysis, probability distributions, quantification of uncertainty, parametric/non-parametric hypothesis testing, forecasting and verification, time series analysis, regression and trend analysis.

  • When/Where. Tue & Thu, 9:05 – 10:20AM, 220 Hammond Building 
  • Prerequisites. Math 110 or Math 140 (also, a basic understanding of Excel or similar)
  • Instructor. Dr. Jon Nese, 518 Walker, 863-4076, j2n@psu.edu, Twitter: @jmnese 
  • Office Hours. Mon 3-4 PM, Wed 8-9 AM, Fri 11-12 PM, and by appointment 

TEACHING ASSISTANTS.  Ryan Bramble (rab5699) and Erika Beddings (ecb5219).

Ryan will hold office hours 3-4PM on Tuesday, Erika from 4-5PM on Thursdays.  Both office hours will be held in the Myers Weather Center which is 607 Walker Building. 

ENROLLMENT POLICY.  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.  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor.  Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of the Student Code of Conduct (http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/conduct/codeofconduct/).

COURSE MANAGEMENT AND TEXTBOOK.  I rely heavily on the Canvas course management system to distribute materials and post lectures.  I recommend that you check Canvas before each class.  If you print out the materials that are posted, it will likely help your note-taking. 

Though no book is required for the class, much of the material is aligned with the first seven chapters of this textbook, which is on reserve in the EMS library Deike Building:

Statistical Methods in the Atmospheric Sciences: An Introduction (2005), Daniel Wilks. 

In addition, the following book is also on reserve in the EMS library and may be of some help with various parts of the course: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (2009), W. Mendenhall and R. J. Beaver.


Week(s)/Topic/Wilks Book Sections           

  • 1-4 Basic Statistics & Probability Ch. 1-2 (all sections)
  • 4-7 Data Analysis, Time Series 3.1 - 3.5, 8.1 - 8.3
  • 7-11 Probability Distributions 4.1 - 4.6
  • 11-13 Hypothesis Testing 5.1 - 5.2
  • 14-15 Statistical Forecasting & Verification 6.1 - 6.4, 7.1 – 7.4

ASSESSMENT.  Course grades will be determined from the following components: 

  • Two in-class exams – Thursday February 16 and Thursday April 6
  • Final Exam – Comprehensive, during finals week, scheduled by the University 
  • Problem Sets – Approximately every other week.  These problem sets will involve applications of topics covered in class.
  • Quizzes – On most Tuesdays, starting January 17.  Quizzes will be very short and cover material from the previous two lectures.  I will drop your lowest quiz grade.  There will be no make-up quizzes except for university-approved class absences and for other extreme cases discussed with the instructor.

NOTE: Attendance is not formally part of the grade, but in cases of borderline grades, attendance will be used as a deciding factor. 

GRADING. The breakdown of your course grade, and expected grading scale:

Component % of Course Grade Letter grade Average

  • Exam 1 15% A >= 90%
  • Exam 2 20% B 80 – 90%
  • Final Exam 25% C 70 – 80%
  • Quizzes 10% D 60 – 70%
  • Problem Sets 30% F< 60% 

I will use the ‘-‘ and ‘+’ system as well.  For example, a grade just below 90 may receive a B+.  Also, I may curve the grades, so it is possible that the thresholds will go down (for example, the boundary between and A and a B may be less than 90). 

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY.  Integrity is fundamental not only to one’s experience at the university, but throughout one’s career.  For information about the EMS Integrity Policy (which this course adopts), see: http://www.ems.psu.edu/current_undergrad_students/academics/integrity_policy

Here’s a brief interpretation of that integrity policy as it applies specifically to this course:  You may never copy answers from another person and present them as your own.  This applies to quizzes, exams, and problem sets.  You are allowed to discuss the problem sets with other students, but the work you turn in must be your own, in your own words.  Suspicion of copying on problem sets will result in an immediate 50% reduction for the first offense, and an F for the course on the second offense.  Cheating on exams or quizzes will result in an immediate F for the course.  If in doubt about how the academic integrity policy applies to a specific situation, students are encouraged to consult with the instructor. 

PENN STATE E-MAIL ACCOUNTS   All official communications from Penn State (and me) 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 to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

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: (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/disability-coordinator). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources). 

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, the disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter.  You must share this letter with me and discuss the accommodations as early in the course as possible.

CANCELLATIONS OR DELAYS Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http://news.psu.edu/ and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: https://psualert.psu.edu/psualert/ ).

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. 

ATTENDANCE POLICY. This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/E-11-class-attendance.html, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: http://senate.psu.edu/policies-and-rules-for-undergraduate-students/44-00-examinations/#44-35.

Please also see Illness Verification Policy:  http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/welcome/illnessVerification/, and Religious Observance Policy: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/R-4-religious-observances.html. 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 and Family Services for help: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/familyservices/.  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office: http://www.registrar.psu.edu/student_forms/, at least one week prior to the activity.