METEO 004 Weather and Risk

Instructor: Dr. David R. Stauffer, Meeting Time/Place: MWF 9:05am - 9:55am, 262 Willard Building

Meteorology 004 – Spring 2017

Weather and Risk

Introduction to meteorology, its historical development as a science, and fundamental scientific concepts for understanding weather and its prediction, and the role of weather forecasting as a tool for risk management by individuals, businesses, and societies. 

  • Instructor: Dr. David R. Stauffer, Professor of Meteorology
  • Email:
  • Office: 621 Walker Building
  • Office Phone: 814-863-3932
  • Office Hours:  By appointment, and TBA. 
  • Meeting Time/Place:  MWF 9:05am - 9:55am, 262 Willard Building 

Course Prerequisites: none

Other Prerequisites:  There are no course prerequisites for Meteorology 004. However, we will use standard programs such as MS Powerpoint, Word and spreadsheet software such as MS Excel.

I also assume that you can write clearly in English, use a library or online resource materials, conduct research, and cite research sources appropriately. 

CANVAS:  This course will heavily utilize the CANVAS learning management system for distribution of Powerpoint lecture slides, homework assignments (problem sets / projects), data, etc. You should get in the habit of checking CANVAS before each class to view any lecture / assignment materials. 

Required Texts and Reading: There is no required text for this course. Course slides will be organized into units and posted on CANVAS. Some course content will be provided in class and not via slides posted to CANVAS, and therefore class attendance is expected and VERY important. Optional references to supplement course notes will also be provided during the semester.  

Course Topics and Objectives:

Meteorology 004 covers a range of topics involving the historical development of meteorology and weather forecasting, both as scientific disciplines and as tools for decision-making. Topics to be discussed include: the distinction between pre-modern and folklore-based foretelling techniques and forecast methods derived from general scientific principles; fundamental scientific concepts important for understanding weather and weather prediction, the complementary roles of instrumentation, theory and computation in creating new knowledge and forecasts; the uses of weather forecasts for risk management in military-defense, transportation, agriculture, energy, and other sectors; and risk mitigation efforts including transferring and diversifying risks. These topics will be organized around the following major themes: 

First, the possibility of generating a forecast of future conditions requires the adoption of the perspective that the natural world has an underlying regularity, and that this regularity can be discovered and organized through fundamental scientific principles and research rather than only by chance, chaos, or the “whims of the gods”. The second theme is the critical role of instrumentation in providing the quantitative basis for advancing knowledge and formal scientific forecasting methods.  Verification of forecasts and forecast guidance / mathematical computer models is necessary to determine what we know and also what we don’t know, to make improvements, and create statistics via innovative methods to provide valuable probabilistic information. Predictions are compared against observations of what actually came to pass.  Real science involves a constant back-and-forth between induction and deduction: from observations we draw general principles, or theories; the implications of these theories are checked against observations. This back-and-forth conversation between data and theory is the essence of the scientific methodThird, developments in weather forecasting have not proceeded solely from improvements in scientific knowledge: rather, society's demand for risk management tools has acted as a constant spur on efforts to improve forecasting techniques, as part of a feedback loop between the producers and consumers of forecasts.  Many strategies are employed to manage risk including transferring the risk to another party, avoiding the risk, reducing the negative effect of the risk, or taking on a portion or all of the risk. 

Course Policy and Grading:

Your final grade will be made up of homework assignments (problems sets on fundamental concepts (one week to complete) / projects addressing the relationships among forecasting, data analysis and decision making (two weeks to complete)).  All problem sets are to be completed individually; collaboration is encouraged, but everyone must turn in their own assignment showing their own work in their own words.  Some projects may be individual or group.  Group projects will be submitted as a single paper properly cited and coherently combining the individual contributions. Projects will be weighted twice that of problem sets. There will also be in-class quizzes (often unannounced), two in-class exams and a final exam during the finals period. 

Course Work / Percent of final grade
Homework Assignments

  • Problem Sets / Projects 30%


  • 10 total quizzes 20%

  • Exam #1 10%
  • Exam #2 20%
  • Final Exam 20%

The first exam will be held in-class around mid-February and the second exam around the last week of March.  A comprehensive final exam will be scheduled by the university during the finals period.  Quizzes may often be unannounced so be sure to attend class regularly.  Missing homework assignments and quizzes will be scored zero.  I will drop the lowest quiz score at the end of the semester.  I may accept a late homework assignment once but there will be a significant penalty for each day that it is late.  Because I drop the lowest-score quiz, there are generally no make-ups, except under extreme circumstances. Make-up exams will be conducted as outlined by the university policies.

Academic Integrity:

Students in this class are expected to work the exams and quizzes on their own and hand in homework problem sets and write project papers (group or individual) in their own words using proper citations. Students are not to copy exam or quiz answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others. 

(Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. 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.

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 based on the documentation guidelines ( 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.


This course abides by the Penn State 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, 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:  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.

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:

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. You will be notified in class and CANVAS of any changes.

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