Application of Computers to Meteorology

METEO 473 

Course Syllabus for Spring 2018

Section 01

Instructor: Prof. Gregory S. Jenkins, Department of Meteorology, 510 Walker Building,

Meeting Time/Place: M, F – 3:30-5:00 PM (607 Walker)

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Tues, 1:30-3:00 PM, Wednesday 2:00-3:30), or by appointment. You may also email for questions (please use "").

Teaching Assistant: Jon Siebert (

Office hours:  M 10 AM -12 noon

Meeting Time/Place: M, F – 3:30-5:00 PM (607 Walker)

Prerequisite: CMPSC 101, CMPSC 201, CMPSC 202 or METEO 273


Required: Python Programming and Visualization for Scientists by Alex J. Decaria, Sundog publishing.  Available online at : ( 


The discipline of atmospheric sciences and its subdisciplines require the creation of data to characterize the state of the atmosphere on many different timscales.  Unfortunately, the generation of data is found in many different forms which require a means for opening and manipulating data for specific purposes.  This requires that you often learn a programming language for reading data, data manipulation and a graphic package for display of data in different formats (jpeg, png, eps, pdf).  Python allows you to do all of these processes in one framework.  Python as a language takes on forms like many different other languages (C++, Matlab, Fortran) and this means that there are many different ways of programming in python.  There are more efficient ways of programming, but it is important that you use the form which you understand and can build on not only in this class but during your career.  

Class Strategy During the first 8-10 weeks of the class, you will learn how to program in Python, with homework and class exercises to reinforce the material that you are learning in class.  Quizzes every two weeks or so will help to assess if you are learning the material.  There is one midterm which covers the first part of the course.  During the last 6-8 weeks of the you will use your knowledge to work on a research project related to anthropogenic climate change.  This will involve the use of datasets to answer a question which is posed by your team of 2 members.  The datasets will could involve: CMIP5 global climate model with future projections of climate change; North American regional climate model simulations of future climate change; present day station or gridded data; population datasets, energy usage datasets.   Team projects will be developed in the first 5 weeks of the class, with a set of project milestones throughout the course. 

Class Structure: 

Monday 45 minutes of lecture, followed by exercises

Friday:  Class assignment followed by homework assignment  

Course Objectives

  • Learn basic unix commands for copying, moving, creating directories and providing permissions to others
  • Learn the basics of Python including running programs.
  • Learn how to open, read and write different types of files
  • Learn the basis of looping
  • Learn how to deal with arrays
  • Learn how to graph up data using Python. 

Core Outcomes

  • Understand basic python functions for use in the atmospheric sciences.
  • Ability to open all datasets of 1,2,3 and 4 dimensions and undertake operations on these datasets
  • Use of Python to examine a project related to 21st century anthopgenic climate change. 


Attendance of all lectures is expected. Copies of slides from the lectures will usually be made available on Canvas. Assignments will be posted on Canvas. 


Homework assignements are assigned from canvas with a defined due date and time.  You will create a homework directory where your python code will be placed along with any data so that we can test it.  You must also upload a copy of your python code and output on CANVAS.  Your python codes should include your name, and comments related to what the purpose of the program.   Comments throughout your python code is highly recommended.    You may ask TA for limited assistance as it relates to a problem with your code, but the TA is not going to help you complete your homework but may give you hints about where you maybe having problems.   Working how to get your code to run through a series of trials and errors is where the learning occurs.  

Course Requirements and Grades

The grading in the class will be based on attendance, homework, quizzes, 1 midterm and a final project.  The final project is composed of a in-class presentation and a written paper.  A rubric for the inclass presentation and the written project will be posted on CANVAS. 


The weighting of the components of your course grade is as follows:                       

  • In class participation: 5% (25 pts)
  • Quizzes: 10% (50)
  • Midterm: 15% (75 pts)
  • Project Milestones: 10% (50 pts)
  • Homework: 30% (150 pts)
  • Final project: 30% (175 pts)                                               

Assignments are to be turned in on time, with a penalty for late homework (2% for 1 day late, 5% for each day late after the first day).  

Academic integrity

            Academic honesty is required and expected in this class. This course adopts the EMS Academic Integrity Policy[1]. Students in this class are expected to write up their homework assignments individually, to work on the exams own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations. Class members may work on the homework assignment in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately. Students are not to copy quiz or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers written by others. Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F in the course. If in doubt about how the academic integrity policy applies to a specific situation, students are encouraged to consult with the instructor. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Plagiarism Tutorial for students.”[2]

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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services 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[3] and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35[4]. Please also see Illness Verification Policy[5] and Religious Observance Policy[6]. 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 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. 

Cancellations and delays

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State Live ( and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUTXT (to sign up, please see

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.

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