Weather and Risk

Dr. Kevin Bowley,
619 Walker Building,

Office Hours: By appointment or Fridays 1:30-3:30 pm

Teaching Assistant
Kelly Nunez,
402 Walker Building,

Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:30-3:30 pm
Class Meeting Times & Location
Lectures: Monday, Wednesday, Friday – 9:05-9:55 am, 012 Walker

Course Description
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:

  1. 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”.
  2. There is a 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 method.
  3. 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.

Required textbooks
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 Goals and General Education Learning Objectives
A survey course about the atmosphere, weather forecasting, and how these impact risks to society. The goal is to build an understanding of the weather, topics and techniques of weather forecasting (past and present), and how both get applied to developing risk management solutions. (General Education Learning Objectives: Effective Communication, Critical and Analytical Thinking, Integrative Thinking, & Global Learning)

Examinations and Grading

  • Examination of Knowledge I (February 6): 12%-18%*
  • Examination of Knowledge II (March 20): 12%-18%*
  • Examination of Knowledge III (Finals Week): 20%
  • Quizzes (~10 total): 15%
  • Problem sets/projects: 35%

* The better of your two midterms will carry more weight (18%) of your final mark than the other (12%).

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%).

Examinations of Knowledge (Midterms - 30% of mark, Final - 20% of mark)
The midterms and final will consist primarily of multiple choice and short answer questions. The exams will only be marginally cumulative – just major concepts that build upon themselves throughout the semester. But in general, exams will be largely non-cumulative. The exams will be administered in class on Wednesday, February 6 and Wednesday, March 20.

Make-ups may be scheduled at the instructor's convenience for excused absences. Excused absences must be submitted to, and approved by, the instructor prior to the exam with the exception of extreme circumstances. The
make-up should be taken before the scheduled exam time, if at all possible. The date and location of the final exam will be confirmed by the university sometime in February or March, and will be held in Finals Week (April 29-May 3).

Quizzes (15% of mark)
Quizzes compose 15% of the final mark. They will generally be multiple choice, true/false, or (very) short answer questions that deal with the current material.

Quizzes will sometimes (but not always) be announced one class prior to the quiz in order to encourage attendance. These will be given at the end of the lecture period – you will turn them in on the way out of the classroom. There
will be approximately 10 quizzes during the semester, of which 1-2 will be dropped. Because of this policy, makeup quizzes will not be allowed with the exception of extreme circumstances.

Problem Sets/Projects (35% of mark)
The problem sets and projects component of the final mark will constitute of problems sets on fundamental concepts that you will have one week to complete, and projects addressing the relationships among forecasting, data analysis and decision making that you will have multiple 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, depending on the class size. Group projects will submit a single paper properly cited and combining the individual contributions.

Late policy: Problem sets and project assignments that are not turned in will receive a 0 for the assignment.  Furthermore, problem sets and projects that are turned in late will be assessed a 20% per day penalty, meaning that any assignments turned in more than 5 days late will be assessed as a 0. No problem set or project assignments will be dropped. 

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.

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 or XF in the course. Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

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. 


The student is responsible for learning the material in the lectures. Attendance will not be taken; however pop-up quizzes will be conducted throughout the semester to provide input for the 5% participation portion of the grade.  Students will be allowed to miss one pop-up quiz without adverse effect on their participation score.  If you are going to miss a lecture for a legitimate reason, let the instructor know (preferably ahead of time), and the instructor will help you catch up to speed.  

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 midterms.  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. 

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: 

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

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: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395 Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400 Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 

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.  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. 

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.

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:

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.