Forecasting Practicum

Meteorology 415: Forecasting Practicum

Course Syllabus - Fall 2018
Monday/Wednesday 2:30-5:30pm
Location: 607 Walker Bldg
Prerequisite: Meteo 411

Professional Elective 

Instructor: Kyle Imhoff
Office: 606A Walker

Office Hours: By appt

Course Philosophy

This class is not like other courses that you have taken in the past – it is not a ‘lab’ course nor is it a ‘theoretical’ course. In some ways it is a combination of both and in other ways it is neither. The term ‘practicum’ simply means a practical section of a course of study. The basic premise of this course is to introduce students to the world of operational meteorology and to provide “hands-on” experience in making weather forecasts. This course will utilize many other topics and theory that you have covered in previous meteorology courses – this prior knowledge is essential to consistently making accurate forecasts. In addition, the course will provide students with the opportunity to understand the costs and benefits of using weather models (numerical weather prediction). 

Some of you may be taking this course because you have aspirations of becoming an operational meteorologist. Others may be taking this course just to get a better understanding of what making a forecast is all about and just “get their feet wet.” This course will be greatly beneficial to both groups – it will provide the foundation necessary for those who want to make a career out of forecasting but will also just skim the surface such that others will learn the basics.

Things to keep in mind (and to keep your sanity)

It is important to note that the best students may not be the best forecasters! Forecasting is not about how much you know or how well you can replicate a certain set of instructions. It is about being able to apply your knowledge correctly to what the real atmosphere does and to be able to adjust to every new situation. It also requires one to be able to interpret and assess model guidance correctly and responsibly. Forecasting is not easy and it can be very frustrating (even to professionals!). You will make bad forecasts and you will “miss the boat” on some occasions – prepare yourself mentally now. 

Paul Knight, a former instructor of this course, introduced the 10,000 hour rule to the class at the beginning of each semester (this was taken from a book called “Outliers: The Story of Success” written by Malcolm Gladwell). The basic idea is that it takes 10,000 hours to be able to consider yourself an expert in a particular skill – this concept certainly applies to forecasting as well. You will not be an expert in forecasting by the end of this course but you will have the tools necessary to become one over time. Do not get discouraged and keep trying, if you apply yourself you will get better. 

Course Details

Required Materials

i-Clickers for Meteo 415: You are required to purchase an ‘i-Clicker’ for this course and to register it during the first class. These can be purchased at the Bookstore or through – approximate cost is $35. Visit the class Canvas page to register your i-Clicker. 

Course Outline

  • Week One: Introduction and course mechanics
  • Weeks Two-Four: Contest One; Rise and Shine Quizzes; Daily Map Disco and Forecast Reviews
  • Weeks Five-Nine: Contest Two; Rise and Shine Quizzes; Daily Map Disco; Student “Lectures”/Forecast Reviews
  • Weeks Ten-Fifteen: Contest Three; Rise and Shine Quizzes; Daily Map Disco; Student-led Forecast Reviews

Course Assignments

Weather Journals (20% of your grade):

Starting during Contest Two, students will be required to create weather journals. These journals are a way for you to learn from your mistakes and to take notes on what you have observed about model errors/biases/advantages. Rubric will be provided on Canvas and details discussed in class. 

Forecasting Contests (50% of your grade):

Students will be required to participate in weather forecasting “contests.” These contests will assess forecast accuracy on an individual level as well as compare how each student is doing in comparison to the rest of the class. Grades will be based on how well you score relative to your classmates. However, you will not “fail” this portion of the grade if you struggle all semester.  If you show up and make an effort, you will get at least approx. 70-75% of this grade.  So, remember – show up and make an effort! If you miss forecasts or do not show up – you will NOT get that credit. Contest 1 will be 10% of your overall grade, Contest 2 will be 15% of your grade, and Contest 3 will be 25% of your grade. 

Student “Lectures” (10% of your grade):

The best way to learn is by teaching others. Students will present lectures based off of presentations created by prior students. Students must supplement this prior work with new and additional information – if you simply present what was already done, your grade will reflect that. 

Forecast Reviews (10% of your grade):

Students will present forecast verifications and reviews – these will occur in contests two and three. 

Individual Assignments/Daily Quizzes (10% of your grade):

Throughout the semester, some homework assignments will be given to supplement what is taught in class and to provide additional insight into the field of observational meteorology. Daily quizzes each morning will be given using the i-Clicker system. 

Individual Project/Training Opportunities 

These opportunities are not required but are a way for students to go “above and beyond’ what the course curriculum requires. Students are encouraged to think critically in these assignments and broaden their understandings of atmospheric science/operational meteorology. Details on these projects will be announced as the semester progresses. 

Course Objectives

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to produce forecasts of a variety of weather variables for atmospheric systems that occur throughout the year (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3)
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to use numerical weather prediction models to guide the creation of weather forecasts (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3) 

Course Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the Norwegian cyclone model and other conceptual models to be used as a framework for the creation of a weather forecast (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the roles of both the upper-level flow (e.g., the jet stream) and the thermodynamic structure in determining the expected evolution of the atmosphere at various locations (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how orography and large bodies of water affect various aspects of local weather such as cloud and precipitation patterns (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to use dynamic, statistical, and ensemble numerical forecasts of the atmosphere to diagnose quantitatively the likely atmospheric conditions at a specific location (relate to program outcomes a, b, and c)
  5. Students can demonstrate the ability to create and disseminate a useful weather forecast based on current observations and numerical forecasts of the atmosphere (relate to program outcomes a, b, c, d, and e) 

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Students are not to copy problem or exam 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."

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. 

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy. 

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. 


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 Care and Advocacy for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form:, 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 

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 will be reflected and posted to Canvas accordingly.