METEO 004: Weather Risk

Instructor: Daniel Sarmiento Meeting Time/Place: MWF 9:00am - 9:50am, 112 Walker Building

Meteorology 004
Weather Risk, Spring 2016

Non-technical introduction to the science and historical development of meteorology, and the role of weather forecasting as a tool for risk management by individuals, businesses, and societies.

Instructor: Daniel Sarmiento

Meeting Time/Place: MWF 9:00am - 9:50am,
112 Walker Building
Office Hours/Location: By appointment or Thursday 11:00am- 12:00pm 

Course Prerequisites: none

Other Prerequisites:  There are no course prerequisites for Meteorology 004. However, we will use standard programs such as MS Word or Google Docs and spreadsheet software such as MS Excel or Google Spreadsheet. You may also be required to use library or online resource materials, conduct research, and cite research sources appropriately. 

If you are not familiar or experienced enough with any of the computer programs/techniques that will be used in class, let me know and I will schedule a ‘boot camp’ in order to teach you the required skills. 

ANGEL:  This course will heavily utilize the ANGEL course management system for distribution of assignments, data, notes, etc. You should get in the habit of checking ANGEL before each class to see if lecture materials have been posted.

Required Texts and Reading:
There is no official course book for this course. Most optional readings will be posted on ANGEL. I may reference the following books during the semester, all of which can be found in the Earth and Mineral Sciences library in Deike Building.

Dray, Philip (2005). Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America. New York, NY: Random House.

Galilei, Galileo (1989). Sidereus Nuncius (The Sidereal Messenger), translated by Albert Van Helden. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

Silver, Nate (2012). The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't. London, UK: Penguin Press.

Internet materials and links:  Other articles and reading materials will be made available through the ANGEL website. 

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; the complementary roles of instrumentation, theory and computation in creating forecasts; the uses of weather forecasts for risk management in transportation, agriculture, energy, and other sectors; and risk mitigation efforts including transferring and diversifying risks. These topics will be organized around several major themes that provide a structure to the course. 

The course is organized around three 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 research. The second theme is the critical role of instrumentation in providing the quantitative basis for formal scientific forecasting models. Third, 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. (

Course Policy and Grading:

Your final grade will be made up of four (4) projects, eight (8) quizzes, and three (3) exams.

  • Projects / Title / Percent of final grade
    Project 1: Prediction Algorithm 10%
    Project 2: Data Analysis 10%
    Project 3: Electrical Load Forecasting 10%
    Project 4: Catastrophe Modeling 10%

    10 Total quizzes (lowest 2 dropped) 15%

    Exam #1 (02/03/2016) 15%
    Exam #2 (03/30/2016) 15%
    Exam #3 (TBD) 15%

You will be given a week’s notice for quizzes and I will try to keep quizzes scheduled for Wednesdays.  Please pay attention to the Academic Integrity and Attendance sections in order to familiarize yourselves with the university’s expectations for assignments, quizzes, and exams.  Make-up quizzes and exams will be conducted as outlined by the university policies.


Academic Integrity:

Students in this class are expected to work the exams on their own and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations. 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.

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:, 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, 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.

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 via email and in class of any changes.