METEO 215, Weather Forecast Preparation Laboratory

Instructor: Andrew Thomas, Local WxChallenge Manager: Kyle Imhoff, Class Meeting Times: 6 pm – 7:15 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Course Number and Title: Meteorology 215, Weather Forecast Preparation Laboratory

Semester: Spring 2017

Instructor: Andrew Thomas, 624 Walker,

Local WxChallenge Manager: Kyle Imhoff, 606D Walker

Class Meeting Times: 6 pm – 7:15 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Course Designation: Undergraduate Elective

Brief Course Description:

Students will learn basic weather forecasting techniques and identify appropriate sources of weather information that will assist them in weather forecast preparation. Forecast accuracy will be judged against peer groups at Penn State and several other institutions of higher learning across the U.S. and Canada through WxChallenge (or a similarly run program), a national weather forecasting contest. The bulk of the class time will be spent preparing weather forecasts for five different U.S. cities, each for two consecutive weeks. Cities from different climate regimes will help familiarize students with forecasting challenges from across the country. In addition, the previous day’s weather forecast difficulties and ways to improve forecast accuracy will be discussed. The remaining weeks of the semester will be devoted to in-depth analysis of forecast errors and ways to keep improving forecast quality. Satisfactory performance is determined through attendance records and weather forecast contest results. The course should be taken in BOTH the fall and spring semesters each year for maximum learning potential. METEO 215 may be repeated up to 8 times.

Prerequisites and/or concurrent courses: METEO 101, METEO 200A and METEO 200B, or METEO 201

Internet materials: CANVAS

Course Expectations:

Students will improve forecasting skills by preparing weather forecasts for cities as designated by WxChallenge.

Course Objectives:

Students will gain experience in forecasting for a variety of cities within the United States. Students will also learn about how processes may affect the forecasted variables.

Course Outcomes:

Students will have a better understanding of the process involved in making accurate weather forecasts.


  • Attendance/Participation: 75%
    • Students are expected to attend and engage in every class, except for valid excuses. Examples of valid excuses include, but are not limited to, illness, conflicting examinations, conflicting classes, and approved travel. Excuses must be emailed to the instructor prior to class time.
    • Each student has 3 free unexcused absences. After the fourth unexcused absence, the student’s grade will drop 4% for each subsequent unexcused absence.
  • Performance: 5%
    • Missing a forecast outside of the city not counted within WxChallenge (also known as the drop city), will result in a 2% deduction per forecast.
    • The higher of the placement or improvement score will be used.
    • Placement: Each city will be 1%. The “drop city” will be given a 1% regardless of the score.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 15, 1% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score less than or equal to 30, 0.5% will be given for the city.
      • For a normalized city score greater than 30, 0% will be given for the city.
    • Improvement: Each city will be 1%. The “drop city” will be given a 1% regardless of the score. If the student shows significant growth, or an equitable amount of effort, as a forecaster the student will receive 1%.
  • Presentation: 20%
    • Students will prepare daily presentations to aid classmates in creating forecasts.
    • Each presentation will be graded on the completeness. Each presentation must have:
      • Analysis of previous forecasts (if applicable). Otherwise, a view of climatology, influential topographic features, long range outlook may be utilized instead (for new cities).
      • Analysis of current weather pattern (observations, not model analysis).
      • Summary of events affecting the forecast.
      • The forecast variable with the most uncertainty, or the variable the class should most focus on.
    • Since students will likely present multiple times throughout the semester, the average of the highest presentations will be used. The lowest graded presentation will be dropped.

Grading Scale:

  • A =  85%+
  • A- = 81%-86%
  • B+ = 75%-80%
  • B = 71%-76%
  • B- = 65%-70%
  • C+ = 60%-64%
  • C = 55%-59%
  • D = 50%-54%
  • F = 0%-49% 

Academic Integrity: This course follows the guidelines for Penn State’s Earth and Mineral Science’s guidelines of Academic Integrity. The definition of academic integrity, per the College of Earth and Mineral Science, is “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner.” For more information, please see Senate Policy 49-20 Academic Integrity. Additionally, the rules and consequences for WxChallenge will still apply. 

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Penn State provides resources for all students, regardless of disability, to be able to participate in classes. For more information, please see

Inclement Weather and Other Delays: Emergencies and weather delays are announced through a variety of sources, including but not limited to, cellular phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, and Penn State News. You can enroll in PSUAlert at WxChallenge operates independently of Penn State, therefore work ordinarily done in class will be assigned an independent activity. When Penn State cancels classes, the class will be cancelled. Accommodations will be made for students to continue discussions, however participation in such an event will not be mandatory, but will seek to assist all students.

Specifics of this syllabus may change. Changes in grading procedure will be discussed in class. You are responsible for all changes. Such changes will be discussed in class and posted on CANVAS.