Meteo 410: Sample Content

This is a sample lesson page from the Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting offered by the Penn State Department of Meteorology. Any questions about this program can be directed to: Steve Seman


Looking for the lesson content?  Registered METEO 410 students can access and navigate through the lessons in the "Lessons" menu (you might need to log in with your PSU user ID and password).

Quick Facts about METEO 410

METEO 410 is the capstone course in Penn State's online program that confers a Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting.  It is offered every Fall (August - December) and Spring (January - May) semester.

Course Prerequisite(s): METEO 101, METEO 241, METEO 361

Course Overview

METEO 410 is designed specifically for adult students seeking a Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting. The course will review and expand upon major topics and themes in its prerequisite courses, and emphasize the application of conceptual models and advanced forecasting strategies in making deterministic weather forecasts. Student participation in the national collegiate weather forecasting competition (WxChallenge) is required and will be the foundation for various types of course assessment.

Photograph of Elliot Abrams presenting a television forecast in the 1970s.
Elliot Abrams presents a weather forecast on Penn State's Weather World television program in the 1970s. A lot has changed since the days of hand-drawn maps and low-resolution satellite images!
Credit: Penn State Department of Meteorology

Why learn about advanced topics in weather forecasting?

In recent years, weather forecasts have become ubiquitous. The days when weather forecasts could only be found in the morning newspaper, on the radio or on television are long gone. Today, local weather forecasts are easily found "on demand" via your favorite weather website or weather app on your smartphone or tablet. With weather forecasts so easily accessible, why bother learning about forecasting?

First, all weather forecasts are fallible. Yes, your favorite weather app is wrong sometimes! No person or computer can create perfect forecasts consistently. Second, publicly available forecasts from various media outlets, websites, and apps, don't meet everyone's specific needs. Even as computer-generated forecasts continue to improve, skilled weather forecasters can still outperform the models, and a need still exists for humans to understand weather forecasting and effectively communicate key aspects of the forecast to the public (or clients).

What will you learn in this course?

Your exploration of advanced topics in weather forecasting will begin by learning about the basics of weather forecasting and the attributes of a good forecaster. By the end of the course, you'll be making your own deterministic weather forecasts and critically analyzing forecast mistakes. Along the way, you'll also learn about the many factors that forecasters have to consider when making decisions, and see how these factors impact the forecast through numerous case studies. While "learning by doing" is a major component of METEO 410 (through making your own forecasts), you'll also learn about a number of forecast tools and advanced strategies, as the course outline below demonstrates:

Lesson 1: Forecasting Fundamentals (introduction to various types of forecasts and verification metrics, the philosophy and attributes of a good forecaster, observation of surface meteorological variables, decoding METARS, important aspects of local climatology)

Lesson 2: Ensemble Forecasting (model jumpiness and lagged-average forecasts, generation of ensemble forecasts, commonly used ensemble systems, statistics needed for ensemble interpretation, interpreting ensemble forecast products)

Lesson 3: Statistical Models (utility of statistical models, Model Output Statistics (MOS) tables, MOS temperature, wind, and precipitation predictors, MOS performance near climatological extremes, LAMP guidance, MOS reliance on dynamic models, the National Blend of Models (NBM), other statistically-post processed forecast products)

Lesson 4: Forecasting Temperature--Controllers and Strategies: (local climate factors, impacts of various cloud types, wind, and water on temperature forecasts, utilizing statistical temperature guidance in the context of the synoptic-scale pattern, recognition of problematic synoptic patterns, the Delta Method, the Analogous Thickness Method)

Lesson 5: Forecasting Wind--Controllers and Strategies (local wind climatology data, large-scale forces and the impact of latitude on wind speed, the impact of vertical mixing and mesoscale circulations (sea- and lake-breezes and mountain-valley circulations) on wind forecasts, the isallobaric wind)

Lesson 6: Forecasting Precipitation--Controllers and Strategies (sources of synoptic-scale upward motion and incorporating the synoptic-scale pattern into your forecast, quantifying vertical motion, model QPF and its weaknesses, consensus forecasting, understanding precipitation climatology)

Lesson 7: Introduction to Medium- and Long-Range Forecasting (selecting a forecast format, medium- and long-range computer guidance and ensembles, teleconnections, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations, the Madden-Julian Oscillation, the Pacific-North American Pattern)

How does this course work?

Much like the other courses in the Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting program, all course materials are presented online. The course lessons include many animations and interactive tools to provide a tactile, visual component to your learning. METEO 410 also has a highly interactive component focused on creating and discussing weather forecasts for the WxChallenge forecasting competition. Your instructor will assess your progress through lab exercises, forecast analysis projects, and your forecasting performance in WxChallenge. You should expect to log into the course on several days each week in order to participate fully and meet forecast and discussion deadlines during the portion of the course focused on WxChallenge. In general, the course requires a total of 8 to 10 hours per week studying the lesson material and/or creating and discussing weather forecasts.