Fundamentals of Mesoscale Weather Forecasting (3) Applying atmospheric principles to small-scale weather systems, with an emphasis on the conceptual modeling and short-range prediction of severe thunderstorms.
METEO 361 Fundamentals of Mesoscale Weather Forecasting (3)
When outbreaks of severe weather occur, dire warnings for tornadoes, large hail or damaging straight-line winds urgently scroll across the bottoms of television screens. Simultaneously, television weathercasters warn viewers to "take cover immediately". Yet, because of the limited spatial and time scales of severe thunderstorms, the areas affected by tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds often turns out to be relatively small (sometimes as small a tenth of one percent of the original "watch area"). There is no doubt that people should be prepared to take definitive action to protect their lives and the lives of their families when outbreaks of severe weather occur. But the overall impression that entire counties or cities will be destroyed by severe weather can be, and frequently is, misleading.
One of the primary goals of Meteorology 361: Fundamentals of Mesoscale Weather Forecasting is to give students a scientifically grounded perspective of the spatial and time scales of typical outbreaks of severe weather. In the process, students will become better weather consumers. To gain such insights, students will learn conceptual models of the life cycles of severe thunderstorms and will then apply them in real-time outbreaks of severe weather. In the final analysis, students will be able to more accurately weigh the information being disseminated by the media and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
To ensure that students develop the knowledge and skills required to critically assess public weather forecasts, METEO 361 will provide, like METEO 101, an apprentice-training environment that will guide students, under the tutelage of professional weather forecasters, to actively learn how to create their own mesoscale-weather forecasts. In the process, METEO 361 will reinforce the notion that weather forecasting involves sophisticated techniques of data analysis and a thorough understanding of atmospheric science. METEO 361 will also stress that the clear communication of the forecast requires strong verbal and graphic communication skills.
Using conceptual models and real-time radar and satellite imagery in concert with output from numerical models designed specifically for mesoscale forecasting, students will predict severe weather on time scales of a few hours to one day. For example, students will be given a litany of web-based tools and asked to place their own "watch box" for severe weather. Students will then be asked to verify and discuss the outcomes of their forecasts. For more general outlooks of severe weather (time scales of one to two days), students will use output from the numerical models that were introduced in METEO 101 to identify the areas likely to be at risk for severe weather.
It should be noted here that METEO 361will be one of four courses required for students to earn a Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting, a unique online program offered through Penn State's World Campus. The three other courses that will comprise this online program are METEO 101: Understanding Weather Forecasting, METEO 241: Fundamentals of Tropical Forecasting and METEO 410: Advanced Topics in Weather Forecasting.
To facilitate the learning objectives, METEO 361 will include the use of digital video, audio, simulation models, virtual field trips to on-line resources for weather data, text, and interactive quizzes that provide timely feedback.
To demonstrate their mastery of the learning objectives, students will complete automated online quizzes, actively engage in online discussion groups focusing on real-time weather, and publish, to a personal "e-portfolio", four comprehensive projects that will explore timely case studies related to weather forecasting. The e-portfolio will take the form of a Web site that students initially create during the second course of the program (METEO 241 or METEO 361). Students will augment their e-portfolio as part of the requirements for METEO 241, METEO 361 and METEO 410. They will also use the space to reflect on their learning.
At the end of the program, students will make a final e-portfolio entry that highlights their program accomplishments. In this way, the c-portfolio will serve both as a showcase of a student's work for the purpose of course assessment and as a chronicle of a student's achievements during the program. By using their Penn State personal Web space to host their e-portfolios, students will be able to share their work not only with program faculty and students, but also with external audiences, including potential employers. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates will receive a copy of their final e-portfolio on CD-ROM.