Jim Steenburgh

jim.steenburgh at utah.edu
Office hours: Drop in or by appointment

Atmos 5010: Weather Forecasting

Polar Low

Spring 2020

Course Description

Atmos 5010 provides students with an introduction to the tools and techniques used for contemporary weather forecasting. Students analyze and forecast the weather in each class, with the instructor providing a guiding hand and stimulating discussion of forecast issues and techniques.

Overview and Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, students should be able to effectively use meteorological observations, numerical weather prediction models, and statistical forecast tools to produce site-specific sensible weather forecasts in a time-constrained environment.


Two classes per week (09:10-10:30 AM MW) in the 711 WBB computer lab.


This course deemphasizes the traditional lecture-exam format of classroom instruction. Instead, students participate in an in-class forecast practicum. How much you learn depends on your level of engagement and participation in the practicum. There are no exams. Grades are based as follows:

  • 50% accuracy of practicum forecasts

  • 25% attendance and participation

  • 25% online modules

Students are allowed one absence without penalty. A second absence reduces the points earned for attendance and participation by 5 points and additional absences by another 10 points each.

Online Modules

Students must complete online learning modules each week as outlined below. To do this, go to the COMET MetEd Site, sign up for an account, and enter my e-mail address in the Supervisor/Instructor e-mail field. Quiz scores will then be e-mailed to me after you complete a quiz. I will also be able to view and download your quiz results directly from the COMET MetEd site. Here is a schedule for module completion. Each week you will need to complete 1.5-3 hours of modules.

1. Complete by March 4:

  • NWP Essentials: NWP and Forecasting
  • NWP Essentials: Structure and Dynamics
  • 2. Complete by March 18:

  • NWP Essentials: Model Physics
  • NWP Essentials: Precipitation and Clouds
  • 3. Complete by March 25:

  • SatFC-G: IR Bands, Exluding Water Vapor
  • SatFC-G: Near-IR Bands
  • SatFC-G: Visible and near-IR bands
    There are no quizzes for these modules, so simply e-mail me a bulleted list of 3 key concepts learned in each module.
  • 4. Complete by April 1:

  • Weather Radar Fundamentals
  • 5. Complete by April 8:

    Warning Decision Training Division modules on polarimetric radar: Introduction, Correlation Coefficient, Differential Reflectivity, Specific Differential Phase, Hydrometeor Classification, Melting Layer, and Quantitative Precipitation Estimation. You do not need to complete the quizes, but send me an e-mail summarizing what you learned in each module.

    6. Complete by April 15:

  • Topics in Precipitation Type Forecasting
  • Operational Models Encyclopedia
  • Challenges of Forecasting in the West
    There is no quiz for Operational Models Encyclopedia, so just send me an e-mail telling me you completed it
  • Forecast Practicum

    Students produce in-class forecasts for the Salt Lake City International Airport (KSLC) and a floater site selected each morning before class. For each site, students produce a 16-variable forecast covering three sensible weather categories: temperature, precipitation, and cloud/wind. Forecasts are evaluated using traditional forecast accuracy metrics.

    Required Computer Skills

    Forecast tools will be accessed using computers in 711 WBB (assigned at the beginning of the semester) or personal laptops. These tools will be accessed using web pages or IDV bundles. For the latter, students will need a basic knowledge of IDV and must configure IDV as described here. IDV YouTube tutorials are available here and some basic instructions are available here. Learn it and love it! Motivated students can download the IDV from Unidata, install on their laptops or personal computers, and use many of the bundles used in class and available here.

    ADA Accomodations

    The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD). CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangement for accommodations. All written information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.

    Counseling Services

    The University of Utah Counseling Center provides developmental, preventative, and therapeutic services to promote the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social development of University of Utah students. This includes services that address personal, career, and academic learning issues. They are located in 426 SSB and can be reached at 801-581-6826. Their 24/7 crisis line is 801-587-3000.

    Campus Safety

    The University of Utah values the safety of all campus community members. To report suspicious activity, call campus police at 801-585-COPS (801-585-2677). You will receive important emergency alerts and safety messages regarding campus safety via text message. For more information regarding safety and to view available training resources, including helpful videos, visit safeu.utah.edu.

    Tentative Schedule and Course Notes

    Feb 26: Course Overview and Forecasting Practicum

    Mar 2: Weather Forecasting Tools and Techniques

    Mar 4: Forecast Practice

    Mar 9: Spring Break

    Mar 11: Spring Break

    Mar 16: Forecast Practice

    Mar 18: Forecast Practicum

    Mar 23: Forecast Practicum

    Mar 25: Forecast Practicum

    Mar 30: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 1: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 6: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 8: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 13: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 15: Forecast Practicum

    Apr 20: Forecast Practicum