METEO 241: Fundamentals of Tropical Forecasting

David Babb, Steve Seman

Course Description:

METEO 241: FUNDAMENTALS OF TROPICAL FORECASTING (3 credits) - Applying atmospheric principles to the tropics, with an emphasis on the development, structure, prediction and destructive impact of hurricanes.
Prerequisites: METEO 101

METEO 241 is one in a series of four online courses Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting. It is offered during the Summer (May-August) and Fall (August-December) semesters.

William Dampier - British explorer and sea captain.

The following entry from the log of William Dampier on July 4, 1687, in the South China Sea, marks the first record of the passing of the eye of a hurricane (in the Northwest Pacific Ocean basin, a hurricane is called a typhoon).

"When the cloud begins to move apace, you may expect the Wind presently. It comes on fierce, and blows violently at N.E. 12 hours more or less ~E When the wind begins to abate it dyes (sic) away suddenly, and falling flat calm, it continues for an hour, more or less: then the wind comes about to the S.W. and it blows and rains as fierce from thence, as it did before at N.E. and as long."

Given that we begin with this historical account of a typhoon, most of you are probably expecting that METEO 241 will focus solely on tropical cyclones (the universal term given to a low-pressure system that forms over tropical seas and develops an organized low-level circulation). Tropical cyclones will indeed comprise a lion's share of our focus.

Of course, when tropical cyclones are active (check out visible satellite image of Hurricane Rita approaching landfall on September 23, 2005, below), the discussion forums that make up part of the course assessment can get pretty active. Meteo 241 isn't just learning about tropical cyclones from a stale textbook, it's about putting your knowledge and skills to use in analyzing real-time tropical weather events.

A visible satellite image of Hurricane Rita approaching landfall on September 23, 2005.

Of course, there's much more to tropical meteorology than just tropical cyclones. Indeed, you will also learn about climate features such as El Niño and La Niña, the Asian monsoon and the general circulation of the tropics. Not only will you study the physical effects that these features have on weather and climate, we will also explore their societal impacts. For example, there's a "weather window" for climbing Mount Everest (see image below) that occurs, on average, around May 23. That's typically a period when the jet stream recedes northward (high-altitude winds are a crucial weather factor governing a safe assault on the summit). The period around May 23 also occurs before the onset of the summer monsoon (precipitation, etc.), typically leaving a window of four or five days with relative calm, clear weather. In the final analysis, adding these topics to your dossier will give you a well-rounded apprenticeship in tropical meteorology and forecasting.

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar (Nepal).
Mount Everest from Kalapatthar (Nepal). Courtesy of Pavel Novak.

Although we present the material in METEO 241 in much the same way as METEO 101 (online textbook, interactive tools, etc.), this course will operate a lot differently. You'll discover that METEO 241 is noticeably less structured than METEO 101. Instead of weekly deadlines, we partitioned the course into units lasting several weeks apiece.

Even if you don't consider yourself to be passionate about tropical weather, we believe you'll find METEO 241 to be a rich and fulfilling experience. From learning the science behind the "most powerful storms on Earth" to discussing societal impacts of tropical weather, METEO 241 provides a multi-faceted experience in tropical weather forecasting.


Quizzes: At the end of each lesson, you'll take a quiz which tests your ability to apply the concepts you learned in the lesson.

Laboratory Exercises: Each lesson has a lab exercise that explores concepts using real data (or requires students to discuss concepts in a classroom forum).

Projects: At the end of each unit of lessons, students work on a project containing one or more specific case studies (with questions focusing on pivotal scientific concepts presented to date).

Technical Specifications: What kind of computer hardware and software will I need?

For this course we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on our Program and Course Technical Requirements page.


If you're interested in enrolling in METEO 241, please refer to the World Campus Course Catalog (see the "meteorology" section). The course is offered online through the World Campus during the Summer and Fall semesters. Students who are keenly interested in tropical weather forecasting are advised to take this course during the Fall semester during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

We hope to see you online!

Related Links:

METEO 241 and the Certificate of Achievement in Weather Forecasting program have been featured and referenced on many Web sites including the following: