Weather and Climate Data Sets

Meteo 810 Syllabus

Introduction to Weather and Climate Datasets

Please note that I divided the syllabus into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of this page or simply by clicking on any of the links in the list below (to “jump” to a specific section). Without reservation, it is crucial that you read the entire page (and the material covered on the other pages of the course orientation). Together, they constitute an informal course "contract" between you and me.

David Babb, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Meteorology
The Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth-Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802


All communication between instructor and students should occur within the Canvas course management system. For more details, please read Course Communication under the Course Orientation section.

Technical Assistance

If you're studying the course content in Meteo 810 and encounter a lesson page with a typo or broken link, or you have trouble viewing one of the animations or images, feel free to post a question in one of the course discussion forums found in each lesson module. I'll do my best to determine the cause of the problem and get it fixed.

However, if you're having trouble with Canvas (posting to a discussion forum, sending an email, taking a quiz, etc.), please use the Help button located in the left banner of the Canvas environment. You will notice that there are several options. First, I would try the Canvas Guides... they are an excellent resource. However, if you still are stuck, use the "Report a Problem for World Campus Courses" option to contact the Outreach Helpdesk. When describing your issue, try to be as specific as you possibly can. Include information such as:

  • the specific part of Canvas you're having trouble with, what you attempted to do when that failed, and the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen,
  • the date and time when your problem occurred,
  • the type of browser and OS that you are using, and
  • any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

Alternatively, you can contact the Helpdesk directly in a variety of ways.

The Outreach Helpdesk
(800) 252-3592, option #4
(814) 865-0047

Hours of Operation:

  • 08:00 A.M. till 12:00 Midnight ET, Monday through Friday
  • 10:00 A.M. till 7:00 P.M. ET, Saturday and Sunday

METEO 810: Weather and Climate Datasets. (3 credits). Fundamental principles of retrieving, parsing, collating, and displaying large environmental data sets. Prerequisites: None

METEO 810 is the first course in a series of online offerings in the Weather and Climate Analytics. Other courses include how to analyze large environment datasets using various methods such as bulk descriptions, descriptive models, time series analytics, and predictive modeling.

Course materials in METEO 810 consist of 7 online lessons for which I've allotted approximately two weeks apiece. Within each lesson, students will complete the assigned reading as well as an extensive data-retrieval and display activity. These activities are meant to improve your skills in data retrieval, analysis, and communication (while developing your proficiency in the use of the R statistical-coding language).

Course Objectives

When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • research any given data type so that you understand what exactly that data set is measuring, the technical aspects of its measurement, any assumptions involved in the observation or instrumentation, the site placement of the station or observing platform, and any quality-control issues associated with the data set that might affect your analysis.
  • ask the right questions when selecting a data set. These questions might deal with location and times but may also involve issues of resolution versus reliability, or appropriateness of certain data for solving the problem at hand.
  • retrieve large data sets from a wide variety of governmental and private sources using a variety of methods. 
  • create and display cogent summaries or depictions of large data sets in a manner which addresses a specific problem or need.
  • use the R programing language as an analysis and graphical presentation toolset.

What I expect of you

As with most graduate courses, there is a considerably higher onus on you to take responsibility for your own learning. While lessons present guidance on what you need to learn, much of your actual learning will take place as you engage in directed research and experiment with various examples presented in the text. Following through on these examples and exploring various ways to accomplish prescribed, data-procurement tasks are an absolute necessity, not only to be successful on the lesson's assessment activity but to meet your own learning goals as well.

Required Course Materials

I emphasize here that all the material contained in the lessons, taken as a whole, will serve as the primary textbook for this course. If you desire a supplement to the online text, I might suggest a manual on the R programming language. There are many different books to choose from, and I would choose one that fits your learning style and background. However, know that most answers to R programming problems can be found in online programming forums. I would give that a try first.

It goes without saying that you'll need an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password to access all the online course resources maintained in Canvas. If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Help Desk at your home campus.

Assignments and Grading

Two components of assessment will comprise your final grade in METEO 810:

  • Weekly Activities     ... 70%
  • Culminating Project ... 30%

Detailed information about these assessments is covered in Course Assignments section of the Course Orientation material.

The grading scale will differ from the traditional "points-based" scales that you are familiar with. First, I assume that you are taking this course because you want to learn the material, and thus you will give your maximum effort in doing so. This course, not unlike the real world, has very few "right" answers. Instead, what counts is a good deal of research, thought, and effort behind any project that you take on. I will expect no different in this course. Below is my rubric criteria for letter grades as applied to any assessment (or section thereof) or as an overall grade.

  • Grade of A: This grade represents exemplary work, in both thought and effort. As an overall grade, an "A" represents a consistent pattern of diligence, correct analysis, and attention to detail.
  • Grade of B: Earning a B means that you completed the assessment as stated, but perhaps displayed some flawed analysis or lackluster presentation. By all means, a "B" is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, this grade represents work that is still quite good, both in effort and execution. However, there are likely areas that the student can improve upon. A final grade of "B" could represent a track record of consistently "good" work or some inconsistency of work, some being excellent while others leaning more to the "poor" end of the spectrum.
  • Grade of C: Unlike at the undergraduate level, a "C" grade represents "poor" performance, in either thought or execution of assignments. Typically a "C" grade in graduate work is considered a failing grade (one that requires a repeat of the course). 
  • Grade of F: This grade is reserved for students who did not complete a significant portion the work assigned. It represents a failure to complete the course on any level.

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for undergraduate students and Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for graduate students. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Inclement Weather

In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.