METR 4403/5403: Applications of Meteorological Theory to Severe Thunderstorm Forecasting

January 15, 2018
M W 4:00-5:15
METR 5403/4403


Rich Thompson
Lead Forecaster, Storm Prediction Center
Steven Cavallo
Associate Professor
Matt Flournoy
M.S. Student


120 David L Boren Blvd., Room 1350, Norman, OK 73072   View map


Spring 2018

METR 5403/4403: Applications of Meteorological Theory to Severe Thunderstorm Forecasting – SPRING 2018

Primary Instructors:            Matthew Flournoy, Rich Thompson, and Dr. Steven Cavallo
Class periods:                        MW 4:00 – 5:15 pm
Office Hours:                         MW 10:00 – 11:00 am, NWC Atrium (or by appointment)
Classroom:                             NWC 1350 unless otherwise specified
E-mail:                                   matthew.flournoy AT , richard.thompson AT
Webpage:                               Canvas course website
Required Text:                      None

Course goals and description: This is a 3-semester-hour course that instructs students on applications of meteorological theory to forecasting severe thunderstorms. The course will be led by Matt Flournoy and SPC forecaster Rich Thompson and overseen by Dr. Cavallo. This course bridges the academia and operational forecasting realms by including lectures from multiple SPC/NSSL forecasters and researchers, providing an opportunity for students to learn from experienced professionals who have performed research on a variety of topics. In turn, students will gain appreciation for challenges in operational meteorology and learn about forecasting methods and gaps in our understanding of meteorological applications of theory with regard to severe thunderstorms. This experience will also foster stronger relationships between the School of Meteorology and the Storm Prediction Center. This course also includes a critical hands-on approach to practicing severe-thunderstorm forecasting. In-class forecasting exercises, overseen by Matt Flournoy and Rich Thompson, will be an integral part of the course, requiring students to actively participate in small and large groups and present to the class, at large. Students will gain additional appreciation for communication of scientific information and discussion/interpretation of weather data in simulated, quasi-real-time scenarios.

Course materials: No textbook is required. Online, peer-reviewed journals will supplement student learning outside of the classroom. No laptops or cell phones in class. Colored pencils are required. A video lecture series created for this class is available online at the following website: These videos contain nearly all of the material covered in this course and will serve as a valuable student resource.

Disability support: Any student in this course who has a disability that may prevent him or her from fully demonstrating his or her abilities should contact me personally as soon as possible so we can discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate your education opportunities.

Religious holidays: It is the policy of the University to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required class work that may fall on religious holidays.

Academic misconduct: Zero tolerance. See university documentation on academic integrity here:

Late work and Make-up Policy: Late assignments – homework or in-class – will NOT be accepted after their due date/time. No make-up exams will be administered. Exceptions will only be allowed for excused absences – e.g., university-sanctioned activities, appropriately documented illness, or family emergencies. If you anticipate being absent from a class for these stated reasons, it is your responsibility to inform Matt Flournoy for alternative arrangements. Participation scores will also suffer for unexcused absences.

Grades: Grades for undergraduate students shall be calculated using the following weights:


Participation 10%
Homework 15%
Quizzes 15%
Midterm Exam 1 20%
Midterm Exam 2 20%
Final Exam 20%


Grades for graduate students shall be calculated using the following weights:


Participation 20%
Homework 15%
Quizzes 5%
Midterm Exam 1 20%
Midterm Exam 2 20%
Final Exam 20%


Letter grades will initially be assigned to corresponding numerical grades as shown below:


A 90-100%
B 80-89%
C 70-79%
D 60-69%
F < 60%


A curve will be applied as necessary at the end of the course to determine final letter grades. This curve will not result in a student’s letter grade being lower than the one initially assigned via the standard numerical values shown above. For example, a student earning a 81% will earn no lower than a B, regardless of the relationship between their numerical grade and those of the other students.


Participation: Participation scores will be assigned based on the quality of contributions to class discussions / asking and answering questions, general courtesy towards instructors and speakers, involvement in class activities including occasional, irregularly scheduled weather briefings. Participation in forecast exercises will be a crucial part of the participation grade. Tardiness and unexcused absences will result in participation-grade deductions. For examples of top-quality participation contributions / weather briefings, reference descriptions of “distinguished” work provided in the following document:


A higher level of participation is expected from graduate students, which is reflected in a higher participation weight to graduate students’ final grades than those for undergraduate students (balanced by a subsequent drop in the respective quiz weighting). Graduate students may participate by facilitating small-group environments conducive to learning, communicating more challenging aspects of the course to less-experienced students, and fostering strong teamwork and leadership skills. These skills reflect those required by forecasters to be successful in a real-time, operational setting.


Homework and in-class assignments: Homework and in-class assignments will be assigned irregularly and due at the time specified on the assignment. All assignments may be completed in groups, but each submitted response will be unique.


Quizzes: Short quizzes will be administered throughout the semester on an irregular basis. These will not be pop quizzes, and will cover material from the most recent lectures prior to the quiz date.


Midterm exams: Midterm Exam 1 consists of problem solving that applies theoretical principles discussed during the course to operational forecast scenarios. A combination of equation derivations, applications of these equations, and chart analysis / forecasting may be covered in in the first midterm. Midterm Exam 2 will incorporate theoretical concepts (some covered in the first exam) with material covered by guest lectures after spring break.


Final exam: The final exam will largely consist of a forecasting challenge. Students will inherit a 06Z SPC convective outlook and will be provided selected observational and model information used as the basis for a 13Z forecast update. They will be expected to create the 13Z forecast graphically and write a discussion that substantiates the new forecast, applying any relevant principles discussed through the class in a concise manner. A small portion of the final exam will consist of other course material and/or derivations.

Semester Schedule – Subject to Change


Date      Topic                                                              Lead

17-Jan Syllabus, SVR storm ingredients, lapse rate tendency Flournoy
22-Jan QG theory / derivation Flournoy
24-Jan General meteorology applications Thompson
29-Jan Upper-air map analysis Weiss
31-Jan Surface map analysis Weiss
5-Feb Synoptic forecast exercise Thompson
7-Feb Mesoscale forecast exercise
12-Feb Storm ingredients, group work, applications Flournoy
14-Feb MCS motion, derechos Coniglio
19-Feb SE cold season tors/HSLC environments Cohen
21-Feb Supercells and tornadogenesis Thompson
26-Feb Pressure perturbations, hodographs Flournoy
28-Feb Pressure perturbations, hodographs Flournoy
5-Mar Supercell and tornado parameters Thompson
12-Mar Tor parameter climo / tor radar signatures Thompson
14-Mar Baroclinic circulations, sea-breeze, terrain Flournoy
26-Mar Group forecast exercise Flournoy
28-Mar WoF, FACETS Rothfusz
2-Apr HWT, ensemble forecasting Clark
4-Apr Forecast verification Brooks
9-Apr Relationship between SVR ingredients and storm mode, storm-scale interactions Thompson
11-Apr Forecast philosophy, apps, careers Bunting
16-Apr Review, group work, applications Thompson
23-Apr WARNGEN exercise Flournoy/Thompson
25-Apr review, group work, real-time forecast Flournoy/Thompson
30-Apr Field projects Rasmussen
2-May Forecaster personalities, social media Smith



120 David L Boren Blvd., Suite 5900, Norman, OK 73072 (405) 325-6561