MPhys Physics

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Meteorology and Forecasting

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART31201
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


The module will cover three broad areas and skills, which are necessary for understanding and predicting weather; how to read and interpret weather observations and charts from different sources, what are the physical processes that drive different weather phenomena (especially high-impact weather), and how are environmental predictions, such as weather forecasts, produced.


Students will be applying these skills to understand what is happening with the weather around them throughout the course with weekly weather discussions and a weather-forecasting contest. Students will get feedback throughout the course, with short (non-assessed) quizzes each week, a mid-course assessed test, and through their weekly forecasts. Discussion boards and live sessions will also be used to answer questions and discuss any interesting weather news items that may arise during the course.


This module has three overall aims. First to provide a scientific, but non-mathematical, understanding of real-world weather phenomena, focusing especially on high-impact weather events like cyclones and convective storms. Second, students will learn where to find a wide range of freely available weather observations and charts online and explain how to interpret them. This will provide tools to better understand the weather that they can keep on using beyond the course. Finally, students will learn how weather forecasts are produced, the strengths and weakness of different approaches and how forecasts can be communicated effectively, and students will be shown how the approaches used for forecasting the weather can be applied to predictions for many other complex environmental problems that they may encounter in their future careers.

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:






Describe the formation and structure of different weather systems, with a focus on high-impact weather events such as convective storms and cyclones.











Locate and interpret different weather observations and charts to identify and describe different weather phenomena and make simple weather predictions.











Describe how weather forecasts are made, outline the different sources of forecast uncertainty and how they are quantified and minimized, and assess tradeoffs between different approaches given computational constraints.











Outline different approaches for communicating forecasts and explain their suitability for different audiences.












Apply your knowledge of weather forecast models to explain how you could develop a forecast model for other environmental systems.







ILO 6 Apply your knowledge of weather forecast models to explain how you could develop a forecast model for other environmental systems. X X



Week 1: Introduction to meteorology and forecasting, weather observations
Week 2: How numerical weather prediction works and how to use the portal
Week 3: Introduction to weather systems
Week 4: Deep convection
Week 5: Extratropical Cyclones
Week 7: Online test
Week 8: Tropical Cyclones
Week 9: Numerical weather forecasting 1
Week 10: Numerical weather forecasting 2 and communicating uncertainty
Week 11: Environmental prediction, climate modelling, air-quality forecasting
Week 12: Revision Q&A

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through a blended learning approach. Each week has its own set of ILOs for students to test their understanding. There will be 3-4 short videos to watch before the timetabled lecture, and a reading list, made up primarily of free online resources, to guide the student’s independent study time. Each live lecture will include a summary of the videos, with opportunity to ask any questions, a live formative quiz and a discussion of the current weather conditions using the latest charts. This will be followed by an exercise aimed at practicing that week’s ILOs (and by extension, possible exam questions).


Throughout the course there will be a weekly eLearning-supported weather forecasting contest (MetCast). The course will also make use of, the first real-time weather and air-quality forecasting portal for the UK, built in part with eLearning support and funding. The forecasting contest and weekly weather discussions will provide a link between the classroom material and the weather experienced by students day to day. The contest will also be used to provide formative feedback on the student’s ability to find and interpret weather data.


The course will be assessed through a mid-semester online test and a final exam. The first test will provide the opportunity to get feedback on the student’s understanding of the lectures so far, and to revise any material that students have struggled with. Marks are also awarded for participating in the forecasting contest.

Assessment methods

Assessment Type Weighting
Online Test  20
Exam 70
Report (Individual) 10


Recommended reading

I will be signposting online resources for supplementary reading throughout the course.

In addition the following textbooks cover some of the material we cover but are not compulsory reading for the course.

  • Ackerman and Knox: Meteorology: Understanding the Atmosphere, 2nd/3rd/4th ed.

Alternatives to the Ackerman and Knox textbook that cover similar material:

  • Wallace and Hobbs (2006): Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey, 2nd ed.
  • Any introductory meteorology textbook by Donald Ahrens in the library.

Textbooks covering specific lectures:

  • Markowski and Richardson (2009): Mesoscale Meteorology in Midlatitudes.
  • Inness and Dorling (2013): Operational Weather Forecasting


Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 100

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Luis Garcia-Carreras Unit coordinator

Additional notes


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