ATSC 499 01: Topics in Meteorology

ATSC 499 - Topics in Meteorology

2023 Summer Syllabus, Section 01, CRN 8620

Course Information

You are responsible for knowing this material, so please read carefully. Any changes will be announced in a Blackboard Announcement. You will be responsible for any changes. Your continued enrollment in this course is your implicit agreement to abide by the requirements of this class.

Times and Location


Before the trip, while still at UND, we will have several all-day forecasting bootcamps which start at 8 AM and end typically by 3 PM.

If there is a lull before the trip, we will still meet daily for our morning weather briefing.

During the trip, be prepared to wake at 6 AM and be up as late as 10 PM.

Instructor Information

Matt Gilmore

About the Professor

Prof. Gilmore graduated with a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Texas A&M University in 2000.  After post-doctoral fellowships at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (long-term visitor) and University of Illinois, he arrived at UND in 2008 where he developed and taught four innovative new UND courses: Extreme Weather and Climate (formerly known as "Severe and Hazardous Weather"), Storm Experience Field Trip, Communicating Science, and Microphysics Parameterization and Simulation.  For many years, he also taught ATSC’s Radar Meteorology.  More recently, he has taught or co-taught sections of the following ATSC courses: Atmospheric Thermodynamics, Broadcast Meteorology, and Computer Concepts.  He enjoys teaching graduate students how to distill their research into a speech that is understandable by anyone through the UND Three Minute Thesis (3MT®).  His research expertise is in microphysical parameterization and thunderstorm simulation using weather models.

Course Description

This course will cover one or more topics in meteorology of special interest to upper division students. Course may be repeated up to a maximum of 6 credits.

In this particular 3-credit special topics course, you will learn to forecast, find, safely observe, and document severe thunderstorms. 

Learning Outcomes

Learn where to find, safely observe and document severe thunderstorms.  

Upon successful completion of this course the student should be able to:

1. identify significant structures of thunderstorms and differentiate thunderstorm types;

2. visually recognize severe thunderstorm threats;

3. demonstrate severe thunderstorm safety;

4. analyze where there will be severe weather potential;

5. reflect upon the day’s forecast to understand why the forecast panned out (or not);

6. reflect upon the experience in terms of group dynamics, ethical considerations, and scientific value.

Expect to have fun, learn a lot, gain experience predicting where storms will form, but not necessarily see a tornado.  Severe storm activity can vary from day to day and year to year, necessitating our mobility within the climatological region prone for severe thunderstorms generally ranging from Midland, TX to Sioux Falls, SD. There is no guarantee that this year will be particularly active for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes anywhere inside the typical region.  However, since we will be mobile, chances are good that we will see at least a few severe storms.

Only students with extraordinary patience and understanding of this weather reality should attend this field trip.

Course Materials

Technical Requirements/Assistance

Whether you’re taking courses in the classroom or online, it’s important to have the right technology and equipment.  Visit the UND Technical Requirements webpage for more information. Students are expected to use their official UND email in the course. For technical assistance, please contact UND Technical Support at 701.777.2222. Visit the University Information Technologies (UIT) website for their hours, help documents and other resources.

Minimum Technical Skills Needed

In order to succeed in this course, at a minimum, you should be able to:

Insert minimum requirements expected and needed. In the bulleted example list below

  • Navigate in and use basic Blackboard functions
  • Download and open electronic documents
  • Create, save, and upload/attach electronic documents
  • Send, receive, and manage email

Qualified Students

Qualified Students for the Field Trip are those that have completed these five items:

  1. Be officially enrolled at UND and sign up for 3 credits of ATSC-499-01 (special permission # needed)
  2. pay the $1125 Field Trip Fee
  3. complete the UND liability release form
  4. complete the Medical history and emergency contact form
  5. Extra Credit: train in First aid or CPR (or show your valid certification card)

Class credit is only available for students who complete the above qualifications and actually attend the Field Trip.

Course Logistics


Student duties are to participate in discussions, listen to instruction, journal their experiences in a notebook, and give weather briefings & debriefings. Students will take turns posting messages on the class’ Facebook and Twitter.  Students must abide by the UND student handbook and behave legally at all times.  Students will provide input but the instructor will make the storm intercept decisions.  Students should keep the instructor informed about any injuries or issues affecting their participation during the trip or prior to departure.  Students are responsible for following the class rules and for checking on their class “buddy” to insure safety and punctuality.  Students who jeopardize the safety of the group (or individuals) or engage in unlawful activities will be sent home at their own expense without refund.  Students must complete the coursework (see below) to earn a grade.

Professor duties include selecting student participants; training students how to brief the group in current and future weather; overseeing these weather briefings; instructing students in nowcasts (real-time prediction) that combine surface, radar, and upper-air reanalysis data and relating those to the visual observations; making complex navigational decisions; commenting on student journals; monitoring student participation; grading the final reports; and assigning final grades.  They will also relieve the T.A./Driver when necessary.  The professor(s) will help students pick a target location where supercells or severe thunderstorms are most likely and will make the final decision on storm selection, lodging, and extra-curricular activities during “down days”.  Should there be a break in the weather, they will arrange the trips to visit National Weather Service offices, the National Weather Center in Norman, OK, and arrange extracurricular group events.  The professors may call upon students for task assistance at times.  Daily, professors will meet with the TAs and drivers.

Teaching Assistant (TA) duties include monitoring the storms and road network to keep the class safe; helping with the pre-departure meeting and van preparations, weather briefings/debriefings, forecast training, and mobile classroom activities; assisting students in posting to the Twitter and Facebook feed; assisting the professor in posting to NWSChat to report severe weather; and assisting with phone and CB radio communications.  Communications will occur with TAs/professors in the other vans and motel receptionists.  The TAs may call upon enrolled students for task assistance. TAs only have TA duties when in a TA role.  TAs will need to retire later and awaken earlier to attend mandatory meetings with the professors/drivers/TAs and to fulfill the above duties.

Driver duties include safe driving at all times; following faculty directions/requests; safety-checks for the van each morning before departure; monitoring and correcting fuel/oil levels, cleaning windows, and adjusting tire pressure at each gas station stop; accurately communicating any driving problems with the faculty and TAs.  Drivers do not have TA responsibilities when in a driving role.  Drivers may ask enrolled students for assistance at gas stations.  The drivers will meet separately with the professors and TAs daily.  Drivers will need to retire later and awaken earlier to attend meetings and to insure that the van is fueled and ready to go.  Drivers also undergo UND van safety training. 

Costs for the field trip include tuition (three credits for instruction) and a $1125 field trip fee which pays for travel expenses such as lodging, navigation/internet, internet data, supplies, van rental, fuel, and equipment replacement/repair.  Also, students must budget $40 per day for meals/snacks, entrance fees on approved extracurricular activities, & other miscellaneous expenses.    It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that Student Account Services applies their field trip fee correctly.  The Field Trip Fee is due prior to trip departure.

Because this class is not a full (12-week) summer term course, the drop and refund dates differ significantly from full term courses.  Contact Student Account Services at 701-777-3911 or to inquire about the dates / deadlines.

Financial Aid:  may be used to cover the field trip fee and tuition.  However, because Summer Session Financial Aid disburses after the class returns from the trip, students will need to plan ahead with parents/family for loans, online crowdsourcing, or to request a larger financial aid amount in Spring Semester.  

Enrollment is made possible through a special permission number, provided by the instructor.  Simply being enrolled does not guarantee your seat, however.  If we exceed the van's capacity, or if too many students drop which makes a van not viable, some students may need to wait and enroll in the class the following year.

Class or Van Cancellation may occur if the instructor (or all drivers and backup drivers) get sick right before the trip, if a van is suddenly not available from the rental company, or if a van does not reach minimum capacity. 

Lodging will be reserved by the professors/TAs and paid with student field trip fees. The group will lodge where free breakfast and wireless internet is offered.  Male students and female students will have separate rooms.  No more than two people per Queen or King-sized bed.  Some suite-style rooms may be used occasionally to serve 6 students as they may have three beds or two beds and a sleeper sofa.

Instruction time will occur at the motels each day and while we are traveling in our mobile classroom.  See our “chase schedule” posted on Blackboard for more info.  Instruction will also occur during our forecasting bootcamp prior to departure.

Down time:  Such times are more relaxed and may be several hours while driving to nearly whole days. When down times only last a few hours, students may sleep or engage in activities with headphones, books, or journal writing. This is a time to catch up on your journal entries or start writing your final report.  Down Days will be declared by instructors when the morning weather briefing reveals that severe weather is not expected that day or when the required distance traveled to observe severe storms would be unreasonable or put the group out of position for a more favorable future location.  During “down days”, after the required weather briefing, the group will either drive to position themselves for the next day or will find nearby recreation that is still within the scope of the class.  Visits to state/national parks and National Weather Service Offices are possible options.

Storm Intercept occurs when storms have been identified on radar and are actively being followed by our class.  At this time, complete attention of students is needed.  Students will want to have cameras ready and journals nearby to jot down information (or have a voice/video recorder going).  To keep everyone safe, the professor’s directions must be followed carefully.  Nearly all of the storm intercept will also be captured on video and kept for future advertising purposes so it is important to keep a professional demeanor at all times.

Health and Medical issues are tracked on the medical release form.  Everyone on the trip fills this out (including professors, TAs, and drivers).  This is where you list your medical insurance, medications, allergies, and persons to call in the event of an emergency.  To protect participant privacy, these will be put into a sealed envelope to be opened by the instructor or TA only in case of emergency – otherwise shredded after the trip.  Everyone must maintain good hygiene, monitor their own food/water, bring needed medications*, and monitor restroom needs.

*If you are allergic to bee stings or certain foods, please bring Benadryl and an EpiPen


Paper (40%)

Daily Journal15

Due Friday 2 June 2023

Final Paper25

Due Friday 9 June 2023

Participation (60%)

Pre-departure bootcamp15

Preparing WX Briefing20

Q&A During WX Briefing10

Q&A in the Field / Nowcasting5

Helping with Social Media & Van5

Polls & Quizzes5

Extra Credit (0%)

First Aid or CPR Training Certification

Due May 16

Assessment Summary

One will notice that a “C” grade is possible by doing the quizzes, having good participation, and completing the daily journal.  However, the best learning experience will occur in conjunction with the final paper, which must be completed for a “B” or “A” grade.

Readings will be provided that will help supplement what you learn in the mobile classroom. These readings may be cited in the final paper.

Daily Journaling (15%) will allow a record of experiences such as your own predicted target area  reasoning/justification for that area, and important meteorological and personal observations you make throughout the day.  You will want to document trip details (roads driven, time decisions were made and why, radar images and/or synoptic maps of the conditions for a particular day, and personal photographs of storm structure and features) so that it can be contributed to social networking sites and your final paper.  We have a checklist form that will make this easier for you to take notes for your journal while we are traveling. In addition to the written journal, students will want to take pictures of any/all items from your checklist as we see them.  You will have your own Wikipage on Blackboard where you can optionally add and keep track of these images on each day of the trip.  There will be a contest each day to see which student has the most photographed or screen-grabbed documentation for their journal.  Sort of like “Bingo” from the checklist except that you are adding “proof” of various things you saw.  Students do not need to re-type all of their handwritten journal notes.  You will want to fill in any missing details to your handwritten journal, and upload photos to the Wiki, in the evenings or down times. Please turn in the handwritten parts of your journal with your Final Paper.  Everyone will do the journal together on the first chase day and will be checked by the TAs and professor on the second chase day. 

Final Paper (25%) of 4-6 page in length (double-spaced, 12-pt font, not including figures) should be written immediately upon return from the trip.  The paper must analyze the conditions for and the timing, location, and occurrence of storms for one particular case from our trip.  Include a discussion of the accuracy of the official forecasts from the Storm Prediction Center and how those forecasts compare with the class’ own forecast.  Relevant figures should be considered for inclusion: anything from your journal, hand-drawn analyses, computer-generated maps from weather briefings, satellite imagery, and storm photos.  Students are encouraged to incorporate forecast skills learned in previous courses, details from their daily journal, readings, and Skywarn training.

Participation (60%) is expected in the pre-departure “forecasting bootcamp” and Skywarn Spotter Training, preparing a morning weather briefing (may include hand-drawn maps), forecasting discussions (thoughts and well-argued opinions regarding storm target areas), guest presentations and weather-related seminars (via questions), nowcasting and on-the-road storm selection, post-chase analyses, uploading standard forecast graphics to a class Wikipage and/or Dropbox/OneDrive, assisting with navigation, and in communicating clearly/courteously/professionally any necessary information when appropriate. Your participation also involves assistance in preparing photos and text for newspapers and social networking (Twitter and Facebook).  Responsibility for Twitter & Facebook, webcam, and morning weather briefing will be rotated among students.  A checklist will be used to keep track of the participation of each student.

Skywarn Spotter Training will help you understand thunderstorm structure and behavior.  If you miss the local meeting in Grand Forks, you may need to travel a long distance or you will need to take the online version:  For the online version, print and provide your certificate of completion.

Prizes – will be given to students who win the daily tornado contest (forecast due 10 AM with tornado verification at midnight), win the neatest online journal with the most photographic evidence of various “checklist” items throughout the trip, for the neatest and most complete online Wikipage containing a web version of the student’s weather briefings & de-briefings, and for the best photos/videos (submitted to a dropbox)

Polls and Quizzes will be used to see how much you are learning throughout the course.  You get credit for participating (not having the right answers).

Non-graded activities

Safety Training in first aid and/or CPR is part of having a safe trip. CPR Training is very important for continuing the heartbeat of someone struck by lightning.  First Aid is important in case we are the first responders to tornado victims.  If your certification is still good as of our departure date, then show your card to the professor for automatic extra credit. 

Pre-departure Meeting (15 May evening) is where all of the final details will be taken care of.

Course Policies

Assignment Policy

Due dates for each assignment or activity will be posted in Blackboard.

Late Work

If you find that you’re having trouble keeping up in this class, please let me and/or your TA know as soon as possible so we can do what we can to help. Due dates are important insofar as they help you spread out your workload and help us keep the behind-the-scenes aspects of the course as organized as possible. However, late work may be accepted for extenuating circumstances, so please reach out if you know you will need more time or if you are having trouble keeping up. 

Please note: You do not need to disclose or perform trauma when asking for an extension; you just need to let us know (very broadly) that you need help, and we will do what we can to get you back on track in the course.

Class Participation

See the above description within Assessment Summary: Participation.


It is expected that students will complete all requirements for a course during the time frame of the course. For reasons beyond a student’s control, and upon request by the student or on behalf of the student, an incomplete grade may be assigned by the instructor when there is reasonable certainty the student will successfully complete the course without retaking it. More information regarding UND’s Incomplete policy can be found on The Grading System webpage.

Resolution of Problems

Should a problem occur, you should speak to your instructor first. If the problem continues to be unresolved, go to the department chair, and next to the college dean. Should the problem persist, you have the right to go to the provost next, and then to the president.


When participating in class (online or in person) it is important to interact with your peers in an appropriate manner.  Here are a few basic points to remember when communicating in this course:

Be scholarly. Use proper language, grammar, and spelling in both written and oral works. Explain your thoughts, justify opinions, and credit the ideas of others by citing scholarly resources. Avoid misinforming others when you are unsure of the answer.  When discussing something and supplying a guess, clearly state that.

Be respectful. Respect the privacy of others. Do not share personal or professional information about others unless permission has been granted. You will be sharing close quarters in the van and motel rooms during this course and may have a personal perspective on others that you would not have in a regular course.  Respect diversity and opinions that differ from your own. Be tactful when you communicate.  Understand that everyone has different talents and abilities.

Be professional. Everyone should strive to give their best impression. Truthfulness, accuracy, and and neatness are appropriate expectations for university students.  Run a final spellcheck on your report before turning it in.  Profanity and participation in hostile interactions, is unprofessional as well as disruptive.

Be polite. Students should address each other and the professors/TAs by the appropriate title or requested name. Students should interact politely. Sarcasm and rudeness should be avoided.


Everyone has the right to be addressed by the name and personal pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, including non-binary pronouns, for example: they/them/theirs, ze/zir/zirs, etc.

I recognize that preferred names and pronouns may change during this class, so please keep me updated on any changes.

As part of our commitment to inclusion in this course, it is important that all students in this class respect the preferred names and pronouns of their peers. Mistakes in addressing one another may happen. If you make a mistake or are corrected, please briefly apologize and correct yourself.

Technology Statement

In this class we will have a technology policy that is designed to support your attention to one another and to the course material.  We will spend the majority of our time engaged in activities that depend upon you being present and attentive to one another, and course content we will study. We are all challenged these days by the ways in which our digital devices—including laptops, tablets, phones, and watches—can steal our attention away from our immediate surroundings. Technology should be used for educational purposes only during scheduled class times.

University of North Dakota Policies & Resources

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a serious matter, and any deviations from appropriate behavior will be dealt with strongly. At the discretion of the professor, situations of concern may be dealt with as a scholastic matter or a disciplinary matter.

As a scholastic matter, the professor has the discretion to determine appropriate penalties for the student’s workload or grade, but the situation may be resolved without involving many individuals. An alternative is to treat the situation as a disciplinary matter, which can result in suspension from the University, or have lesser penalties. Be aware that I view this as a very serious matter and will have little tolerance and/or sympathy for questionable practices. A student who attempts to obtain credit for work that is not their own (whether that be on a paper, quiz, homework assignment, exam, etc.) will likely receive a failing grade for that item of work, and at the professor’s discretion, may also receive a failing grade in the course. For more information read the Code of Student Life.

Access and Opportunity, Disability Support, & Medical Services

The University of North Dakota is committed to providing equal access to students with documented disabilities. To ensure access to this class and your program, please contact Disability Services for Students (DSS) to engage in a confidential discussion about accommodations for the classroom and clinical settings. Accommodations are not provided retroactively. Students are encouraged to register with DSS at the start of their program. More information can be obtained by email or by phone at 701.777.2664.


UND is committed to maintaining a safe learning environment while providing quality learning experiences for our students. COVID-19’s continued presence within our UND community may necessitate changes in classroom management as the academic year progresses. As such, UND asks students and instructors to be flexible when necessary to promote a safe environment for learning. Please do not attend an in-person class or lab if you are feeling ill, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been directed by health professionals to quarantine or isolate. If you are not able to attend class or lab, please notify your instructor as soon as possible and discuss options for making up any missed work in order to ensure your ability to succeed in the course. If you will have an extended absence due to serious illness or other uncontrollable circumstances, you may request an absence notification through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Similarly, if your instructor is ill they may need to cancel class or temporarily move your course to online delivery to ensure that you are able to complete the course successfully.  Instructors may require students to wear masks in the classroom or in the laboratory as a preventative measure designed to facilitate uninterrupted classroom engagement and to facilitate health and safety in the classroom.   If your instructor does require masks in class or in a laboratory, you are expected to comply with that request.

UND also strongly encourages all members of the University community, including students, to get vaccinated, seek out testing when needed, and model positive behavior both on- and off-campus to foster a healthy and safe learning environment for all students. Individuals who would like to discuss disability accommodations regarding masks should contact the Disability Services for Students (DSS) office at 701.777.2664 or Individuals who are unable to wear a mask due to a sincerely held religious belief should contact the UND Equal Opportunity and Title IX Office at 701.777.4171 or

Religious Accommodations

UND offers religious accommodations, which are reasonable changes in the academic environment that enable a student to practice or observe a sincerely held religious belief without undue hardship on the University. Examples include time for prayer or the ability to attend religious events or observe a religious holiday. To request an accommodation, complete the student religious accommodation request form. If you have any questions, you may contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office.

Pregnancy Accommodations

Students who need assistance with academic adjustments related to pregnancy or childbirth may contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office or Academic Affairs to learn about your options. Additional information and services may be found at Pregnancy Resources.

Notice of Nondiscrimination

It is the policy of the University of North Dakota that no person shall be discriminated against because of race, religion, age, color, gender, disability, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, veteran’s status, or political belief or affiliation and the equal opportunity and access to facilities shall be available to all. Concerns regarding Title IX, Title VI, Title VII, ADA, and Section 504 may be addressed to Donna Smith, Assistant Vice President for Equal Opportunity & Title IX and Title IX/ADA Coordinator, 102 Twamley Hall, 701.777.4171, or the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education, 230 S. Dearborn St., 37th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604 or any other federal agency.

Reporting of Discrimination, Harassment, or Sexual Misconduct

If you or a friend has experienced sexual misconduct, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, please contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office or UND’s Title IX Coordinator, Donna Smith, for assistance: 701.777.4171;; or visit the Title IX webpage. You may also contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX office if you or a friend has experienced discrimination or harassment based on a protected class, such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, pregnancy, marital or parental status, veteran's status, or political belief or affiliation.

Faculty Reporting Obligations Regarding Discrimination, Harassment, or Sexual Misconduct

It is important for students to understand that faculty are required to share with UND’s Title IX Coordinator any incidents of sexual misconduct or of discrimination or harassment based on a protected class that they become aware of, even if those incidents occurred in the past or are disclosed as part of a class assignment. This does not mean an investigation will occur if the student does not want that, but it does allow UND to provide resources to help the student continue to be successful at UND. If you have been impacted by discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct, you can find information about confidential support services on the Equal Opportunity & Title IX webpage..

UND Cares Program

How to Seek Help When in Distress

We know that while college is a wonderful time for most students, however, some students may struggle or have issues that arise. You may experience students in distress on campus, in your classroom, in your home, and within residence halls. Distressed students may initially seek assistance from faculty, staff members, their parents, and other students. In addition to the support we can provide to each other, there are also professional support services available to students through the Dean of Students and University Counseling Center. Both staffs are available to consult with you about getting help or providing a friend with the help that he or she may need. For more additional information, please visit the UND Cares Program Webpage.

How to Recognize When a Student is in Distress

The term “distressed” can mean any of the following:

  • Student has significant changes in eating, sleeping, grooming, spending, or other daily activities.
  • Student has cut off or minimized contact with family or friends.
  • Student has significant changes in performance or involvement in academics, sports, extracurricular, or social activities.
  • Student describes problems (missing class, not remembering, destructive behavior) that result from experiences with drinking or drugs.
  • Student is acting withdrawn, volatile, tearful, etc.
  • Student is acting out of character or different than usual.
  • Student is talking explicitly about hopelessness or suicide.
  • Student has difficulty concentrating or difficulty carrying on a normal conversation.
  • Student has excessive dependence on others for company or support.
  • Student reports feeling out of control of one’s emotions, thoughts, or behaviors.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

Today, the University of North Dakota rests on the ancestral lands of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe and the Dakota Oyate - presently existing as composite parts of the Red Lake, Turtle Mountain, White Earth Bands, and the Dakota Tribes of Minnesota and North Dakota. We acknowledge the people who resided here for generations and recognize that the spirit of the Ojibwe and Oyate people permeate this land. As a university community, we will continue to build upon our relations with the First Nations of the State of North Dakota - the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

Additional Resources

It is my goal to foster an environment of mutual respect in which everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions, sharing their stories, and learning about potentially heavy or personally relevant material. If, at any point, you feel like the information covered in this class elicits thoughts, feelings, or concerns that you would like to discuss further, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or the UND Counseling Center (701-777-2127).

Further, if you experience extenuating circumstances, sexual violence, identity-based harm, or any other personal crisis during the semester, don’t hesitate to reach out to me so we can provide academic assistance and help you in this course, and put you in contact with the appropriate resources and services (if needed).