Featured modules & webcasts

Earth Gauge Modules

COMET's Earth Gauge modules, created in partnerhip with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), treat a variety of environmental education topics. They are designed to meet broadcast meteorologists' needs for communicating to their communities, providing models for how to communicate to a general audience about environmental issues. Each module contains a wealth of take-away material that can be used to enhance your own community outreach and education activities. These modules will also count for continuing education credit under the AMS CBM certification program.

Climate Change: Fitting the Pieces Together (2-3 hours) Weather and the Built Environment

This course discusses climate change, particularly as it is currently being affected by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. It also covers signs of climate change, how scientists study climate, the current thinking on future changes, and what can be done to minimize the effects. The "Resources" section (accessed from the initial page) provides links to images used in the module, an extensive list of references, and a Powerpoint presentation that can be downloaded by broadcasters to modify for their outreach activities.

Weather and Health (2 hours)Weather and the Built Environment

This course will help meteorologists and others broaden their understanding of the impacts of weather and climate on public health, including the impacts of heat waves and cold temperatures, winter storms and thunderstorms, flooding, drought, poor air quality, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfire, UV radiation, and others. This course is directed to broadcast meteorologists, in particular, who play a critical role in the community by helping the public to protect against weather-related health threats and by promoting good health. The course also describes the public health communication system, providing information about reliable public health services, tools, and resources.

Weather and the Built Environment (1 hour)Weather and the Built Environment

This short course provides broadcast meteorologists, educators, and the public with an overview of the evolution of our modern urban environment with a focus on impacts on the watershed, air quality, and climate. Each unit in the course includes information on ways to reduce our impact on our water and air with ideas ranging from simple changes in our commuting and housekeeping habits to changes in how we build houses and roads.

This course complements the course Watersheds: Connecting Weather to the Environment and both are part of the Earth Gauge environmental curriculum for weathercasters and educators. This curriculum is being developed by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) in cooperation with the COMET Program.

Watersheds: Connecting Weather to the Environment (2 hours)Watersheds: Connecting Weather and the Environment

This short course provides broadcast meteorologists with knowledge and instructional materials to help them understand watersheds as our environmental home and to help their viewers understand the relationship between the weather and the health and protection of the environment. Environmental impacts in many areas of the country result from the daily actions of people. We can easily see the consequences of a major oil spill at sea that is driven ashore by winds and ocean currents, but what about the fertilizer that people put on their lawns and the de-icer they apply to their driveway, or changing the car’s oil in the backyard, or the pet waste in the yard or local park? Combined with weather, all of these have an impact on both the local environment and the larger regional environment.

Additional MetEd Modules

MetEd offers a large and growing library of Web-based training modules on many weather and related science topics. The following condensed list has been selected as especially relevant to weathercasters and broadcast meteorologists.


The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Cycle (30-35 min)

ENSO WebcastThis presentation, featuring Dr. Vernon Kousky (NOAA/CPC), introduces both phases of the ENSO cycle, including a discussion of the associated global impacts of these events. The newly established “Operation Niño Index” (ONI) is also explained. One of the students who attended the live presentation commented that, “ENSO [was the] best presentation of the workshop! Very comprehensive, from the basics to the more complex issues, easy to follow, and great use of graphics. The presenter did an excellent job of relating the presentation topics to forecasters.



Rain Gauges: Are They Really Ground Truth?
(40 min)

Rain gauges webcastThis Webcast, presented by Nolan Doesken, was the first streaming video presentation released by the COMET Program. This entertaining lecture serves as a helpful reminder of the problems that often plague rain gauge performance and includes discussions of the widely used ASOS rain gauge.

Urban Flooding: It Can Happen in a Flash!
(1 hour)

Urban flooding moduleThis module features an audio and visual tour of sites affected by the Fort Collins, Colorado urban flood that occurred on 28 July 1997. The tour is led by Matthew Kelsch and includes eyewitness accounts of that night's events from John Weaver. This interactive virtual field trip module summarizes many of the important common aspects of flash floods occurring in urban environments.


Fog & Stratus

Assessing climatology in fog/stratus forecasting moduleDynamically Forced Fog (3 hours)

Fog frequently forms in response to dynamically forced changes in the boundary layer. This module examines dynamically forced fog in the coastal and marine environment, focusing on advection fog, steam fog, and west coast type fog. The focus of the module is on the boundary layer evolution of air parcels as they traverse trajectories over land and water. The module also examines mesoscale effects that impact the distribution of fog and low-level stratus over short distances. A general discussion of forecast products and methodologies concludes the module.

Forecasting radiation fog moduleForecasting Radiation Fog (2 hours)

This module starts with a forecast scenario that occurs during a winter radiation fog event in the Central Valley of California. After that, a conceptual section covers the physical processes of radiation fog through its life cycle. Operational sections addressing fog detection and forecasting conclude the module.

West Coast Fog
(2 hours)

Local influences on fog and low stratus module

West Coast Fog discusses the climatology, physical processes, and evolution of hot spell fogs along the U.S. West Coast.

Synoptic weather considerations moduleDistance Learning Aviation Course 1:Forecasting Fog/Low Stratus for Aviation Operations (about 24 hours for the entire course)

Although you are not forecasting for aviation, this course provides a wealth of material that can help you improve your fog forecasting skills. The course consists of 11 modules—you can take as many or as few as you wish. If you register through the MetEd Registration and Assessment system, your progress through the course will be tracked. You’ll receive a certificate of completion for each module quiz you successfully pass and, if you take all of the modules, you’ll receive a course completion certificate.

Course modules are:
Fog/Stratus Forecast Approaches
Radiation Fog
Synoptic Weather Considerations

Local Influences on Fog and Low Stratus
Assessing Climatology in Fog/Stratus Forecasting
Applying Diagnostic and Forecast Tools
Case study: New England Fog Event
Customer Impacts
Writing Effective TAFs
Case Study: Northern Plains Cold-Air Outbreak Event



Jet Streak Circulations (50 minutes)

Jet streak circulations webcast This Webcast is based on a presentation given by Dr. James T. Moore of Saint Louis University at the 5th Annual MSC/COMET Winter Weather Workshop on 30 November 2004 in Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Moore reviews many aspects of jet streak dynamics including convergence/divergence, ageostrophic winds, propagation, and coupled jets.

Principles of Convection III: Shear and Convective Storm
(1 hour)

Local influences on fog and low stratus module This module discusses the role of wind shear in the structure and evolution of convective storms. Using the concept of horizontal vorticity, the module demonstrates how shear enhances uplift, leading to longer-lived supercell and multicell storms. The module also explores the role of shear in the development of mesoscale convective systems, including bow echoes and squall lines. Most of the material in this module previously appeared in the COMET modules developed with Dr. Morris Weisman. This version includes a concise summary for quick reference and a final exam to test your knowledge. Like previous modules in the Mesoscale Meteorology Primer, this module comes with audio narration, rich graphics, and a companion print version.

Definition of the Mesoscale
(50 minutes)

Definition of the mesoscale webcastBy the end of this module you will be able to answer...

  • What is the mesoscale and how do we classify it?
  • What is hydrostatic equilibrium?
  • Why are non-hydrostatic processes so important to mesoscale meteorology?
  • Why does forecasting mesoscale meteorology rely on model resolution?
  • How might mesoscale processes impact fleet operations?



Model Fundamentals (1 hour)

Model fundamentals module Model Fundamentals, part of the Numerical Weather Prediction Professional Development Series, describes the components of an NWP model and how they fit into the forecast development process. It also explores why parameterization of many physical processes is necessary in NWP models.

The module provides background information for the Characteristics of Operational NWP Models module (also in the NWP PDS), which contains current information about the characteristics and architecture of commonly used operational models, their operationally significant strengths and weaknesses, and model assessment tools.

The subject matter expert for this module is Dr. Ralph Petersen of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Environmental Modeling Center (NCEP/EMC).

Ten Common NWP Misconceptions
(100 min)

Ten common NWP misconceptions module This module introduces forecasters to ten of the most commonly encountered or significant misconceptions about NWP models. This list of ten misconceptions includes issues surrounding data assimilation, model resolution, physical parameterizations, and post-processing of model forecast output.


Precipitation Types

Freezing and Melting, Precipitation Type, and Numerical Weather Prediction (35 min)

Freezing and melting webcast This Webcast is based on a COMET classroom presentation by Dr. Gary Lackmann at the 2nd MSC Winter Weather Course held in Boulder, Colorado on 22 February 2002. Dr. Lackmann reviews the basic thermodynamics of freezing and melting and how operational models represent these processes. He also touches upon the biases that occur in the models by looking at examples of melting snow aloft, melting snow at the surface, freezing aloft (ice pellets), and freezing rain. Dr. Lackmann is a faculty member in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University.

Heavy Banded Snow
(45 min)

Jet streak circulations webcast This webcast is based on a presentation by Dr. Moore MSC/COMET Winter Weather Workshop in Boulder, CO, 4 December 2002. In it, he covers the definition of the TROWAL and its role in heavy snow production in the form of bands primarily located to the northwest of the surface low. The various conveyor belts associated with mature winter cyclones are emphasized. The roles of mid-level frontogenesis and conditional symmetric instability in these systems are discussed in the context of heavy snow development.

Mesoscale Banded Prediction
(3 hours)

Mesoscale banded precipitation module Precipitation frequently falls and accumulates in discrete bands with accumulations that vary markedly over short distances. This module examines several mechanisms that result in mesoscale banded precipitation, focusing primarily on processes at work in midlatitude cyclones. The module starts with a review of the Norwegian and conveyor belt cyclone models. Then several banding processes are examined in detail, including deformation/frontogenesis, the Trowal (Trough of Warm Air Aloft), frontal merger, CSI/slantwise convection, and melting/evaporation-induced circulations. The module concludes with discussions of the representation of banded precipitation by NWP models and the detection of banded precipitation with satellite sensors.



Feature Identification Exercises: Clouds, Snow, and Ice Using MODIS (1-2 hours)

MODIS exercise module This module consists of four exercises where users identify surface features, distinguish clouds from snow on the ground, and determine cloud phase using multispectral analysis. The module also includes an overview of multispectral techniques available on many operational and research polar-orbiting satellites. A page with links to real-time polar-orbiting data and information is also included.

Feature Identification from Environmental Satellites
(1 hour)

Mesoscale banded precipitation module This Webcast, presented by Tom Lee of the Naval Research Laboratory, focuses on feature identification using a combination of high-resolution multispectral polar and geostationary satellite imagery products.

The Webcast is made up of five short sections focus on a set of particularly challenging feature identification problems including: clouds over snow; contrails/thin cirrus; fires, hot spots, and smoke; blowing dust; snow, icebergs, and pack ice. Examples are included from Asia, Europe, and North America. A table summarizes suggested detection strategies for each phenomena type, based on available polar and geostationary capabilities and whether the event occurs during daytime or nighttime.

Satellite Meteorology: GOES Channel Selection
(1 hour)

MODIS exercise module This Web module was adapted from the CD-ROM module Satellite Meteorology: Using the New GOES Imager, and uses Macromedia® Flash to deliver audio over the Web.

The 60-minute presentation provides a review of the five GOES imager channels and their use, along with operational examples. The module also includes updated information on the 6.7 micrometer (water vapor) channel and the new 13.3 micrometer channel that will appear on the GOES N-P satellites.


Special Topics for the Station Scientist

Community Hurricane Preparedness (4-5 hours)

Mesoscale banded precipitation module The purpose of this computer-based course, Community Hurricane Preparedness, is to provide emergency managers and decision makers who cannot attend the course with basic information about:

  • How hurricanes form
  • The hazards they pose
  • How the NWS forecasts future hurricane behavior
  • What tools and guiding principles can help emergency managers prepare their communities

Introduction to Fire Behavior

This website provides an overview of factors that affect the ignition and spread of wildfire. Information is presented with 3-dimensional graphics and animations as well as audio descriptions and commentary provided by a fire behavior expert. You don't need extensive background in fire science or weather forecasting to use this site.

Rip Currents: Nearshore Fundamentals
(23 min)

Mesoscale banded precipitation module This module provides insight into how nearshore circulation and wave dynamics are involved in rip current formation. Topics covered in this module include: nearshore terminology, circulation and waves, rip current characteristics, and rip current forcing mechanisms. This module is the second of three modules covering the forecasting of rip currents.

Physics of the Aurora
(2-6 hours)

Mesoscale banded precipitation module This interactive learning module introduces the systems and processes through which the Earth's magnetic field and upper atmosphere are influenced by the sun, eventually leading to the magnificent auroral displays. Developed especially for university professors and students in the fields of physics and astronomy, this module includes sections on the history, lore, and science of the aurora, the magnetosphere, the thermosphere-ionosphere, basic electromagnetism, and upper-atmospheric physics.


Wave Types and Characteristics (1 hour)

Mesoscale banded precipitation moduleThis module is an introduction to waves and their associated characteristics. Several types of waves are presented, from the common wind wave to the rare tsunami wave. The basic physical, mathematical, and statistical traits of waves are discussed, along with how they change once waves become swell. This material serves as a building block to subsequent modules on wave generation, propagation, and dispersion.

Many other online training modules are offered on MetEd to serve your professional development needs. Browse them via the TOPICS tab at the top of this page or the complete alphabetical listing.


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