Backyard Meteorology: The Science of Weather

Learn to forecast the weather just by looking out your window.

This course explores the science behind weather systems by teaching the skills needed to make a forecast without using instruments or computer models.

Featuring faculty from:
6 weeks
3-5 hours a week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start Backyard Meteorology today.

What You'll Learn

The weather forecasts we see every day are based an army of meteorological sensing networks and intensive computer modeling. Before the rise of these technologies, forecasts were made by understanding cloud formations and wind directions.

This course will explore the science behind weather systems by teaching the observational skills needed to make a forecast without using instruments or computer models. We’ll discuss the physical processes driving weather and the global forces that shape global climate systems. Finally, we will examine the limits of prediction in both human observations and computer models.

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? Take this course to find out!

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • The role of air, water, and wind in weather systems
  • How to estimate local wind speed and direction
  • How to avoid being struck by lightning
  • How to identify cloud types and features
  • How to describe the attributes of thunderstorms and tornadoes
  • How to collect and interpret data and observations to predict the next day’s weather

Your Instructors

John Huth is the Donner Professor of Science in the Physics Department at Harvard. His main research pursuit is experimental particle physics, and he is a member of a large experimental collaboration that helped to build and run a particle detector called ATLAS, at an accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider, at the European Center for Nuclear Research(CERN.)

John is the author of the book The Lost Art of Finding Our Way, which is dedicated to the art of wayfinding and weather prediction without instruments. He also teaches an undergraduate course at Harvard on these topics. When he is not at Harvard, John spends lots of time outdoors: sea kayaking, backpacking, and camping.

Ways to take this course

When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.

A Verified Certificate costs $149 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate. 

Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.

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