ATSC 113 · Applied Meteorology

Atmospheric-science principles elucidated by case studies applied to snow sports, sailing, surfing, soaring, and flying. [3-0-0]

Course Availability & Schedule

Course Syllabus

Course Webpage

 Distance education offered

 Non-specialist course

Weather for Sailing, Flying and Snow Sports

Weather for Sailing, Flying and Snow Sports

Learning Goals

ATSC 113  is designed to be a fun way to learn more about the weather, as applied to case-studies in sailing, flying, and snow sports.  Each week we explore a new case study, where we put you in the virtual "drivers seat" as the skipper, pilot, or snow-boarder. See the course home page for most of the content here.

Life Skills and Sustainable Benefits:  By the end of this course, you will have enhanced your ability to ...

  1. survive,
  2. win competitions,
  3. enjoy the weather,
  4. think critically about information you receive, and apply your knowledge to the world around you, and
  5. work with others to find solutions to important problems.

Learning outcomes:  By the end of this course, you will be able to...

  1. Explain meteorological fundamentals and weather-system evolution. 
  2. Access and interpret relevant weather data and critically evaluate its utility and deficiencies. 
  3. Formulate alternative courses of action, and the consequences of each. 
  4. Select the best course of action in the face of uncertainty. 
  5. Keep a “weather eye” and anticipate weather changes based on atmospheric principles.  

Learning enhancement:  By the end of this course, you will have ...

  1. devised ways to utilize relevant online social media for team building and information sharing.
  2. refined your discussion and debate skills in small teams or work-groups.
  3. created your own rubrics for what questions to ask, and how to use information to make decisions.
  4. gained confidence in your own ability to make justifiable decisions similar to those made by experts.



Dr. Doug McCollor is the lead instructor.  Prof. Roland Stull provided the flying-weather content.  Snow-sports weather content was created by  Drs. Rosie Howard and Greg West, and sailing-weather content was created by Samantha James.


None are required.  All are available free online.

See the course home page for most of the content. 

Course Content

Intended Audience

This course is open to all students of any year and any major.  No prerequisites.  This counts as a science course.  Students do not need any prior background or experience in sailing, flying or snow sports.
For those students who already have expertise in some of these areas, we offer links to advanced info.  But this extra info is not required for this course - - you can still earn full marks without it.

Overview & Road Map

Four themes help you build your expertise on meteorology and its application to recreation:

  • Sailing Weather
  • Flying Weather
  • Snow-Sports Weather
  • Applied Weather

Each if the first three themes contains 4 on-line learning modules (A-D), where you work on a new module each week.  Learning goals for each theme are provided in a schedule table on the course home page, which also shows which learning goals are addressed by each module. The last theme, Applied Meteorology, helps you bring together and synthesize the weather concepts that you learned throughout the term.

Learning modules (A, B, C) each present you with a different scenario (such as a storm approaching while you are sailing, flying, or snow-boarding), and require you as virtual skipper, pilot, or snow-boarder to decide what to do.   To help you decide, you are given information:  

  • how such storms work, 
  • how such storms can affect you, 
  • where to get info about this particular storm, and 
  • what options you have.

After gathering these clues individually and checking your understanding via online quizzes, you then work in teams of 4 online to reach a decision on what to do.  Your module grade depends partly on whether you make a good decision.  Then, in the last part of each learning module, you work individually to refine your understanding of the topic.   See the course home page for a sample module.

The 4th learning module (D) for each theme allows you to consolidate your knowledge, and learn from similar decisions by experts.  Also, some learning goals that were not already covered by the 3 module scenarios will be covered in this 4th week.  You will also use social media (an ePortfolio) to build a weather resource that you can continue to use after this course ends.  The last part of module 4 is an online theme midterm exam. 

Learning Format:  This course is presented as a fully online course (except for the final exam).  In former terms, both "normal" and "distance education" sections are offered each term, but they are taught together as a single unified online course.  Recently, the course has been identified as a "hybrid" course, with all content and student interaction online, except for the paper final exam written at UBC.

Lecture Topics

Theme: Flying & Soaring Weather  
1. Clouds, Ceiling, Visibility & Fog
2. Pressure, Temperature, Winds & Wind Shear
3. Turbulence & Icing 
4. Thunderstorms & Aviation Weather Services

Theme: Weather for Snow Sports  
5. Winter Weather
6. Winter Mountain weather
7. Snow Conditions

Theme: Sailing Weather  
8. Winds and Waves
9. Large-Scale Winds
10. Local Winds and Gusts
11. Marine Weather Services

Theme: Applied Weather  
12. Synthesis & ePortfolio