Cloud Physics

Meteo 533: Cloud Physics

Fall 2019

Instructor: Prof. Matt Kumjian

Office: 513 Walker Building

Phone: 814-863-1581


Class Website:

Lecture: MWF, 9:05 - 9:55 am; 110 Walker Building

Office Hours: TBD; by appointment; or when my door is open! 

Required Textbook: Physics and Chemistry of Clouds by D. Lamb and J. Verlinde. Get it online here or at the University Book Store. Be sure to check out the errata here!

Optional/Supplementary Texts: 

  • Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation by H. R. Pruppacher and J. D. Klett
  • A Short Course in Cloud Physics by R. R. Rogers and M. K. Yau

Note: any required readings from these optional texts will be provided. These books are available at the EMS Library. You can also download the entire PDF of Pruppacher and Klett through the university library here.

Pre-requisites: METEO 431/531 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics/Thermal Physics) or equivalent

Grading: Your final grade* will be based on the following:

  • Midterm Exam #1 20%
  • Midterm Exam #2 20%
  • Midterm Exam #3 20%
  • Final Paper 20%
  • Problem Sets 20%

Note: there is a 10% day-1 reduction in the grade for assignments turned in late.

*Final letter grades will be determined based on the overall distribution of scores at the end of the semester.  

Exam Policy:

Exams are NOT cumulative, but the material will build on itself throughout the semester. I will administer the first two midterm exams during a special evening session, unless students are opposed to this. The idea is to give you more time (up to 3 hours) than is available during the normal class period (~50 minutes). We will determine the dates of the midterm exams within the first couple of weeks of class. The final midterm exam will take place at the scheduled time/location for the "final" exam, which is decided by people and/or robots way above my pay grade.

Except for illness or emergencies, make-up exams will be conducted only for students who make arrangements with me prior to the scheduled exam time. 

Problem Sets

I will be assigning problem sets ("homework") on an approximately weekly basis. These problems are for you to work through with your peers. It is up to you individually to make sure you understand the concepts! I will collect the problem sets, but will only grade for completeness and spot-check them for correctness. You may come to see me if you have difficulties. The exams will comprise problems similar to those on the problem sets, so it behooves you to work through and understand them! 

Final Paper

During the course, you will need to complete a final paper that delves more deeply into a topic of your choosing in cloud physics. The topic can be anything, but it must be related to clouds in the atmosphere. Topics could include: (1) Stratocumulus cloud impacts on climate; (2) Arctic clouds and climate change; (3) Turbulence influences on the growth of water drops; (4) Why ice crystals have dendritic forms; (5) The molecular nature of liquid water; (6) How ice impacts thunderstorm evolution; (7) Lake-effect snow storms; (8) Remote sensing observations of clouds, etc. Literally any topic that relates to clouds can be used. Once a topic is defined, it is up to the student to do an in-depth literature review (books or articles from journals) on the topic. This should be done during the semester. A final paper is then turned in that is 7 pages or less, not including references or figures. The paper must be either 11- or 12-point font, with double or at minimum 1.5 line spacing. Single-spaced papers will be returned ungraded. I will turn out a separate document describing the details of the project. The paper is due on the last day of class but there will be some portions due along the way to motivate progress. 

Course Objectives and Intents:

This course is designed to provide graduate students with diverse backgrounds a foundation in, and an overview of, the physics of clouds as typically found in the atmosphere. Our understanding of clouds will develop naturally through examinations of the fundamental physical processes operating across a wide variety of scales. We will place primary emphasis on microphysical properties of clouds because these ultimately determine the evolution of clouds. 

Course Topics Include:

Introduction and overview of clouds (Ch. 1); properties of water (Ch. 2); phase thermodynamics and equilibrium (Ch. 3); nucleation (Ch. 7); growth by diffusion (Ch. 8); collisional interactions and growth (Ch. 9); cloud formation and evolution (Ch. 6, 10); population effects in warm clouds (Ch. 11) and cold clouds (Ch. 12);  microphysical modeling. These are subject to change due to time constraints and class interest. 

Cheap Plug for Spring 2020:

I will be introducing a new specialty graduate course in Spring 2020, called METEO 597: Precipitation Physics. It will be a natural continuation of this semester's course to include precipitation processes. If you like the present course, please consider enrolling in the Spring 2020 "part 2"! 


Students who do not meet the prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period ( If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct ( 

Academic Integrity:

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner, and is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity in the College. As such, all are expected to act with personal integrity, respect for other students’ dignity, rights, and property, and to help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the EMS community and compromise the worth of work completed by others. The full college policy on academic integrity can be found here.

Simply put, don’t cheat. This includes but is not limited to copying, plagiarism, self- plagiarism, etc., all of which can result in a 0 on the assignment and/or an F or XF grade in the course. Ultimately, it negatively affects you: imagine the future disappointment of employers, family, and friends when you turn out to have severe inadequacies as a cloud physicist. If you struggle with material, come see me or others for help

Campus Emergencies and Inclement Weather:

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News ( and communicated to mobile devices, email, the Penn State Face- book page, and Twitter via the PSU Alert System (to sign up, please see https://psualert. 

Penn State E-mail Accounts:

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail (see to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities:

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( 

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus's disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations. 

Assistance with Textbooks:

Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit


 This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11, and Conict Exam Policy 44-35. Please also see the Illness Verification Policy, and Religious Observance Policy. Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes. Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment interviews). Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Aairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help: Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office: at least one week prior to the activity. 

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents:

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated ( and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage

Counseling and Psychological Services:

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing. The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation. Services include the following:

  •  Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park (CAPS): 814-863-0395
  • Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
  • Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
  • Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect:

Penn State is "committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others" as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

Additionally, I am "Safe Zone" trained and welcome students who need a safe space to contact me at any time.

Mandated Reporting Statement:

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website. 

Disclaimer Statement:

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.