Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Syllabus, Spring, 2019

Meteo 440W – Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Lectures: M, W 8-8:50 am, 101 Walker Building

Lab: Tu 2:30-5:30pm, 126 Walker Building 

Course Description

The standard theories and practices used in measurement and analysis of atmospheric variables are surveyed in the lecture portion of the course. The laboratory portion of the course provides students hands-on experience with using standard and self-produced instruments to make reliable measurements and with analyzing meteorological observations to determine their significance. In the laboratory reports, students learn the fundamentals of appropriate scientific writing to summarize the objectives of the lab exercise, to provide an analysis of the observations, and to critique the results. The initial drafts of these reports are evaluated critically by the instructors and teaching assistants and then are revised by the students based on these evaluations. Discussion of scientific writing and of proper report protocols are presented in the course as well. 

Objectives for Meteo 440W:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the principles underlying common physical and chemical measurements of the atmosphere.
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with how atmospheric observations are analyzed statistically. 

Outcomes for Meteo 440W:

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to take and analyze atmospheric observations.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how precision, accuracy, and statistical analysis techniques are used to provide a description of the state of the atmosphere.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to write scientific reports summarizing atmospheric observations and the analyses of them. 

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 300, METEO 431, and STAT 301 or STAT 401 or EBF 472. 


Kenneth Davis, Professor

512 Walker Building, 814-863-8601,

Office hours:  Tu 1:30-2:30pm.  F 1-2pm.  Backup times in case of scheduling conflicts will be Th 1-2pm and F 10:30-11:30am.  You are free to stop by my office outside of office hours, but to guarantee that I will be available call or email in advance.  If I am meeting with someone, please make your presence known so that I know you are looking for me, and I will follow up. Sometimes meetings or travel interrupt my office hours.  I’ll warn you in advance when this is the case, and provide backup times.  Never hesitate to ask to meet with me, or with the course TA, or both.  

Lab Instructor:

Yuting He, Ph.D. Student

Contact info:

Office hours: Monday, 2-3pm, via zoom:

Telephone: Dial: +1 646 876 9923 or +1 669 900 6833 (US Toll). Meeting ID: 695 226 384

Wednesday, 10-11am, 413 Walker. 

Expectations and norms:

  • Please be on time for classes and labs. Lectures will set the stage for the labs.  Labs require setup time and group work.  Attendance is important.  Warn your instructors (TA and lecturer) and your lab partners in advance if you have a conflict that might require that you miss a class or a lab session.  You cannot turn in a lab if you do not attend the lab session without permission in advance from your instructor.
  • Turn in assignments on time. Late assignments will be penalized. Exceptions can be made for real conflicts if you contact Ken in advance
  • In case of an emergency that makes you miss a lab or deadline, contact your instructors as soon as possible.
  • Active participation in class is encouraged. Questions and discussion, when constructive, are always welcome. 
  • Take care. You will be working in a laboratory setting with equipment that is sometimes delicate and hard to replace.  Your classmates cannot be replaced.  Follow instructions, and ask if you are uncertain.
  • Assignments must be done individually. Any shared work on research projects must be approved in advance.
  • Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations. Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."
  • The work you turn in must be your own. In particular all writing assignments must represent your own, individual work.  Groups will be allowed to collaborate on analyses of data, but writing cannot be shared among students, even within a lab group.  Any plagiarism will result in, at minimum, a failing grade for the assignment.  We are dead serious about this. 


  • The course will cover 6 laboratory exercises, two exams, and one whole-term, complete research paper.


  • 6 laboratory reports: 40%
  • Full research report on assigned lab (content and writing): 40%
  • Research report draft and review assignments: 10%
  • Exams: 10% (5% each)
  • Grades will be 90-100% A, 80-89% B, 70-79% C, 60-69% D, below 60% F. I reserve the right to apply a curve and make this grading scale easier, but it will not become more difficult.

This formula might be altered slightly.  Any changes will be announced.

Grading rubrics for all assignments will be posted in advance. 


  • Most course materials will be posted on Canvas.
  • You will need to use computing resources (either your own, the department’s or the college’s).
  • Your statistics text book.
  • Writing resources: Science Communication in Earth and Mineral Sciences:
  • Schultz et al, 2009; Mack et al., 2018 are useful references for writing research reports. 

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 

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. 

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations 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. 


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see 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 and graduate school final 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 Affairs (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:, at least one week prior to the activity. 

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