Syllabus for Fall 2020

AGECO/METEO 122 Section 001 

Lecture: 1:25-2:15 p.m. Mon, Wed & Fri
Professor: Dr. Scott Isard
Phone: 865-6290

Teaching Assistant: Karen Luong

NOTE: In fall 2020, Atmospheric Environment will be conducted in a remote, synchronous format using Zoom in Canvas. Students will be expected to attend zoom meetings between 1:25 and 2:15 on Mon, Wed and Fri throughout the semester. Traditional 50 min written exams will be replaced by short (approximately10 min) one-on-one conversations between each student and the instructor(s) in which students will be asked to answer questions about key course concepts.


Lutgens, Tarbuck and Herman (2019). The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology (14th Edition): Prentice Hall.


By the end of the semester, students will be able to describe and discuss: a) the effect of weather elements on plants and animals, b) how the major weather elements interact to govern storms, daily weather, and climate, and c) how humans are changing our atmospheric environment. 


Atmospheric Environment: Growing in the Wind is for students who are interested in learning about the dynamic effects of weather on plants and animals. It is about how processes at the ground surface and in the air govern weather conditions on Earth. Growing in the Wind focuses on five major weather elements: energy, temperature, moisture, pressure, and wind and how these factors govern ecosystems and habitation of our planet. Emphasis is also given to human impacts on weather and climate, and current environmental issues involving the atmosphere. The lectures are organized around the central theme that the unequal distribution of incoming solar energy (both spatially and temporally) produce temperature and pressure contrasts at the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere that in turn cause storms and control the weather and climate. 

No prerequisites beyond high school algebra are required. An interest in agriculture, the natural sciences, and the environment in general will be helpful for this course. 

"Whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is not, we'll weather the weather, what ever the weather, whether we like it or not!"     


The lecture schedule for Growing in the Wind is provided below and on the course calendar. Lectures will be delivered using Zoom. Attendance is required and students who participate in the class polls will earn Lecture Participation points. The schedule may change slightly as the course progresses; however, if this happens you will be informed either in class or by email. Slides and lecture notes are available on the Canvas website as power point presentations. On occasion, videos accompanied by a short assignment will be substituted for lecture presentations.      


The chapters for the readings are listed in the syllabus below and on the course calendar. A total of 10 points can be earned for reading each chapter and taking the associated open Book Chapter Quiz that is available on the Canvas website. A quiz consists of 10 questions and will last for 10 minutes. Each quiz can be taken a total of 3 times and only the highest grade will be recorded. Quizzes will be available to take before and until 11:59 p.m. on the day that the readings are assigned and unavailable thereafter. The schedule for the last day when each open Book Chapter Quiz is available is provided below.     


Students will be evaluated in one-on-one short (about 10 min) oral exams that will be conducted via Zoom with the instructors. A list of key concept questions will be provided at the beginning of each course unit so that students can prepare for the exam. During these sessions, students will be asked a few questions from the list of key concepts. The key concepts will cover important materials in the assigned book chapters, videos, and lectures. Students may NOT consult notes, electronic devices or receive any other form of assistance during the exam. Each student’s understanding of the material as demonstrated in the oral exam will be rated as: (i) excellent [95-100%], (ii) very good [90-94%], (iii) good [85-89%], (iv) above average [80-84%], (v) average [75-79%], (vi) below average [70-74%], or (vii) unprepared [below 70%]. The dates of the exams are listed below and on the course calendar. Prior to each exam, students will sign up (Google Sheets Exam Signup Page) for a 10-minute zoom exam session that fits into their class schedule. The zoom sessions will be recorded, and similar to PSU written examinations, kept strictly confidential between student and instructor. 


There will be 2 class lab assignments during the semester. The labs will be conducted via Zoom.  


There are two general types of student learning assessments in Atmospheric Environment. The first type is oral examination and the second type is written assignments/multiple choice quizzes/lecture participation. Short oral exams will be administered 4 times during the semester and, as indicated above, will be graded as excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory and unprepared. Students may earn 410 points from course labs, video assignments, and book chapter quizzes. These points and the oral exam assessments will be combined to determine final grades.

  • Labs  2 Labs projects: each worth 50 points = 100 pts.
  • Book Chapter Quizzes 13 book chapter quizzes: each worth 10 points  = 130 pts.
  • Video Assignments 3 assignments: each worth 10 points =  30 pts.
  • Lecture Participation Approx. 30 lectures: each worth 5 points = 150 pts.

Total Points = 410 pts. 

"Some people are weatherwise, but most are otherwise." 


Attendance: You are responsible both for all the material covered in class discussions as well as for the readings. Frequent absences will negatively impact your performance.

Assignments: All assignments are due on the dates specified on the syllabus. The University has careful policies about your rights and responsibilities in the case of emergency and illness. Please, be familiar with them and do not try to abuse them.

Academic Integrity: Penn State defines academic integrity as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20). 

Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University’s Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction. 

Disability: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified people with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell the me as soon as possible. 


  • Chapter 1: Introduction to the Atmosphere |11:59 PM Thursday September 3
  • Chapter 2: Heating Earth's Surface and Atmosphere | 11:59 PM Thursday, September 11
  • Chapter 3: Temperature |11:59 PM Tuesday, September 22
  • Chapter 4: Moisture and Atmospheric Stability. 11:59 PM Tuesday, September 29
  • Chapter 5: Forms of Condensation and Precipitation. | 11:59 PM Thursday, October 1
  • Chapter 6: Air Pressure and Winds. | 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 6
  • Chapter 7: Circulation of the Atmosphere. |11:59 PM Tuesday, October 13
  • Chapter 8: Air Masses. 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 20
  • Chapter 9: Midlatitude Cyclones. | 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 27
  • Chapter 10: Thunderstorms and Tornadoes. | 1:59 PM Tuesday November 3
  • Chapter 11: Hurricanes. | 11:59 PM Tuesday, November 12
  • Climate 15: World Climates. | 11:59 PM Tuesday, December 1
  • Chapter 14: The Changing Climate. | 11:59 PM Tuesday, December 8