Dynamic Meteorology

METEO 521 – Dynamic Meteorology

Spring 2020 Syllabus 

Classes: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:35 – 11:50 am, 101 Walker Building 

Instructor: Prof. Anthony Didlake
Office: 506 Walker               
Office hours: Tue 4:30-5:30pm, Thu 4-5pm, or by appointment 

Course Description:  This course introduces some of the important concepts in dynamic meteorology, providing a theoretical basis for understanding weather and climate. It does not cover the entire spectrum of atmospheric motion; this course focuses on large-scale atmospheric motion for which rotation and stable stratification are central. However, as the concepts to be covered in this course are fundamental to atmospheric motion, the same conceptual approach (e.g., scaling, adjustment, concept of balanced flows) can often be applied to other atmospheric phenomena at smaller scales. Basic mathematics such as calculus, vector calculus, and partial differential equations will be extensively used.

Prerequisites: Unless otherwise arranged, you are expected to have taken METEO 521. Enrollment Policy – Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct

Required textbook: Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics. G. Vallis, 2017, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107065505. 

Additional textbooks (references):

  • Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics. Gill, 1983, Academic Press.
  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Pedlosky, 1986. Springer-Verlag. 

Homework:  Problem sets will be given about every two weeks. The problem sets will contribute 25% to your final grade. Late homework will be accepted with a 10% penalty applied for each day late. 

Exams:  There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. The weighting of each midterm for your final grade depends on your exam score. Your higher scoring exam will be worth 25% of your final grade, and your lowest scoring exam will be worth 20%. The dates for the midterm exams are in late February and early April. The final will contribute 30% to your final grade. 

Grades:  The final grade will be based on a standard grading scale à  A: 93-100%, A-: 90-92%, B+: 87-89%, B: 83-86%, B-: 80-82%, etc. The instructor reserves the right to curve the grades to make this grading scale easier. 

Academic integrity:  Academic honesty is required and expected in this class. This course adopts the EMS Academic Integrity Policy[1]. Students in this class are expected to write up their homework assignments individually and to work on the exams own. Class members may work on the homework assignment in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately. Students are not to copy quiz or exam answers from unauthorized source material. Students are also not to copy quiz or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers written by others. Students who do not abide by these rules will receive at least a 0 on the assignment/quiz/exam and may well receive an F or XF in the course. If in doubt about how the academic integrity policy applies to a specific situation, students are encouraged to consult with the instructor. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Plagiarism Tutorial for Students.”[2] 

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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services 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 based on the documentation guidelines 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. 

Attendance:  This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11[3] and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35[4]. Please also see Illness Verification Policy[5] and Religious Observance Policy[6]. 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 and Family Services 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. 

Cancellations and delays:  Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

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 homework or other assignments to any study website constitutes a violation of this policy. 

Course website:  The instructor will use Canvas to communicate with the class electronically. Canvas will also be used to post assignments, handouts, and visuals that are shown in class. 

Course outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Preliminaries
  3. Effect of rotation and stratification
  4. Gravity waves
  5. Vorticity and Potential Vorticity
  6. Simplified equations for ocean and atmosphere
  7. Instabilities
  8. Planetary boundary layer 

A detailed course schedule with specific topics and readings is given separately on Canvas. 

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 

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 will be posted to the course website on Canvas.

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