Atmospheric Chemistry & Cloud Physics

METEO 437: Atmospheric Chemistry & Cloud Physics

Spring 2021 Syllabus 

Designated Course Time: MWF, 9:05 - 9:55 am

Designated Course Room: Zoom -- link: (Links to an external site.)

 (Links to an external site.)Course Format: COVID Remote (CR). The course will consist of remote synchronous lectures, small-group sleuthing exercises, and/or other possibilities. 

A note on Zoom meetings: It would be very nice to have your videos turned "on" during class. I can see reactions to the material and my questions, which allows me to judge whether or not I'm making any sense. It's very difficult to gauge teaching effectiveness when talking into blank screens! If you have technological or other issues that prevent you from doing so, please let me know and we can try to find out a solution. See the University's official language below.

Course Instructor: Dr. Matthew Kumjian  (Links to an external site.)
Office: 513 Walker Building; Working from home

Course Teaching Assistants: Malcolm Wilson (; Sammi Staskiewicz (

TA Office Hours: Malcolm: Thursday 3-4pm; Wednesday 1-2 pm [email first]; Sammi: Wednesday 11am-12pm. Zoom Room: (Links to an external site.)

Pre-reqs: Meteo 300 (Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science); Meteo 431 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics)

Class Website:

Office Hours: ONLINE via Zoom, Fridays 9:55 - 10:55 am (right after class) and by appointment

Required Text: Physics and Chemistry of Clouds, by Dennis Lamb and Johannes Verlinde (Cambridge University Press). Be sure to check out the errata here (Links to an external site.)

Because Penn State took away our Spring Break, Wednesday, April 7th has been designated as a Wellness Day. No class meeting will happen, either in person or remotely, for that day, and no assignments will be due on that day. Students are encouraged to use the day to focus on their physical and mental health. Please see (Links to an external site.) for university-sponsored events focusing on wellness that may be of interest to you. See Canvas and the course syllabus for any work that may be due before the next class meeting.

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

  • Homework / Problem Sets 20%
  • Quizzes / Polls 20%
  • Midterm Exam #1 20%
  • Midterm Exam #2 20%
  • Midterm Exam #3 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. 

Homework / Problem Sets: these will be assigned on a ~weekly basis. The objective is to help solidify concepts covered in class. You may work on these together, but you *must* turn in your own work. These assignments may involve quantitative or qualitative problems, small experiments or observations & documentation, and/or may involve computer coding. These are all skills you should develop and hone as scientists! These assignments will be turned in electronically via Canvas. Be sure you are able to submit photos, scanned documents, or complete assignments on a computer. If you have any difficulties, please let me know so we can find a solution!

Quizzes / Polls: I will attempt to make use of Zoom polling for quizzes and polls. Some of these will be simple "participation" type polls, whereas others will quiz you on the most recent problem set / homework as a check to ensure that everyone understand her or his own work. [A corollary: it behooves you to show all of your work clearly and logically in your turned-in homework/problem sets!]

Exams: You must work on your exams by yourself. There will be defined windows during which you take and submit your exam. Exam dates are as follows:

  • Exam 1: Wednesday, March 3rd
  • Exam 2: Friday, April 9th
  • Exam 3: As dictated by those upon high at Penn State (during final exam week)

Course Objectives: 

  1. Students can demonstrate familiarity with microphysical principles and how they determine the structures of the atmosphere and clouds.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply principles of cloud microphysics and atmospheric chemistry to the solution of atmospheric problems. 

Course Outcomes:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of cloud properties.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the thermodynamic drivers of cloud development and evolution.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of basic atmospheric chemistry and its role in atmospheric phenomena. 

Course Description (adapted from Lionpath): 

This course develops an understanding of how the physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere influence cloud and precipitation formation, as well as how clouds in turn affect the properties of the atmosphere. The roles that chemistry and clouds play in modulating weather and climate are also treated. 

Broad-brush Topical Course Outline: 

  • Introduction to clouds, their macroscopic properties, and their role in weather & climate
  • Molecular structure of matter
  • Molecular energy, its distribution, and its transformation
  • Structure, phases, and energies of water
  • Phase Equilibrium
  • Phase Nucleation
  • Formation and properties of atmospheric aerosol
  • Aqueous solutions and solution droplets; multicomponent systems
  • Growth of cloud particles from vapor
  • Supersaturation development and cloud formation
  • Collection processes and precipitation formation

These topics may be amended/omitted given time constraints. 

Course Expectations:

I expect you to have a working knowledge of math (calculus-based), physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics), and chemistry. These are implied prerequisites for the course. Students with weak backgrounds in these fundamental disciplines are advised to either postpone enrollment in this course, or to get up to speed now. Your ability to understand the material in this course depends critically on how well you learned your math, physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. 

I expect active participation from all students in the course, each week. I also expect each student to keep up with the material on her/his own. This includes reviewing lecture notes, reading assigned material, and reading any supplemental material posted. It is never possible to fully understand the material in a course simply by attending lectures. It is best to think of me as a guide through the relevant material, but it is you who must do all the hard work that goes along with the learning process. Like anything else, what you get out of this course depends on what you put into it, and it depends on your attitude as well. Working hard, thinking a lot, and maintaining a positive perspective are the best ways to gain the most from this course! 

other required content 

University's language on webcams: This course may require you to have a webcam for class assessments. Classes and assessments may be conducted using Zoom or other technology selected by your instructor which may use your computer’s webcam or other technologies to communicate, monitor, and/or record classes, class activities, and assessments. Assessments may also be conducted using proctoring software, which may listen to you, monitor your computer screen, view you and your surroundings, and record (including visual and audio recordings) all activity during the proctoring process. Please contact me if you are unable to comply or have any questions or concerns.

University's language on masks: We know from existing scientific data that wearing a mask in public can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community (Lyu and Wehby, 2020; CDC, 2020; Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020). Just as you’re expected to wear a shirt and shoes to class every day, everyone -- including the instructor and TAs -- are required to wear a face mask in University buildings, including classrooms and labs. You MUST wear a mask appropriately (i.e., covering both your mouth and nose) in the building if you are attending class in person. Masks have been provided for students, faculty, and staff, and everyone is expected to wear one while on campus or out in the community.

All students, faculty and staff are expected to maintain social distancing (i.e., maintain at least six feet of space between individuals) when possible. Seating patterns and attendance patterns, including assigned seating and closed-off desks/chairs/room sections, have been established to help allow for this distance for your safety. It is also important to follow related guidance communicated by the University and via public postings/signage related to directional traffic flow and maximum occupancy of spaces.

You are not permitted to consume food or drink in classrooms, except for water. If you must drink water, please be especially conscious of maintaining social distancing and minimizing the time your mask is moved aside. Or, better yet, use a water bottle with a built-in straw. Cooperation from EVERYONE will help control the spread of the virus and help us get back to the previous version of campus life as quickly as possible.

Students with conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask or who choose not to wear a mask [may participate in class remotely but]* may not attend class in person. This is to protect your health and safety as well as the health and safety of your classmates, instructor and the University community. Anyone attending class in person without a mask will be asked to put one on or leave. Refusal to comply with University policies is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Students who refuse to wear masks appropriately may face disciplinary action for Code of Conduct violations. See details here: (Links to an external site.)

Literature Cited:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 3) Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission. (Links to an external site.)

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2020, June 17) Coronavirus Face Masks & Protection FAQs. (Links to an external site.)

Lyu, W. and Wehby, G.L. (2020, June 16) Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US. Health Affairs. 2003& 

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. 


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 ( (Links to an external site.)). 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 ( (Links to an external site.)). 

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 hereLinks to an external site..

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 meteorologist. 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 ( (Links to an external site.)) 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. (Links to an external site.)). 

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 (Links to an external site.)) 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: ( (Links to an external site.)). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( (Links to an external site.)). 

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: (Links to an external site.). 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, (Links to an external site.)). For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit (Links to an external site.)


Regular attendance is critical for building on the skills and knowledge developed throughout the class. Students who participate have a more complete understanding of the material presented and are more likely to succeed in the class. This is true whether your attendance is face-to-face or remote. This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11 (Links to an external site.), and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35. (Links to an external site.) Please also see the Illness Verification Policy (Links to an external site.), and Religious Observance Policy (Links to an external site.). 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. In all cases, you should inform me in advance, when possible. Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean there is work that cannot be made up, hurting your grade in this class.  In addition to illness (covered below), 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 Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help: (Links to an external site.). Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office: (Links to an external site.) at least one week prior to the activity.

COVID STUFF: Use the symptom checker of the Penn State GO app every day to see if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.  If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are otherwise not feeling well, DO NOT COME TO CLASS, and seek the advice of a medical professional as appropriate.  If you have been notified or know yourself that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, DO NOT COME TO CLASS and please make sure you have been reported as a close contact. I cannot stress this strongly enough. We are counting on you to help contain the spread of the virus (and other illnesses) on campus.  If you need to isolate (because you are infected or have symptoms and are awaiting a test result) or quarantine (because you were a close contact to an infected person), the Student Support Services Office will let both of us know when you are allowed to attend class again.  If you attend class before the approved date, it will be a student conduct violation, because you are endangering the health of your classmates and me.  While you are in isolation or quarantine, I will work with you to help you maintain progress in the course as you are able.  [This may include participating remotely, watching the recorded class, and/or completing asynchronous course content.]  If you are not in class, you may be contacted by the instructor to check up on you and make sure you are okay.

Note: the University requires this languageAccording to University guidelines, and because of the distancing procedures in place for in-person classes, if someone in the class tests positive, we will continue with our regularly scheduled classes. 

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns:

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 ( (Links to an external site.)) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage (Links to an external site.)

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 "Safer People/Safer Places" 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 (Links to an external site.) 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.