Spring 2021 

Jerry Y. Harrington
OFFICE: 517 Walker Building
PHONE: 814-863-1584
OFFICE HOURS: 11am - Noon Monday, Wednesday, Friday (Zoom) 

Zoom and then Room 101 Walker Building
12:05pm – 1:20pm Tuesday and Thursday
Spring 2021 Wellness Days (no class): Tues, Feb. 9; Thurs, Mar. 1, Wed. April 7 

PREREQUISITES: Course in Atmospheric Thermodynamics (Meteo 431 or equivalent) 

COURSE TEXTBOOKS: (Available as PDF through PSU Library)

  • The Physics and Chemistry of Clouds by D. Lamb and H. Verlinde 


METEO 533 is a graduate level course in cloud physics. The course is designed to provide graduate students with an intense, detailed background in the physics of clouds. 


  • Exam 1 (Tues., Feb 23rd, 6-8 pm): 25%
  • Exam 2 (Tues., March 30th, 6-8 pm): 25%
  • Final Exam (Announced at later time): 25%
  • Homework: (~one per week) 25%
  • Location of Exams: Zoom



  • “I see and I forget, I hear and I forget, I do and I understand.” - Confucius 
  • If you merely read books and listen to others, you will never really learn anything new. New knowledge is only truly gained by thinking and working things through for yourself. The difference is like that between one who simply reads about an experience and one who lives it. – Paraphrase of one of Schopenhaurs’ Aphorisms.
  • “The main job of a teacher is to free the student from the teacher” - Zen Buddhist Saying 


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 since this ultimately determines the evolution of clouds. 


As you can see from the grade breakdown, homework is an important part of your grade. It is very difficult to learn the material in any class unless you spend a significant amount of time thinking about the subject matter and actually using the ideas. I try to design homework that accomplishes this. Homework is typically due 1 week after the assigned date. I do not accept late homework unless there are extenuating circumstances. Tests given in this course will be closed book, though a note sheet and calculators are allowed. I provide values for all physical constants and I also provide the basic equations covered in class. Tests can cover anything related to the material. Lectures are only a guide through the material I expect that you have mastered the concept presented in class through outside work of your own. Tests will be conducted on Zoom and Canvas using the honor system (see below). 


As you are probably well aware of by now, grades below that of a B are rare in graduate school. The way I assign grades in cloud physics is through the following procedure: At the end of the semester, I compute the mean score for the class. This score is typically the lowest A-, though I also look at the median score and the standard deviation when I define an A- grade. Scores above this obviously earn some form of an A (mostly A-) whereas scores below it earn some form of a B. Please realize that I use this as a rough indicator only. There have been times when I have deviated from this rule. I won’t hesitate to assign higher grades when a class performs exceptionally well, but I also won’t hesitate to assign lower grades if a class performs poorly. Fortunately, the latter scenario rarely happens at the graduate level! 

COVID-19 Specifics:

  1. All students attending in-person classes must wear a mask, as per university policy, and must adhere to seating designations that are based on physical distancing requirements. If you forget your mask, I will have a few available. They are limited so please make sure to bring yours. Keep in mind that I am not allowed to teach if anyone is present without a mask. Please see Penn State's specific policies for more information.
  2. All zoom lectures will be recorded, and I am required to let you know this in advance. 
  3. All exams will be on Zoom and your webcam will need to be on during the exam. You do not need to have your mic on, and in fact we'd rather have those silenced unless you have a question. I will be there to monitor the exam process and answer any questions that you may have.  Exams will be turned in as PDFs through Canvas. I'd suggest using Adobe Scan to scan your handwritten answers, which works well and is fast.
  4. All homework will be turned in through canvas as PDF files. We're doing this just to ensure that there is no possible contact transmission of the virus, and to make sure that the students in both sections are treated equally.  As for the exams, I suggest using Adobe Scan as it allows you to scan all the pages of your homework and make one PDF file that you can turn in.


Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses that may be grounds for failing an assignment, an exam, or even the course. Please review the College policies related to academic integrity on the web at : Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy: 

Recommended Books: Available from Earth & Mineral Sciences Library, 105 Deike Building.

Title / Author(s) / Call Number

  • Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation / Pruppacher and Klett / QC921.5 P78 1997
  • The Physics of Rainclouds / Fletcher / QC921.5 F55 1962
  • The Physics of Clouds / Mason / QC921.5 M3 1971
  • Physical Chemistry / Atkins / QD453.2 A88 1994b
  • Elements of Cloud Physics / Beyers / QC921.5 B9 1965
  • Microphysical Processes in Clouds / Young / QC921.5 Y68 1993

METEO 533 - Cloud Physics 
Course Outline

    • Basic Overview
    • Properties of Water
      • Molecular structure of liquid and ice
      • Consequences of molecular structure: latent heat, vapor-liquid equilibrium, and surface tension
      • Equilibrium between phases.
    • Phase Nucleation
      • Free energy and nucleation rates - molecular structure revisited
      • Homogeneous and heterogeneous nucleation of liquid and ice
    • Vapor Deposition
      • Surface physics
      • Growth equation development for drops and ice crystals
    • Collisional Interactions
      • Terminal fall speed regimes
      • Collisions between hydrometeors
      • Coalescence & break-up of drops
    • Supersaturation Development
    • Warm-Cloud Precipitation
    • Cold-Cloud Precipitation
    • Radiative Properties of Clouds & Consequences 


(Plagiarism Disclosure: I did not write these syllabus components.)  

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.)

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: ( (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. 


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: (Links to an external site.), and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see 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. 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: (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. 

Weather Delays

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

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 ( (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) (Links to an external site.): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses (Links to an external site.)
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741