METEO 440W Huff FA14

Principles of Atmospheric Measurements Lecture: Thursdays, 2:30-3:45 PM, 126 Walker Lab: Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 PM, 126 Walker Instructor - Dr. Amy Huff

Meteorology 440W

Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Syllabus, Fall Semester 2014


Dr. Amy Huff
402A Walker

Teaching Assistant

Bianca Baier
418 Walker

Office Hours:

by appointment


Thursdays, 2:30-3:45 PM, 126 Walker


Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 PM, 126 Walker

Course Description

This course is designed to teach students 1) the principles of making and analyzing scientific measurements and 2) the fundamentals of scientific writing. Students will conduct 7 laboratory experiments in which they will use instruments to make measurements and then analyze the observed data. These experiments will demonstrate scientific concepts covered in the physical meteorology course sequence (e.g., Meteo 431, 436, 437). In the class lectures, students will learn the “universal recipe” for scientific reports, including the abstract, introduction, experimental methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections. Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the collection of precipitation using a rain gauge, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report. The instructor will evaluate the initial drafts of the report sections, and then the students will use this feedback to prepare the final version of the report.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will be able to write a formal scientific report that clearly describes the motivation, method, results, analysis, and implications of an experiment or research project.
  2. Students will be able to make and analyze measurements of common atmospheric variables related to temperature, water vapor, precipitation, and radiation.
  3. Students will understand the limitations (e.g., error and uncertainty) inherent with all measurements. 

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 300, METEO 431, and STAT 301 or STAT 401 or EBF 472. Students who do not meet these prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period ( http:/ ) .  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct ( ) .

Required Textbook

Style for Students Online. Joe Schall,

Textbooks on Reserve at the EMS Library

  • A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation. Petty, Grant W., Sundog Press: Madison, WI, 2004.
  • A Short Course in Cloud Physics. Rogers, R. R. and M. K. Yau, Butterworth-Heinemann: Burlington, MA, 1989.
  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change. Seinfeld, John H. and Spyros N. Pandis, John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1998.
  • Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey. Wallace, John M. and Peter V. Hobbs, Academic Press: San Diego, 2006.
  • Atmospheric Thermodynamics. Bohren, Craig F. and Bruce A. Albrecht, Oxford University Press: New York, 1998.
  • Basic Physical Chemistry for the Atmospheric Sciences. Hobbs, Peter V., Cambridge University Press: New York, 2000.
  • Fundamentals of Weather and Climate. McIlveen, Robin, Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd: Cheltenham, U. K., 2010.
  • Physics of Climate. Piexoto, José P. and Abraham H. Oort, American Institute of Physics: New York, 1992.

Assignments and Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • 7 Pre-Lab Quizzes - 5%
  • 7 Lab Write-Ups (Results and Discussion Questions) - 30%
  • 2 Worksheets (Grammar and Style, Significant Figures) - 5%
  • Rain Gauge - 10%
  • 7 Draft Rain Gauge Report Sections - 5%
  • Final Rain Gauge Report - 30%
  • 2 In-Class Quizzes (on aspects of technical writing/reports) - 15%

Grades will be assigned as A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, and F: < 60%.

Pre-Lab Quizzes will include 10 multiple choice and true/false questions covering information in the lab manuals on the background and experimental procedure for each lab. Students will be able to take each quiz up to 5 times and keep the highest score. The purpose of these quizzes is to ensure that students read the lab manual before the lab section and come to class prepared. The instructor will review the main aspects of the experimental procedure and demonstrate the proper use of lab equipment at the beginning of each lab section.

Lab Write-Ups will include specific results for each lab (e.g., tables, graphs, calculations) and short answers to 3-5 discussion questions. A full report is NOT required for each lab experiment. Students will work in groups of 2 to compete the lab experiments and write-ups. The TA will grade the write-ups.

Worksheets will give extra practice on important skills that will be used throughout the entire semester, including grammar and writing style (worksheet #1) and significant figures (worksheet #2). The TA will grade the worksheets.

Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the collection of precipitation using a rain gauge, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report.  Students will work in their lab groups of 2 to design and construct the rain gauge and then use it to collect precipitation daily for 2 weeks at the end of September. Each student will analyze the results of the rain gauge collection separately and prepare draft sections of the full report after learning about the required elements of each section in the lecture portion of the class. The instructor will grade the draft report sections and provide feedback for improvement that the students can use to prepare the final version of the full rain gauge lab report, which is due the last week of class.

In-Class Quizzes will include short answer and true/false questions that focus on technical writing and the required elements of scientific reports. The quizzes will NOT focus on the scientific principles of the lab experiments. The instructor will grade the in-class quizzes.

Course Expectations

  • Every student must complete ALL of the lab experiments. Notify the instructor in advance if you must miss class for any reason, including illness. If you miss a lab session, you and your lab partner will need to make arrangements to conduct the experiment in a make-up session.
  • Assignments are due at the days/times indicated on the Class Schedule. Late assignments will be penalized. If you have a legitimate conflict with an assignment, request an accommodation from the instructor in advance.
  • Lab safety is paramount. Be careful in the lab sessions, and treat all of the lab equipment carefully and respectfully.

Class Website: All class materials will be posted on Angel ( ), including lectures, lab manuals, and supplemental material. Students will also use Angel to take Pre-Lab Quizzes, to submit Lab Write-Ups, and to submit draft Rain Gauge Report sections and the final Rain Gauge report.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own or in designated lab groups (when permitted), including quizzes, draft report sections, and the final full rain gauge report. For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see: .

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website ( ) provides contact information for every Penn State campus. 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. See for more information.

Class Emergencies and Weather Delays

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News ( http:/ ) and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert ( ).