METEO 005 Severe and Unusual Weather

Severe and Unusual Weather Instructor: Seth Saslo TA: Amanda Walker MWF 2:30-3:20 in 160 Willard

METEO 005 Severe and Unusual Weather
Fall 2015
MWF 2:30-3:20 in 160 Willard


Office Hours: TBA and by appt Office Hours: TBA
Mailbox: 532 Walker Bldg, grad students “S”

Course Description

Meteo 005 is a nontechnical introduction to severe and unusual weather phenomena that occur locally, nationally, and globally. It provides a current and scientifically accurate discussion of a wide range of weather that has impacted people, economies, and cultures. Concepts are taught in a descriptive manner without relying heavily on mathematics; thus, the material is highly accessible to students with a wide variety of backgrounds.

We will start with an introduction to some basic meteorological principles that define and frame the environments in which severe events occur. Next, the course will focus on two major categories of phenomena: warm-season weather, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, floods, and droughts; and cold-season weather, including snowstorms, ice storms, and downslope windstorms.
Climate change, very much a severe and unusual event, will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can use fundamental meteorological tools to explain the origin and creation of severe and unusual phenomena
  • Students understand and can identify conditions and situations in which these phenomena occur
  • Students understand patterns, cycles, and possible outcomes of these situations

Learning Outcomes

  • Students are able to apply new knowledge of the atmosphere to events they experience
  • Students understand the nature and impacts of extreme weather events and are better equipped to make decisions and take action given certain information

Required Textbook:
Rauber, R., Walsh, J. E., and Charlevoix, D. J.: Severe and Hazardous Weather, 4th Ed., 2012.
Online access code NOT required.
This book is on reserve at the Earth and Mineral Sciences library, 105 Deike Bldg.

Course Website:
Lectures will be made available on ANGEL after each lecture. Weather notebook entries will be submitted via an ANGEL drop box. Additional links and resources (e.g. for weather websites) will be made available under the “Resources” tab.

Course Policies:


  • A 94-100
  • A- 90-93 
  • B+ 86-89 
  • B 83-85
  • B- 80-82 
  • C+ 76-79 
  • C 70-75 
  • D 60-69
  • F 0-59

Homeworks: 20%
Weather Notebook (see attached for description): 15%
Midterm 1 (Friday, Oct. 2): 15-20%
Midterm 2 (Friday, Nov. 6): 15-20%
Final exam (Date TBA): 30%


Two in-class midterm exams are scheduled; these are non-cumulative exams covering material after the last exam. The final exam is cumulative but weighted towards topics after midterm exam 2. The lowest midterm score is worth 15% of your grade, while the higher score will be worth 20%. Make-up exams may be administered under certain circumstances but the instructor must be notified as soon as possible. Make-up exams should be taken before the scheduled exam if at all possible.


6-7 homeworks will be assigned throughout the semester. They will be due a week after they are assigned. Homeworks must be received on or before the due date, either in class, in office hours, or in the instructor's mailbox. Hard copy only – it is the preferred way of offering feedback. Answer keys will be made available on ANGEL after the due date. Late assignments will not be accepted unless exceptional circumstances warrant it.

Weather Notebook

Students will be responsible for keeping a once-weekly entry detailing some unusual weather phenomena or event that occurred. These assignments will be due at the end of every month, for a total of three (3) submissions. Weather notebooks will be submitted to an ANGEL drop box and feedback will be provided electronically. More details can be found attached.


All electronic class announcements will be made via ANGEL. Students should be sure to either check ANGEL mail regularly or have ANGEL mail forwarded to an often-used email account.

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their homeworks individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write assignments in their own words using proper citations. Class members may work on the homeworks in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately. Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others. Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course. Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts.

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.

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 (


Attendance will not be taken, but it is strongly encouraged to attend lecture. Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams. 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. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities. Students should contact the instructor as soon as possible in all cases to allow accommodation for missed work.

Weather Delays and Emergencies

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 (Sign up at:

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 will be updated in the copy of the Syllabus posted on ANGEL and announced in class.

Tentative Schedule

Date Topic Relevant Reading Notes

  • Aug 24 (M) Syllabus/Intro Ch 1
  • Aug 26 (W) Intro
  • Aug 28 (F) Measurements Ch 2 
  • Aug 31 (M) Measurements
  • Sept 2 (W) Weather Maps Ch 3
  • Sept 4 (F) Pressure Systems Ch 8, 7
  • Sept 7 (M) NO CLASS Labor Day
  • Sept 9 (W) Pressure Systems
  • Sept 11 (F) Fronts Ch 9
  • Sept 14 (M) Stability Ch 6
  • Sept 16 (W) Stability
  • Sept 18 (F) Thunderstorms Ch 18
  • Sept 21 (M) Thunderstorms
  • Sept 23 (W) Multicell Thunderstorms
  • Sept 25 (F) Multicell Thunderstorms END of material for Midterm 1 WN #1 due
  • Sept 28 (M) Supercell Thunderstorms
  • Sept 30 (W) Review for Midterm 1
  • Oct 2 (F) MIDTERM 1 160 Willard
  • Oct 5 (M) Supercell Thunderstorms
  • Oct 7 (W) Tornadoes Ch 19
  • Oct 9 (F) Tornadoes
  • Oct 12 (M) Hailstorms Ch 20
  • Oct 14 (W) Lightning Ch 21
  • Oct 16 (F) Lightning/Downburst
  • Oct 19 (M) Hurricanes Ch 24
  • Oct 21 (W) Hurricanes
  • Oct 23 (F) Hurricanes
  • Oct 26 (M) Flood/Drought Ch 25, 26
  • Oct 28 (W) Flood/Drought 
  • Oct 30 (F) Flood/Drought END of material for Midterm 2 WN #2 due
  • Nov 2 (M) NWS Warnings 
  • Nov 4 (W) Review for Midterm 2 
  • Nov 6 (F) MIDTERM 2 160 Willard
  • Nov 9 (M) Freezing Precipitation Ch 12 
  • Nov 11 (W) Blizzards Ch 15 
  • Nov 13 (F) Blizzards 
  • Nov 16 (M) Lake-effect Snowstorms Ch 13 
  • Nov 18 (W) Downslope Windstorms Ch 17 
  • Nov 20 (F) Downslope Windstorms 
  • Nov 23 (M) NO CLASS Thanksgiving
  • Nov 25 (W) NO CLASS Thanksgiving
  • Nov 27 (F) NO CLASS Thanksgiving
  • Nov 30 (M) Atmospheric Optics 
  • Dec 2 (W) Atmospheric Optics 
  • Dec 4 (F) Climate Change WN #3 due
  • Dec 7 (M) Climate Change 
  • Dec 9 (W) Climate Change 
  • Dec 11 (F) Review for final exam 

Note that entire chapters may not be covered – reading assignments will be listed in class.