METEO 421 Atmospheric Dynamics

Atmospheric Dynamics Instructor: Jenni Evans TA's: Qian Li and Alex Libardoni Lectures Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:05–9:55 am 124 Walker Lab/Recitation Thursday 9:05–9:55 am 124 Walker

Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421)

Fall 2015
METEO 421 ATMOSPHERIC DYNAMICS (Required) Prof. Jenni Evans
INSTRUCTOR:  509 Walker 
407 Walker 
408 Walker 


This four-credit course, required of all meteorology majors, builds on the foundation laid in METEO 300, Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science, by applying the equations of motion to a variety of atmospheric phenomena. The intrinsically rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions are presented through a discussion of vorticity dynamics (including both relative and planetary vorticity) and the related circulation theorems of Kelvin and Bjerknes, which culminate in potential vorticity thinking. The contrast between oscillating and unstable atmospheric systems is highlighted using the examples of gravitational, inertial, and shear instability, and the parcel and perturbation methods are introduced for studying these systems. An introduction to wave dynamics presents the concepts of phase and group velocity with applications to gravity, inertial, and Rossby waves, and to geostrophic adjustment. Finally, the general circulation,
including the major zonal wind systems (e.g., the mid-latitude westerlies) and the major overturning cells (Hadley and Ferrell cells) is discussed quantitatively to provide a description of planetary-scale motions.


Prerequisites* METEO300 (Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science); MATH 230 or MATH 231 and MATH 232 (Calculus and Vector Analysis)

Concurrent METEO431 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics), MATH 251 (Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations), PHYS 212 (General Physics: Electricity and Magnetism) 

Students who do not meet these prerequisites will be informed in writing and will be dis-enrolled by the instructor: http:/ 

If you want to continue with this course and have not completed these prerequisites, you must make an appointment ( to meet with me in the first week of classes.
Students who re-enroll without the instructor’s approval, after being dis-enrolled, are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct: Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015 2/8


Lectures Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:05–9:55 am 124 Walker
Lab/Recitation Thursday 9:05–9:55 am 124 Walker

The lab/recitation period will be used to work on a detailed exercise that is generally not collected or graded, though sometimes parts of it get added to the next homework assignment. Unless told otherwise, you are encouraged to collaborate on these lab

Office Hours To be advised in the first week of class; class consultations with all course leaders (instructor and TAs) can always be arranged in advance via email.


A detailed syllabus, with readings, due dates for homework, etc., is given separately, but encompasses the following topics:

  1. Review of the dynamics in Meteo 300 (~1 week)
  2. Circulation and vorticity (~4 weeks)
  3. Simple oscillations and instabilities (~2.5 weeks)
  4. Atmospheric wave motion (~3.5 weeks)
  5. General circulation of the atmosphere (~4 weeks)


  • Objectives
  1. Students can demonstrate skills in applying calculus to the quantitative description of atmospheric phenomena
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with how basic physical laws are applied to provide knowledge of the development and evolution of weather phenomena primarily at the planetary and synoptic scales
  • Outcomes
  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply the equations of motion to the quantitative description of a variety of atmospheric motions including the general circulation
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of balanced and unbalanced flows that form the basis for the depiction of atmospheric motions
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions as described by vorticity and circulation
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply wave dynamics and stability concepts to atmospheric problems

Class Communications
All class announcements, readings/reading lists, homework assignments, solution sets, visuals shown in class and other materials will be posted on the class Angel website (

It is your responsibility to keep up to date with all deadlines and other class arrangements and information provided there.
Class-related emails must be sent through Angel.
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 to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important
Cell Phone Policy: Please silence your cell phone in the classroom or office hours and
do not use it.
Academic Integrity
Academic honesty is required and expected of everyone in this class.
This course adopts the EMS Academic Integrity Policy
I expect all submitted work to be your own. Feel free to discuss homework assignments
with others, but never, ever (I really mean it) copy another’s work. Homework is not a
collaborative project. Students in this class are expected to complete all of their
homework and quizzes individually, to complete the exams on their own, and to write
their papers in their own words using proper citations. Students must not copy exam
answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students must not
plagiarize text from papers written by others.
If it appears that there is copying on any of the formal class assessments (homework, quiz, exam,
paper), I will begin the formal Disciplinary Action Procedure as outlined by our college
Students presenting other people's work as their own will (at minimum) earn zero on
the assignment or exam. Academic dishonesty may result in an F or XF in the course.
I derive no joy from this process; it protects the integrity of your grades, and ultimately,
of your degree. Thankfully, the need for its use is very rare in our department.
If you are unclear on any aspect of this policy, consult me immediately.
Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015
Course Copyright
All course materials [online or hard copy] are protected by copyright laws. Students
may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but any
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 and your course leaders welcome students with disabilities. The Office for
Disability Services (ODS, website has contact information
for every Penn State campus: (
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the
University Park disability services office, participate in an intake interview, and provide
appropriate documentation ( If this assessment
supports your request for reasonable accommodations, the disability services office will
provide you with an accommodation letter.
Please make an appointment as quickly as possible to share this letter with your instructor and
TAs and to discuss the recommended accommodations with us.
You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.
Attendance (includes exam conflict, student health, religious observance, personal
The Penn State Class Attendance policies Attendance Policy 42-27:, Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: are followed in this course.
Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to
make up missed work. Legitimate reasons for missing class include religious
observance (Religious Observance Policy:
4.html), family emergencies, and university-approved curricular or extracurricular
activities. Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities
should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's
Office:, at least one week prior to the
activity. If you are still unsure as to whether your situation is a “legitimate
unavoidable” absence, talk to me in advance.
Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015
Students who become ill or sustain an injury should use their best judgment on whether
or not they are well enough to attend class. According to the university Illness
Verification Policy:,
students with minor illness or injury (less than a week absent from class) are not
required to secure the signature of medical personnel, however a student may be asked
to produce a medical certificate for absences that persist for more than a week.
Students encountering serious family, health, or personal situations that result in
extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help:
Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should
submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.
Military Personnel
Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique
circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA
appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if
possible, to the instructor if any special arrangements for class need to be made.
Campus emergencies (including weather delays) and personal safety alerts
Campus emergencies and personal safety alerts, including weather delays, are
announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones,
email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert. If you have not already
done so, consider signing up for PSUAlert at
Holton, J. R. and G. J. Hakim, 2013. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, 5th
Edition, Elsevier Academic Press, 532 pp., ISBN 978-0-12-384866.
The text is on reserve in the EMS library, but you are encouraged to purchase this or
another Dynamic Meteorology textbook. I am happy to talk with you about other
There are a few additional required readings from other sources; these will be made
available to you via the class Angel site.
Readings are assigned for each topic as shown in the detailed class schedule. Finish the
week’s readings by the end of the day each Friday so that you can complete an online
quiz (see below) on time.
Recent research has demonstrated that taking notes and working through derivations
using pencil/pen and paper will help you retain the material in the readings most
Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015
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 and Family Services (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to
socioeconomic status please visit
Technical Requirements
For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the
Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (https://www.eeducation., including the requirements listed for same-time,
synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the
course, please contact the ITS Help Desk (
The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications,
such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain
civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of
forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette"
( for general guidelines that should
be followed when communicating in this course.
Your overall class grade will be calculated from all of the assessment materials (see
below) using the following weighting: 20% homework, 65% exams, 10% quizzes, 5%
based upon my subjective assessment of the effort you demonstrate to me and to the
TAs in class and during office hours.
Weekly quizzes will be given online (via Angel); no quizzes will be given during exam
weeks. Quizzes will be available no later than Thursday and must be completed by Friday.
Each quiz will comprise about 10-20 multiple-choice questions based on the readings and
some lecture material. These quizzes are open book but they must be taken alone and must
represent solely your own work. You will be given 45 minutes to take each quiz.
Homework assignments will be given every Wednesday (except during exam weeks)
and due on the following Wednesday at the beginning of class. Late homework will not
be accepted unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness) and prior approval
has been granted by me. Homework assignments are equally weighted. Homework will
be graded by one of the TAs and returned on the following Monday.
Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015
There will be two equally weighted midterm exams [20%, 20%] and a final [25%];
75 minutes is allocated to each exam, but the exams are designed to take less than 1 hour.
Exams will be closed book; no notes, books, crib sheets or calculators are allowed. You
are expected to be able to do simple arithmetic (include manipulating powers of 10) to
1 or 2 significant figures.
The first two exams are tentatively scheduled for September 24 and November 5 (both
Thursdays). There will be no class on the day after these exams. All exams are
cumulative, although typically they will emphasize the materials covered since the
previous exam. I will provide you details on time and location for the final exam as
soon as I know them.
Any makeup exams will be administered as oral exams.
TAs will not be expected to hold additional office hours leading up to exams – they are
students too.
Final Grades
Your final grade will be the rounded sum of all of the assessments described [none of
these will be “dropped”]. Once the numeric grade has been calculated, letter grades will
be assigned as follows
A: 92-100%; A-: 88-91%; B+: 84-87%; B: 80-83%; B-: 75-79%; C+: 71-74%; C: 63-70%; D:
50-62%; F: <50%.
Deferred Grades
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time,
it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a
deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your
instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to
determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any
reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a
grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
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 posted to the
course discussion forum.
Atmospheric Dynamics (Meteo 421) Syllabus, Fall 2015
To receive a grade for this course and to ensure that you understand
all of the course policies described in the syllabus, please fill out and
sign this form and return it to one of the course leaders (myself, Alex
or Qian) by Friday, 28 August.
Syllabus Acknowledgement
I have read the entire syllabus for Meteo 421; this class meets in Room
124 Walker on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during Fall 2015.
I understand and agree to adhere to the policies provided in this syllabus.
Signature _______________________________________
Name _______________________________________
(print your full name)
Student Number _______________________________________
E-mail Address _______________________________________