METEO 440W Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

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

Meteorology 440W


  • Principles of Atmospheric Measurements
  • Syllabus, Fall Semester 2015 
  • Instructor: Dr. Amy Huff, 402A Walker, 865-2951,
  • Teaching Assistant: Nikolay Balashov, 418 Walker, 863-8752,
  • Office Hours: by appointment
  • Lecture: Thursdays, 2:30-3:45 PM, 126 Walker
  • Lab: 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 (  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

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:

  • Lab write-ups: 40%
  • In-class activities (worksheets, Excel activity): 5%
  • Abstracts for lab experiments: 10%
  • Rain gauge: 10%
  • Draft rain gauge report sections: 5%
  • Final rain gauge experiment report: 20%
  • In-class quizzes (on aspects of technical writing/reports): 10%

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

Lab write-ups will include specific results for each lab (e.g., tables, graphs, calculations) and short answers to 3-5 discussion questions.  Students will work in groups of 2-3 to compete the lab experiments and write-ups.  The TA will grade the write-ups.

In-class activities will give extra practice on important skills that will be used throughout the entire semester, including grammar and writing style (worksheet #1), significant figures (worksheet #2), and an Excel activity to practice making graphs and tables.  The TA will grade the in-class activities. 

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 2-3 to design and construct the rain gauge and then use it to collect precipitation daily for 3 weeks at the end of September and beginning of October.  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. 

To reinforce technical writing skills, students will write abstracts for all of the lab experiments.  Students will write the abstract for lab #1 in class, with assistance from the instructor.  Students will write the abstracts for the subsequent labs on their own; each student will write his/her own abstracts and may not work with his/her lab partner.  The instructor will grade the abstracts. 

In-Class Quizzes will 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 TA will grade quiz #1 and the instructor will grade the quiz #2. 

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 Materials: We will use Box, a secure file sharing system, instead of Angel for this class.  All class materials will be posted on Box, including lectures, lab manuals, and supplemental material.  Students will also use Box to submit assignments, including lab write-ups, abstracts for lab experiments, 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 (