METEO 005 Severe and Unusual Weather

Section 001 (3 credits)MWF 2:30 - 3:20 pm in 060 Willard Building, University Park

Instructor: Daniel Eipper
Office Hours: 606-B Walker Bldg. Tu: 10-11, and by appointment

Teaching Assistant: Steven Naegele
Office Hours: TBD

Course Website: Canvas (  Please check Canvas frequently for course materials and any syllabus updates.

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 impacts individuals and society. Concepts are taught in a descriptive manner without relying heavily on mathematics; thus the material is highly accessible to students from a wide variety of backgrounds. The class also draws on examples of significant historical or recent weather events; a common theme is the relevance of the class material to the lives of students.  Students will immediately be able to apply what they learn to weather events occurring near their homes or around the world. 

The course begins with an introduction to fundamental meteorological concepts and to the principles that govern severe and unusual weather.  The introductory material constructs a reference frame for defining and understanding severe and unusual weather and the environments in which it occurs.  Following this, the major themes of the course are 1) warm-season phenomena, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and 2) cold-season phenomena, including blizzards, ice storms, and lake-effect snowstorms.  The course also covers mountain-related weather, atmospheric optical phenomena, and (time-permitting) human impacts on severe and unusual weather. 

This course does not require any prerequisite or concurrent courses.

Course Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to use fundamental meteorological concepts, tools, and knowledge to explain likely origins of severe and unusual weather phenomena
  • Students will become more-knowledgeable consumers of weather information
  • Students will understand patterns and lifecycles of severe and unusual weather phenomena
  • Students will understand possible outcomes of these situations 

Expected Course Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to apply their new knowledge of the atmosphere to events they experience
  • Students will be more prepared to make decisions and take action based on specific weather information.
  • Students will be better equipped to keep themselves and those around them safe during severe and hazardous weather events, both through personal understanding of meteorology and through familiarity with key weather resources. 

Course Content – Unit Topics

  • Introduction to the course and a brief history of meteorology
  • Properties of the atmosphere and atmospheric measurements
  • Weather maps
  • Numerical weather simulation/prediction
  • Stability, clouds, and precipitation
  • Forces and force balances
  • High and low pressure systems
  • Airmasses and fronts
  • Extratropical cyclones
  • Thunderstorms, including single-cell, multicell, and supercell thunderstorms
  • Thunderstorm hazards, including lightning, hail, downbursts, flash-floods, and tornadoes
  • General circulation of the atmosphere, including El Nino and the southern oscillation
  • Hurricanes
  • Winter storms, including blizzards, ice storms, and lake-effect snowstorms
  • Cold waves
  • Floods
  • Drought
  • Heat waves
  • Mountain storms, including mountain snows and downslope windstorms
  • Atmospheric optics, including rainbows, haloes, parhelia (sun dogs), and mirages
  • Expected changes to severe weather due to human impacts (time-permitting) 

Required Textbook: Rauber, R. M., J. E. Walsh, and D. J. Charlevoix: Severe and Hazardous Weather: An Introduction to High Impact Meteorology, 4th Ed., 2012. 13-digit ISBN: 9781465250704.  Online access code will not be required for this course.

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

Course Format and Access to Online Materials: Lectures will heavily rely on powerpoint slides, but the blackboard, verbal exposition, and/or additional media will also be used to expand on material presented in the slides.  Powerpoint slides will be made available on Canvas ( before or soon after lectures.  However, the slides are not guaranteed to contain all information needed to complete assignments (students are strongly encouraged to come to class!).  Homework, additional information on assignments, and supplemental links and resources (e.g., weather websites) will also be made available on Canvas.  

Course Policies:

Grading Scale: 

  • 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) 

Grade Assessment

  • Homework: 30%
  • Pop Quizzes: 10%
  • Exam 1 (Friday, Sep. 30): 10-20%
  • Exam 2 (Friday, Nov. 4): 10-20%
  • Final Exam (Date TBA): 30% 

Exams: Two in-class exams are scheduled.  These exams are non-cumulative (except for possible exceptions where material is heavily overlapped). The lower of these exam scores will be worth 10% of the grade, while the higher score will be worth 20%. A final exam will also be administered; the final exam is cumulative but is weighted toward topics taught after exam 2.  All three exams will be composed primarily of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions.  Make-up exams may be administered in the event of exceptional circumstances, but the instructor must be notified as soon as possible.  If at all possible, make-up exams should be taken before the scheduled exam. 

Homework: 8-10 homework assignments will be given out throughout the semester.  They will be due one week after they are assigned. Homework assignments must be received on or before the due date. Hard copies are recommended and must be turned in by the end of class on the date due.  Electronic submissions may be accepted so long as they are complete and are turned in by midnight (local time) on the date due. Late assignments will be heavily penalized or not accepted (the homework score will be reduced by 50% if it is returned within 3 days of the due date and will receive a zero if delivered afterward) unless exceptional circumstances warrant the tardiness and the delay is approved by the instructor. 

Pop Quizzes: Approximately 8 unannounced (pop) quizzes will be administered throughout the semester. The quizzes will generally consist of 2-5 multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions that pertain to recent material.  Please be punctual for class and be sure to bring a pen/pencil to each class!  Quizzes generally cannot be made up.  Exceptional circumstances may warrant a quiz score being dropped (i.e., not counted), but only when the absence is for a legitimate reason approved by the instructor.  

Extra Credit: An optional assignment to write an essay on a specific way that severe or unusual weather has impacted you or others may be completed for extra credit.  The extra credit assignment will be described in detail at a later date.

Communication: All electronic class announcements will be made through Canvas. Students should be sure to either check Canvas mail regularly or have Canvas mail forwarded to their preferred email account.

Use of Cell Phones and Other Electronic Devices During Lecture: In order to maintain a professional learning atmosphere and out of respect for others in the classroom, the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in lecture for any purpose not directly related to class is not permitted.  A partial list of prohibited activities includes texting, making phone calls, involvement on email or social media, and playing games.  Anyone found participating in these activities or any other activities banned by the instructor will be asked to leave the classroom. 

It is recognized that there may be cases in which a student feels it is imperative to monitor their phone (e.g., a situation in which their vigilance may be important to a loved one).  In these cases, an exception will be made and phones may be kept in silent or vibrate mode and checked periodically.  However, the student must leave the classroom to write any type of message or to make a phone call.  In these circumstances it is also requested that the student sits near a classroom door. 

In addition to the above, the instructor reserves the right at any time to ask students to put away their phones/devices or to excuse themselves from the classroom if the instructor considers their activity a distraction to others.   

During Quizzes or Exams: During quizzes or exams, cell phones and electronic devices must be in silent mode and put away.  The only exception to this rule will be in unique, rare, and critical situations when their use is specifically requested ahead of time and is sanctioned by the instructorStudents found using phones or other devices during quizzes or exams (without explicit prior permission from the instructor) will automatically receive a zero on the assignment. 

Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is required!  Students in this class are expected to write up their homework assignments individually, to complete the exams on their own, and to write any assignments in their own words using proper citations. Class members may work on homework in groups, but students must write up their answers independently. Students may not 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 are at risk of receiving an F or XF in the course. Please see the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy (, which this course adopts.  To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students": (

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 (

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 based on the documentation guidelines ( 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. 

Attendance: Attendance will not be taken, but students are strongly encouraged to attend lecture.  This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and by the Conflict Exam Policies 44-35:  Please see also the Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed homework and exams.  Refer to the “Course Policies” section for policies on specific types of assignments.  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 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.  

In all cases in which a students will be absent from class or an exam, the student should contact the instructor at least a week ahead of time or as soon as possible to allow accommodations for missed work.

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.

Weather Delays and Emergencies: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: ( and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

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 in the case that special arrangements need to be made. 

Syllabus Acknowledgement Form: All students must sign and return a Syllabus Acknowledgement Form (which will be handed out on the first day of class and due by Friday of the following week), in order to receive a grade for the course. 

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 Canvas ( and announced in class.

Tentative Schedule of Lecture Topics and Textbook Reading
Date Topic Relevant Reading* Notes

  • Aug 22 (M) Syllabus / Introduction
  • Aug 24 (W) Properties and Measurements of the Atmosphere Ch 1 & 2
  • Aug 26 (F) Properties and Measurements of the Atmosphere Ch 1 & 2
  • Aug 29 (M) Properties and Measurements of the Atmosphere Ch 1 & 2
  • Aug 31 (W) Weather Maps Ch 3
  • Sept 2 (F) Numerical Weather Simulation and Prediction Ch 4
  • Sept 5 (M) NO CLASS Labor Day
  • Sept 7 (W) Stability, Clouds, and Precipitation Ch 6
  • Sept 9 (F) Stability, Clouds, and Precipitation Ch 6
  • Sept 12 (M) Forces and Force Balances Ch 7
  • Sept 14 (W) Forces and Force Balances Ch 7
  • Sept 16 (F) High and Low Pressure Systems Ch 8
  • Sept 19 (M) Airmasses and Fronts Ch 9 
  • Sept 21 (W) Extratropical Cyclones Ch 10 & 11
  • Sept 23 (F) Extratropical Cyclones Ch 10 & 11 END of material for Exam 1
  • Sept 26 (M) Thunderstorms Ch 18
  • Sept 28 (W) Thunderstorms Ch 18
  • Sept 30 (F) EXAM 1 In 060 Willard Bldg.
  • Oct 3 (M) Thunderstorms Ch 18
  • Oct 5 (W) Thunderstorms Ch 18
  • Oct 7 (F) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 10 (M) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 12 (W) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 14 (F) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 17 (M) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 19 (W) Thunderstorm Hazards Ch 19 - 22
  • Oct 21 (F) General Atmospheric Circulation Ch 5 & 23
  • Oct 24 (M) Hurricanes Ch 24
  • Oct 26 (W) Hurricanes Ch 24
  • Oct 28 (F) Hurricanes Ch 24 END of material for Exam 2
  • Oct 31 (M) Winter Storms Ch 12, 13, 15
  • Nov 2 (W) Winter Storms Ch 12, 13, 15
  • Nov 4 (F) EXAM 2 In 060 Willard Bldg.
  • Nov 7 (M) Winter Storms Ch 12, 13, 15
  • Nov 9 (W) Cold Waves Ch 14
  • Nov 11 (F) Floods Ch 25
  • Nov 14 (M) Drought Ch 26
  • Nov 16 (W) Heat Waves Ch 27
  • Nov 18 (F) Mountain Storms Ch 16 & 17
  • Nov 21 - 25 NO CLASS Thanksgiving Break
  • Nov 28 (M) Mountain Storms Ch 16 & 17
  • Nov 30 (W) Atmospheric Optics
  • Dec 2 (F) Atmospheric Optics
  • Dec 5 (M) Human/Climate Impacts Ch 5
  • Dec 7 (W) Catch-Up/Review Day
  • Dec 9 (F) Catch-Up/Review Day
    * Note that entire chapter(s) may or may not be covered and that the reading assignments are subject to change. Final reading assignments will be detailed in class.