METEO 414: Mesoscale Meteorology

Instructor: Prof. Matthew Kumjian, Lecture: MWR 10:10 am -12:05 pm, 126 Walker Building

METEO 414: Mesoscale Meteorology 

Instructor:  Prof. Matthew Kumjian
Office: 513 Walker Building
Phone: 814-863-1581

Lecture: MWR 10:10 am -12:05 pm, 126 Walker Building

Office Hours: F, 4:00-5:30 pm; by appointment; or when my door is open! 

Teaching Assistant: Ms. Dana Tobin
Office hours: W 2:00-3:00 pm, 412 Walker Building 

Pre-requisites: METEO 411 (Synoptic Meteorology Laboratory): Students who do not meet this prerequisite may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct

Required Textbook: Mesoscale Meteorology in Midlatitudes by P. Markowski and Y. Richardson. Get it online here or at the University Book Store. 

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 Topics Include: Parcel Theory, Vorticity, Indices Derived from Soundings and Hodographs, Static Instability, Conditional Symmetric Instability, Shear Instabilities, Boundary Layer Evolution, Low-level Jets, Lake Effect Snow, Gravity Waves, Mountain Waves, Downslope Windstorms, Cold Air Damming, Radar Fundamentals, Density Currents, Drylines and Capping Inversions, Static Stability Tendency, Convection Initiation, Ordinary Thunderstorms, Gust Fronts, Multicell Thunderstorms, Supercell Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Mesoscale Convective Systems, Downbursts, Bow Echoes, Hailstorms, Flash Floods. These are subject to change due to time constraints and class interest. 

Course Description: The goal of this 4-credit course is to help you gain an understanding of mesoscale phenomena, which I find to be some of the most interesting in all of meteorology. Lectures will focus on the dynamic and physical principles relevant to these scales, which differ significantly from those applicable to synoptic scales. Laboratory exercises will give you practice applying these concepts through problem solving, analysis of fields, and exploration of parameter spaces using numerical models.  

Course Objectives:

  1. Students can demonstrate skill in the analysis of mesoscale phenomena using surface and upper-air observations of the atmosphere. 
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with the dynamic and physical principles underlying the structure, development, and evolution of mesoscale weather systems.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how the vertical structure of the atmosphere controls the behavior of convective phenomena and gravity waves.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how various indices and maps derived from atmospheric soundings can reveal the potential for severe convection to occur in the atmosphere.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role of vorticity in determining the evolution of mesoscale phenomena.
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the use of atmospheric radar returns to diagnose the structure of precipitating systems and the occurrence of such severe weather as flash flooding, hail, tornadoes, and lake-effect snowstorms.
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the effects of topography on the structure of mesoscale systems. 

Grading: Your final grade will be based on the following:

  • Exams (3) will contribute to 75%  of the final grade (the scores, ranked from best to worst, will contribute 35%, 25%, and 15%)
  • Labs (~15) will count for the remaining 25%
  • Attendance is mandatory. Habitual absences may result in a lowering of your letter grade. 

Exam Policy: The first two exams will be administered during special evening sessions from 7:30-10:00 pm on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 (Room 101) and Wednesday, 2 November 2016 (Room 103). The idea is to give you more time than is available during the normal class period. The third exam will take place during Finals Week at the time and location at which the Final Exam is assigned by powers above my pay grade. 

Except for illness or emergencies, make-up exams will be conducted only for students who make arrangements with me prior to the scheduled exam time. 

Lab Assignments: Students may collaborate on lab assignments, but the final product to be handed in should be your own work. (It is always very obvious who the leaders and followers are, especially after the first exam.) Approximately one hour will be devoted to lab work in most of the class periods. Lab assignments typically will be due within a few days or up to a week after the initial date of assignment. Technical accuracy, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and neatness will be considered in the lab grades. 

Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner, and is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity in the College. As such, all are expected to act with personal integrity, respect for other students' dignity, rights, and property, and to help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the EMS community and compromise the worth of work completed by others. The full college policy on academic integrity can be found here. If you need to  learn more, check out PSU's Plagiarism Tutorial

Simply put, don't cheat. This includes but is not limited to copying, plagiarism, self-plagiarism, etc., all of which can result in a 0 on the assignment and/or an F or XF grade in the course. Ultimately, it negatively affects you: imagine the future disappointment of employers, family, and friends when you turn out to have shockingly underwhelming mesoscale skills as a meteorologist. If you struggle with material, come see me or others for help

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. 

Campus Emergencies and Inclement Weather: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to mobile devices, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via the PSU Alert System (to sign up, please see

Attendance: This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11 and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35. Please also see 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 work, including exams and quizzes.  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. 

Accomodation 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' 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. 

Disclaimer: 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.