METEO 422, Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics

Instructor: Dr. Steven Feldstein, Class meeting times and locations: MWF 2:30 – 3:20 pm, 101 Walker Building

Meteorology 422, Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics 

Instructor:  Dr. Steven Feldstein,
516 Walker
Office Hours: TBA, or by appointment 

Class meeting times and locations: MWF 2:30 – 3:20 pm, 101 Walker Building 

Course designation in curriculum: Professional Elective  

Brief course description from University Bulletin: This course in atmospheric dynamics covers advanced topics, including instabilities that lead to the development of various atmospheric phenomena at the synoptic and smaller scales, numerical modeling principles and applications, topographic gravity and Rossby waves, understanding of the general circulation that can be used for extended-range forecasting, and frontal structure and frontogenesis. Some additional topics will vary at the discretion of the instructor.

Additional details on course description: The first half of Meteo 422 will be comprised of traditional topics in atmospheric dynamics such as quasi-geostrophic theory, baroclinic instability, El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), as well as a brief introduction to numerical weather prediction and boundary-layer meteorology.  We will next study the observational features and physical mechanisms the drive atmospheric teleconnection patterns, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Pacific/North American pattern, including the relationship of these teleconnections to ENSO, the MJO, the stratosphere, Arctic sea ice, and Siberian snow cover.  The last quarter of the class will focus on the application of the above topics to medium- and extended-range forecasting (2-4 week forecasting), including the state-of-the-art application of probabilistic and numerical modeling to forecasting at this time scale.

Prerequisites and concurrent courses:  Meteo 421 is a prerequisite

Students who do not meet this prerequisite after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period: http:/ If you have not completed the listed prerequisite, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already.  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:  An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology by James Holton and Gregory Hakim 

A copy of the textbook is on reserve in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Library.  

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

Internet materials and links: Angel (

Additional References: Feldstein, S. B., and C. L. E. Frankze, 2016: Atmospheric Teleconnection Patterns. In "Nonlinear and Stochastic Climate Dynamics", C.L. E. Franzke and T. J. O'Kane, Eds., Cambridge University Press.  This publication will be given to the students. 

Course Objectives:

  1. Students can demonstrate skills in applying calculus and differential equations 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 at a range of temporal and spatial scales.

Course 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 how wave motion and the instability of equilibrium conditions can provide the basis for the description of the development of several different atmospheric phenomena.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the principles underlying the creation and application of medium/extended range forecasts. 

Course content:  

  • Quasi-geostrophic Analysis (Chapter 6 of Holton and Hakim)
    • Derivation of the Quasi-Geostrophic Equations
    • Potential Vorticity Derivation of the QG Equations
    • Potential Vorticity Thinking
  • Baroclinic Development (Chapter 7 of Holton and Hakim)
    • Hydrodynamic Instability
    • Normal Mode Baroclinic Instability
    • Baroclinic Instability of a Continuously Stratified Atmosphere
  • The General Circulation (Chapter 10 of Holton and Hakim)
    • The Lorenz Energy Cycle
    • Longitudinally-Dependent Time-Averaged Flow
  • Tropical Dynamics (Chapter 11 of Holton and Hakim and classic papers)
    • The Walker Circulation
    • El Nino and the Southern Oscillation
    • Madden-Julian Oscillation
  • Numerical Modeling and Prediction (Chapter 13 of Holton and Hakim)
    • Numerical Approximation of the Equations of Motion
  • Atmospheric Teleconnections (Feldstein and Franzke, 2016; Nonlinear and Stochastic Climate Dynamics)
    • Observational features of NAO, PNA, NAM patterns
    • Methods of identifying teleconnection (EOF and Self-Organizing Map analysis)
    • Physical mechanisms that drive teleconnections
    • Links to ENSO, the MJO, stratosphere, Arctic sea ice, and Siberian snow cover
  • Medium- and Extended-Range (2-4 Week Forecasting) (important papers, ppt files on Angel)
    • Impact of ENSO and the MJO on forecasting
    • Probabilistic forecasting
    • Numerical forecasting
  • The Planetary Boundary Layer (Chapter 8 of Holton and Hakim; time permitting)

Course attendance policies: This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35:  Please also see 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, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  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. 

Course Policies 

Examination Policy: There will be two mid-terms and no final exam. Each mid-term will contribute 25% to your final grade.

Problem sets: Problem sets will be given about every two weeks for the first 10 weeks of the semester. The problem sets will contribute 20% to your final grade.

Project: Each student will do a project on medium/extended range prediction (2-4 week prediction).  This project will involve the use of Self-Organizing Map (SOM) analysis to perform probabilistic forecasts.  The forecast will be done with a Matlab code that has already been developed.  The students will write up the results of their research and present the results of their research in class.  Students will also read an important paper on medium/extended range prediction and discuss that paper in class.  This project work will contribute toward 30% of your final grade.

Grading Scales

  • 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%

Curving Policy: For the exams, a curve will be applied if class average is below 80.

Late Penalty: For homework assignments, a 10% penalty will be applied for each day.

Academic integrity statement: Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members are encouraged to work on the problem sets 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.

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) Web site 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. 

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: 

Penn State E-mail: 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 information.

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.

Recommended Policies 

Syllabus and Paper Acknowledgement Forms:
In addition, the new recommendation from the college is that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form during the first week of the semester. The College also recommends the attached Paper Submission Form as a way to have students take responsibility for papers/labs/homework done as part of group work.

Penn State E-mail Accounts: 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 information.

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. 

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.

Netiquette: 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 some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Technical Requirements: For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (, 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 (

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.