METEO 597A Extratropical Transition (ET) of Tropical Cyclones (TCs)

Instructor: Jenni L. Evans, Class meetings Tuesday and Thursday, 9:05 – 10:20 am

Syllabus: Extratropical Transition (ET) of Tropical Cyclones (TCs)
Meteo 597A, Fall 2016 (1 credit)
Course Logistics and Overview
Instructor Jenni L. Evans (
509 Walker Building and 225C Computer Building

Course designation Graduate elective, Meteorology and Atmospheric Science

Recommended Prerequisite/Concurrent: Meteo 452 (Tropical Meteorology) or equivalent

Office hours I look forward to our meetings; we will arrange them by appointment. Please email me to set up a time. I am running Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience this year, so I spend a lot of time across campus. Please plan ahead when making a time for our meetings.

Class meetings Tuesday and Thursday, 9:05 – 10:20 am. Since this is a 1-credit course, we will have 15 class meetings. I am scheduling the class meeting times to fit within the Meteo 452 syllabus for those who need the background, and with visitor schedules. A calendar with class meeting dates will be provided on our Angel site and will be reviewed when we meet.

I expect your attendance at all scheduled classes, but understand that other commitments may occasionally get in the way. If you know you will miss a class, notify me in advance if possible. The interactive nature of this class works best if everyone participates.

Textbooks: Required None. You will have access to relevant journal articles through the subscriptions to the relevant professional societies by the Penn State libraries: 

Recommended For background on tropical meteorology, you might find my online textbook, co-authored with Arlene Laing (Penn State PhD), helpful:

Scope of this Course: Extratropical Transition of Tropical Cyclones
Extratropical transition (ET) is the process by which an initially tropical or subtropical cyclone evolves as a viable midlatitude system. Topics to be covered include

  • ET climatology and its relation to the climatology of tropical cyclones (TCs)
  • Characteristics and diagnostics of ET systems 
  • Environmental controls on ET and environmental impact of ET (time to recovery)
  • Forecasting challenges relating to ET, including
    o Metrics of ET forecast skill
    o Use of ensembles
  • Downstream weather impacts of ET

Course Expectations: Students successfully completing this course will have a strong understanding for how tropical cyclones, particularly those that undergo extratropical transition, fit into the climate system, the mechanisms leading to transition (as opposed to decay), downstream weather impacts due to ET events, and the issues with predictability of these systems.

Students will be able to apply their existing knowledge of the atmosphere and its physics and dynamics to understanding of this class of weather systems. They will participate in and lead class discussions, give a conference-style presentation and write an original term paper.

Assessment: Each student will be expected to lead one class discussion, actively participate in class discussions, give one 15-minute presentation and write one original term paper. There will be no quizzes or exams in this class.

Class Discussion (20%)
Discussion leaders will work in pairs – these teams will be determined the first day of class. I will work with each team to select a paper from the provided reference list (see our class website). It is important that we agree these papers so that we cover the needed scope of materials.

Dates for these discussions will be set in the first couple of weeks of class. Discussions will not begin until at least the third week of September.

While the project is being done in teams, you will receive individual grades based upon your preparation, familiarity with the material, and ability to draw the class into a meaningful discussion.

If you are strategic, you can use this paper as background for your term paper.

Class Participation (20%): 
The class is a mixture of lectures, discussions and presentations by me, by you and from visiting experts. I expect you to engage with the material actively in class. 

In-Class Presentation (25%) and Term Paper (35%):
Your presentation and term paper will focus on reviewing a journal article as if it were a near-final draft of a doctoral dissertation chapter.

Overall approach: 
Adopting the role of a PhD student’s committee chair, you will evaluate the material in an agreed journal article, including describing any background necessary for others in this class to understand the article you've chosen. You will point out strengths and inadequacies (1) in the arguments presented in the article, and (2) in the supporting evidence the authors provide. Finally, you will suggest new research that addresses the shortcomings you have identified, or simply advances the field from that knowledge base.

Each journal article may be used in class only once, so if you have a preference let me know as soon as possible.

Your presentation should comprise a relatively high level overview of the journal article, including any background material needed for this class to put the article in context. You should also indicate any flaws in the arguments (if relevant) and identify a couple
of areas for improvements in the current study or new research advances beginning from this knowledge base.

Presentations will be 15-minutes long, plus a 5-minute discussion. Clearly this means that your presentation cannot be comprehensive – but it must be comprehensible by your peers. All class members will be asked to write 1-paragraph reviews of each talk. I will summarize this input and share the overall feedback with each student. 

We will have three presentations per class, so it is critical that you keep to time.

Presentations will be after Thanksgiving break: 29 November, 6 and 8 December.
Term papers are due no later than the Monday of exam week (December 12th).

Papers should be modeled on the format of an AMS journal article. You can download a template at the AMS authors’ website, I can provide you with a simplified one, or you can just make your own. Include any diagrams helpful in supporting your discussion (whether from a journal article, conference paper or generated yourself).

There is no final exam in this class.

Grading will be according to the following broad rubric: operating at a mature graduate student level (A), beginning graduate student (B), advanced undergraduate (C), and I hope I don't need to think about any other grades. We will discuss in detail what I mean here and I will provide a formal written rubric in the first 2 weeks of class.

Unless arranged at least a week in advance, delaying a class presentation/discussion or late submission of a term paper will cause the individual to be penalized 10% of their grade. Note that since class discussions will be done in pairs, students not responsible
for the delay will not be penalized.

Penn State Policy on 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.

Academic Integrity: This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity
includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

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 my 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 welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for their services: ( and information on their modes of assistance for students

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations in this class, you must contact ODS at University Park, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines ( 
resources/guidelines). If the documentation supports your request for accommodations, the UP disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Provide me with this letter as soon as possible, and we can make plans for any approved accommodations in this class.

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.

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.

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

Of course, you can also wander up to the Weather Station and talk to our forecasters!