Atmospheric Dynamics

METEO 421: Atmospheric Dynamics
Fall 2017 Semester 

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This four-credit course, required of all meteorology majors, builds on the foundation laid in METEO 300, Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science, by applying the equations of motion to a variety of atmospheric phenomena. The intrinsically rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions are presented through a discussion of vorticity dynamics (including both relative and planetary vorticity) and the related circulation theorems of Kelvin and Bjerknes, which culminate in potential vorticity thinking. The contrast between oscillating and unstable atmospheric systems is highlighted using the examples of gravitational, inertial, and shear instability, and the parcel and perturbation methods are introduced for studying these systems. An introduction to wave dynamics presents the concepts of phase and group velocity with applications to gravity, inertial, and Rossby waves, and to geostrophic adjustment. Finally, the general circulation, including the major zonal wind systems (e.g., the mid-latitude westerlies) and the major overturning cells (Hadley and Ferrel cells) is discussed quantitatively to provide a description of planetary-scale motions.  

We will also discuss one journal article, Benedict et al. (2004), co-authored by Steven Feldstein. The purpose for reading one journal article is to familiarize students with the method by which scientists communicate the results from their research, for students to see how journal articles are structured, and for students to know how to find journal articles. 

TIME: Monday, Wednesday & Friday, 2:30-3:20 PM; Thursday, 1:35-2:50 PM.
PLACE: 117 Sackett Building.

Steven Feldstein,
Professor & Senior Scientist,
Department of Meteorology
Office: 516 Walker Building  
Phone: 814-865-7042  

Office hours: TBA, or by appointment. 

Mingyu Park, graduate student in meteorology.
Office: 407 Walker                                      
Office hours: TBA, or by appointment. 


PREREQUISITE AND CONCURRENT COURSES: Prerequisites: Meteo 300 (Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science) and Math 230 (Calculus and Vector Analysis or Math 231 & 232). Prerequisite or concurrent: Meteo 431 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics), Math 251 (Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations), and Phys 212 (General Physics:  Electricity and Magnetism). Policy: Students who do not meet these prerequisites 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:

CLASS STRUCTURE: Lectures will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The recitation period will be on Thursday and will be used to work on a detailed exercise that is generally not collected or graded, though sometimes parts of it get added to the next homework assignment. 

HOMEWORK:  Homework assignments will be given every Wednesday (except during exam weeks) and due on the following Wednesday at the beginning of class. Late homework will not be accepted unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness) and prior approval has been granted. Homework assignments are equally weighted. Homework will be graded by the TA and returned on the following Monday.  

REQUIRED TEXTBOOK: Holton, J. R. and G. J. Hakim, 2013. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, 5th Edition, Elsevier Academic Press, 532 pp., ISBN 978-0-12-3848666. 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 The text is also on reserve in the EMS library. There are a few additional required readings from other sources, which I will make available to you if you do not already have them. Readings are assigned for each topic as shown in the detailed syllabus. Taking notes on the readings and working out derivations with a pencil and paper will help you retain the material. 

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 Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit


QUIZZES: There will be weekly equally weighted quizzes posted online (via Canvas) Friday to be completed by Sunday, except during exam weeks. About 10-20 multiple-choice questions will be given on the readings and some lecture material. These quizzes are open book but they must be taken alone. You will be given 45 minutes to take each quiz. If you are unable to take a quiz because of extenuating circumstances, please let me know ahead of time and we will schedule a makeup. 

EXAMS: There will be three equally weighted exams, each lasting about two hours. Exams will be closed book with no crib sheets or calculators allowed. You are expected to be able to do simple arithmetic (include manipulating powers of 10) to 1 or 2 significant figures. The first two exams are tentatively scheduled for 7:00-9:00PM, September 21 and November 2 (both Thursdays). There will be no class on the days of and days after these exams. The third exam is during finals week and is not cumulative. Details on time and location will be given to you as soon as I know them. We will also have a review session on the class period just before the exam. If you are unable to take an exam because of extenuating circumstances, please let me know ahead of time and we will schedule a makeup. 

GRADES: 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%. Weighting: 20% homework, 70% exams, 10% quizzes. 5% extra credit is based on my subjective assessment of the effort you demonstrate to me and the TA in class and during office hours. 

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 POLICY: Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may 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. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

ATTENDANCE: This course abides by the Penn State 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, 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 the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy 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. 

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: 

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents: Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated ( and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage

Counseling and Psychological Services: Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 

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. 

CLASSROOM CELL PHONE POLICY:  Please silence your cell phone in the classroom and do not use it.

CONTACTING THE INSTRUCTOR: I will be in my office during the hours listed above specifically to answer your questions. Exceptions will occur due to unavoidable meetings, illness and travel. I am often available outside of office hours, so please feel free to call or stop by my office at any time. If I am available, I will be happy to talk with you. You can guarantee seeing me outside of office hours by making an appointment. During office-hour visits, please silence your cell phone and do not use it. 

COURSE WEB SITE: I will use Angel to communicate with the class electronically, though I will always send a copy to your PSU account, and I would like you to do the same if you send me an email through Angel. I will also use Angel to post assignments, handouts, quizzes, exam answer keys, past exams, and visuals that I show in class.

ACCOMODATIONS 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 Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources 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: 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. 

CAMPUS 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 (to sign up, please see

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.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy. 

SYLLABUS: A detailed syllabus, with readings, due dates for homework, etc., is given separately. The abridged outline of topics is:

  1. Review of dynamics in Meteo 300 (~1 week)
  2. Circulation and vorticity (~4 weeks)
  3. Simple oscillations and instabilities (~2.5 weeks)
  4. Atmospheric wave motion (~3.5 weeks)
  5. General circulation of the atmosphere (~4 weeks)

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.


  1. Students can demonstrate skills in applying calculus 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 primarily at the planetary and synoptic scale 


  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 balanced and unbalanced flows that form the basis for the depiction of atmospheric motions
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions as described by vorticity and circulation
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply wave dynamics and stability concepts to atmospheric problems 

It is the recommendation of the college that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form during the first week of the semester. The College also recommends the 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. 

DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR: Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct

TECHNICAL REQUIRMENTS: 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 (

Safety: In the case of an emergency, we will follow the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Critical Incident Plan (  In the event of an evacuation, we will follow posted evacuation routes and gather at the Designated Meeting Site.  Evacuation routes for all EMS buildings are available at  For more information regarding actions to take during particular emergencies, please see the Penn State Emergency Action Guides

Mandated Reporting Statement: Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct and Prevention & Response website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect: Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Accessible Syllabus: Notes: Any syllabus posted online (e.g. a Word/PDF file or an online syllabus) should make destinations clickable links such as is done throughout this page. Also, in order to comply with Penn State Policy AD69(Accessibility of Penn State Web Pages,, PDF documents cannot be the sole source of presenting online information. Such documents include syllabi, homework assignments, and scanned notes.  

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 to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.