Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics

Course Number and Title:  Meteorology 422, Advanced Atmospheric Dynamics

Semester:  Fall 2017

Instructor: Dr. David Stensrud, 504 Walker,, Office Hours:  Monday 11 am-12 noon, Thursday 10-11 am, or by appointment. If my door is open, then you are welcome to walk in and ask a question. 

Class meeting times and locations: MWF 2:30 – 3:20 pm, 221 Hammond 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 frontogensis. Some additional topics will vary at the discretion of the instructor. 

Prerequisites and concurrent courses: Meteo 421 is a prerequisite

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:  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Students who add the course after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

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 Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.). For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

Internet materials and links: Canvas (

Course expectations: This course will help the student develop an improved understanding of atmospheric dynamics, with a focus on mathematical applications using various forms of the equations of motion and a quantitative analysis of gridded data sets using Matlab. 

Please let me know if you have any difficulty with downloading and reading AMS journal articles.

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 numerical models of the atmosphere.

Course content:

Equations of motion

  • Divergence Theorem
  • Stokes Theorem
  • Vorticity equation

Natural coordinates

  • Focus Topic: Inertial oscillations (Rife et al. 2010)

Theories of cyclones

  • Flow patterns
  • Focus Topic: Conveyor Belts (Schultz 2001)
  • Vorticity
  • Potential vorticity
  • Quasi-geostrophic equations
  • Successive over-relaxation (to solve for omega)
  • Sutcliffe development theorem
  • Q-vectors

Harmonic analysis

Atmospheric wave motions

  • Rossby wave propagation
  • Stationary Rossby waves and links to ENSO
  • Ray tracing
  • Focus Topic: Stationary Rossby waves (Hoskins and Ambrizzi 1993)
  • Barotropic and baroclinic instabilities
  • Tropical waves (Kelvin, mixed Rossby-gravity, inertia-gravity waves)
  • Madden-Julian Oscillation
  • Internal gravity waves
  • Focus Topic: Gulf surges (Newman and Johnson 2013)
  • (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
  • Coastally-trapped Kelvin waves

Planetary boundary layer

  • Turbulence closure
  • Kelvin-Helmholtz Waves
  • Horizontal convective rolls
  • Storm-relative helicity and streamwise vorticity
  • Focus Topic: Vortex lines within low-level mesocyclones (Markowski et al. 2008)

Numerical weather prediction basics

Analysis techniques

  • Time to space conversion and the beauty of Fujita’s work

Course attendance policies

This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., and Religious Observance Policy: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. 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: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., at least one week prior to the activity.

Assessment tools

For a summary of General and Final Examination Policies 44-10 and 44-20 and alternative assessment practices, please see Examination Policy Summary: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and General and Final Exam Policies: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

Grading policy

Semester grades will be based on a total of 200 points that can be earned throughout the semester. Grades of A = 180 points or greater; B = 160 to 179 points; C = 140 to 159 points; D = 120 to 139 points; F less than 120 points.  No curve will be used for grading. 

Homework is worth 100 points total (50 points problem sets, 50 points focus topic reports)

Mid-term examination is worth 40 points.

Final examination is worth 40 points

Classroom participation is worth 20 points.

Required written/oral assignments

5 problem sets will be assigned during the semester.  You will have at least one week to complete each problem set and turn it in during class on the assigned due date.  Each problem set is worth 10 points for a total of 50 points for problem sets.  If you cannot attend class, then email me your problem sets by 3:30 pm on the day the problem set is due.  No partial credit will be given for late assignments.

5 focus topics will be assigned during the semester.  For each topic you will be given access to a peer-reviewed journal article to read.  You will have one week to read the article, followed by a class discussion.   After the classroom discussion you will be required to write a one-page summary of what the article taught you, what you thought was most interesting and what questions it raises.  You will turn in the one-page summary during class on the assigned due date.  Grading of these written assignments will be based upon content, spelling and writing quality.  Each written summary is worth 10 points for a total of 50 points for the focus topics.  If you cannot attend class, then email me your summary by 3:30 pm on the day the written summary is due.  No partial credit will be given for late assignments.

Participation in classroom discussions is critical to developing your ability to think and interact with others in a productive manner.  A separate grade for classroom participation will be worth 20 points.

Examinations and examination policy

One mid-term examination will be given in class on Friday 6 October and will be worth 40 points.  It will cover material from the beginning of the semester through the week of the exam.  If you are unable to participate in the exam due to illness, you can schedule a make-up exam by contacting me.

The final examination time and location will be set by the university. The final exam will be worth 40 points and will cover material from the entire semester.  If you are unable to participate in the exam due to illness, you can schedule a make-up exam by contacting me. 

Academic integrity statement

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: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.."

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 Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.).

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: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. 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.

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 ( (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

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) (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.: 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Weather Delays and Emergencies

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.). 

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 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. 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.

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

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.

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 Canvas and discussed in class.