Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Meteorology 440W

Principles of Atmospheric Measurements
Syllabus, Fall Semester 2017


Dr. Alfred Moyle
420A Walker

Teaching Assistant:
Elle Hanson

Office Hours: by appointment

Lecture: Tuesday/Thursday, 8:00-8:50 AM, 126 Walker

Lab: Tuesday, 2:30-5:30 PM, 126 Walker

Course Description

This course is designed to teach students 1) the principles of making and analyzing scientific measurements and 2) the fundamentals of scientific writing.  Students will conduct several laboratory experiments in which they will use instruments to make measurements and then analyze the observed data.  These experiments will demonstrate scientific concepts covered in the physical meteorology course sequence (e.g., Meteo 431, 436, 437).  In the class lectures, students will learn the format for scientific reports.  Students will conduct a set of data acquisition labs to familiarize them with the use of solid-state sensors for measuring standard meteorological variables (temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure).  They will use the experience gained and the computer code developed in these exercises to perform a field measurement.  The students will prepare brief scientific reports for each of the data acquisition exercises and for the field measurement.  The instructor will evaluate the initial drafts of each of the reports, and then the students will use this feedback to prepare the final versions.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will be able to write a scientific report that clearly describes the motivation, method, results, analysis, and implications of an experiment or research project.
  2. Students will be able to make and analyze measurements of common atmospheric variables related to temperature, water vapor, precipitation, and radiation.
  3. Students will understand the limitations (e.g., error and uncertainty) inherent with all measurements.

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 300, METEO 431, and STAT 301 or STAT 401 or EBF 472.  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.  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor.  Students who re-enroll after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct (

Recommended Textbook

Suggested Reference

  • Sams Teach Yourself Arduino Programming in 24 Hours. Blum, Richard, Sams Publishing: Indianapolis, IN, 2015. Available in the Engineering Library, 325 Hammond Building – call number: TJ223.P76B58 2015.

Textbooks on Reserve at the EMS Library

  • A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation. Petty, Grant W., Sundog Press: Madison, WI, 2004.
  • A Short Course in Cloud Physics. Rogers, R. R. and M. K. Yau, Butterworth-Heinemann: Burlington, MA, 1989.
  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change. Seinfeld, John H. and Spyros N. Pandis, John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1998.
  • Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey. Wallace, John M. and Peter V. Hobbs, Academic Press: San Diego, 2006.
  • Atmospheric Thermodynamics. Bohren, Craig F. and Bruce A. Albrecht, Oxford University Press: New York, 1998.
  • Basic Physical Chemistry for the Atmospheric Sciences. Hobbs, Peter V., Cambridge University Press: New York, 2000.
  • Fundamentals of Weather and Climate. McIlveen, Robin, Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd: Cheltenham, U. K., 2010.
  • Physics of Climate. Piexoto, José P. and Abraham H. Oort, American Institute of Physics: New York, 1992.

Assignments and Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • Lab write-ups 40%
  • In-class activities (Intro to measurements & Excel activity) 5%
  • Data acquisition exercises & draft reports 20%
  • Data acquisition exercises (final reports) 10%
  • Field measurement project packaging 5%
  • Field measurement project draft report 10%
  • Field measurement project final report 10%

Grades will be assigned as A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, and F: < 60%.

Lab write-ups will include specific results for each lab (e.g., tables, graphs, calculations) and short answers to 3-5 discussion questions. Students will work in groups of 2 to complete the lab experiments and write-ups. The TA will grade the write-ups.

In-class activities will give extra practice on important skills that are necessary throughout the entire semester, including significant figures and an Excel activity to practice making graphs and tables. The TA will grade the in-class activities.

Students will conduct a set of lab exercises focused on the collection of data using sensors and a microcontroller. Each student will prepare a brief, but complete scientific report (draft and final versions) for each of these exercises. Students will work in their lab groups of 2 to design a “field” measurement device based upon the available sensors and will then use it to record data. The time of the field campaign will be chosen based upon in-class progress and local meteorology.  Everyone will be required to make measurements over the same period. Each student will analyze the results of their field measurements separately and prepare a draft report. The instructor will grade the draft reports and provide feedback for improvement that the students will use to prepare the final version of the report, which is due the last week of class.

Course Expectations

  • Every student must complete ALL of the lab experiments and exercises. Notify the instructor in advance if you must miss class for any reason, including family emergency or illness.  If you miss a lab session, you and your lab partner will need to make arrangements to conduct the experiment in a make-up session.
  • Assignments are due at the days/times indicated on the Class Schedule. Late assignments will be penalized.  If you have a legitimate conflict with an assignment, request an accommodation from the instructor in advance.
  • Lab safety is paramount. Be careful in the lab sessions, and treat all of the lab equipment carefully and respectfully.

Class Materials: All class materials will be posted on Canvas, including lectures, lab manuals, and supplemental material. Students will also use Canvas to submit assignments, including lab write-ups and draft/final reports.

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own (or in designated lab groups, when permitted) including draft reports and final reports. For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see

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 every Penn State campus.  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.  See for more information.

Class Emergencies and Weather Delays: 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 (

  • Aug 22 Experimental Measurements Overview of Class Significant Figures worksheet due 8/22, end of lab
  • Aug 24 Data Acquisition (DAQ) Labs Introduction
  • Aug 29 Working with Excel Coding for DAQ Excel activity due 8/29, end of lab
  • Aug 31 Coding for DAQ
  • Sep 5 Coding for DAQ
  • Sep 7 Coding for DAQ
  • Sep 12 Data Acquisition, Storing Data & Time Keeping Coding for DAQ
  • Sep 14 Coding/Extra Lab Time
  • Sep 19 Data Acquisition, Measuring Temperature Coding/Extra Lab Time Draft lab report due 9/25, 11:59 PM
  • Sep 21 Lab Reports, Format/Expectations
  • Sep 26 Data Acquisition, Measuring Atmospheric Water Vapor Coding/Extra Lab Time Draft lab report due 10/2, 11:59 PM
  • Sep 28 Coding/Extra Lab Time        
  • Oct 3 Data Acquisition, Measuring Barometric Pressure Coding/Extra Lab Time Draft lab report due 10/9, 11:59 PM
  • Oct 5 Calibrations/Packaging        
  • Oct 10 1. Measuring Temperature with an IR Thermometer Calibrations/Packaging Lab #1 Write-Up due 10/16, 11:59 PM
  • Oct 12 Field measurements (no lecture)
  • Oct 17 2. Chemistry of Acid Precipitation Lab #2 Write-Up due 10/23, 11:59 PM
  • Oct 19
  • Oct 24 3. Thermocouple Theory and Calibration • Lab #3 Write-Up due 10/30, 11:59 PM
  • Oct 26
  • Oct 31 4. Measuring the Latent Heat of Vaporization of Water Analysis of field data •Lab #4 Write-Up due 11/6, 11:59 PM
  • Nov 2
  • Nov 7 5. Freezing of Water Drops by Heterogeneous Nucleation (P1)
  • Nov 9
  • Nov 14 5. Freezing of Water Drops by Heterogeneous Nucleation (P2) • Lab #5 Write-Up due 11/27, 11:59 PM    • Draft of field measurement report due 11/17, 11:59 PM
  • Nov 16
  • Nov 21 No Class – Thanksgiving Break
  • Nov 23
  • Nov 28 6. Extinction of Light by an Attenuating Medium •Lab #6 Write-Up due 12/4, 11:59 PM
  • Nov 30
  • Dec 5 • Final version of field measurement report due 12/7, 11:59 PM
  • Dec 7