Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Meteo 440W – Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Course Syllabus, Fall 2018 Semester 

Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 814-863-8253,

Office Hours: Wednesday 1:00-3:00 pm

Teaching Assistant

Alexandra Brosius, 418 Walker Building,

Class Meeting Times & Location

Lectures: Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-8:50 am, 101 Walker
Labs: Tuesday 2:30-5:30 pm, 126 Walker 

Course Description

This course will teach students 1) the principles of making and analyzing scientific

measurements and 2) the fundamentals of scientific writing. Students will conduct 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 “universal recipe” for scientific reports, including the abstract, introduction, experimental methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections. Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the observation of precipitation, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report. Fellow students and the instructor will evaluate the initial drafts of the report sections, and the students will use this feedback to prepare the final version of the report. 

Course Goals and Objectives

  1. Students will be able to write a formal 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. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:  If you are not in compliance with the listed prerequisites and have not already contacted me, please do so immediately. 

Electronic Textbooks (recommended and free)

· Eloquent Science - A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist.  David M. Schultz, 

Reserve materials and location

Available on reserve in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library (105 Deike Building).

  • 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.

New College of EMS Resource for Science Communication!

The College has developed a new tool to help you communicate science based on the hard work of the RFSC Writing Center team, our Distinguished Librarian Linda Musser, and Library Learning Services personnel. The primary purpose is to provide a "one-stop shop" writing resource for you as you further develop your skills in oral and written communications. You can check it out at Library Guides: Science Communication in Earth and Mineral Sciences: 

Content, Assignments and Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • Lab write-ups (8) and worksheets (2) 40%
  • Quizzes (2) 10%
  • Article summaries (3) 10%
  • Draft rain gauge measurement report sections 10%
  • Final rain gauge measurement experiment report 25%
  • Participation  5 % 

Grades will be assigned as: A (93-100%), A- (90-92%), B+ (87-89%), B (83-86%), B- (80-83%), C+ (75-79%), C (70-74%), D (60-69%), F (0-59%). 

Lab write-ups

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 2-3 to compete the lab experiments and write-ups.  The TA will grade the write-ups.  


Worksheets will give extra practice on important skills that will be used throughout the entire semester, including grammar/writing style and experimental methods.  Each student will complete his/her own worksheets.  The TA will grade the worksheets. 


Quizzes will focus on aspects of technical writing, the required elements of scientific reports, experimental methods, and significant figures.  The quizzes will not focus on the scientific principles of the lab experiments.  

Article Summaries

Although reading scientific journals may often seem like a monumental task, it also plays an integral role in familiarizing yourself with what good scientific writing looks like.  As such, article summaries will provide extra exposure toward becoming more familiar with the technical writing skills this course aims to develop. Each student will be asked to read three academic articles of their choosing (something that interests you!) during the semester, and will provide a plain-language summary (~ 1 paragraph) of the findings of the article.  Students will also be asked to identify 2-3 examples of where the article succeeded in scientific communication, and 2-3 areas which could be improved.  The instructor will grade the article summaries. 

Rain Gauge Term Project

Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the observation and measurement of precipitation using a rain gauge, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report.  Students will work in their lab groups of 2-3 to collect precipitation measurements for two weeks.  Each student will analyze the results of the rain gauge experiment separately and prepare draft sections of the full report (worth 10%) after learning about the required elements of each section in the lecture portion of the class.  The class will peer review the draft sections (this is critical to the 5% participation mark), and the students will revise the initial drafts based on peer feedback.  Subsequently, the instructor will grade the revised draft report sections and provide feedback that the students can use to prepare the final version of the full precipitation measurement lab report, which is due December 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm (worth 25%).

 Course Expectations

  • Every student must complete ALL of the lab experiments. Notify the instructor in advance if you must miss class for any reason, including 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 15% per day.  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: We will use Canvas for this class.  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, revised draft precipitation measurement report sections, and the final precipitation measurement report. 

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually and to work the exams on their own.  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."

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. 

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: ( 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. 


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 labs.  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:, 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 

Syllabus Acknowledgement Form I ask that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form ( acknowledgement form.doc) during the first week of the semester.  The form is appended to the back of the syllabus.

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts or through Canvas. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail (see 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 for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40 ( To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion.  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. 


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


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 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:

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.