METEO 440W - Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Instructor: Dr. Amy Huff, Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:00-8:50 AM, 101 Walker, Lab: Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 PM, 126 Walker

Meteorology 440W, Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Course Syllabus, Spring Semester 2017

Instructor: Dr. Amy Huff, 402A Walker, 865-2951, 

Teaching Assistant: Sham Thanekar, 410 Walker, 

Office Hours: by appointment 

Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:00-8:50 AM, 101 Walker

Lab: Tuesdays, 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 collection of precipitation using a rain gauge, 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 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:

Required Textbook

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 (8) and worksheets (2) 40%
  • Rain gauge design and construction 10%
  • Draft rain gauge report sections 10%
  • Final rain gauge experiment report 30%
  • Quizzes (2) 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 2-3 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. 

Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the collection 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 design and construct the rain gauge and then use it to collect precipitation daily for 2 weeks. Each student will analyze the results of the rain gauge collection separately and prepare draft sections of the full report after learning about the required elements of each section in the lecture portion of the class. The class will peer review the draft sections, 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 rain gauge lab report, which is due the last week of class. 

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. The TA will grade the first quiz and the instructor will grade the second quiz. 

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.  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 rain gauge report sections, and the final rain gauge report. 

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own or in designated lab groups (when permitted), including quizzes, draft report sections, and the final full rain gauge report. 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.  For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see To learn more, see Penn State’s Plagiarism Tutorial for Students. 

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 ( 

Class Emergencies and 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: