Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Meteorology 440W, Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Course Syllabus, Spring Semester 2018 

Instructor: Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 863-8253, 

Class Meeting Times:

  • Lectures: Monday, Wednesday 8:00-8:50am, 101 Walker
  • Lab: Tuesday, 2:30-5:30pm, 126 Walker 

Teaching Assistant: Jena Jenkins, 418 Walker Building, 

Office Hours: To be determined in the first week of class 

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 observation of snowfall, 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:

Electronic Textbooks (recommended and free)

  • Style for Students Online. Joe Schall, 
  • Eloquent Science - A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist.  David M. Schultz, 

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. 

Content, Assignments and Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • Lab write-ups (7-8) and worksheets (2) 40%
  • Quizzes (2) 10%
  • Article summaries (3) 10%
  • Draft snow measurement report sections 10%
  • Final snow 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 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.  The TA will grade the first quiz and the instructor will grade the second quiz. 

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. 

Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the observation and measurement of snowfall, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report.  Students will work in their lab groups of 2-3 to collect snowfall measurements for 2-5 events (this will rely on the occurrence of snowfall during the semester).  Each student will analyze the results of the snowfall experiment 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 (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 snowfall measurement lab report, which is due the last week of class. 

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 snowfall measurement report sections, and the final snowfall measurement 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 snowfall measurement 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.  

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. 

Class Emergencies and Weather Delays

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Counseling and Psychological Services

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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 

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.