The Weather from Global to Micro Scales

METEO 511: The Weather from Global to Micro Scales - Spring 2018


Dr. George S. Young
620 Walker
Office hours: TR 1:30-2:30 in 620 Walker – knock 

Teaching Assistant: None

Available Support Services: None 

Class Meeting Time and Location: TR 12:05-1:20 in 126 Walker Building

Course Designation

This course is an elective for METEO graduate students 

Course Description

A survey of conceptual models and underlying physics for weather phenomena on scales from the global general circulation down to turbulence. 


METEO 520, METEO521, METEO531 (Dynamics, Moist Thermo, Cloud Physics, Basic Radiation).  [Atmospheric Phenomena is intended a second year course, for students who’ve completed the grad core or as a first year course for students who have had the equivalent of these prerequisite courses as undergraduates] 

Students who do not meet these prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period: http:/ If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:

Textbook: None 

Supplementary Readings: None 

Internet Materials

  • All online course materials are stored on Canvas.  You may access them only if you have a Penn State account and are enrolled in this course.  Otherwise they are invisible from the web in keeping with the copyright protection requirements of the TEACH Act.
  • The online notes include copyrighted figures extracted from American Meteorological Society Journals, copyrighted airborne images by Casey Webster (used with his permission), ground-based images by George Young (used with his permission), full color cloud images from NASA’s MODIS satellites and gray-scale cloud images from NOAA’s GOES satellites.
  • No copyrighted material may be copied from the course’s Angel web site. 

Course Objectives

The objectives of the course shall be to enable students to:

  1. Demonstrate skill in identification of atmospheric phenomena using in situ and remote sensing observations.
  2. Demonstrate familiarity with the dynamic and physical principles underlying the structure, development, and evolution of atmospheric phenomena 

Course Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how the vertical and horizontal gradients of atmospheric thermodynamic and kinematic fields control the structure and behavior of phenomena on scales ranging from turbulence to planetary waves.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how various images and maps derived from in situ and remote observations can reveal the existence and structure of atmospheric phenomena.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role of fluid dynamics in determining the structure and evolution of atmospheric phenomena.
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the effects of topography on the structure and behavior of atmospheric phenomena. 

Assessment Tools – see course calendar below

  1. Formal individual homework assignments – 70%
  2. Two midterm examinations – 10% each
  3. One final examination – 10%

Grading Policy 

All work is expected at the start of class on the due date specified.  If circumstances preclude this happening, make other arrangements with Dr. Young.  All assignment grades will fall on the non-negative half of the real number line. 

Academic Integrity 

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 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.

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.

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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services 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 based on the documentation guidelines ( 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 Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, 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 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, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

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 (Sign up at: 

Penn State E-mail Accounts

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 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, 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.

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.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the ITS Help Desk.


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.

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 will be posted to the course discussion forum. 

Contagious Illness 

Special Flu Protocols - In compliance with Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control recommendations, students should NOT attend class or any public gatherings while ill with influenza. Students with flu symptoms will be asked to leave campus if possible and to return home during recovery. The illness and self-isolation period will usually be about a week. It is very important that individuals avoid spreading the flu to others. 

Most students should be able to complete a successful semester despite a flu-induced absence. Faculty will provide students who are absent because of illness with a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work. Ordinarily, it is inappropriate to substitute for the missed assignment the weighting of a semester's work that does not include the missed assignment or exam. Completion of all assignments and exams assures the greatest chance for students to develop heightened understanding and content mastery that is unavailable through the weighting process. The opportunity to complete all assignments and exams supports the university's desire to enable students to make responsible situational decisions, including the decision to avoid spreading a contagious virus to other students, staff, and faculty, without endangering their academic work.

Students with the flu do not need to provide a physician's certification of illness. However, ill students should inform their teachers (but not through personal contact in which there is a risk of exposing others to the virus) as soon as possible that they are absent because of the flu. Likewise students should contact their instructors as quickly as possible to arrange to make up missed assignments or exams  

Topics Covered and Class Schedule 

Blocks / Topic

  1. Introduction to atmospheric phenomena (including energy spectrum). See blocks 40-41, you’ll want to invoke those as needed throughout the course.
  2. Processes forming clouds - basic cloud types (including species identification based on microphysics and dynamics)
  3. Cloud identification at species level via direct observation
  4. Cloud identification at species level via satellite observation
    General Circulation
  5. Global energy budget - infrared and visible radiation - atmospheric and oceanic transport
  6. Circulation cells
  7. Jet streams - origin and structure
  8. Jet streams - seasonal variations
  9. Subseasonal variations - Quasi-stationary Rossby waves - terrain forcing, evolution, and vacillation
  10. Teleconnections (NAO, ENSO, etc.)
    Tropical Synoptic
  11. Mean flow - trade winds and subtropical highs
  12. Seasonal variations - Monsoons - Case study of the Indian Monsoon - Monsoons around the world
  13. Seasonal variations - Monsoons - forcing and dynamics
  14. Subseasonal variations - types of tropical waves
  15. Convective modulation by tropical waves

    Midterm I – Blocks 1-14 – In class

  16. Tropical cyclone structure and evolution
  17. Tropical cyclone dynamics and energetics
  18. Mid-Latitude Synoptic
  19. Rossby wave interactions - storm tracks and regional weather
  20. Short wave / mid-latitude cyclone structure and evolution
  21. Cyclogenesis - baroclinic (both frontal and non-frontal)
  22. Fronts - origin and structure
  23. Frontal evolution in a mid-latitude cyclone - occlusion, seclusion, and the demise of cold fronts
  24. Clouds and precipitation in a mid-latitude cyclone
  25. Synoptic analysis using surface observations
  26. Cyclogenesis - orographic (both physical and observational)
  27. Gravity waves - shear driven (upper tropospheric fronts, lower tropospheric fronts, nocturnal inversions)

    Midterm II – Blocks 15-26 – In class

  28. Gravity waves - orographic (vertically and horizontally propagating, hydraulic jumps)
  29. Gravity waves - other sources: geostrophic adjustment - convection
  30. Flow blocking - cold air damming / coastal fronts and island wakes
  31. Solenoidal circulations - sea breezes and their ilk, including blowout
  32. Solenoidal circulations - mountain valley breezes, including inversion burn-off / mix-out phenomena
  33. Thunderstorms - structure and life cycle
  34. Thunderstorms - triggering (frontal, solenoidal circulation, gust front)
  35. Supercell thunderstorms and tornados - origins of rotation, structure, and behavio
  36. Mesoscale Convective Systems - Squall line structure and propagation (shear parallel, shear perpendicular, leading and trailing anvil)
  37. Mesoscale Convective Systems - Mesoscale Convective Complex structure and propagation
  38. Convective turbulence - Convective boundary layer stability profile, thermals and fair weather cumulus and congestus
  39. Convective turbulence - Rolls, open and closed cell mesoscale cellular convection
  40. Shear-driven turbulence – streaks, cats-paws and log wind layer
  41. Dust devils, waster spouts and their ilk
  42. Lake-effect snowstorms – Weather across scales
  43. The sky around us – Student-invoked time outside, just talking about what we see. To be requested by someone in the class near the start or end of a period based on something cool happening outside. Usually held on the lawn, but sometimes in the weather station (i.e. if really cold or wet).

    Final Exam - Finals week –Blocks 27-42

This class was designed for three 50-minute periods but scheduled into two 75-minute periods by our beloved university. Thus, we will complete approximately three “blocks” per week. Many classes will, therefore, cover more than one topic as we finish one block and start the next. I have color coded weeks so that you can easily convert blocks to calendar time.