Parameterization Schemes

Meteorology 528, Section 001, Parameterization Schemes 

Instructor:  Dr. David Stensrud, 504 Walker,, Office Hours:  Monday 11-12 am and Friday 2-3 pm, or by appointment 

Class meeting times and locations:  TR 10:35 – 11:50 pm, 214 Hammond Building, plus occasional evening sessions.  

Course designation in curriculum:  Graduate Elective 

Brief course description from University Bulletin 

Parameterization is the process by which important physical processes that cannot be resolved explicitly in a numerical model are represented. Examples include the transfer of shortwave radiation through the atmosphere, and the formation of cloud droplets, both of which occur on the molecular scale. As numerical models have grid spacing of hundreds of meters, molecular processes are not resolved explicitly in current models and so must be parameterized. A parameterization scheme is a representation of our understanding of the physical process as related to the available model variables, such that one can estimate how the behaviors of these important sub-grid physical processes influence the available model variables. In this way, sub-grid scale physical processes are included in models even when they cannot be explicitly represented. The most common parameterization schemes used in numerical models of the atmosphere will be discussed, including land and ocean surface, planetary boundary layer, convection, microphysics, radiation, cloud cover, and orographic drag. Emphasis is placed upon understanding the basic approaches to parameterization and how the differences in approaches influence the resulting behaviors. 

Prerequisites and concurrent courses:  None 

Required textbook: Parameterization Schemes:  Keys to Understanding Numerical Weather Prediction Models by David Stensrud.  A copy of the textbook is on reserve in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Library.  

Assistance with Textbooks

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Internet materials and links:  Angel ( 

Course expectations:  This course will help the student develop an improved understanding of numerical weather prediction model physical process parameterizations.  

Course Objectives:

  • Students can identify the most common approaches to physical process parameterization and recognize strengths and weaknesses to these approaches.

Course Outcomes:

  • Students can read the parameterization literature effectively, having a strong foundation in how these schemes operate and common assumptions.
  • Students can compare physical process parameterization schemes and understand similarities and differences.
  • Students can select schemes for use in numerical weather prediction and climate models wisely.

Course content:  

Weekly Topics to be addressed:

  • 26 August – introductions, need for parameterization, primitive equation model overview.                 Read Chapter 1.
  • 2 September – land surface parameterization
  • 9 September – land surface parameterization 
    • Homework #1 – due Thursday 12 September, Chapter 2, questions 2, 3 and 4, and Chapter 4 question 2.
    • Choose a parameterization scheme topic in consultation with Dr. Stensrud.  Dr. Stensrud will provide you with a paper in this topic area for you to read.  You will present an oral summary of paper to the class in November and write a review of this paper. 
    • Read Chapters 2 and 4.
  • 16 September – land surface and soil-vegetation-atmosphere parameterization
  • 23 September – land surface and soil-vegetation-atmosphere parameterization 
    • Homework #2 – due Thursday 26 September, Chapter 2, questions 6 and 7, Chapter 3, questions 1, 2, 3 and 4.
    • Read Chapter 3.
  • 30 September – turbulence closure 
    • Homework #3 – due Thursday 3 October, Chapter 5, questions 1 and 2.
  • 7 October – planetary boundary layer parameterization 
    • Homework #4 – due Thursday 10 October, Chapter 5, questions 3 and 4.
    • Read Chapter 5.
  • 14 October – convective parameterization
  • 21 October – convective parameterization 
    • Homework #5 – due Tuesday 22 October, Chapter 6, questions 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
    • Mid-Term Exam 
    • Read Chapter 6.
  • 28 October – microphysics parameterization 
    • Homework #6 – due Thursday 31 October, Chapter 7, questions 1 and 2.
  • 4 November – microphysics parameterization 
    • Homework #7 – due Thursday 7 November, Chapter 7, questions 3, 4, and 5.
    • Read Chapter 7.
  • 11 November – radiation parameterization
  • 18 November – radiation parameterization
    • Homework #8 – due Tuesday 22 November, Chapter 8, questions 1 and 2.
    • Student review paper presentations!
    • Read Chapter 8.
  • 25 November – Thanksgiving Break – no class this week
  • 2 December – cloud cover and orographic drag parameterization
  • 9 December – cloud cover and orographic drag parameterization
  • 16 December – FINALS WEEK

Grading:  The grading scheme for this course is:  45% problem sets, 15% mid-term exam, 15% final exam, 15% paper review and presentation, and 10% class participation.  Assuming 100 points total, students with 90 and above will get an A, 80 and above will get a B, and 70 and above will get a C.  See the instructor at least a week ahead of time if you have a conflict with an exam. 

Grading Policy:  All assignments are due at the end of the class period on the day assigned.  No credit will be given for late assignments.  Exceptions may be given for emergency situations after consultation with the instructor. 

Problem Sets:  There will be a total of 8 problem sets assigned during the semester.  Each problem set has been developed to expand upon topics covered in class and several of them will require the students to write computer programs.  Since the instructor is familiar with the FORTRAN programming language, using this language in your programming assignments is encouraged, but not required.  Assistance in writing code in other programming languages is not available.

Paper Review:  Each student will be provided with a paper related to numerical weather prediction and/or parameterization and will write a formal review of the paper.  The written review should be no more than 2 pages in length.  The student will also present a summary of the paper, including their overall evaluation of the quality of the paper, to the class.  These presentations will be conference style, so the student will have 12 minutes to summarize the work and 3 minutes for questions.  Presentations should be prepared using Microsoft Powerpoint and either email to Dr. Stensrud ahead of time or brought to class on a memory stick. 

Mid-term examination:  A mid-term examination is scheduled for 19 October and will cover material presented during the lectures, reading assignments, and homework from the beginning of the semester through the material in Chapter 5. 

Final examination:  A final examination is scheduled during finals week, and will cover all the material presented during the semester, although weighted towards materials covered since the mid-term. 

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