Mesoscale Meteorology

METEO 414: Mesoscale Meteorology, Spring 2019

Instructor: Dr. Matt Kumjian
office: 513 Walker Building
phone: 814-863-1581

Lecture: MWF, 11:15 am - 1:10 pm; Walker Building 126

Office Hours: To be determined; by appointment, or when my door is open!

Teaching Assistant: Zachary Moon
office hours: Thu 3–5 pm, 410 Walker Building 

Pre-requisites: METEO 411 (Synoptic Meteorology Laboratory)

Required Textbook: Mesoscale Meteorology in Midlatitudes by P. Markowski and Y. Richardson. Get it online here or at the University Book Store. 

Grading: Your final grade will be based on the following:

  • Three midterm exams (75%); the scores, ranked from best to worst, will contribute 35%, 25%, and 15% to your final grade.
  • Labs (~15) will count for the remaining 25%.
  • Attendance is mandatory. Habitual absences may result in a lowering of your letter grade. 

Exam Policy:

The first two exams will be administered during special evening sessions from 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm on Tuesday 12 February 2019 and Tuesday, 19 March 2019 in Walker 529, unless students are opposed to this. The idea is to give you more time than is available during the normal class period. The final exam will take place during Finals Week, at the time and location at which the Final Exam is assigned by powers above my pay grade. If you cannot make these exam times, please let me know immediately.

Except for illness or emergencies, make-up exams will be conducted only for students who make arrangements with me prior to the scheduled exam time. 

Lab Assignments: Students may collaborate on lab assignments, but the final product to be handed in should be your own work. (It is always very obvious who the "leaders" and "followers" are, especially after the first exam.) Approximately one hour will be devoted to lab work in most of the class periods. Lab assignments typically will be due within a few days or up to one week after the initial date of assignment. Due dates will be clearly indicated on each lab assignment. Technical accuracy, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and neatness will be considered in lab grades. 

Course Objectives and Intents: The goal of this 4-credit course is to help you gain an understanding of mesoscale phenomena, which I find to be some of the most interesting in all of meteorology. Lectures will focus on the dynamic and physical principles relevant to these scales, which differ significantly from those applicable to synoptic scales. Laboratory exercises will give you practice applying these concepts through problem solving, analysis of fields, and exploration of parameter spaces using numerical models.

Specific course objectives include:

  1. Students can demonstrate skill in the analysis of mesoscale phenomena using surface and upper-air observations of the atmosphere.
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with the dynamic and physical principles underlying the structure, development, and evolution of mesoscale weather systems.

Specific course outcomes will be:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how the vertical structure of the atmosphere controls the behavior of convective phenomena and gravity waves.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how various indices and maps derived from atmospheric soundings can reveal the potential for severe convection to occur in the atmosphere.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role of vorticity in determining the evolution of mesoscale phenomena.
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the use of atmospheric radar returns to diagnose the structure of precipitating systems and the occurrence of such severe weather as flash flooding, hail, tornadoes, and lake-effect snowstorms.
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the effects of topography on the structure of mesoscale convective systems. 

Course Topics Include: Parcel theory, vorticity, indices derived from soundings and hodographs, static instability, conditional symmetric instability, shear instabilities, boundary layer evolution, low-level jets, lake effect snow, gravity waves, mountain waves, downslope wind storms, cold air damming, radar fundamentals, density currents, drylines, capping inversions, static stability tendency, convection initiation, ordinary thunderstorms, gust fronts, multiple thunderstorms, supercells, tornadoes, mesoscale convective systems, bow echoes, downbursts, hailstorms, flash floods. These are subject to change due to time constraints and class interest. 

Prerequisites: Students who do not meet the prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period (Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.). 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

Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner, and is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity in the College. As such, all are expected to act with personal integrity, respect for other students’ dignity, rights, and property, and to help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the EMS community and compromise the worth of work completed by others. The full college policy on academic integrity can be found here.

Simply put, don’t cheat. This includes but is not limited to copying, plagiarism, self- plagiarism, etc., all of which can result in a 0 on the assignment and/or an F or XF grade in the course. Ultimately, it negatively affects you: imagine the future disappointment of employers, family, and friends when you turn out to have severe inadequacies in mesoscale meteorology. If you struggle with material, come see me or others for help

Campus Emergencies and Inclement Weather: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News ( ) and communicated to mobile devices, email, the Penn State Face- book page, and Twitter via the PSU Alert System (to sign up, please see 

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 (see to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

Accommodation 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. 

Assistance with Textbooks: Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, . For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

Attendance: This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11, and Conict Exam Policy 44-35. Please also see Illness Verication 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, 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 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 Aairs (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 available from the Registrar's Office: at least one week prior to the activity. 

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 

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.

Additionally, I am "SaferPeople/SaferPlaces" trained and welcome students who need a safe space to contact me at any time.