METEO 421 Najjar FA14

Atmospheric Dynamics MWF 9:05-9:55am, R 4:15-5:30pm 124 Walker Building Instructor - Dr. Ray Najjar

METEO 421: Atmospheric Dynamics

Fall 2014 Semester


This four-credit course, required of all meteorology majors, builds on the foundation laid in METEO 300, Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science, by applying the equations of motion to a variety of atmospheric phenomena. The intrinsically rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions are presented through a discussion of vorticity dynamics (including both relative and planetary vorticity) and the related circulation theorems of Kelvin and Bjerknes, which culminate in potential vorticity thinking. The contrast between oscillating and unstable atmospheric systems is highlighted using the examples of gravitational, inertial, and shear instability, and the parcel and perturbation methods are introduced for studying these systems. An introduction to wave dynamics presents the concepts of phase and group velocity with applications to gravity, inertial, and Rossby waves, and to geostrophic adjustment. Finally, the general circulation, including the major zonal wind systems (e.g., the mid-latitude westerlies) and the major overturning cells (Hadley and Ferrel cells) is discussed quantitatively to provide a description of planetary-scale motions.


Monday, Wednesday & Friday, 9:05-9:55 AM; Thursday, 4:15-5:30 PM.


124 Walker Building. 


Raymond Najjar (pronounced NAY-jar), Professor, Department of Meteorology


522 Walker Building




Office hours:

Mon. 3:30-5:00 PM; Tues. 2:30-5:00 PM; Wed. 10:00-11:00 AM, 3:30-5:00; Thurs: 10:00 AM - noon; Fri. 10:00-11:00 AM; or by drop-in or appointment.


Junhong Wei, graduate student in meteorology.
Office: 602 Walker  Phone: 814-753-0212
Office hours: Mon. and Tues. 10:00 AM - noon, or by appointment


Prerequisites: Meteo 300 (Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science) and Math 230 (Calculus and Vector Analysis or Math 231 & 232). Prerequisite or concurrent: Meteo 431 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics), Math 251 (Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations), and Phys 212 (General Physics: Electricity and Magnetism). Policy: Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see: ). 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 ( ).


Lectures will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The recitation period will be on Thursday afternoon and will be used to work on a detailed exercise that is generally not collected or graded, though sometimes parts of it get added to the next homework assignment.


Homework assignments will be given every Wednesday (except during exam weeks) and due on the following Wednesday at the beginning of class. Late homework will not be accepted unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness) and prior approval has been granted. Homework assignments are equally weighted. Homework will be graded by the TA and returned on the following Monday.


Holton, J. R. and G. J. Hakim, 2013. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, 5th Edition, Elsevier Academic Press, 532 pp., ISBN 978-0-12-384866. The text is on reserve in the EMS library. There are a few additional required readings from other sources, which I will make available to you if you do not already have them. Readings are assigned for each topic as shown in the detailed syllabus. Finish the week’s readings by Friday so that you can complete an online quiz (see below) by the end of that day. Taking notes on the readings and working out derivations with a pencil and paper will help you retain the material. 


There will be weekly equally weighted quizzes given online (via Angel) no later than Thursday to be completed by Friday, except during exam weeks. About 10-20 multiple choice questions will be given on the readings and some lecture material. These quizzes are open book but they must be taken alone. You will be given 45 minutes to take each quiz.


There will be three equally weighted exams, each lasting about two hours. Exams will be closed book with no crib sheets or calculators allowed. You are expected to be able to do simple arithmetic (include manipulating powers of 10) to 1 or 2 significant figures. The first two exams are tentatively scheduled for 8:15-10:15 PM, September 25 and November 6 (both Thursdays). There will be no class on the days of and days after these exams. The third exam is during finals week and is not cumulative. Details on time and location will be given to you as soon as I know them. I will make past exams available to you so you have an idea of what kind of exam to expect. We will also have a review session on the class period just before the exam. 


A: 92-100%; A-: 88-91%; B+: 84-87%; B: 80-83%; B-: 75-79%; C+: 71-74%; C: 63-70%; D: 50-62%; F: <50%. Weighting: 20% homework, 70% exams, 10% quizzes. 5% extra credit is based on my subjective assessment of the effort you demonstrate to me and the TA in class and during office hours.


I expect all submitted work to be your own. Feel free to discuss homework assignments with others, but never ever (I really mean it) copy another’s work. Homework is not a collaborative project. If it appears that there is copying on a homework assignment, I will begin the formal Disciplinary Action Procedure as outlined by our college. The sanction for a first offense will be a zero on the assignment. For a second offense, a sanction may be as severe as failing the course. For details see


I expect you to attend all lectures and recitation periods. I realize that there may be emergencies and other extenuating circumstances that prevent this. If possible, let me know ahead of time by email if you are going to miss a class. If you do miss a class, get notes from a fellow student rather than emailing me “what did I miss?”


Please silence your cell phone in the classroom and do not use it.


I will be in my office during the hours listed above specifically to answer your questions. Exceptions will occur due to unavoidable meetings, illness and travel. I am often available outside of office hours, so please feel free to call or stop by my office at any time. If I am available, I will be happy to talk with you. You can guarantee seeing me outside of office hours by making an appointment. During office-hour visits, please silence your cell phone and do not use it.


I will use Angel to communicate with the class electronically, though I will always send a copy to your PSU account, and I would like you to do the same if you send me an email through Angel. I will also use Angel to post assignments, handouts, quizzes, exam answer keys, past exams, and visuals that I show in class. 


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) Web site provides contact information for every Penn State campus : . For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site : .

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.


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 (to sign up, please see ).


A detailed syllabus, with readings, due dates for homework, etc., is given separately. The abridged outline of topics is:

  1. Review of dynamics in Meteo 300 (~1 week)
  2. Circulation and vorticity (~4 weeks)
  3. Simple oscillations and instabilities (~2.5 weeks)
  4. Atmospheric wave motion (~3.5 weeks)
  5. General circulation of the atmosphere (~4 weeks)



  1. Students can demonstrate skills in applying calculus to the quantitative description of atmospheric phenomena
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with how basic physical laws are applied to provide knowledge of the development and evolution of weather phenomena primarily at the planetary and synoptic scales


  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply the equations of motion to the quantitative description of a variety of atmospheric motions including the general circulation
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of balanced and unbalanced flows that form the basis for the depiction of atmospheric motions 
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the rotational aspects of large-scale atmospheric motions as described by vorticity and circulation
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply wave dynamics and stability concepts to atmospheric problems

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