Instructor: Dr. Hans VerlindeTeaching Assistant:Lucien Simpfendoerfer


Fall 2016

Dr. Hans Verlinde
605A Walker Building
(814) 863-9711 

Office Hours:

  • Monday 11 – 12 am
  • Tuesday 1 – 2 pm

Teaching Assistant:

Lucien Simpfendoerfer
605 Walker Building
Office Hours:

  • Mondays 4 – 5 pm,
  • Wednesdays 10 am – noon.

Prerequisites: Phys 212. Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period. If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. 

Text (optional):              

Atmospheric Thermodynamics, C.F. Bohren and B.A. Albrecht (I will use the book extensively – please use library copy to do reading)                                               

Grading Policy:   

  • Quizzes - 25%
  • First Midterm - 25% (Evening Tuesday Oct. 4)
  • Second Midterm - 25% (Evening Tuesday Nov. 8)
  • Final Exam - 25% (University Schedule)
  • **Any grade below 50% earns an F, at 75 – 80% you are in A territory. 

You will be allowed to make up an exam/quiz only for reasons that are pre-approved PRIOR to the exam/quiz. 

Homework: Homework is an integral part of this course. These problem sets help you understand the material, and give you the opportunity to work with the concepts until you become familiar with them. Students are allowed to work together in groups; however, I expect every student to understand every aspect of each assigned problem. I will assign a few problems each week. You must provide solutions to all problems, each on a separate piece of paper. I will randomly collect one of those problems to grade. I will also test you understanding of the assigned problem by an in-class quiz, the content of which may be either one of the problems, a section of one, or another problem similar to one of the homework problems. I do this to encourage you to get away from the cramming-for-exam mode of studying. You are free to confirm your solutions with me before the due date.

Expectations and Policies for Meteo 431:

As a major in Meteorology you are expected to have a reasonable understanding of mathematics (through differential equations) and physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism). Students with weak backgrounds in the fundamental disciplines are advised to postpone enrollment in this course.

Each student is expected to keep up with the subject matter and to participate actively and effectively in class. Good study habits include rewriting your notes on a daily basis in readable and understandable English, with complete mathematical derivations, using both your class notes and the text. If, in the rewriting of your notes, you find something you don’t understand, come and ask. This will result in a net gain in time – you will find that you will spend significant less time on homework! 

When seeking help to do homework, come with evidence that you have been working on it, and don’t expect me to do it for you with you being a passive onlooker. I want to hear your thoughts on how to tackle the problem, and will guide you in the right direction, but I will not do it for you. Given the nature of grade assignment in the class, you are welcome to verify your solution with me. I will hold you responsible for any aspect of any problem on the quiz. 

Objectives for Meteo 431

  1. Students can demonstrate an ability to apply thermodynamic principles quantitatively to atmospheric problems
  2. Students can demonstrate the use of thermodynamics equations in determining the thermal structure of basic atmospheric phenomena

Outcomes for Meteo 431

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how thermal energy and the first law of thermodynamics are applied to describe atmospheric thermal properties and structure
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how entropy and the second law of thermodynamics are applied to basic thermal problems
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the process of phase change in atmospheric phenomena
  4. Students can demonstrate an ability to analyze atmospheric soundings using a thermodynamic diagram

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.

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 PSUTXT (to sign up, please see 

Academic Integrity: 

Reminder about academic integrity: Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses that may be grounds for failing an assignment, an exam, or even the course. Collaboration with classmates can be an effective way of learning, especially when you are the one teaching the others. In any case, the final work must be your own, a clear expression of your level of understanding. Please review the College policies related to academic integrity on the web,

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. 

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 Angel account. 

Reserve List at the EMS Library:

Call Number/Authors/Title 

  • QC880.4 T5B63 1998 Bohren and Albrecht Atmospheric Thermodynamics
  • QC880.4.T5P48 2008 Petty A First Course in Atmospheric Thermodynamics      
  • QC861.3.W35 2006 Wallace and Hobbs Atmospheric Science (Chpt. 3)

Course Outline 

  1. Introduction
    Why should I bother taking thermodynamics if I want to be a meteorologist??? (B+A, pp 1-4)
    Stuff you have to know already in order to survive.
  2. Energy
    nservation of energy (B+A, pp 4-10) We know what it means in a simple mechanical system, but what does this mean in terms of thermodynamics
    Transformation of energy, the first law (B+A pp 16-28) Here we see where the first law comes from, it isn’t mystical
  3. Gases 
    Kinetic theory (B+A, pp 60-71) What exactly is a gas? (Here you see why we started down the path of point masses in section 2.) 
    The ideal gas law (B+A, pp 34-49) What exactly is temperature and pressure, and what constant do I use in the ideal gas law? Beware of the constant
    Gaseous mixtures (B+A, pp 74-78) The atmosphere is a gaseous mixture – this is how we derive the properties needed to represent the atmospheric state.
  4. Internal and total energies 
    Specific heats and enthalpy (B+A, pp 99-106) What is to be understood under heat capacity of a system, and how do we interpret enthalpy. We now have many different forms of the first law of thermodynamics, why? It is important that you get a feel for which form of the first law to start with in particular problems. Selection of the right form can drastically simplify the problem. How are the various forms related to one another?
    Processes (B+A, pp 106-114, 123-127) Yes, we use this stuff in meteorology. We’ll look at dry adiabatic processes, and mixing of parcels from different origin (the troposphere is a well mixed layer, this occurs all the time.)
  5. The second law 
    Entropy defined (B+A, pp 135-146) Another one of those uncomfortable critters that is very useful.
    Entropy in the atmosphere (B+A, pp 157-169) Yes, it is useful! 
    The Carnot Cycle (B+A, pp 171-177 Can we solve the world’s energy problems by exploiting energy from the atmosphere and oceans
  6. Water and its transformations
    Phase transformations (B+A, pp 181-203) Most of what we know as weather is associated with water in its various forms in the atmosphere. You need to know what governs how water will partition between its three phases for given atmospheric conditions. You must develop a thorough intuitive understanding of phase transformations 
    Phase diagrams (B+A, pp 218-223) These critical diagrams are extremely useful to solve a host of cloud-related problems. 
  7. Moist air and clouds 
    Other thermodynamic variables used  (B+A, pp 278-287, 292-295) Virtual temperature, wet-bulb temperature, equivalent potential temperature 
    I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now (B+A, pp 272-279, 287-292, 296-299) Where will clouds form, lapse rates within clouds 
    Thermodynamic diagrams – the skew-T log P diagram (B+A, pp 299-307) This is why you are in this class! 
  8. Atmospheric Applications 
    To round it off we’ll apply what we’ve learned to a few atmospheric problems (B+A, pp 311-324).

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