METEO 421 Chamecki SP2015

Atmospheric Dynamics Instructor: Prof. Marcelo Chamecki Office: 506 Walker Teaching Assistant: Steve Simon Office: 530 Walker Lectures: M W F 12:20PM–01:10PM in 101 Walker Recitation: Th 08:00AM–09:15AM in 101 Walker

Meteo 421 – Atmospheric Dynamics

Spring 2015 Syllabus

Prof. Marcelo Chamecki Office: 506 Walker
Phone: (814) 863-3920
Office hours: M 4:00PM–5:00PM and W 4:30PM–5:30PM

Teaching Assistant:

Steve Simon Office: 530 Walker
Office hours: T Th 4:30PM–5:30PM


  • Lectures: M W F 12:20PM–01:10PM in 101 Walker
  • Recitation: Th 08:00AM–09:15AM in 101 Walker


Math 230 (or Math 231 & 232) and Meteo 300. Concurrent: Math 251, Phys 212, and Meteo 431.

Enrollment policy. 

Students who do not meet the prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see: PSU Enrollment Policy at  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor.  Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of the Student Code of Conduct (

Course content

This course builds on the foundation laid in Meteo 300, Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science, by presenting applications of the equations of motion to the description of a variety of atmospheric motions. 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 that 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. (There are differences between this description and that in the blue book. Specifically, the following topics are no longer covered: isallobaric and convective isallobaric winds; barotropic and baroclinic instability; and for the general circulation, longitudinally dependent features, the angular momentum budget, and the Lorenz energy cycle).

Course objectives

  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.

Course outcomes

  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.

Textbook and course outline

The required textbook for this course will be "An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology", 5th edition, by J. R. Holton and G. J. Hakim. The book covers most of the topics that will be presented in the course. The reading assignments and part of the homework problems will be specified from the textbook. It is essential that all text assignments are carefully read. In addition, the assigned sections constitute a minimal portion of what should be read. Students should identify other sections and other reference books (some suggestions listed below) according to their own interests. Additional reading material will be posted on Angel at . A rough outline of the course with the corresponding chapters in the textbook to guide your readings is provided below.

  1. Review of METEO300 (Chapters 1–3)
    1. Equations of motion (spherical coordinates and rotating frame of reference)
    2. Scale analysis
    3. Balanced flows
  2. Circulation and vorticity (Chapter 4)
  3. Atmospheric oscillations and instabilities (selected portions of chapters 2, 3, 5, 7)
  4. Atmospheric wave motion (Chapter 5)
  5. The general circulation (we will not use Holton & Hakim for this)

Course evaluation

Students will be evaluated based on two midterms, a final exam, and several homework sets. While you are encouraged to discuss the homework problems with your colleagues, the work you then hand in under your name is to be summarized and written down by you. Homework will be distributed on Friday after the lecture and will be due on the following Friday at the beginning of the lecture. I do not give full marks for homework sets handed after the due date (late homework should be discussed directly with me, the TA is not allowed to accept late homework, so do not ask her to do it). Final grade composition:

  1. Homework – 20% (all homework equally weighted)
  2. Midterms – 25% each
  3. Final – 30%

Tentative schedule:

  • Midterm 1 – Friday February 26th (during recitation or evening
  • Midterm 2 – Friday April 9th (during recitation or evening
  • Final – To be determine

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

Recitation periods will be used for in-class problems sets, which constitute an integral part of the course material to be covered in the exams. You are required to attend the recitation and to work on the problem sets. During the recitation I will help students in developing their problem-solving skills, which will be required for homework and exams. Problem sets from the recitation will not be graded.

List of recommended references

This is a list of useful references for our course. I strongly recommend that you choose at least one or two of these books as additional sources of information to our textbook .

  1. Introductory books (similar level as Holton & Hakim):
    1. Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics by B. Cushman-Roisin
    2. Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics by J. Marshall and R. A. Plumb
    3. Introduction to Circulating Atmospheres by I. N. James
  2. More advanced books (useful as references for more in-depth treatment of the material):
    1. The Ceaseless Wind: an Introduction to the Theory of Atmospheric Motion by J. A. Dutton
    2. Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics by A. E. Gill
    3. Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics by G. K. Vallis

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 and Family Services (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

Academic integrity:

For information about the EMS Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, see:

Here’s a brief interpretation of that integrity policy, as it applies specifically to this course:  You may never copy answers from another person and present them as your own.  This applies to quizzes, exams, and problem sets.  You are allowed to discuss the problem sets with other students, but the work you turn in must be your own, in your own words.  Suspicion of copying on problem sets will result in an immediate 50% reduction for the first offense, and an F for the course on the second offense.  Cheating on exams or quizzes will result in an immediate F for the course.

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

The Office of Disability Services at requests and maintains disability-related documents; certifies eligibility for services; determines academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services; and develops plans for the provision of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services as mandated under Title II of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  A list of these ADA List of Services is provided at

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 at, 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 Virginia Shea’s “The Core Rules of Netiquette” at for general 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.

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