Cloud Physics

Meteo 533: Cloud Physics

Spring 2018

Instructor: Prof. Matt Kumjian
Office: 513 Walker Building
Phone: 814-863-1581

Class Website:

Lecture: MWF, 9:05 - 9:55 am; 110 Walker Building

Office Hours: Wednesday, 4:30 - 6:00 pm; by appointment; or when my door is open! 

Required Textbook: Physics and Chemistry of Clouds by D. Lamb and J. Verlinde. Get it online here or at the University Book Store. Be sure to check out the errata here!

Optional/Supplementary Texts: 

  • Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation by H. R. Pruppacher and J. D. Klett
  • A Short Course in CloudPhysics by R. R. Rogers and M. K. Yau

Note: any required readings from these optional texts will be provided. These books are available at the EMS Library. You can also download the entire PDF of Pruppacher and Klett through the university library here

Pre-requisites: METEO 431/531 (Atmospheric Thermodynamics/Thermal Physics)

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

  • Midterm Exam #1 (25%)
  • Midterm Exam #2 (25%)
  • Midterm Exam #3 (25%)

Exam Policy:

I will administer the midterm exams during a special evening session, unless students are opposed to this. The idea is to give you more time than is available during the normal class period. We will determine the dates of the midterm exams within the first couple of weeks of class.

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. 

Problem Sets

I will be assigning problem sets ("homework") on an approximately weekly basis. These problems are for you to work through with your peers. It is up to you individually to make sure you understand the concepts! I will not collect or grade these problems. You may come to see me if you have difficulties. The exams will comprise problems similar to those on the problem sets, so it behooves you to work through and understand them! 

Final Paper

During the course, you will need to complete a final paper that delves more deeply into a topic of your choosing in cloud physics. The topic can be anything, but it must be related to clouds in the atmosphere. Topics could include: (1) Stratocumulus cloud impacts on climate; (2) Arctic clouds and climate change; (3) Turbulence influences on the growth of water drops; (4) Why ice crystals have dendritic forms; (5) The molecular nature of liquid water; (6) How ice impacts thunderstorm evolution; (7) Lake-effect snow storms; (8) Remote sensing observations of clouds, etc. Literally any topic that relates to clouds can be used. Once a topic is defined, it is up to the student to do an in-depth literature review (books or articles from journals) on the topic. This should be done during the semester. A final paper is then turned in that is 10 pages or less, not including references or figures. The paper must be either 11- or 12-point font, with double or at minimum 1.5 line spacing. Single-spaced papers will be returned ungraded. I will turn out a separate document describing the details of the project. The paper is due on the last day of class but there will be some portions due along the way to motivate progress. 

Course Objectives and Intents:

This course is designed to provide graduate students with diverse backgrounds a foundation in, and an overview of, the physics of clouds as typically found in the atmosphere. Our understanding of clouds will develop naturally through examinations of the fundamental physical processes operating across a wide variety of scales. We will place primary emphasis on microphysical properties of clouds because these ultimately determine the evolution of clouds. 

Course Topics Include:

Introduction and overview of clouds (Ch. 1); properties of water (Ch. 2); phase thermodynamics and equilibrium (Ch. 3); nucleation (Ch. 7); growth by diffusion (Ch. 8); collisional interactions and growth (Ch. 9); cloud formation and evolution (Ch. 6, 10); population effects in warm clouds (Ch. 11) and cold clouds (Ch. 12); cloud electrification and lightning (Ch 14.); microphysical modeling. These are subject to change due to time constraints and class interest. 


Students who do not meet the prerequisites after being informed in writing by the in- structor 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

Students are expected to complete the required work for this class on their own or in designated lab groups (when permitted), including quizzes, draft report sections, and the final snowfall measurement report.  Students who present other people’s work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  For information about the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, please see  To learn more, see Penn State’s Plagiarism Tutorial for Students.  

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.  For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy. 

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 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. 

Class Emergencies and Weather Delays

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

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.

For additional information, see:

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 to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form. 

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