Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Meteo 440W – Principles of Atmospheric Measurements

Course Syllabus, Fall 2020 Semester 


Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 814-863-8253,
Office Hours: Tuesdays 9:00-11:00 am, or by appointment - Zoom 

Teaching Assistant

Samantha Staskiewicz, 
Office hours: TBA 

Class Meeting Times & Location

Lectures: Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-8:50 am, Zoom (Zoom links will be posted to Canvas)

Labs*: Tuesday or Thursday 2:30-3:30, 126 Walker (*Labs will run on a special schedule this fall that will be discussed in detail). 

Course Description

This course will teach students 1) the principles of making and analyzing scientific measurements and 2) the fundamentals of scientific writing. Students will conduct laboratory experiments in which they will use instruments to make measurements and then analyze the observed data. These experiments will demonstrate scientific concepts covered in the physical meteorology course sequence (e.g., Meteo 431, 436, 437). In the class lectures, students will learn the “universal recipe” for scientific reports, including the abstract, introduction, experimental methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections. Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the observation of precipitation, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report. Fellow students and the instructor will evaluate the initial drafts of the report sections, and the students will use this feedback to prepare the final version of the report. 

Course Goals and Objectives

  1. Students will be able to write a formal scientific report that clearly describes the motivation, method, results, analysis, and implications of an experiment or research project.
  2. Students will be able to make and analyze measurements of common atmospheric variables related to temperature, water vapor, precipitation, and radiation.
  3. Students will understand the limitations (e.g., error and uncertainty) inherent with all measurements. 

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisites for this course are METEO 300, METEO 431, and STAT 301 or STAT 401 or EBF 472. 

Note: Meteo 440W is a required course for all undergraduate Meteorology majors. 

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:  If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then consult with the instructor.  

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:  If you are not in compliance with the listed prerequisites and have not already contacted me, please do so immediately. 

Electronic Textbooks (recommended and free)

Reserve materials and location

Available on reserve in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library (105 Deike Building).

  • A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation. Petty, Grant W., Sundog Press: Madison, WI, 2004.
  • A Short Course in Cloud Physics. Rogers, R. R. and M. K. Yau, Butterworth-Heinemann: Burlington, MA, 1989.
  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change. Seinfeld, John H. and Spyros N. Pandis, John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1998.
  • Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey. Wallace, John M. and Peter V. Hobbs, Academic Press: San Diego, 2006.
  • Atmospheric Thermodynamics. Bohren, Craig F. and Bruce A. Albrecht, Oxford University Press: New York, 1998.
  • Basic Physical Chemistry for the Atmospheric Sciences. Hobbs, Peter V., Cambridge University Press: New York, 2000.
  • Fundamentals of Weather and Climate. McIlveen, Robin, Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd: Cheltenham, U. K., 2010.
  • Physics of Climate. Piexoto, José P. and Abraham H. Oort, American Institute of Physics: New York, 1992.

New College of EMS Resource for Science Communication!

The College has developed a new tool to help you communicate science based on the hard work of the RFSC Writing Center team, our Distinguished Librarian Linda Musser, and Library Learning Services personnel.

The primary purpose is to provide a "one-stop shop" writing resource for you as you further develop your skills in oral and written communications.

You can check it out at Library Guides: Science Communication in Earth and Mineral Sciences: 

Content, Assignments and Grading

The final grade for each student will calculated as follows:

  • Lab write-ups (6), worksheets (2), and COMET module quiz 30%
  • Quiz (1) 10%
  • Article summaries (3) 15%
  • Draft term project report sections 10%
  • Final term project report 25%
  • Participation 10% 

Grades will be assigned as: A (93-100%), A- (90-92%), B+ (87-89%), B (83-86%), B- (80-83%), C+ (75-79%), C (70-74%), D (60-69%), F (0-59%). 

Lab write-ups

Lab write-ups will include specific results for each lab (e.g., tables, graphs, calculations) and short answers to 2-4 discussion questions.  You will work in groups of 2-4 to compete the lab experiments and write-ups.  Your TA will grade the write-ups.  


Worksheets will give extra practice on important skills that will be used throughout the entire semester, including grammar/writing style and experimental methods.  Each student will complete their own worksheets.  Your TA will grade the worksheets. 

COMET module

You will be asked to complete a COMET module on the fundamentals of instrumentation early in the semester.  You’re grade will be counted in two parts: proof of completion of the pre-assessment (full marks will be awarded for a completed pre-assessment quiz, regardless of score), and the proof of completion and score for the post-module quiz (your mark will reflect your performance on the quiz).  An explanation of how to get these results directly sent to me will be provided in class.    


A quiz in early December will focus on aspects of technical writing, the required elements of scientific reports, experimental methods, and significant figures.  The quizzes will not focus on the scientific principles of the lab experiments.  This quiz will be taken via Canvas with a live Zoom session that you must be present in for your quiz to count, unless previously cleared with me. 

Article Summaries

Although reading scientific journals may often seem like a monumental task, it also plays an integral role in familiarizing yourself with what good scientific writing looks like.  As such, article summaries will provide extra exposure toward becoming more familiar with the technical writing skills this course aims to develop. You will be asked to read one academic article of your choosing (something that interests you!) during the semester and complete short specified tasks related to the structure of the article.  The instructor will grade the article summaries. 

Term Project: Drafts and final report

Students will conduct a semester-long experiment centered on the observation and measurement of precipitation, for which they will prepare a full, formal scientific report.  Students will individually to collect precipitation for a 2-4 week period at the start of the semesterEach student will analyze the results of the precipitation experiment separately and prepare draft sections of the full report (worth 10%) after learning about the required elements of each section in the lecture portion of the class.  The class will peer review the draft sections (The classroom participation mark (10%) will be based on your attendance and participation in the peer review process during our lecture meeting times – in other words, if you’re there and taking part, it counts for full marks!), and the students will revise the initial drafts based on peer feedback.  Subsequently, the instructor will grade the revised draft report sections and provide feedback that you can use to prepare the final version of the full project report, which is due December 14, 2020 at 11:59 pm to Canvas (worth 30% of your final mark). 

Course Expectations

  • You must complete ALL of the lab experiments. Please notify the instructor in advance if you must miss class for any reason, including illness, to the best of your ability.  If you miss a lab session, we will work together to identify the best possible solution so as to maximize your learning opportunities!
  • Assignments are due at the days/times indicated on the class schedule. Late assignments will be penalized 20% per day.  If you have a legitimate conflict with an assignment, request an accommodation from the instructor in advance.
  • Lab safety is paramount. Be careful in the lab sessions and treat all of the lab equipment carefully and respectfully. 

Class Materials:

We will use Canvas for this class.  All class materials will be posted on Canvas, including lectures, lab manuals, and supplemental material.  Students will also use Canvas to submit assignments, including lab write-ups, revised draft precipitation measurement report sections, and the final precipitation measurement report. 

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets, quiz, and term paper on their own.  Class members may, however, work on the problem sets in digital groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Labs will be submitted as a group assignment.  Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  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.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

Covid-19 Overview, requirements, and important notes

 We know from existing data that wearing a mask in public can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community (Lyu & Wehby, 2020; CDC, 2020; Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020). In accordance with PA Department of Health regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Pennsylvania State University has determined that everyone will be required to wear a face mask in university buildings, including classrooms.  You MUST wear a mask appropriately (i.e., covering both your mouth and nose) in the building if you are attending class in person. Masks have been provided for students, instructors, and staff, and everyone is expected to wear one. 

Students who choose not to wear a mask may not attend class in person.  If you find yourself in this situation, it is your responsibility to work with your instructor to identify how to navigate a successful completion of the in-person component of the course (labs).  This is to protect their health and safety as well as the health and safety of their classmates, instructor, and the university community. Anyone attending class in person without a mask will be asked to put one on or leave.  Instructors will end class if anyone present refuses to appropriately wear a mask for the duration of class. Students should also be sure they are situated at least six feet away from their fellow students and seated in a seat that is designated to ensure that distance.  Labs will be divided into two cohorts (groups) that will alternate their time physically in the lab space (126 Walker), and labs will not exceed 60 minutes in length.  The cohort groups will be determined by the instructor, and any special conditions or requests will be considered but cannot be guaranteed. Students who refuse to wear masks appropriately or adhere to other stated requirements may face disciplinary action for Code of Conduct violations.  

On a case-by-case basis, students may consult with Student Disability Resources for accommodations if they cannot wear a mask. Students requiring such accommodations may be advised to take advantage of and participate in the course through synchronous remote learning, if available. Students requiring such accommodations should consult with academic advisors before the end of the drop/add period to locate alternative course offerings that will allow their participation through remote learning. 

Finally, students who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms should not attend class in person and are encouraged to contact a health care provider immediately. 

A portion of the grade for this course is directly tied to your participation in this class. Successful participation is defined as consistently adhering to University requirements, as presented in this syllabus. It also includes engaging in group or other activities during class that solicit your feedback on the readings or material in the lecture.

Zoom: Though this class is being held as a hybrid in-person/online course, all course lectures will be recorded and shared with the class in order to maximize the health and safety of our class members.  You are not required to have your camera on, and I ask that you please mute your microphones in class unless you are asking a question or interacting with your instructors or classmates at appropriate times.  I do, however, encourage you to keep your camera on if possible – it is an excellent way to increase our class interactions and to create a stronger sense of class community. 


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 some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course. 

Disruptive Behavior

Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct


In the case of an emergency, we will follow the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Critical Incident Plan (  In the event of an evacuation, we will follow posted evacuation routes and gather at the Designated Meeting Site.  Evacuation routes for all EMS buildings are available at  For more information regarding actions to take during particular emergencies, please see the Penn State Emergency Action Guides

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. 


This course abides by the Penn State 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 labs.  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 and graduate school final 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 Affairs (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:, at least one week prior to the activity. 

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:  In the case of a weather delay that occurs on a day where we are meeting digitally, a message will be communicated by the instructor clarifying the plan of action for the class that day. 

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 

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts or through Canvas. 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. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40 ( To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion.  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. 

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law

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.