Radar Meteorology

METEO 434: Radar Meteorology 
Fall 2017

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

  • Lecture: MWF, 9:05 am -9:55 am, 105 Walker Building
  • Office Hours: M, 3:30–5:30 pm; by appointment; or when my door is open!
  • Pre-requisite: METEO 437 (Atmospheric Chemistry and Cloud Physics)
  • Concurrent: METEO 414 (Mesoscale Meteorology)

Required Textbook: Doppler Radar and Weather Observations by R. J. Doviak and D. S. Zrni´c. Get it online here or at the University Book Store. Be sure to check out the errata here!

Optional Texts: 

  • Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar: Principles and Applications by V. N. Bringi and V. Chandrasekar
  • Radar Meteorology: Principles and Practice by F. Fabry
  • Note: any required readings from these optional texts will be provided. These books will be on reserve at the EMS Library.

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

  • Weekly Radar Discussions 15%
  • Midterm Exams (2) 15%
  • Homework Assignments 25%
  • Radar Project 30%

Weekly Radar Discussions

You are required to turn in an example of something interesting you find on radar on a weekly basis. The example should consist of an image or series of images (screenshots, animations are fine) with a ∼half-page description of what the radar shows and why it is neat. These weekly examples should be uploaded to the Canvas class website (a drop box will be provided) by 11:59:59 pm local time of the Thursday of each week. I will choose one or more of these examples for you to present informally in class (no more than ∼2 − 3 minutes) for a discussion.

I recommend getting a radar viewing “app” on your mobile devices or computer. For example, I have Radarscope, available for purchase here. You can also access radar images online at and

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 week 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 and Quizzes

I will be assigning problem sets (“homework”) on a ∼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 collect these problem sets, but will only grade some number of them selected at random. Solutions will be made available after the problems are turned in. You may come 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!

Radar Project

There will be a final project involving a short (< 10-page) paper and presentation on a case study of your choice using polarimetric WSR-88D radar data. You will order the data from the National Centers for Environmental Information website and/or Amazon Web Services and generate images using the Weather and Climate Toolkit or other software. The analysis should involve some data interrogation (i.e., be quantitative). Parts of the project will be due at various points throughout the semester. More details will be provided during the course.

Course Objectives:

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to describe in class a variety of atmospheric phenomena depicted on radar imagery (relate to program objectives a, b, c, and e).
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to quantify the reflectivity and radial velocity field as measured by radar given a description of a weather phenomenon (relate to program objectives a and d).
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to relate radar reflectivity to rainfall rate, and discuss factors that contribute to the uncertainty in the rainfall rate estimation (relate to program objectives a, b and c).
  4. Students can demonstrate the ability to discuss basic principles of multi-parameter radar measurements (relate to program objectives a, c, and e).

Course Outcomes:

  1. Students can demonstrate skills for the analysis and interpretation of radar imagery of the atmosphere (relate to program outcome 1, 2, and 3).
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with the electromagnetic principles underlying the sampling of the atmosphere using radars (relate to program outcome 1).

Topics to be Covered (may change based on time and/or class interest):

History of radar; electromagnetic theory (spectrum, waves, propagation, polarization); principles of electromagnetic scattering off atmospheric particles (Rayleigh-Gans and Mie); definition of radar reflectivity; the Doppler principle and velocity estimation; the Doppler spectrum; radar hardware; polarization diversity radar; dual-polarization radar variables

(ZH, ZDR, ΦDP, KDP, ρhv, LDR, etc.) and their physical meaning; artifacts in dual-pol radar data; applications of dual-pol measurements including hydrometeor classification quantitative precipitation estimation, observations in clear air (insects, birds, fires), winter storms (ice crystals, heavy snow, transition regions), and severe convective storms (updrafts, hail, tornadoes); frequency diversity radar, other radar systems (wind profilers, vertically pointing).


Students who do not meet the prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period (http://www.psu. edu/dept/oue/aappm/C-5.html). 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

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner, and is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity in the College. As such, all are expected to act with personal integrity, respect for other students’ dignity, rights, and property, and to help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the EMS community and compromise the worth of work completed by others. The full college policy on academic integrity can be found at http:


Simply put, don’t cheat. This includes but is not limited to copying, plagiarism, selfplagiarism, etc., all of which can result in a 0 on the assignment and/or an F or XF grade in the course. Ultimately, it negatively affects you: imagine the future disappointment of employers, family, and friends when you turn out to have severe inadequacies as a radar meteorologist. If you struggle with material, come see me or others for help!

Campus Emergencies and Inclement Weather:

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News ( and communicated to mobile devices, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via the PSU Alert System (to sign up, please see https://psualert.

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 (http://

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: student-disability-resources/applying-for-services. 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.

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 Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, studentcare). For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: http://undergrad., and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: http:// #44-35. Please also see Illness Verification Policy: health/welcome/illnessVerification/, 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, 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 available from the Registrar’s Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

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.

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

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