Fall 2019 

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

Office Hours: Open door, Drop in or make an e-mail appointment
Monday: 11 – 12 am
Tuesday: 12 – 2 pm

Class Meeting Time: MWF 1:25 – 2:15 pm, Sackett Bldg 106 

Prerequisites: Phys 212, Meteo 201/300. 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% 6:30 pm Wednesday Oct. 2
  • Second Midterm 25% 6:30 pm Wednesday Nov. 6
  • 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 which will be collected. I will comment on your approach.  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 

Reserve List at the EMS Library: 

Call Number/Authors/Title 

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

Course Outline 

  • 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.
  • Energy 
    • Conservation 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
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Atmospheric Applications
    • To round it off we’ll apply what we’ve learned to a few atmospheric problems (B+A, pp 311-324). 

The remainder of the material is required by the University and College.

I did not write any of the following text.

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  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."

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 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:, 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: 

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

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.