Physics and Chemistry of Clouds
Spring 2019
INSTRUCTOR:  Hans Verlinde
OFFICE:  605A Walker Bldg.
OFFICE HOURS: (Open; by appointment)
PHONE:  (814) 863-9711
Office: 601 Walker Bldg.
CLASS MEETINGS: 105 Walker Bldg.
9:05 – 9:55 AM   Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
WEB: Canvas
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This 3-credit lecture course is designed to complement your other meteorology courses by showing you how basic scientific principles can be used to understand a variety of atmospheric phenomena, especially those involving clouds. 
PREREQUISITES:  Meteo 300 and Meteo 431

TEXT: “Physics and Chemistry of Clouds” by Lamb and Verlinde
An electronic version of the book is available for free from the Penn State Library.
Make sure you look at the errata in Canvas. For those who got one of the pirate copies of the book (from amazon) with the wrong index, there also is a copy of the correct index.
GRADING: Each student’s progress toward understanding the course material will be assessed by a variety of tests and assignments, according to the weightings given below:

  1. Weekly quizzes  25 %
  2. Exam:  Tue. Feb. 12 6:30 pm 25 %
  3. Exam:  Tue. March 26 6:30 pm 25 %
  4. Final: Date available on LionPath 25 %
     The passing grade for this course is 50%.
EXAM POLICY: I give my exams in the evening to allow all students to take the time necessary to complete the exam, unless students are opposed. Except for documented illness or emergencies, make-up exams will be conducted only for students who make arrangements with me prior to the scheduled exam time.

  1. Students can demonstrate familiarity with microphysical principles and how they determine the structures of the atmosphere and clouds.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to apply principles of cloud microphysics and atmospheric chemistry to the solution of atmospheric problems.
  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of cloud properties.
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the thermodynamic drivers of cloud development and evolution.
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of basic atmospheric chemistry and its role in atmospheric phenomena.
TOPICAL OUTLINE (may change based on time):
    • Overview of Cloud Microstructure
    • Cloud Types and Properties
    • Atmospheric Constituents
    • Principles of Interaction
    • Formation of New Substances
    • Thermodynamic Drivers
    • Cloud Macrophysics
    • Supersaturation Development 
    • Phase Nucleation
    • Growth of Cloud Particles
    • Precipitation 
As a major in Meteorology you are expected to have a reasonable understanding of mathematics (through differential equations), physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism) and thermodynamics.  Chemical principles will be reviewed as needed.  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.  Homework will be assigned approximately weekly. Expect the home work assignments to be challenging applications of the theory you learned in class. This is a very important way for you to discover whether you understand the material. Collaboration with classmates can be an effective way of learning, especially when you are the one teaching others.  In any case, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure that you understand the material. You may verify your completed work or work in progress with the TA. I will collect homework to verify that you’ve done it, but not grade it. Instead, I will test your understanding of the homework material by a weekly quiz. Exams serve to test not only your general knowledge of the subject matter, but also your ability to apply that knowledge to solving new problems.
Outside assignments may be challenging, but they nevertheless constitute only one way to learn.  Reading from the required text is essential.  Experience also suggests that rewriting your class notes within a day or so of each lecture leads to significantly enhanced learning of complex material.  Remember that what you get out of any endeavor is proportionate to the effort you put in.  Work hard and enjoy learning about clouds and the atmosphere in which they form.
Cell phone policy: Cell phone activity during any lecture is a distraction to you, your fellow students, and to me. If I see a cell phone during any of my lectures you will be asked to leave the class immediately, only to return for the subsequent lecture. If I see a cell phone during any exam you will be assigned a grade of zero for that exam.
Reminder about 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. Access to exams/assignments passed down by students who took this class in previous semesters constitutes an academic violation which will be reported.  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.
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. Likewise, download completed labs, homework, or other assignments from a study site constitutes a violation of this policy.
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).

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.
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.
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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 74174
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

SUPPLEMENTARY READINGS: (Available on Reserve in EMS Library):
QC921.5.R63 1988; Rogers and Yau; A Short Course in Cloud Physics
QC921.5 F55 1962; Fletcher; The Physics of Rainclouds
TD174.H55 1997; Hill; Understanding Environmental Pollution 
QC861.2 H63 2000; Hobbs; Basic Physical Chemistry for the Atmospheric Sciences  
QC879.6 H62 2000; Hobbs; Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
QC921.5 M3 1971; Mason; The Physics of Clouds
QC921.5 P78 1997; Pruppacher and Klett; Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation
TD883.T85 1997; Turco; Earth under Siege
QC882.T93 1977; Twomey; Atmospheric Aerosols
QC861.3.W35 2006; Wallace and Hobbs; Atmospheric Science