Radar Meteorology

Meteo 434 – Radar Meteorology

Course Syllabus, Fall 2018 Semester 


Dr. Kevin Bowley, 619 Walker Building, 814-863-8253,

Office Hours: Thursday 9:30-11:30 am 

Class Meeting Times & Location

Lectures: Monday/Wednesday/Friday – 9:05-9:55 am, 103 Walker

Course Description

Fundamental operating principles of radars, with application to observation of meteorological phenomena. METEO 434 Radar Meteorology (3) Students will learn the basic operation principles of weather radar as it affects the taking and interpreting of measurements of weather phenomena. To achieve this ability, students must master concepts of radar design and operation, electromagnetic propagation through and scattering by atmospheric constituents, and the characteristics of atmospheric scatterers. With these tools in hand, the class will focus on interpreting weather phenomena.  Students will actively participate in the class through bringing radar observations to class for discussion. They will be required to gather radar data, organize it for a computer-based presentation, do an in-class presentation and lead the subsequent discussion. Students should have a basic background in electromagnetic theory, such as can be acquired in a physical meteorology course (METEO 437), as well as have either completed or be co-registered for a mesoscale meteorology class (METEO 414). Students will be evaluated based on class participation, homework, two midterm exams, and a final project.

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 (tentative)

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 (ZHZDR, ΦDPKDPρhvLDR, 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).

Course Prerequisites

The prerequisite for this course is METEO 437 and a concurrent/prerequisite of METEO 414. 

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. 

Required textbooks

Doppler Radar and Weather Observations by R. J. Doviak and D. S. Zrni´c. Get it online here. Be sure to check out the errata here! 

Optional Textbooks

  • Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar: Principles and Applications by V. N. Bringi and V. Chandrasekar
  • Radar Meteorology: Principles and Practice by F. Fabry
  • Radar for meteorologists by R. Rinehart 

Reserve materials and location

A copy of the text book should be available on reserve in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library (105 Deike Building)

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, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit 

Examinations and Grading                                                                                              

Examinations of knowledge (two): 13% & 17%* (30% total)

Radar project (due Finals Week): 30%

Homework assignments: 25%

Weekly radar discussions: 15%

Total: 100% 

* The better of your two midterms will carry more weight (17%) of your final mark than the other (13%). 

Course marks 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%). 

Examinations of Knowledge (Midterms - 30% of mark)

I will administer the midterm exams during special evening sessions, 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.  The exams will focus heavily on the materials covered from the previous exam (or start of class in the case of the first midterm), but much of the material in this course builds upon itself and therefore the exams will inevitably have a somewhat cumulative nature. 

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.

Radar Project (due December 10, 11:59 pm – 30% of mark)

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. 

Homework Assignments (25% of mark)

Problem sets (“homework”) will be assigned 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! 

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

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually and to work the exams on their own.  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 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: 

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 

Syllabus Acknowledgement Form I ask that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form ( acknowledgement form.doc) during the first week of the semester.  The form is appended to the back of the syllabus.

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. 


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. 

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.