Introduction to Micrometeorology

METEO 454: Introduction to Micrometeorology

Semester: Fall 2018

Instructor: José D. Fuentes
Office: 508 Walker Building
Office hours: 2:30 – 5:00 PM Monday and 2:30 – 3:30 PM Wednesday, or by appointment
Telephone: 814 863 1585
Web page:

Class meeting time and location: M W F 1:25 AM - 2:15 PM in 126 Walker Building
Prerequisites: METEO0421 and METEO0431 or EME 301

Internet materials: CANVAS homepage –

Teaching assistants:
Dandan Wei
Sham Thanekar
Office: 410 Walker
Office hours: 1:00 – 3:00 PM Tuesdays, 4:00 – 5:30 PM Thursday 

Course Description

This course describes the processes governing the rates of energy, mass, and momentum exchange between terrestrial and aquatic surfaces and the overlying atmosphere. Specific topics to consider include surface energy budgets, heat transfer in soils, air temperature and humidity variations in the lower atmosphere, and dynamic and thermodynamic attributes of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). Growth rates of the convective ABL and associated turbulence characteristics are introduced. Considerable attention is given to topics related to surface-atmosphere interactions, theory of measurement methods and associated instrumentation to derive fluxes of energy and mass, statistical descriptors and spectral characteristics of atmospheric turbulence. Numerical modeling is introduced as a means to synthesize the concepts discussed in class. Data sets are analyzed to enhance the concepts learned in class, particularly as they pertain to basic fluid mechanics and thermodynamic attributes of the ABL.

General Course Objective

The objective of this course is to gain working knowledge of contemporary micrometeorological theory to investigate surface-atmosphere exchanges of trace gases and energy. After completing this course, students will have sufficient experience to conduct independent work in the general area of mass and energy exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere, and to critically review scientific publications. With the gained knowledge, students will be able to competently investigate atmospheric processes in the lowest layers of the atmosphere in order to address research needs in meteorology, hydrology, terrestrial ecology, and air pollution. 

Specific Objectives for METEO 454

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the principles determining the structure of microscale phenomena within the planetary boundary layer (relate to [meteorology] program objectives 1 and 2)
  2. Students can demonstrate an introductory knowledge of the role of turbulence in the atmosphere (relate to [meteorology] program objectives 1, 2, and 3

Outcomes for METEO 454

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the energy budget near the Earth’s surface (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role that radiative transfer plays in explaining differences between the thermodynamics of the daytime and nighttime atmospheric boundary layers (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  3. Students can demonstrate an ability to describe qualitatively and quantitatively the vertical variations of air temperature, humidity, wind, and passive scalars in the planetary boundary layer (relate to program outcomes a, b, c, and d)
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the processes by which turbulence is created and acts to affect the atmosphere (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  5. Students can demonstrate preliminary knowledge of the role of turbulence in the dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere (relate to program outcome b

Course prerequisite: METEO 421 and METEO 431 or EME 301

Students who do not meet these prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor 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.  Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct: 

Required: An Introduction to Boundary Layer Meteorology by R.B. Stull (1988) 

Additional (reference) texts:

The Atmospheric Boundary Layer by J.R. Garratt (1992) 
Introduction to Micrometeorology (second edition) by S.P. Arya (2000) 


  • Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
  • Boundary-Layer meteorology
  • Journal of Applied Meteorology
  • Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres

Course evaluation

This course consists of three 50-minute meetings per week. Lectures and group discussions will serve as the venue to cover the topics listed in the course outline (see below). Several assignments, three exams, and one final exam will be the main form of course evaluation.  Assignments will involve computer programming (in MATLAB or Python) to process air turbulence data, analyses and interpretation of micrometeorological data.  Marks for the course will be allocated as detailed below. 

  • Assignments: 10 % (due dates will be provided on assignments)
  • Exam I: 20 % (14 September, during the regular class period)
  • Exam II: 20 % (5 October, during the regular class period)
  • Exam III: 20 % (2 November, during the regular class period)
  • Final exam: 30 % (To be determined by the Registrar Office) 
  • The final grade will be determined according to the following scale:

A: Above 90 %       
A-: 85-89 %
B+: 80-84 % 
B: 75-79 %     
B-: 70-74 %
C+: 65-69 %          
C: 60-64 %     
D: 55-59 %
F: Less than 55 % 


This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, 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, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of 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. 

Academic integrity

Please note that this course adheres to the academic integrity policy of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The policy can be obtained from Students are expected to present their own work. Classmates may collaborate on assignments. However, each student must write up his or her answers separately.  Students who present other people's work as their own, as well as the students providing answers, will be in violation of the academic integrity policy. It is never acceptable to copy the work of another person. Students who present other people’s work as their own will not receive any credit on the impacted assignment and may receive a failure grade in the course. Plagiarism is also a serious academic misconduct. Whenever adopting materials from published results, the source of information needs to be properly cited or referenced. 

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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) Web site provides contact information for every Penn State campus: For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site: 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. 

Campus emergencies, including weather delays

Residence Instruction: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

Online Instruction: In case of weather-related delays at the University, this course will proceed as recommended by the University. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, then please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Course outline 
Textbook pages

    Scope of Micrometeorology 19-23
    Status of research Lec. notes
    Basic research and applied problems
    Review of atmospheric thermodynamic concepts 7-8
    Equation of state, moisture variables, potential temperature, virtual temperature
    Atmospheric layers: Surface layer, mixed layer, stable layer 1-4, 9-18
    Data analyses using MATLAB or Python Lec. notes

    Origins and properties of turbulence 3-5, 29-33
    Taylor’s “frozen” turbulence hypothesis 5-6
    Mean and turbulent components 33-40
    Reynolds averaging, statistical descriptors of turbulence 41-45
    Turbulent kinetic energy 45-47
    Kinematic and eddy fluxes 47-56, 63-68
    Summation notation 57-63   
    Conservation of mass, momentum, and energy 75-116
    Scaling variables 117-120 
    Variance and turbulent flux relationships 121-147     
    Turbulent kinetic energy budgets 151-168
    Dynamics atmospheric stability 169-179
    Obukhov length scale 180-187 
    Closure methods (first order, mixing length, etc.) 197-224
    Surface energy budget, and partitioning of fluxes 251-273
    Methods to determine turbulent energy fluxes, soil heat flux  274-289     

    Scaling variables 347-358
    Similarity relationships 359-375
    Fetch and flux footprint Lec. notes
    Wind profile, diabatic functions, and flux-profile relationships 376-389 

    Physical properties 441-449
    Mixed layer growth rates 450-455
    Entrainment processes 473-487
    Numerical models to estimate mixed layer depth 456-472 

    Characteristics 499-505
    Stable layer growth rates 507-515
    Low-level jet 520-525
    Numerical models to estimate stable layer depth 518-519 

    Carbon cycle in the terrestrial biosphere Lec. notes
    Air quality Lec. notes
    Wind energy Lec. notes
    Arctic trace gas cycling and associated environmental changes Lec. notes