Mesoscale Meteorology


Hans Verlinde
OFFICE: 605 Walker Bldg.
HOURS: (lab periods, or by appointments)
PHONE: 814-863-9711

126 Walker Bldg. 11:15 – 13:10 MWF


This 4-credit course is to help you gain an understanding of a variety of mesoscale weather systems. You will study the structure of these systems and the processes that control their development and evolution. You will also improve your skills at using available weather information through hands-on laboratory exercises. 


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: http:/ 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 TEXT:  Mesoscale Meteorology in Midlatitudes by P. Markowski and Y. Richardson 

Supplementary texts on reserve in the EMS Library

  • Cloud Dynamics  R. Houze
  • Storm and Cloud Dynamics   W.R. Cotton, G Bryan and S. van den Heever

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 and Family Services (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

TOPICS TO BE COVERED (may change based on time):

Parcel Theory, Vorticity, Indices Derived from Soundings and Hodographs, Static Instability, Conditional Symmetric Instability, Shear Instabilities, Boundary Layer Evolution, Low-level Jets, Lake Effect Snow, Gravity Waves, Mountain Waves, Downslope Windstorms, Cold Air Damming, Radar Fundamentals, Density Currents, Drylines and Capping Inversions, Static Stability Tendency, Convection Initiation, Ordinary Thunderstorms, Gust Fronts, Multicell Thunderstorms, Supercell Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Mesoscale Convective Systems, Downbursts, Bow Echoes, Hailstorms, Flash Floods 


  1. Students can demonstrate skill in the analysis of mesoscale phenomena using surface and upper-air observations of the atmosphere
  2. Students can demonstrate familiarity with the dynamic and physical principles underlying the structure, development, and evolution of mesoscale weather systems 


  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how the vertical structure of the atmosphere controls the behavior of convective phenomena and gravity waves
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of how various indices and maps derived from atmospheric soundings can reveal the potential for severe convection to occur in the atmosphere
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the role of vorticity in determining the evolution of mesoscale phenomena
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the use of atmospheric radar returns to diagnose the structure of precipitating systems and the occurrence of such severe weather as flash flooding, hail, tornadoes, and lake-effect snowstorms
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the effects of topography on the structure of mesoscale systems 


GRADING:  Each student’s progress will be assessed by a variety of tests and lab assignments, according to the weightings given below: 

  1. Labs (~13) 34 %
  2. Exam: 22 %
  3. Exam: 22 %
  4. Final: Date in e-Lion 5th week of semester 32 % 

The passing grade for this course is 50%. There will be no curve. 


Each student is expected to keep up with the subject matter and to participate actively and effectively in class.  I will make extensive use of the textbook: you are expected to read the associated passage in the textbook on a daily basis. If I do not tell you what we’ll cover in the next lecture, ask! You will gain a lot by reading in advance of the lecture! 

Laboratory exercises, assigned approximately weekly, must be turned in on time. This is a very important way for you to discover whether you understand the material, and provides hands-on training in the use of available weather information. Collaboration with classmates can be an effective way of learning, especially when you are the one teaching others.  In any case, the final work must be your own, a clear expression of your level of understanding. 

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. You will be allowed to make up an exam only for reasons that are pre-approved PRIOR to the exam. All make-up exams will be ORAL

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 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 and Family Services 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. 


Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones, 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 (see to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 


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


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