Meteorology 454 - Dynamic Meteorology II

Fall 2019

Instructor: William J. Gutowski, Jr.                                     
3021 Agronomy Hall
tel: 294-5632                                           
My web page in the GEAT Department web site.

Office hours: by appointment

Course webpage

If you are reading a printed copy of this page, you will be able to find this syllabus and other course messages/notes/updates on the course webpage:


To understand:
  1. The coupling of the atmosphere and surface through the planetary boundary layer.
  2. Wave motions occurring in the atmosphere.
  3. Atmospheric instability and the generation of new mid-latitude disturbances.
  4. Convection and other small- (meso-) scale phenomena. [Tentative]


Holton, Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, Fifth Edition (Third and Fourth Editions are acceptable)

Course Design

lecture list provided below is tentative but should be adequate enough to give you a reference for the order topics will be covered and a reasonable idea of the pace the materials will be covered.

You can obtain additional course materials that supplement the text book:

Additional slides for Chapter 8:

  • Holton - Marginal Stability
  • Instability Properties
  • APE Introduction
  • Energy Cycle in the Two-Layer QG Model
  • Atmospheric Energetics

    BONUS! Slides on Mesoscale dynamics and downslope wind events

    NOTE!The chapter numbers above are based on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions of Holton's textbook. In the 5th edition, authored by Holton and Hakim, the chapter layout is different. Thus, using (old chapter #) ==> (new chapter #)

  • chapter 5 ==> chapter 8
  • chapter 7 ==> chapter 5
  • chapter 8 ==> chapter 7

    If there is sufficient interest, I will work with the University Bookstore to produce a course packet of the material above, with grayshade printouts of the lecture slides. The cost should be under $15. In addition, class images are available for viewing here, but you need a password to open this page. Please see Dr. Gutowski for access.

    Students are expected to come to class prepared to participate actively in the learning process. As in any professional organization, absences should be justified and promptness standard procedure. Your homework should be done with pride and submitted on time. Late homework will be given discounted credit.


    I communicate frequently with the class by email. The default email address I have for all students is their address. Students who prefer to use some other email address should follow one of these two alternatives (the first is preferred):

    1. Follow the instructions to automatically forward your email to another system.
    2. Send to me by email your preferred address.

    Choice 1 is much preferable because it ensures that all email sent your address will get forwarded. This could be email for other classes, from the Registrar's office, etc.

    NOTE: When you are emailing me, please start the "Subject:" line with "MT454" so that I can find it easily in all the spam I get.


    Tentative dates:

    Problem sets

    Procedure for Problem Sets

    1. Restate question, preferably in your own words.
    2. Very important! Without using equations, explain the physics of the problem. Figures are encouraged.
    3. Work the problem and include comments.
    4. Identify the solution (e.g. underline, put in a box, use an arrow pointer...)
    5. On each problem set, team members who contributed should sign their names at the top; identify the person (secretary) writing the solutions.
    6. The secretary position must be rotated.
    Every person who contributes to the solution will get the same score. Discussion with others outside your group is encouraged. Only one solution is to be submitted from the group. Persons not contributing will receive no credit. Problem sets are due one week after they are assigned at the end of class (unless stated otherwise).

    On-line Problem Sets

    Problem sets require you to have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can get from here, if you do not have it.

    Pre-recorded Lectures

    To reduce the need for make-up classes if I go out of town, I will use pre-recorded lectures for some topics. Note that material covered on these lectures may appear on problem sets or tests. I will of course answer questions you may have about the material presented in these lectures. Even if I do not use these lectures to cover periods I am out of town, they are still useful for reviewing the topics they cover.

    To view and listen to them, you simply need to click on the link for the lecture below, so long as you have an appropriate browser with the Adobe Flash Player extension included. Typically, this extension is already in your browser, but if it is not, you will be asked if you want it downloaded and implemented on your machine. Basically, Windows and Macintosh OS X machines are ok. Linux machines should work (use Mozilla Firefox), but success is not guaranteed. Further details on compatibility appear at a web site on specific requirements and capabilities for Adobe Acrobat Connect, which is the software underlying these presentations.

    For best visual clarity, you should make your browser window as large as possible. If you are listening to the lectures with others around you, out of courtesy, please use headphones. Also, sometimes the audio does not work the first time the lecture is invoked, but it does work if you close the lecture and click on the link again.


    Problem sets 20%
    Test - Ch. 5 (old #) 22%
    Test - Ch. 7 (old #) 22%
    Test - Ch. 8 (old #) 21%
    Waves Project 15%

    The course grade is determined in part by how people do with respect to each other and how the class as a whole has done. This gives a starting point for assessing what each student has demonstrated with regard to her/his grasp of the material. The total score from tests, labs, etc. is NOT judged on a scale of below 60 = F, 60 - 69 = D, etc. (Of course a total score of 80, for example, will be no lower than a B-.)

    Special notes

    1. We will be doing a project, tracking of large-scale wave motions. This will entail viewing 500 hPa analyses on the ISU Meteorological Weather Products page. Students will work in teams that are identical to the problem set groups. Each team will have 3 tasks:
      1. Record observations of 500 hPa waves (see "STEPS" section of tracking of large-scale wave motions).
      2. Conduct one or more of the weekly reviews of recent and forecast 500 hPa behavior in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. I will do the first one, to show you what I expect. You should follow these guidelines for issues to present. The guidelines will be the basis for determining your grade. Here also are some further pointers for your presentations. This is the schedule, and here are two example presentations: one by me and (better) one by students several years ago .
      3. Write a final report, guided by suggested analysis procedures.

      The wave project reports (one from each "observing team") will be due by 5 pm, Friday, [TBD-Late November]. You turn your report in by posting a pdf of it on the Meteorology student portfolio page of each team member. Each team should also write a 1 paragraph abstract that is posted as text on each team member's portfolio page. The abstract posting should include the paper's title and list of authors, just as you do for the paper itself. As with any scientific abstract, it should give the motivation for the work, the fields observed/recorded, the analyses done and the major conclusions.

      You should send me an email notifying me of when the two items have been posted.

      Please see me if you do not know how to create a pdf of your report. Software exists on one of the meteorology computers for doing this from MS Word in Windows. MS Word for Macintosh computers also has the appropriate software tools.

      Some relevant sites for Northern and Southern Hemisphere weather:

      Also, for Northern Hemisphere weather:

      • Ohio State University Twister web site.

    2. Class exercise: Planetary boundary layer features from observations

      The goals of this exercise are

      • Use observations to estimate the growth of boundary layer turbulence.
      • Compare behavior with experience.
      • Use observations to estimate the surface drag coefficient.
      • Learn how to make and apply plausible estimates for fluxes and other fields in the boundary layer, based in part on our boundary-layer theory.

      You can download background information and observations and instructions for doing the exercise.

    3. Class exercise: Shallow-water gravity waves in the ocean

      The goals of this exercise are

      • Use observations of tsunami travel time to estimate the depth of the ocean
      • Infer other features about the ocean from tsunami travel properties
      • Link the exercise to gravity waves

      You can download a PDF containing key information and instructions. You can also download an animation that might work on your computer. It should work using QuickTime. Note that it was compressed, using gzip.

    4. Plagiarism is unacceptable! Consequently, you must document the source of any piece of information that is not yours. You may copy a phrase from a source, placing it in quotes and citing the source.. However, it is strongly recommended that you use your own words to explain an idea or result produced by someone else, though you still must cite the source. For this class, you should follow the style of American Meteorology Society journals (e.g., Journal of Climate) for the format of citations in the body of the text and for the bibliography at the end. Please see me if you have any questions.

    5. I am expecting to be away on the following dates. Note that some do not conflict with classes, but I am listing all my travel so you know when I may not have email contact. Given the online nature of this course, I may try to conduct class from my travel location, or I will assign pre-recorded lectures, or I will have a substitute instructor. I will let you know in advance.
      • 24-31 August: IPCC Lead Authors meeting, Toulouse, France
      • 12-19 October: CORDEX-2019 conference, Beijing, China
      • Some part of 9-13 December: Fall AGU meeting, San Francisco, CA
      Other dates are possible, though I am trying to avoid any. I will keep you posted.

      Make-up classes: I will arrange for make-up classes. Tentative times are when Mteor 499 does not meet on Mondays or after the weather and forecasting sessions. However, I also want to try other means of covering missed classes, such as guest lecturers and pre-recorded versions of my lectures.

    Lecture Topics by Week

    [tentative; following Holton (Chapters 5, 7, 8 and 9) ]


    1. General characteristics of the planetary boundary layer; atmospheric turbulence
      Notes from the Class Discussion on the PBL are posted here.


    2. Turbulent kinetic energy; momentum equations
    3. Ekman layers; coupling with surface
    4. Spin down of circulation


    5. Waves in the atmosphere; perturbation theory and wave properties
      Notes from the Class Discussion on waves are posted here.
      You can watch videos of group velocity, courtesy of Meyavuz
    6. Shallow water gravity waves
    7. Rossby waves (Notes on the group velocity for Rossby waves for the case U = 0, l = 0.)
    8. Internal gravity waves


    9. Geostrophic adjustment
    10. Development of mid-latitude systems; hydrodynamic instability
    11. Baroclinic instability: linear instability
    12. -- Thanksgiving break -- [no class]


    13. Baroclinic instability: energetics
      • Atmospheric Energetics Introduction - PPT file
      • Atmospheric Energetics Introduction - PDF file
      • Atmospheric Energetics Introductory Graphics - PPT file
      • Atmospheric Energetics Two-layer, Q-G model - PPT file
      • Atmospheric Energetics Two-layer, Q-G model - PDF file
    14. -- FINAL EXAM -- [During exam week - Wednesday, 18 December 2019, Noon- 2 pm]

    Final grades for the course and the last test will be posted at this location.

    Diversity Affirmation

    Iowa State University strives to maintain our campus as a place of work and study for faculty, staff, and students that is free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and harassment based upon race, ethnicity, sex (including sexual assault), pregnancy, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or status as a U. S. veteran. Any student who has concerns about such behavior should contact me (your instructor), Student Assistance at 515-294-1020 or email, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612. Any student using language that disparages any of these categories will be asked to leave the classroom and will be counted absent that day.

    Academic Dishonesty

    The class will follow Iowa State University’s policy on academic dishonesty. Anyone suspected of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Students Office. See Academic Misconduct page for further detail.

    Disability Accommodation

    Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sect 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Iowa State University is committed to assuring that all educational activities are free from discrimination and harassment based on disability status. Students requesting accommodations for a documented disability are required to meet with staff in Student Accessibility Services (SAS), located in Room 1076 on the main floor of the Student Services Building. Their telephone number is 515-294-7220 or email "". Student Accessibility Services is the office where you establish eligibility and learn about related processes. Eligible students will be provided with a Notification Letter for each course, and I will arrange reasonable accommodations after timely delivery of the Notification Letter. Students are encouraged to deliver Notification Letters as early in the semester as possible.

    Dead Week

    This class follows the Iowa State University Dead Week policy as noted in section 10.6.4 of the Faculty Handbook.

    Religious Accommodation

    If an academic or work requirement conflicts with your religious practices and/or observances, you may request reasonable accommodations. Your request must be in writing, and your instructor or supervisor will review the request. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office or Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612.

    Classroom Disruption

    At the discretion of the instructor, disruptive conduct includes a single serious incident or persistent conduct that unreasonably interrupts, impedes, obstructs, and/or interferes with the educational process. Disruptive conduct may be physical and/or expressive in nature and may occur in person or in a virtual setting. Examples of disruptive conduct may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • speaking without being recognized, interrupting, or talking over others;
  • arrival to class late or leaving early without instructor permission;
  • the use of technology, such as cell phones, computers, or other devices, without instructor permission, particularly in uses unrelated to course content;
  • creation of loud or distracting noises either carelessly or with intent to disrupt;
  • eating, sleeping, or carrying out other personal activities in class that are unrelated to course content without instructor permission;
  • non-protected malicious or harassing or bullying speech or actions directed at instructors or students, such as personal insults, ad hominem attacks, name-calling, other abusive or ridiculing comments, or threats;
  • gratuitous use of cursing/expletives or other speech that is not relevant to class discussion;
  • inappropriate physical contact or threats of inappropriate physical contact directed at instructors or students;
  • refusal to comply with instructor’s request for appropriate conduct.

    In other words, you should engage with the course like the emerging professionals that you are: disruption of the learning environment is not acceptable behavior.

    Contact Information

    If you are experiencing, or have experienced, a problem with any of the above issues, email

    Go to Department of Geological & Atmospheric Sciences (ISU) Meteorology Program

    Go to Geological & Atmospheric Sciences Department Homepage