Jim Steenburgh

jim.steenburgh at utah.edu
Office hours: TBA


Tom Gowan

Teaching Assistant
480/490 INSCC
tom.gowan at utah.edu
Office hours: TBA

Atmos 5110/6110: Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology I

Polar Low

Course Description: Fall Semester 2016

This course provides an introduction to contemporary synoptic-dynamic meteorology and its applications. The course is not restricted to the synoptic scale, but instead synthesizes observational and numerical analysis to understand weather across all scales, with an emphasis on the midlatitudes. Major course topics include basic dynamics (e.g., divergence, deformation, vorticity, and potential vorticity), upper-level waves, quasigeostrophic (QG) theory, diagnosis of vertical motion and height tendency, extratropical cyclones, and additional topics as time allows.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, students should be able to apply dynamical concepts to diagnose, understand, and predict past and present weather.


Two lectures a week (9:10-10:30 TTh). You are also required to attend weather discussions at 1:00 TTh. Both classes meet in 711 WBB.


Grading is based on labs (15%), two mid-term exams (25% each), a final exam (25%), and participation in the weather discussion (10%). Grades on assignments will be reduced 15 points (out of 100) per day past the due date.


Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology by Gary Lackmann. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology by James R. Holton and Gregory J. Hakim is also useful but not required.

Required Computer Skills

Basic knowledge of IDV and how to use an iMac. Quickly becoming proficient with these applications pays dividends during the semester.

ADA Accomodations

The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD). CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangement for accommodations. All written information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.

Tentative Schedule and Course Notes*

I. Course Overview

II. Fundamental Math Concepts

III. Fundamental Meteorology Concepts

IV. Skew-T Review

V. Divergence and Deformation

VI. Vertical Motion

VII. Circulation and Vorticity

VIII. The Vorticity Equation

IX. Scale Analysis of the Vorticity Equation

X. Structure and Behavior of Upper-Level Waves

XI. Dynamics of Upper-Level Waves

XII. Potential Vorticity

XIII. Upper-Level Flow Climatology and Blocking

XIV. Quasigeostrophic (QG) Theory and Applications

A. Approximations and Equations

B. Omega Equation

C. Q-Vectors

D. Height Tendency Equation

E. Behavior of Upper-Level Troughs and Ridges

XV. PV Thinking and the Dynamic Tropopause

XVI. Extratropical Cyclones

A. Cyclogenesis

B. Climatology of Extratropical Cyclones

C. The Norwegian Cyclone Model and Extensions

D. Modern Cyclone Models

E. The Process of Occlusion

XVII. Potpourri

A. Numerical Weather Prediction

B. Additional topics as time permits

*Course notes typically updated during semester