Jim Steenburgh

jim.steenburgh at utah.edu
Office hours: TBA


Mike Wessler

Teaching Assistant
m.wessler at utah.edu
Office hours: TBA

Atmos 5110/6110: Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology I

Polar Low

Course Description: Fall Semester 2018

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, potential vorticity thinking, extratropical cyclones, and additional topics if time allows.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, students should be able to apply and synthesize dynamics, observational analysis, and numerical analysis across scales to diagnose and understand the past, present, and future 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.

Counseling Services

The University of Utah Counseling Center provides developmental, preventative, and therapeutic services tand probrams to promote the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and social development of University of Utah students. This includes services that address personal, career, and academic learning issues. They are located in 426 SSB and can be reached at 801-581-6826. Their 24/7 crisis line is 801-587-3000.

Tentative Schedule and Course Notes

I. Course Overview

II. Fundamental Math Concepts

III. Fundamental Meteo 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. Climatology

B. Cyclogenesis

C. Norwegian Cyclone Model and Extensions

D. Shapiro-Keyser Model

E. Occlusion Process