Jim Steenburgh

jim.steenburgh at utah.edu
Office hours: Drop in or by appointment

Atmos 5210/6210: Synoptic Meteorology II

Polar Low

Spring Semester 2018


An upper-division/introductory graduate level survey of modern day synoptic meteorology and its applications, with emphasis on PV thinking, extratropical cyclones, and cool-season storms.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

1. Use and apply PV thinking for atmospheric analysis and forecasting.

2. Describe and analyze the life cycle of frontal cyclones, fronts, and associated precipitation systems.

3. Diagnose the dynamic, thermodynamic, and microphysical processes affecting cool-season precipitation and winter storms in a variety of synoptic, mesoscale, and orographic settings.


Two classes per week (10:45-12:05 TH) in 711 WBB. Classes involve a mixture of lectures, real-time weather analysis and discussion, and active-learning activies.


Grading is based on labs (30%), a term project (40%), and a final exam (30%). Grades on assignments will be reduced 15 points (out of 100) per day past the due date. The final exam will be held in the scheduled class period on February 27.


Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology by Gary Lackmann, plus additional supplemental materials. Students should complete assigned reading before each class.

Required Computer Skills

Basic knowledge of MacOS and IDV. IDV YouTube tutorials are available here and some basic instructions are available here. Learn it and love it!

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 Outline

I. Course overview

II. PV thinking and the dynamic tropopause (Reading: Lackmann Chapter 4)

III. Extratropical cyclones

A. Climatology of extratropical cyclones (Reading: Lackman Chapter 5 through Section 5.2)

B. Cyclogenesis (Reading: Lackmann Section 5.3)

C. The Norwegian Cyclone Model and extensions (Reading: Lackman Section 5.4; Bjerknes and Solberg 1922; Godske et al. 1957, p. 526-537; Reed 1990)

D. Shapiro-Keyser frontal cyclone model (Reading: Shapiro and Keyser 1990 section 10.4)

E. The process of occlusion (Reading: Schultz and Mass 1993; Schultz and Vaughan 2011)

F. Conveyor belts, poisonous tails, and sting jets, oh my! (Reading: Schultz and Browning (2017))

G. Orographic cyclogenesis

IV. Fronts (Reading: Lackmann Chapter 6)

A. Basic descriptive dynamics

B. Kinematics

C. Frontogenesis

D. Surface fronts (skipping in lieu of 5110)

E. Upper-level fronts

F. Intermountain fronts

V. Cool-season storms

A. Cool-season precipitation: A primer

B. Cold-air damming

C. Atmospheric rivers

D. Lake Effect

E. Orographic Precipitation (if time)