Jim Steenburgh

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

Atmos 6250: Mountain Meteorology


Fall 2015 Course Description

A graduate survey of synoptic, mesoscale, and microscale meteorology in complex terrain including orographically modified cyclone evolution, front-mountain interactions, dynamically and thermally driven flows, orographic precipitation, lake-effect precipitation, mountain weather prediction and forecasting, and interdisciplinary topics.

Overview and Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, students should (1) possess foundational knowledge of the influence of complex terrain on atmospheric phenomena spaning from the boundary layer to the synoptic scale and (2) be able to utilize and critically evaluate scientific literature applicable to research in mountain meteorology and related environmental fields.


Two classes per week (1:25-2:45 MW) in 345 INSCC (NOTE: The course schedule says WBB 711, but plan on meeting in 345 INSCC unless otherwise directed).


This is a course for self-motivated, fully engaged graduate students. I expect students to miss no more than 2 classes, to read assigned materials, to drink from the fountain of knowledge during class activities, to contribute strongly to group learning through active participation, and to give high quality presentations. Grades are based 30% on participation and 70% on presentations. Information on the grading of presentations ia available here.


Mountain Weather Research and Forecasting, F. Chow et al. (eds.), which is available electronically and freely accessible campus-wide or off campus through the Marriott Library. Additional readings as assigned, typically from the peer-reviewed literature.

Student Presentations

Students will give oral presentations on recent topics in mountain meteorology during five classes. Depending on enrollment, class may be extended on these days. Each student will give two presentations total, selecting two of five topic areas. One of these areas can be related to the student's thesis or dissertation research, but the other should be in an unrelated area. Each presentation should be 15 minutes in length and can be a traditional conference-style presentation (e.g., intro, data and methods, results, conclusions), a summary of case studies or literature reviews, or a discussion of recent advances or unsolved problems or paradoxes in the topic area. Students will select topic areas in consultation with Jim early in 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 Readings

I. Introduction

Mon Aug 24: Course Overview (notes) and Intro to Mountain Weather and Climate (notes)
  Meyers and Steenburgh 2013
  Beniston 2003

II. Cyclones, Fronts, & Dynamically Driven Flows

Wed Aug 26: Orographic Cyclogenesis (notes)
  Bannon 1992
  McTaggart-Cowan et al. 2010a
  McTaggart-Cowan et al. 2010b

Mon Aug 31: ICAM-No Class

Wed Sep 2: ICAM-No Class

Mon Sep 7: Labor Day-No Class

Wed Sep 9: Front-Mountain Interactions (notes)
  Egger and Hoinka 1992
  Hoinka and Volkert 1992

Mon Sep 14: Dynamically Driven Flows I (notes)
  Jackson et al. (2013)

Wed Sep 16: Dynamically Driven Flows II (notes and reading above)

Mon Sep 21: Student Presentations: Cyclones, Fronts, & Dynamically Driven Flows (Wyndam, Brian, Derek)

III. Thermally Driven Flows, Cold Pools, and Mountain Miscellany

Wed Sep 23: Thermally Driven Flows (notes)
  Zardi and Whiteman (2013)

Mon Sep 28: Mountain Boundary Layers (Stephan de Wekker, notes)
  Steyn et al. (2013)

Wed Sep 30: Winter Inversions in the Salt Lake Valley and Bigham Copper Mine (Dave Whiteman, notes)
  Whiteman et al. (2014)

Mon Oct 5: Observational Techniques (Bob Banta)
  Banta et al. (2013)

Wed Oct 7: Downslope Windstorms (John Horel, notes)
  Lawson and Horel (2015)
  Lawson and Horel (2016)

Mon Oct 12: Fall Break

Wed Oct 14: Fall Break

Mon Oct 19: Student Presentations: Thermally Driven Flows, Cold Pools, and Mountain Miscellany (Kati, Ansley, Dillon, Tom)

IV. Orographic and Lake-Effect Precipitation

Wed Oct 21: Orographic Precipitation I (notes)
  Colle et al. 2013
  Stoelinga et al. 2013
  Houze 2012

Mon Oct 26: Orographic Precipitation II/Cold-Air Damming (notes)
  Bell and Bosart 1988

Wed Oct 28: Field Studies of Orographic Precipitation (Bart Geerts, notes)

Mon Nov 2: Lake Effect in Complex Terrain I (notes)
  Alcott et al. 2012
  Alcott and Steenburgh 2013

Wed Nov 4: Student Presentations: Orographic and Lake-Effect Precipitation (Kati, Logan, Tom, Taylor)

V. Numerical Weather Prediction and Forecasting

Mon Nov 9: Numerical Methods and Modeling over Mountains (Alex Reinecke, notes)

Wed Nov 11: Lake Effect in Complex Terrain II/NWP and Forecasting in Complex Terrain (notes)
  Colman et al. 2013

Mon Nov 16: Forecasting Orographic Precipitation

Tue Nov 17 (4 PM, 210 ASB): Western US Wildfires (John Abatzoglou)

Wed Nov 18: Student Presentations: Numerical Weather Prediction and Forecasting (Ansley and Brian)

VI. Interdisciplinary Topics

Mon Nov 23: Climate Change in Mountainous Regions (notes)
  Beniston 2003
  Chapter 9 of Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth

Wed Nov 25: No class in lieu of field trip (date TBD) to Alta during last two weeks of semester

Mon Nov 30: Mountain Ecology and Biogeochemistry (Dave Bowling, notes)

Wed Dec 2: Mountain and Snow Hydrology (Paul Brooks)

Mon Dec 7: Student Presentations: Interdisciplinary Topics (Taylor, Wyndam, Logan, Dillon)

Wed Dec 9: Snow Science and Avalanches (Jordy Hendrikx, notes)