AOSC 470/600

Synoptic Meteorology



Case Study/Project


Weather Briefings

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News, Notes, & Upcoming Deadlines


Course Catalog Description

Atmospheric properties and observations, meteorological analysis and charts, operational numerical forecasts. Application of quasigeostrophic theory, baroclinic instability, midlatitude and mesoscale weather systems. Tropical meteorology.  Weather forecasting using numerical and statistical models. Prediction of weather phenomena on the global, synoptic, meso, and local scales. Analysis of surface and upper air data; Norwegian cyclone model; introduction to weather forecasting.



This course aims to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical meteorology for synoptic scale weather phenomena.  By the end of the course, students should be able to read and interpret weather maps, apply theory from synoptic-dynamic meteorology to real weather, and have the tools necessary to perform diagnosis of real-time weather and past case studies.




Download Full Syllabus (PDF)


Instructor: Dr. Daryl Kleist, CSS 3420, dkleist @, Office Hours: After class or by appointment

Volunteer Teaching Assistant:  Mr. Troy Arcomano, tarcoman @, Office Hours: TBD


Lectures: Tu/Th 5:00-6:15 p.m., ATL 2416


Required Text

Mid-latitude Atmospheric Dynamics: A First Course, by J. E. Martin, Wiley.


Recommended Texts

Weather Map Handbook, by T. Vasquez, 2nd Edition, Weather Graphics Technologies.

Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology: Dynamics, Analysis, and Forecasting, by G. Lackmann, AMS Books.


Other Reference Texts

Fluid dynamics of the MidLatitude Atmosphere, by B. J. Hoskins and I. N. James, Wiley.

Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology in Midlatitudes Vols. 1 & 2, by H. Bluestein, Oxford University Press.

An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, by J. R. Holton and G. J. Hakim, Elsevier.

Selected Journal Articles


Grading: Mid-Term Exams (25%), Cumulative Final Exam (20%), Case Study/Research Project (20%), Homework (15%), WxChallenge and Class Participation (10%), Weather Briefings (10%),


Letter grades will be assigned using the following breakdown:

A+ (97-100)

A (93-97)

A- (90-93)

B+ (87-90)

B (83-87)

B- (80-83)

C+ (77-80)

C (73-77)

C- (70-73)

D+ (67-70)

D (63-67)

D- (60-63)

F (<60)


Exams: Two "mid-term" exams and one cumulative final.


Difference between 470 & 600

The courses are cross-listed and taught concurrently with identical course content.  However, the amount of work, exam questions, and evaluation criteria will be different.  Credit will only be granted for 470 or 600.  If you are taking credit for 600, you will be treated the same as all other students taking the course for 600 credit, regardless of student status (undergraduate, professional masters, or graduate student).


AOSC 600 students will have slightly different exams, will be required to contribute to in the form of a blog entry, and will need to turn in descriptions of forecast busts for each WxChallenge city (excluding first city, with option to drop one city thereafter).


Weather Challenge

Participation in the national WxChallenge forecasting competition is mandatory for this course.  While actual forecast performance will not directly impact your grade, lack of participation will.  Students will be required to maintain forecast logs.  Please fill out and return the WxChallenge Sign-up Form.


Assignment Policy

No late assignments (including case study term paper) will be accepted without arrangements made prior to due dates.  Late submissions will have reduced value (25% same day, 50% one day late, etc.).


Honor Code

Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.  Students are responsible for educating themselves and following the university honor code (


Student Rights

Please visit the following page regarding University policies and resources:


Research Project Overview:

All students (470 and 600) will be required to perform the research project on a historical meteorological event.  The goal of the research project (case study) is for students to gain experience in the quantitative application and interpretation of some of the tools described in class.  Choose a past case (potentially one of high societal impact), collect relevant maps and data, and perform diagnostic study of the case.  You will be expected to report on a basic description of the event, how/why it happened with relevant tools from coursework, discuss any potential forecast issues related to the case, and generate a summary/conceptual model figure to accompany your findings.   Additionally, one manual (hand) analysis will need to accompany your report.


All students (470 and 600) will be required to submit a research paper of no more than 2500 words (~8-10 pages, 12 pt font, double spaced), with accompanying diagnostics and graphics.  For those taking the course for AOSC600 credit, you will be required to make a 10-minute presentation.  Some case study data is available via COMET at  Data for other cases can likely be retrieved via NCEP, NCDC, NCAR, or other means so long as they are recent.


Supplementary Documents:

  1. Written Report (and grading breakdown)
  2. Oral Presentation
  3. Where to find additional data


Requirements and Timeline:

1. Identify Case

2. Final Research Paper

The paper should include an introduction, methodology, results, summary, and references section and be no longer than ~2500 words.  Please do not embed graphics in the main report, instead appending them at the end with captions.  All figures included should be referenced in the main paper.  You will be required to include three types of figures (at least one of each): 1) Conceptual Model, 2) Manual Analysis, and 3) Self-Generated Diagnostic (using Grads, Python, Matlab, etc.).  Additional figures can come from external sources (e.g. from the internet) so long as they are properly sourced and cited.  Report will be due the final week of classes.

3. Presentation (600 Students Only)

The oral presentation should be a 10-minute overview of your case study.  Attendance by 470 students mandatory.


Potential Cases

  • 1993 “Storm of the Century”
  • January 1996 East Coast Blizzard
  • November 1998 “Edmond Fitzgerald” Midwest Storm
  • January 25, 2000 (Surprise Snowstorm)
  • 2003 PD II
  • December 2009 DC Blizzard (Snowpocalypse)
  • February 2010 Back-to-Back Blizzards (Snowmaggedon and Snoverkill)
  • 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard
  • October 2011 New England Snowstorm
  • October 2012 Superstorm Sandy Extratropical Transition
  • December 2013 Ice Storm
  • January 2014 “Polar Vortex” intrusion
  • 2015 May Severe Weather Setup
  • 2015 Oct. 30 Texas Flooding


Honor Code

All students will need to include a signed honor pledge with their written report


"I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment/examination."


Week 1

Tu., Aug. 29: Syllabus, Introduction, Course Expectations, Map of the Day, Weather Briefing (Lectures Slides)

Reading/HW for Thursday

Sign up for Met Ed Account

MetEd Remote Sensing Introduction

MetEd Basics of Vis/IR

NWS Basics of Radar

Th., Aug. 31:  Python Demo and Lab

Python Training Slides

Fill out and Return WxChallenge Sign-Up Form

Homework #1 Distributed : (Due, Tues. 9/12)


Week 2

Tu., Sep. 5: Meteorological Observations, Hand Analysis, Map of the Day, Weather Briefing (Lectures Slides)

Th., Sep. 7: Numerical Weather Prediction, Operational Models (Lecture Slides)

Reference:  MetEd Operational Models Encyclopedia

Reading/Training:  MetEd Model Dynamics, Model Physics, Clouds and Precip, Data Assimilation, Intro to Ensemble/Sandy, MOS Documentation Page

Week 3

Tu., Sep. 12 (Lippi): NWP continued, MOS, DA, Ensembles, Map Discussion (Lecture Slides)

Homework #1 Due (Electronically)


Th., Sep. 14 (Lippi):  Dynamics Review, Fundamentals, Thermal Wind, Kinematics (Lecture Slides)

Reading/Review: Martin Chs. 1-5


Week 4

Tu., Sep. 19: Dynamics Review Continued, Circulation, Forecast Demo (Lecture Slides)

Homework #2 Distributed : (Due, Tues. 9/22/17 8 PM)

Map Discussion:  Dougherty/Eure

Th., Sep. 21:  Dynamics Review Continued, Vorticity (Lecture Slides)

Map Discussion:  Huff/Clark-Robertson

Week 5

Tu., Sep. 26: Vorticity, Rossby Waves, Ageostrophy/Acceleration (Lecture Slides)

Vorticity Equation Derivation

Mid-term #1 Next Tuesday:  Review Material

Map Discussion:  Zhang/Howe

Th., Sep. 28: Vorticity Continued, Net ageostrophic divergence, Mid-term Review (no-slides)

Reading:  Martin 6.1

Map Discussion:  Jeffrey/Fedkin

Week 6

Tu., Oct. 3: Mid Term #1

Th., Oct. 5: Alternative perspective on ageostrophic wind (No Slides)

Reading:  Martin 5.4, 6.2

HW #3 Distrubuted (Due 10/12/17): 470, 600

Map Discussion:  Snell/Schweiker

Week 7

Tu., Oct. 10: Sutcliffe Development, Intro to QG

Reading:  Martin 6.3

Map Discussion:  Boyle/Hicks

Th., Oct. 12: QG Omega Equation (Lecture Slides)

Omega Equation Derivation PDF

Reading: Martin 6.3

HW #3 DUE (5 PM)

Map Discussion:  Robinson/Chang

Week 8

Tu., Oct. 17: Geostrophic Paradox (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 6.4

Map Discussion:  Chaundy/Fowler

Th., Oct. 19:  Q-Vectors (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 8.3, 9.1, 9.2

Map Discussion: Toscano/McLinden

Week 9

Tu., Oct. 24: Height Tendency, QGPV (Lecture Slides)


Map Discussion:  Dougherty/Eure

Th., Oct. 26: Kinematic Frontogenesis (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Martin 6.4.3, 7.1, 7.2

Exam #2 Next week (11/2, topics here)

Map Discussion:  Huff/Clark-Robertson

Week 10

Tu., Oct. 31:  Isentropic Coordinates (Dr. Manda Adams -- Lecture Slides)

No Map Discussion

Th., Nov. 2: Exam #2

Week 11

Tu., Nov. 7: Frontogenesis Continued (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 7.3

Map Discussion:  Zhang/Howe

Th., Nov. 9: Fronts continued, Introduction to Semi-Geostrophy (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 7.3

Map Discussion:  Jeffrey/Fedkin

Week 12

Tu., Nov. 14: S-E, Upper Fronts (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 7.4

Map Discussion:  Snell/Schweiker

Th., Nov. 16: Precipitation at Fronts, Slantwise Instability, PVe (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 7.5

Map Discussion:  Hicks / Arcomano*

Week 13

Tu., Nov. 21: Extratropical Cyclones, Energetics (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Martin 8.1-8.3, Lackmann 2.7 (Scanned PDF)

Map Discussion:  Robinson/Chang

Th., Nov. 24:  No Class (Thanksgiving)


Week 14

Tu., Nov. 28:  Self-Development, Diabatic Effects on Cyclogenesis, Isentropic PV (Lecture Slides)

Reading:  Martin 8.5, 9.1

Map Discussion:  Chaundy/Fowler

Th., Nov 30: PV anomalies, "PV Perspective" on cyclogenesis, Impact of Diabiatic Heating on IPV (Lecture Slides)

Reading:  Martin 9.2, 9.1-9.4

Map Discussion: Toscano/McLinden

Week 15

Tu., Dec. 5:   Review, Student Case Study Presentations

Th., Dec. 7: Student Case Study Presentations

Week 16

Final Exam :

Monday, Dec. 18 4:00-6:00p.m.



Over the course of the semester, students will give two weather briefings, which will count towards 10% of your final grade.  Students will be paired up (or placed into groups) and will present the weather briefing together. These presentations will take place at the beginning of class  and should be about 15-20 minutes in length.


Format and Expectations:

The weather briefings are a chance for students to engage in real time applications of the concepts we will be covering in class. Each briefing should be focused on particular and specific problems of the day. Detailed and proper application of concepts is more important than how many graphics or slides you are presenting. To that end, each weather briefing should take into consideration the following questions:


1.) What happened?

2.) Why did it happen?

3.) What is happening?

4.) Why is it happening?

5.) What is going to happen?

6.) Why is it going to happen?


Strong effort should be made to utilize dynamical reasoning when attempting to explain why something has occurred or will occur. For example, if we are predicting an rainfall tomorrow for the DC area, make sure you give the relevant details. What lifting mechanism is responsible for the rain? What large and small-scale features are important to the development and location of our predicted rainfall?


For visuals and graphics, each group may feel free to use any of the web-based tools found on Dr. Kleist’s weather links (click on weather links tab) or on the UMD Weather forecasting tools page.  Additionally, please download the map discussion expectations and guidelines document  or see the UMD Weather Forecaster Helper Page for additional tips.


In addition, each group is expected to show at least one unique map or graphic that has not yet been shown by another group or in class.  Self generated maps or graphics are encouraged but not expected for the weather briefings.  You are welcome to discuss any and all interesting weather that may be occurring anywhere around the world.  However, each group should allot a few minutes during their briefing to focus on the local conditions and forecast for College Park.



Students have been paired into the pairs listed below (subject to slight changes based on drops/adds if they occur).  Each group will be responsible for two map discussions, dates to be assigned randomly (beginning toward the end of September).


1. Dougherty/Eure

2. Huff/Clark-Robertson