AGECO 122: Atmospheric Environment: Growing in the Wind (Fall 2017)

Growing in the Wind is for first-year students who are interested in learning about the atmospheric environment and its influence on animals, plants, and humans.


  • Plant Science


AGECO 122 Atmospheric Environment: Growing in the Wind is for students who are interested in learning about the dynamic effects of weather on plants and animals. It is about how processes at the ground surface and in the air govern weather conditions on Earth.

This course focuses on five major weather elements: energy, temperature, moisture, pressure, and wind and how these factors govern ecosystems and habitation of our planet. Emphasis is also given to 1) human impacts on weather and climate and 2) current environmental issues involving the atmosphere.

The lectures are organized around the central theme that the unequal distribution of incoming solar energy (both spatially and temporally) produces temperature and pressure contrasts at Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere that in turn cause storms and control the weather and climate.

"Whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is not, we'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not!"

Course Logistics

Professor: Scott A. Isard, Ph.D.
Office: 205 Buckhout Lab
Office phone: 814-865-6290
Office hours: M W F | 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Class location: 171 Willard Hall
Class meeting time: M W F | 2:30-3:20 p.m.
Prerequisites: No prerequisites beyond high school algebra are required. An interest in agriculture, the natural sciences and the environment in general will be helpful for this course.

Required Textbook

F. K. Lutgens and E. J. Tarbuck. (2016). The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology (13th edition): Prentice Hall.


By the end of the semester, students will be able to describe and discuss:

  • the effect of weather elements on plants and animals;
  • how the major weather elements interact to govern storms, daily weather, and climate;
  • how humans are changing our atmospheric environment.


The lecture schedule for this course is provided below. The schedule may change slightly as the course progresses; however, if this happens you will be informed either in class or by email. Slides and lecture notes are available on the Canvas website as PowerPoint presentations. There will be Key Concept assignments and quizzes given in lecture throughout the course of the semester. They will be administered with five minutes left in the lecture period and cover the material discussed in the preceding 45 minutes. Each Key Concept assignment and quiz will be worth five points.


The chapters for the readings are listed next to the lecture topics below. A total of ten points can be earned for reading each chapter by taking the associated Open Book Chapter Quiz that is available on the Canvas website. The quizzes consist of ten questions and will last for ten minutes. The quizzes can be taken a total of three times and only the highest grade will be recorded. Quizzes will be available to take before and until 11:50 p.m. on the day that the readings are assigned and unavailable thereafter. The schedule for the last day when each Open Book Chapter Quiz is available is provided below.


Exams will consist of short essay and multiple choice questions. They will cover lecture, reading, and project materials.


There will be three class lab projects during the semester. Students will work in small groups on the assignments and make oral presentations of their results to the class.


There are 765 points that may be earned in this course. Grades are generally based on a straight scale (90+% is an A, 80-90% is a B, 70-79% is a C, 60-69% is a D, <60% is an F).

Exam I Multiple choice and short essay 100
Exam II Multiple choice and short essay 100
Exam III Multiple choice and short essay 100
Exam IV Multiple choice and short essay 100
Labs 3 lab projects (50 points each) 150
Book Chapter Quizzes 13 quizzes (10 points each) 130
Key Concept Assignments 13 assignments (5 points each) 65
Lecture Quizzes at least 4 lecture quizzes (5 points each) 20

"Some people are weatherwise, but most are otherwise."


Attendance: You are responsible for all the material covered in class discussions as well as for the readings. Frequent absences will negatively impact your performance.

Assignments: All assignments are due on the dates specified on the syllabus. The university has careful policies about your rights and responsibilities in the case of emergency and illness. Please be familiar with them and do not try to abuse them.


Open Book Chapter QuizzesLast Day Available
Chp 1 Introduction to the atmosphere 11:59 PM Tuesday, August 29
Chp 2 Heating Earth's surface and atmosphere 11:59 PM Tuesday, September 5
Chp 3 Temperature 11:59 PM Tuesday, September 12
Chp 4 Moisture and atmospheric stability 11:59 PM Sunday, October 1
Chp 5 Forms of condensation and precipitation 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 3
Chp 6 Air pressure and winds 11:59 PM Thursday, October 5
Chp 7 Circulation of the atmosphere 11:59 PM Thursday, October 12
Chp 8 Air masses 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 24
Chp 9 Midlatitude cyclones 11:59 PM Tuesday, October 31
Chp 10 Thunderstorms and tornadoes 11:59 PM Sunday, November 5
Chp 11 Hurricanes 11:59 PM Thursday, November 9
Chp 15 World climates 11:59 PM Tuesday, November 28
Chp 14 The changing climate 11:59 PM Thursday, December 7

Course Schedule

8/21 Orientation Explanation of syllabus, why study weather and climate
8/23 Earth atmospheric system Physical characteristics and features of Earth that impact the atmospheric environment
8/25 Earth atmospheric system Introduction to the Atmosphere I: Composition and layers of the atmosphere chp 1
8/28 Earth atmospheric system Introduction to the Atmosphere II: Human impact on the atmospheric environment: ozone depletion
8/30 Earth atmospheric system Heating Earth's Surface and Atmosphere I: Earth-sun relationships and energy, heat, and temperature chp 2
9/1 Earth atmospheric system Heating Earth's Surface and Atmosphere II: Solar and terrestrial radiation
9/4 Labor Day Holiday - NO CLASS
9/6 Earth atmospheric system Temperature I: Controls and distribution chp 3
9/8 Earth atmospheric system Temperature II: Human impact on the atmospheric environment: global warming and the greenhouse effect
9/11 Lab I: Weather resources on the internet: introduction
9/13 Lab I: Weather resources on the internet: work session
9/15 Earth atmospheric system Biometeorology of plants, animals, and humans
9/18 Lab I: Class presentations: weather resources on the internet
9/20 Earth atmospheric system "Spillover from previous classes" and exam review
9/22 Exam I Exam given in Lecture
9/25 Weather Phase changes of water and Exam I return chp 4
9/27 Weather Moisture & Atmospheric Stability I: Moisture in the atmosphere
9/29 Weather Moisture & Atmospheric Stability II: Lifting and stability
10/2 Weather Forms of condensation and precipitation chp 5
10/4 Weather Air pressure and winds chp 6
10/6 Weather Circulation in the Atmosphere I: Scales of motion, global circulation models, and Hadley cells chp 7
10/9 Weather Circulation in the Atmosophere II: Westerlies
10/11 Weather El Niño/La Niña and the Southern Oscillation
10/13 Weather "Spillover from previous classes" and exam review
10/16 Exam II Exam given in Lecture
10/18 Exam II return
10/20 Weather Air masses chp 8
10/23 Weather Midlatitude Cyclones I chp 9
10/25 Weather Midlatitude Cyclones II
10/27 Lab II, Applications of temperature and moisture data: introduction
10/30 Lab II, Applications of temperature and moisture data: work session
11/1 Weather Thunderstorms chp 10
11/3 Weather Tornadoes
11/6 Weather Hurricanes chp 11
11/8 Weather "Spillover from previous classes" and exam review
11/10 Exam III Exam given in Lecture
11/13 Exam III return
11/15 Climate Climate classification and global precipitation patterns chp 15
11/17 Climate Tropical and dry climates
11/20-24 Thanksgiving Vacation
11/27 Climate Midlatitude, polar, and alpine climates
11/29 Lab III, Severe weather event: introduction
12/1 Climate The changing climate chp 14
12/4 Climate To What Degree: What Science Is Telling Us about Climate Change, video
12/6 Lab III, Class presentations
12/8 "Spillover from previous classes" and exam review
12/11-15 Exam IV during Finals Week

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