AOS 401 Field Observations and Measurements (Summer)


This is an experimental new 2-credit lab course that will be offered by Prof. Petty during the Summer 3-week session (May 26 — June 12, 2015).   The course will offer students intensive hands-on experience with the following activities:

  • Student-led definition, planning, and management of one or more organized field deployments to observe real-world meteorological phenomena of interest.
  • Instrument calibration and quality control.
  • Professional skills such as
    • teamwork.
    • oral and written communication.
    • programming and computer-based data analysis and interpretation.
  • Time permitting, a field trip to the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Sullivan.
Radar depiction of a lake breeze front propagating westward from Lake Michigan on a warm summer day.

Radar depiction of a lake breeze front propagating westward from Lake Michigan on a warm summer day (click to animate).

This course is made possible in part by a generous donation by one of our alumni to support the  acquisition of a suite of new meteorological instruments, including 5 deployable recording weather stations, a portable radiosonde receiving station, and a number of pro-quality handheld instruments for measuring pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, and other variables.   Depending on availability, we may also make use of SSEC’s SPARC.



As a 2-credit lab course, we will budget for a total of 60 hours spread over a three-week period.  Times will be irregular and unpredictable, in that there may be full days devoted to field work as well as days when we are meeting in the classroom for shorter periods of time.  If you take this course, you must not have significant conflicting obligations during the weekdays falling in that period.


While some time will be spent in the AOSS building, the core activities of this course will entail heading off campus in University vehicles and setting up measurement sites at student-selected locations around south central Wisconsin (typically within one hour’s drive of Madison).  Overnight stays will not be required.


The specific activities in this course will be largely student-driven, though with oversight and guidance from the instructor.  Working with your classmates as part of a team, you will

  • design meteorological field experiments that make use of  the available equipment to shed light on interesting local and regional phenomena,
  • plan the preparation and deployment of equipment and observing teams,
  • monitor weather conditions and forecasts to identify suitable deployment periods,
  • coordinate the execution of the experiment and the collection and sharing of the resulting data,
  • analyze and interpret the data, using Python and other software tools,
  • present findings orally and/or in writing.

Who can take this course

The course is intended for students who have completed at least their junior-year AOS core courses.  Undergraduates will take this as ATM OCN 401; graduates as ATM OCN 801.   Those with greater experience and/or more advanced coursework may be asked to take leadership roles in the planning and management of the field activities.


At this time, the sole anticipated fee to students is UW-Madison tuition for 2 credits during the summer 3-week session.   However, there may be meals on the road or other minor personal expenses.


This course can only be offered if at least 8 students pledge to enroll!  Please register your interest by contacting Prof. Petty.