AOS 401 Spring & Summer Comparison

Prof. Petty and/or Prof. Desai offer three ATM OCN 401 courses related to observations and measurements.  These courses have important similarities and important differences, as summarized in tabular form below.

401 Meteorological Measurements (Petty, Spring)

401 Mountain Meteorology (Desai, Spring)

401 Field Observations and Measurements (Petty, Summer)

Target audience

AOS seniors (grad students may also apply, especially if they are well-qualified, due to prior experience, to  assist with the logistics of the course)

AOS seniors, exceptional juniors, a couple grad students

AOS majors and graduate students. Normally it will be expected that students will have completed their junior-year AOS courses, but exceptions may be made.

Enrollment restrictions

Consent of instructor required.  Depending on enrollment interest, admission to course may be competitive and require informal application (e.g., statement of interest + GPA info.).


No restriction

Enrollment cap

8 (one will likely be a grad student with prior experience at SPL)

8-10, depending on layout of total beds



Spring semester in even years

Spring semester in odd years(?)

Summer 3-week term (late May into June).  Offered first time on experimental basis in 2015.  Future years will depend on student interest and availability of instructor.

Meeting times

Sporadically at regular class times during the semester; full time over Spring Break (Friday morning through Sunday following week)

1 hour weekly during semester, full time Fri before spring break to Saturday.

60 hours of activity spread over 3 weeks, M-F, unpredictable times. Must have no conflicts during those weeks.






Spring Break will be spent at Storm Peak Lab in Colorado


Day outings, primarily in south central Wisconsin


2015: $200 course fee.

Past years: $150 course fee

Summer tuition for 2 credits

Curricular focus

Team observations and measurements in late winter high mountain environment with access to advanced cloud physical and aerosol instrumentation. Specific objectives will be worked out during early weeks of the semester.

Individual or small group projects, proposal writing, analysis, presentation with focus on orographic phenomena, atmos chemistry, clouds/radiation

Team planning, project definition, and coordinated observations in late Spring flatlands.

Student experience

Students will carry out field measurement and analysis activities as part of a team effort under moderate supervision by instructor and lab personnel.

Students work on learning how to develop and test hypotheses with existing and supplementary instrumentation at Storm Peak Lab, and then work on presentation

Students will be given primary end-to-end control of  experimental objectives, design, planning, logistics, and execution.

Primary grading criteria

Quality of project execution, writeup, oral presentation.

Proposal + peer review (20%), Participation (60%), Final report (20%)

Responsible, active participation in all aspects of planning and execution of field outings.

Grading system

Letter grade

Letter grade


Extracurricular benefits

Inexpensive downhill skiing in a prime ski resort!  

Get to know your classmates extremely well!

Close bonding with time spent in field. Opportunity to see mountain weather phenomena.

Fun, intensively student-directed field work with possibility of considerable variety.


  • Risks associated with cross-country and mountain driving, including weather-related hazards (e.g., snowstorms).
  • Primitive close-quarter living at high altitude.  No guarantee of segregation by gender.  
  • Must be responsible and considerate of others; code of conduct will be enforced.
  • Some students experience altitude sickness.  
  • Ability to downhill ski or snowboard (or ability to quickly learn) nearly essential to get around (exceptions can be made for physical disabilities).
  • Physical risks associated with skiing on steep terrain. Liability waiver will be required.


Risks associated with vehicle travel around south central Wisconsin. Liability waiver will be required.