AT786 – Convective and Mesoscale Field Programs

Spring 2021

Course Syllabus

Course name: Convective and Mesoscale Field Programs

Course number: AT786


Prof. Steven Rutledge (

Web page:

Office hours: As needed

Meeting time: Monday’s from 1-2:20 PM, via Zoom

Prerequisites: None

Course goals and Objectives: AT786 is designed to provide an understanding about designing and carrying out field programs to study convective and mesoscale processes. We will discuss projects spanning nearly 5 decades. The design, key science questions, implementation and scientific findings of many major field programs will be presented and discussed.

Textbook: None

Course readings: As provided during the semester.

Course calendar: Follows CSU course calendar

Expectations: Regular attendance is required. Read the class notes in advance of class.

Statement on academic dishonesty: This course will adhere to the CSU Academic Integrity Policy as found in the General Catalog ( and the Student Conduct Code ( At a minimum, violations will result in a grading penalty in this course and a report to the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services.

Exam schedule: There will be no examinations.

Contact hours: Roughly two hours of effort are expected to complete readings and prepare your presentations.

Course grading: Course grading is based on class participation and student led in-class presentations.  Each student will make about two in class presentations, reviewing specific field programs.

Course content:

The class will begin with a review of field programs prior to GATE. The class will attend the virtual seminar by Dr. Ed Zipser on 28 January where these early field programs and GATE will be discussed. We will also have class visits by Prof. Robert Houze to talk about GATE and his other field projects, and Prof. Gerry North to present a talk on the history of the NASA TRMM satellite.  TRMM motivated so many tropical field projects so this satellite mission is very relevant to our class. Later in the semester Prof. Richard Johnson will present a review of Asian monsoon field campaigns. Prof. Michael Bell will also give a guest lecture on field projects on hurricanes and heavy rain. We will arrange for other guest speakers as the semester goes on. We will review many BAMS articles that describe individual field campaigns plus few key papers that presented the scientific findings from the project.


18 January, NO CLASS, Martin Luther King. Jr. Holiday


25 January,  First class, introduce class, discuss syllabus, seek input from students on what topics they may wish to have the course address.


28 January, special class.  Virtual Seminar by Dr. Ed Zipser.


1 February, Class discussion of Dr. Zipser’s seminar. Each student to come to class with a discussion topic resulting from the Zipser seminar. Read Garstang et al. paper prior to class.


8 February, Experimental design and key scientific findings from GATE Watch a historic video documentary on GATE. The GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment. (S. A. Rutledge)

15 February, CSU CANCELS ALL CLASSES (cold weather) 

22 February, Science findings from GATE pertaining to Mesoscale Convective Systems. Q& A session with Prof. Emeritus Bob Houze.  

1 March, Ellie (DUNDEE 1989-1990, the Down Under Doppler and Electricity Experiment) 

8 March, Kyle (TOGA COARE 1992-1993, Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Experiment); Sean (MCTEX 1995, the Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment) 

15 March, CSU CANCELS ALL CLASSES (Snowstorm)  

22 March, Rutledge (TRMM LBA), Chelsea (STEPS 2000, the Severe Thunderstorm and Electricity Experiment) 

29 March, Dick Johnson lectures on Asian monsoon experiments starting with Winter MONEX (1978-1979). Q&A follows the lecture.

5 April, Chandra (BAMEX 2003, the Bow Echo and Mesoscale Vortex Experiment); Naufal (VORTEX-2 2009-2010, Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment).

12 April, NO CLASS, Spring Break

19 April, Prof. Michael Bell, lecture on hurricane and heavy precipitation field projects, including a descriptioin of PRECIPE22.

26 April, Lecture by S. Rutledge on the Thunderstorm Project (1940's), the National Hail Research Experiment (1970's), and PRE-STORM from summer 1985.

3 May, Lecture by S. Rutledge on procedures for requesting NSF Facilities, including white paper and proposal formulations, the various review steps, timelines, etc. I will then hold a Q&A where I will invite questions about my experiences with the field projects I have been involved with. A more or less comprehensive list of those field projects can be found at:

10 May, FINALS: COVID has had a big impact on our lives and certainly has added stress to your busy schedules as graduate students. Therefore, after a fair amount of thought on this, I have decided to drop the requirement for a final exam project. When I set up this class I intended it to provide an overview of some field projects, what concepts go into planning and executing a field project, their experimental designs, etc. I think we will have accomplished this by the end of the semester, given my lectures, our guest lectures and most importantly the student led lectures. I feel that anything additional we could gain by setting a term project would be out-weighed by added stress, which is already significant due to COVID-19. Therefore your semester grade will be based on your lecture and class participation.