Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science

Instructor Information


Current Instructor: Raymond Najjar (Fall 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2018, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2009, Fall 2008, and Fall 2007)

I'm Raymond Najjar, a professor of Oceanography in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.

Seeking a field where I could apply my love of math and science, I chose an engineering major in college, where I found the study of fluids to be fascinating. I also became interested in the environment and made a lucky guess that graduate study in oceanography and atmospheric science would suit me. After graduate school, I worked for three years as a post-doctoral scholar at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where I conducted research on the exchange of oxygen between the ocean and atmosphere. In 1993, I joined the faculty in the Meteorology Department at Penn State and have been there ever since.

A lot of my research is focused on the carbon cycle in the ocean, which is important because this cycle influences the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a very important greenhouse gas. I also study the impacts of pollution and climate change (like sea-level rise) on coastal systems. I have worked on numerous regional climate impact assessments, including one that was part of the first National Climate Assessment, as well as several for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am mainly a data analyst, but I also use numerical models and remote sensing. Occasionally, I am lucky enough to go to sea, and have conducted studies in the Sargasso Sea and coastal waters of Antarctica and the Eastern United States.

Here's the research team I led that studied the impact of nutrients in rain on planktonic ecosystems off the coast of Eastern US in 2014 (I am fourth from the left):

And here is a drifter recovery from that study (I'm second from the right):

I teach courses in oceanography and atmospheric science. I love teaching Meteo 300 because it is shows how atmospheric scientists use fundamental principles of math, physics, and chemistry to gain a quantitative understanding of a wide variety of atmospheric phenomena. Though I am an oceanographer, I have a passion for studying the atmosphere, not only because of its profound interactions with the ocean, but because we live in the atmosphere and get to experience it every day. One of my greatest pleasures is looking at the sky.

Past Instructor: William Brune (Fall 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2017, and Fall 2016)

My name is William Brune, a distinguished professor of Meteorology.

The atmosphere creates and sustains life. It's amazing and it's important to know how it works. I love teaching this course because it contains all the essential elements of the science behind the weather. I have been fascinated by the weather ever since I was a little kid, sitting on the curb in front of my house in Houston, Texas, watching the huge thunderstorms build and build and build until you knew the rain was coming soon and heavy. Usually I got inside before I got soaked, but not always! As a physics graduate student, I tried to focus on Astrophysics, but I knew I loved studying the atmosphere the most because it is so unpredictable and so relevant to our lives, so as soon as I could, I returned to studying and teaching about the atmosphere here at Penn State. I have taught Meteo 300 in residence four times, three in the past five years.

My research specialty is atmospheric chemistry, but to understand the chemistry, you need to understand the atmosphere and all of its physics. I've been at Penn State 27 years and have had a research group this whole time. It consists of graduate students, research associates who have Ph.D.s, engineers, and undergraduates - sometimes even sophomores. We have participated in more than 40 field studies of the atmosphere using both towers on the ground and airplanes. We have studied the atmosphere in places as far north as northern Sweden and as far south as New Zealand, and many places in between. On aircraft, we have flown all over the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the northern Atlantic Ocean. In 2012, we were part of the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry study and spent our time flying around thunderstorms in the central United States. That was fun!

Penn State research at the entrance to the NASA DC-8 aircraft in Salina KS during the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry study in summer 2012.
Credit: W. Brune
Penn State research team
Penn State research team on a tower in Bakersfield CA during the CALNEX study in 2011. I am in the back.
Credit: W. Brune