SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY                            Spring 2011



Meteorology 415/715


Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and the Ocean


Credit:  2 units lecture, 1 unit lab       Room/time:  TH604 MW 0930-1145

Prerequisites: :      MATH 227; and METR/OCN 201 or METR 410. PHYS 230 recommended.       




Oswaldo Garcia, Professor of Meteorology

Office:  TH509; Office Phone:  Ext 81778

Office Hours: F:10-Noon or by appointment




John P. Monteverdi

Office:  TH613; Office Phone:  Ext 87728

Office Hours: F 10-Noon



Purpose of the Course


This course forms part of the core requirements for the BS degree in atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and will provide you with the background necessary to understand the basic laws of physics that underlie the design of the instruments we use in monitoring the atmosphere and ocean from a distance. In the first part of the course, our focus will be on the laws of radiation.  In particular, we will examine solar radiation, terrestrial radiation, and the radiative transfer that occurs between the surface of the ocean, various layers of the atmosphere, including clouds, and outer space.


After acquiring a basic knowledge of these topics, we will examine some of the satellite and radar sensors and systems that are in place today and provide us with data from the visual, infrared and microwave bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, and how these data can be used to obtain information about the ocean and atmosphere in a way that is complementary to the traditional observational methods. We will spend a significant amount of time in learning how these data can be interpreted to understand the behavior of the ocean and the atmosphere


A significant component of the course utilizes in class exercises and labs to illustrate principles discussed in the lecture. These training exercises provide real-world examples of satellite meteorology interpretation and applications. The examples will strengthen analytical skills in satellite image interpretation.


We will also discuss the principles of radar meteorology, including radar systems, the meteorological radar equation, doppler radar basics, propagation, attenuation, precipitation and velocity estimation, and characteristic echoes. The course treats a broad spectrum of measurement techniques for atmospheric dynamic and thermodynamic variables.


Laboratory sessions provide hands-on experience with various state-of-the-art sensing systems, including WSR-88D, NPSÕs Doppler Radar Wind Profiler.  Use of platform independent radar data access and plotting software will be highlighted.  Topics that might be covered, depending upon time, include sensor static and dynamic characteristics; calibration; in situ measurements of wind, pressure, temperature, humidity, aerosols and radiation on the surface, on balloon-borne sounding systems and on aircraft; and surface-based remote sensing systems, including wind profilers, SODAR and LIDAR. The last two weeks of the semester will be spent discussing the newly-created applications of GPS technology atmospheric soundings and estimates of precipitable water.


Oswaldo GarciaÕs Portion

  Topics to be covered during the period Jan 24 – Feb 28:

-       Definition of terms and SI units used in radiative transfer and its remote sensing applications

-       The basic laws of radiation: PlanckÕs function, Stefan-Boltzmann equation and WienÕs displacement law, KirchhoffÕs Law

-       Scattering, absorption and emission in the atmosphere and ocean

-       Absorption and emission of infrared radiation

-       Obtaining atmospheric soundings using satellite data

-       Use of satellites in Oceanography  

   Topics to be covered during the period May 2- May 11:

-           Use of ground-based and satellite-based GPS technology in monitoring the atmosphere




Wallace, M. and P.V. Hobbs, 2006: Atmospheric Science, an Introductory Survey, Second Edition. Academic Press, Inc., 483 pp. Most of you should have this textbook already, ant it will come in handy as a reference book. I will also use the following book in preparing my lectures – you might find it useful to add to your library:

Perry, Grant W., 2006: A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation

John MonteverdiÕs Portion


Learning Objectives  --  Common Active and Passive Remote Sensing Instruments in Meteorology and Oceanography

1.    Satellite (Passive Remote Sensing--device senses signal emitted by the earth-atmosphere system)

a.    To learn the characteristics of weather satellites currently in orbit (centering on the GOES (geostationary) and NOAA (polar orbiting) platforms

b.    To learn the types of weather images obtained from these satellites

c.    To learn how to interpret satellite images

d.    To learn where to find these images on the web

2.    Radar (Active Remote Sensing--device emits/transmits own signal and intercepts return signal)

a.    To learn how radar works

b.    To learn about Doppler radar

c.    To learn the standard NEXRAD products in the USA

d.    To relate radar reflectivity to precipitation intensity, and understand pitfalls

e.    To learn about polarmeteric, bistatic, and phased-array radars

f.     To learn how to get radar imagery from the web

g.    To learn how to use platform-independent software to analyze and interpret radar imagery




Conway, Erik D.,   1997: An Introduction to Satellite Image Interpretation.  John Hopkins University Press, ISBN-10: 0801855772, 264 pp. (paperback)


Doviak, Richard J. and Dusan S. Zrnic, 1993: Doppler Radar & Weather Observations (paperback), Dover Publications. ISBN-10: 0486450600, 592 pp.


Kidder, S. Q. and Vonder Haar, T. H., 1995: Satellite Meteorology: An Introduction. Academic Press, Inc., 466 pp.

Parke, P. (ed), 1993: Satellite Imagery Interpretation for Forecasters (2nd printing), ISBN 1-883563-04-6, Natl Wea Assoc Monograph 2-86, compiled and edited by Peter S. Parke. A replica of the NOAA/National Weather Service Forecasting Handbook, Vol 1.  (Provided as Handouts)

Exams, Assignments, and Grades


Two faculty members (Profs. Garcia and Monteverdi) teach METR 407/707, and the work you do for each will contribute 50% to your final grade. In my portion of the class, the contributions to your overall score will be determined as follows:


Contribution to Overall Score

Homework Problems (1 total)


Quizzes (3 total)


Laboratory Assignments (4 total)


Inclass Participation



We aim to grade on an absolute scale. However, if for some reason the assignments seem too difficult for the class, We reserve the right to grade on a curve instead, which should effectively raise the grade for many people.









below 60%

Never mind