What are the basic forces which determine the state of our climate?? The answer starts with radiation from the sun, which is not distributed uniformly over the globe. The atmosphere responds to this unevenness, and tries to redistribute this energy, resulting in the weather that determines regional climate, and drives ocean currents. In this course we examine the science which underpins both our weather and our climate. This will enable us to understand such key issues as cloud and weather system formation, the climatological winds that drive the ocean currents, glacial-interglacial cycles, and man made global warming.

This is a 6 Unit of Credit course, which will consist of two hours of lectures and a two hour laboratory each week. In the laboratory sessions students will have the chance to work with both real weather data, and simplified computer models of weather and climate.

The course is designed for students from a range of backgrounds, with a variety of reasons for studying our atmospheric environment: aviation, chemistry, environmental science, meteorology, oceanography, physical geography, physics. The laboratory classes will be sufficiently flexible to allow different students to pursue their own interests.

Assumed knowledge:

Mathematics: Algebra will be used, and occasionally simple calculus. One of the following is required: MATH1021 or MATH1231 or MATH1079 or MATH1031
Physics: Some knowledge of basic physical science is desirable. One of the following is required: PHYS1002 or PHYS1022 or PHYS1149 or PHYS1111 or PHYS1221 or PHYS1231 or PHYS1241 or PHYS1889 or GEOG1701 or GEOS1701

Text and Recommended Books:

Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey (Second Edition), by J. M. Wallace and P. V. Hobbs
Note, this book is an excellent introduction to atmospheric scince, but goes quite a long way beyond the knowledge required to do well in this course. It will be made clear during lectures exactly what material from the book is and is not required for the course.

Printed notes on selected topics will also be distributed.


Introduction: composition and properties of the atmosphere.

Radiation and climate: radiation laws, Earth's radiation budget, greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect, atmospheric scattering processes, ozone formation and loss, satellite remote sensing, simple models of the climate, feedback processes, climate change mechanisms, predictions of climate futures.

Moisture, stability and cloud physics: gas laws, thermal relations, thermodynamic charts, water substance, saturation, humidity variables, adiabatic processes, stability, chart applications, condensation processes, cloud types and formation, cloud microphysics and precipitation.

Dynamics and circulation: forces which drive the atmosphere, geostrophic and gradient winds, thermally driven circulations, the general circulation, air masses and fronts, vertical structure of weather systems and storms, weather radar.

For PHYS2801, laboratory exercises will illustrate many of these topics: spreadsheet exercises, chart exercises; in addition students will give a presentation on a topic not fully covered in the lecture course.


2 assignments each 7.5%, 2 hour final exam 35%, laboratory 50%.
(The exam will contain a mixture of numerical and descriptive questions,
and reasonable choice will be available).

Dr Joe Kidston and Dr Jason Evans.

Further Information

For more information about this course contact:

last updated 1st February 2012

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