Physical Meteorology (METR 3220)

The sky is the best and most accessible arena on Earth to think about physics!

The sky is the best and most accessible arena on Earth to think about physics!

Syllabus (PDF)
Course flyer (PDF)

Course Description This course is required for all Meteorology majors. The prerequisites are Atmospheric Thermodynamics (METR 3210) and Chemistry (CHEM 1251), although there are exceptions to these specific courses. Typically, this course is taken by Meteorology students in the fall semester of their third year.

Physical Meteorology is an introduction to the broad topics of cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry, and atmospheric radiation. Sub-topics, which vary from semester to semester, include warm and cold cloud microphysics, atmospheric electricity, tropospheric and stratospheric chemistry, air quality, radiative transfer, radiative balance, and the role that these play in the climate system.

We study paths that are a part of the daily life of each and every one of us. Henry Thoreau, a naturalist and environmentalist who lived in the 19th Century, said of the cloudscapes: “Such fantastic feathery scrawls of gauze-like vapor on the elysian ground! We never tire of the drama of sunset. I go forth each afternoon and look into the west a quarter of an hour before sunset, with fresh curiosity, to see what new picture will be painted there, what new panorama exhibited, what new dissolving views. Can Washington Street or Broadway show anything as good? Every day a new picture is painted and framed, held up for half an hour, in such lights as the Great Artist chooses, and then withdrawn, and the curtain falls.

Objectives

Our goals are to (1.) Develop an understanding of the physical processes in the atmosphere that are important to both weather and climate, (2.) Develop an understanding of the physical processes in the atmosphere from a system perspective, and (3.) Hone critical thinking skills through observations, hypothesis, deduction, and problem solving.

Components

There is no lab associated with Physical Meteorology, but we will work through in-class activities and problem sets to develop problem solving and analytical skills. The problems you solve and material you master during the semester will provide a mathematical representation of clouds and the way sunlight interacts with the atmosphere. Both of these are critical components of weather and climate change discussions.

top of the atmosphere

A NASA astronaut photograph of clouds, the blue haze of the upper troposphere and stratosphere, and the moon rising above the top of the atmosphere. A nice example of clouds, chemistry, and radiation.