Climate Dynamics

Climate Dynamics (METEO 470, 3 credits)

Course Syllabus for Spring 2019 

Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology, 514 Walker Building, (office hours: Wed 1:00-2:15 PM)

TA: Mingyu Park, 407 Walker Building, (office hours, Monday 10:00-11:30 AM) and Thursday 2-3:30 PM)  

Meeting Time/Place: Tu/Th 10:35-11:50 AM (217 Hammond) 

Office Hours: You are encouraged to use email for questions when possible. You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Wed 1:00-2:15 PM), or by appointment. 

Motivation: In order to under and model the climate system, we need to understand the balance of energy within the climate system as well as the dynamics of the underlying components of the climate system, including the atmosphere and ocean, and the mechanisms by which these components may be coupled. Topics discussed will include global energy balance, including zero and one-dimensional models of radiative equilibrium, the role of the ocean circulation including the thermohaline and wind-driven components, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), internal and forced climate variability, and climate change. 

Prerequisites: Meteo 300, Meteo 421, and Meteo 431

You are expected to be familiar with the governing equations (momentum and energy conservation, continuity, and equation of state) of the atmosphere on a sphere. 


We will regularly draw upon the course homepage as a resource for the course:

Aside from links to the course syllabus, there will be links to the readings, problem sets, slides from the lectures, and other course-related materials. 

Lectures: Attendance of all lectures is expected. You are strongly encouraged to ask questions and participate constructively in class. Copies of slides from the lectures will usually be made available electronically through the course website before or shortly following the lecture. 

Textbook: There is no required textbook. Some students might find Peixoto & Oort “Physics of Climate” a useful reference (it has been placed on reserve in the EMS library).

Supplementary readings from various sources will be posted on the course website. 


Problem Sets (50%): There will be 4 problem sets assigned that will involve applications of topics covered in class.  You may discuss the problems with each other, but the problem set you turn in should reflect your own individual effort. We will frequently make use MATLAB for assignments (MATLAB is available on the Meteorology Computer Lab Computers)

Mid-Term Exam (20%): There will be an in-class mid-term examination roughly mid-way through the semester (Feb 23).

Final Exam (30%): There will a final examination for the course at the scheduled time and date. 

Grade Scale: A: 92-100%; A-: 88-91%; B+: 84-87%; B: 80-83%; B-: 75-79%; C+: 71-74%; C: 63-70%; D: 50-62%; F: <50%


  • T Jan 8: Introduction 
    Module 1: Zero-Dimensional Energy Balance Model
  • R Jan 10 
    Global Energy Balance; Greenhouse Effect
    PS1 Assigned
  • T Jan 15
    The Zero-Dimensional Energy Balance Model
  • R Jan 17
    Climate Sensitivity
  • T Jan 22
    Modeling Historical Temperature Changes
  • R Jan 24
    Projecting Future Warming
  • G1, T Jan 29
    Guest (J. Fuentes): Plant-emitted gases & role in climate system
  • R Jan 31
    Class Cancelled (due to weather!)
  • T Feb 5
    Internal Variability & Red Noise
    PS 1 Due

Module 2: One-Dimensional Energy Balance Model

  • R Feb 7
    Meridional Energy Balance
    PS 2 Assigned
  • T Feb 12
    Atmospheric heat transport
  • R Feb 14
    The One-Dimensional Energy Balance Model
  • T Feb 19
    Snowball Earth; Hysteresis
  • R Feb 21
    Class Cancelled (due to weather!)
  • T Feb 26
    Snowball Earth; Hysteresis (continued); Climate/Extreme Weather
  • R Feb 28
    PS 2 Due
  • T Mar 5
    No Class [Spring Break]
  • R Mar 7
    No Class [Spring Break]

Module 3: The Role of Ocean Circulation

  • T Mar 12
    The Stommel Box Model of the AMOC
    PS 3 Assigned
  • R Mar 14
    The Stommel Box Model of the AMOC (continued)
  • T Mar 19
    “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario; The AMO
  • R Mar 21
    Stommel Model of Ocean Gyre
  • T Mar 26
    Ocean Gyres and Heat Transport; The PDO 
  • R Mar 28
    Ocean Gyres and Heat Transport; The PDO (cont)
    PS 3 Due

Module 4: The El Nino/Southern Oscillation

  • T Apr 2
    ENSO basics
    PS 4 Assigned
  • R Apr 4
    The Delayed-Oscillator Model
  • G2 T Apr 9
    Guest Lecture (to be announced)
  • R Apr 11
    The Cane-Zebiak Model
  • T Apr 16
    Climate Change & El Nino 

Module 5: Climate Change

  • R Apr 18
    Climate Models
    PS 4 Due
  • T Apr 23
    Anthropogenic Climate Change
  • R Apr 25
    Anthropogenic Climate Change (continued); Review Session