METEO 470 Climate Dynamics

Climate DynamicsInstructor: Prof. Sukyoung LeeClass Meeting Time and Location: TR 11:15-12:30 in 101 Walker

METEO 470: Climate Dynamics 

Course Description

Climate Dynamics delves into the fundamental processes that control the earth's climate of the past, present, and future. Fundamentals are developed from concepts of basic dynamic meteorology, radiative transfer, and thermodynamics. The surface energy and hydrologic budgets, and the atmospheric and oceanic circulation are covered. A survey of the earth's climate through geologic history is also explored, including extinction events and the impacts on climate. The concepts developed in this course are applied to the topic of anthropogenic climate change and how various aspects of the climate system could be influenced by global mean, long-term warming

Course Designation: This course is required for METEO undergraduates

Prerequisites: Meteo 300, Meteo 421, and  Meteo 431

Students who do not meet these prerequisites after being informed in writing by the instructor may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period: http:/ If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:

Class Meeting Time and Location: TR 11:15-12:30 in 101 Walker

Instructor: Prof. Sukyoung Lee
519 Walker

Office hours: T, Th 10:00-11:00; or by appointment 

Teaching Assistant: Mr. Cory Baggett
407 Walker

Office hours: T 1:00-2:00, Th 3:00-4:00, or by appointment

Textbook: Global Physical Climatology by D. L. Hartmann, 1994, (First Edition) Academic Press. 

Note: The second Edition of Global Physical Climatology will be released in the near future, but it is not yet available at the time of this writing. Electronic verions of the figures from this second edition have been made available to me by the author, to be used only internally. There is extensive overlaps in figures between the first and second editions, but the quality of figures are substantially enhanced in the second edition. Therefore, in class, figures from the upcoming second edition will be shown. One drawback is that the figure numbers often do not match with those in the first edition.  However, it is expected that students are able to identify the figures shown in class with those in the textbook. The course copyright policy applies to the figures from the second edition of the textbook.

Assistance with Textbooks

Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student and Family Services (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

Additional References:

  1. Physics of Climate, J. P. Peixoto, and A. H. Oorts, 1992, AIP.
  2. Principles of Planetary Climate, R. T. Pierrehumbert, 2010, Cambridge Press

The textbook and references are reserved in EMS library

Supplementary Readings: ANGEL class notes

Topics Covered

  • Introduction (Chapters 1, 8, 11, 12)
    • Goals and Scope of the Course
    • Observations and Motivations
  • Radiative  Equilibrium  (Chapter 2)
    • Energy Balance of Earth
    • Emission Temperature of a Planet
    • Greenhouse Effect
    • Distribution of Insolation
    • Poleward Heat Flux
  • Atmospheric Radiative Transfer and Climate (Chapter 3)
    • Reading assignments (3.1-3.5)
    • Formulation of Flux Absorption
    • Infrared Radiative Transfer Equation
    • Heuristic Model of Radiative Equilibrium
    • Clouds, Radiation, and Energy Balance of Earth
  • The Energy Balance of the Surface (Chapter 4)
    • Surface heat and radiative fluxes
  • The Hydrological Cycle (Chapter 5)
    • Potential Evapotranspiration
    • Hydrological Cycle of warmer and cooler climates
  • Atmospheric General Circulation and Climate  (Chapter 6 and ANGEL note)
    • Atmospheric Motions and the Meridional Transport of Energy
    • The Axisymmetric Circulation
    • The Wave (weather)-Driven Circulation
    • Large-Scale Circulation Patterns and Climate
    • Moist effects on the Circulation and Hydrologic Cycle
  • Ocean General Circulation and Climate (Chapter 7 and ANGEL note)
    • Properties of Seawater
    • The Mixed Layer
    • The Wind-Driven Circulation
    • Thermohaline Circulation & Two-Box Model
  • Natural Intraseasonal and Interannual Variability
  • History and Evolution of Earth’s Climate (Chapter 8)
  • Climate Sensitivity and Feedback Mechanisms
  • Global Climate Models

Assessment Tools 

  1. Homework problem sets – 20%
  2. Two midterm examinations – 25% each
  3. One final examination – 30%

Course Objectives 

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the dynamics and thermodynamics governing the ocean and atmosphere on spatial and temporal scales appropriate for climate systems (relate to program objectives 1 and 2)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the basic mechanisms of climate variability that are related to the coupling of the ocean and the atmosphere (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3)

Expected Outcomes 

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of radiation and its role in determining atmospheric thermal structure. (relate to program  outcomes b and c)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the atmospheric general  circulation and energy budget as well as their roles in determining  the climate state and its variability, with possible applications  to ocean-atmospheric responses such as El Nino/Southern Oscillation  and/or ocean circulation dynamics (relate to  program outcomes a  and c)
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the appropriate  temporal and spatial averaging of the governing equations relevant to the description of climate and its variability (relate to  program outcomes a and b)
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the state of the ocean, wind-driven oceanic circulations, thermohaline circulations, and coupled ocean-atmosphere processes, and their roles in determining the climate state and its variability (relate to program outcomes a and c)
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of internal and forced  climate variability (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  6. Students can demonstrate knowledge of past climates (relate to  program outcomes b and c)
  7. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the processes responsible for climate change and how global climate models are used to  assess it (relate to program outcomes b, c, and d) 

Academic Integrity

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts.

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website (

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines ( If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.


This course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27:, Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities.  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

Weather Delays

Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript. 

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Disclaimer Statement

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes will be communicated through Penn State Email accounts and during classes.