METEO 531 Atmospheric Thermal Physics

Fall 2015 103 Walker Building 2:30 – 3:20 pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

METEO 531: Atmospheric Thermal Physics

Fall 2015 

OFFICE: 517 Walker Building
PHONE: 863-1584


OFFICE HOURS: 3:30 – 4:30 pm Monday and Friday, 4:45-5:45 pm Wednesday.


  • 103 Walker Building
  •  2:30 – 3:20 pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

We may have a make up class or two and we will discuss it if need be.


Mathematics through differential equations. Basic knowledge of Physics (Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism.)


Atmospheric Thermodynamics by C.F. Bohren and B. Albrecht


METEO 531 is a 3-credit lecture course that is designed to provide you with a working knowledge of thermodynamics and how it is applied to the atmosphere. 


  • Exam 1 (Tuesday, Sept. 29, 5:00 – 7:00pm): 25%
  • Exam 2 (Tuesday, Nov. 3, 5:00 – 7:00pm): 25%
  • Exam 3 (Final exam time-slot): 25%
  • Homework: 25%

Location of Midterm Exams: 529 Walker Building 


“I see and I forget, I hear and I forget, I do and I understand.” - Confucius

If you merely read books and listen to others, you will never really learn anything new. New knowledge is only truly gained by thinking and working things through for yourself. The difference is like that between one who simply reads about an experience and one who lives it.

– Paraphrase of one of Schopenhaurs’ Aphorisms. 

“The main job of a teacher is to free the student from the teacher” - Zen Buddhist Saying 


It is expected that you have a solid, working knowledge of mathematics (calculus and differential equations) and physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism). These are implied prerequisites for the course. Your ability to understand the material in this course depends critically on how well you learned your math and physics. 

I expect active participation from all students in the course each and every week. I also expect each student to keep up with the material on her/his own. This includes reviewing lecture notes, reading assigned material, and reading material from books in the library. It is never possible to fully understand the material in a course solely by attending lectures. It is best to think of me as a guide through the relevant material, but it is you who must do the hard work that goes along with the learning process. Like anything else, what you get out of this course depends on what you put into it. Working hard, thinking a lot, and maintaining a positive perspective are the best ways to gain the most from this course! Moreover, as graduate students, I expect each and every one of you to be here because you truly want to learn. Learning should be your main goal. 

I tend to have an open door policy. If the door is open, please knock if you have a question. Outside of office hours, I might ask you to return if I am in the middle of something. Otherwise, I’m normally happy to take your questions! Office hours are your time so it is a great idea to make use of it. 


Homework provides the main mechanism to practice and learn the material covered in class and in the text. Each homework set will be composed of 5 to 6 problems. The first 3 to 4 problems on each set will be primarily for practice. I will provide as much assistance as you like on these problems. The final 2 or 3 problems will require you to work independently of me. I will only provide reasonable clarification of the problem, but no other assistance. Learning to work independently, and attempting solutions on your own, is an important skill to acquire as a graduate student. In past incarnations of this class, I've found that this method also tends to improve student performance on tests.


Exams are scheduled during the evening hours (5 to 7 pm) so that you have extra time. I write the exams so that a student with strong knowledge of the material can complete the problems in one hour. Having a second hour to take the exam provides time to ponder any questions with which you are having difficulties. 


Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses that may be grounds for failing an assignment, an exam, or the course. Please review the College policies related to academic integrity on the web at

Recommended Books:

EMS Library - 105 Deike Building. (Books I have found useful)


Title / Author(s) / Call Number

  • Atmospheric Thermodynamics / Iribarne and Godson / QC880.4 T5I74 1981
  • Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans / Curry and Webster / QC880.4 T5C87 1999
  • Atmospheric Science / Wallace and Hobbs / QC861.2 W34 1977
  • Physical Chemistry / Atkins / QD453.2 A88 1994b
  • Understanding Thermodynamics / van Ness / QC311.V285 1983
  • Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Mechanics / Sears and Salinger / QC311 S42 1975 


  2.  ENERGY

    A) Mechanical Systems  and Internal Energy
    B) Translational, Rotational, Vibrational and Electronic Energies (Molecular Physics)
    C) The First Law (Energy Conservation) 


    A) Gas Laws, Kinetic Theory, Mixtures of Gases 
    B) Collision Interactions and Energy Transformations
    C) Heat Capacities of Gases, Solids and Liquids
    D) Enthalpy
    E) Applications: Dry Adiabatic Processes, Radiative Emission and Chemical Reaction Rate 


    A) Spontaneous Change, Cyclic Processes 
    B) Entropy
    C) Free Energies and Applications


    A) Phase Transformations, Moisture Variables
    B) Phase Diagrams, Moist Conserved Variables
    C) hermodynamic Diagrams (Skew Ts) 


    A)    Buoyancy and Parel Stability 
    B)     Cloud Processes: Cloud Formation (Lifted Condensation Level, Moist Adiabatic Lapse Rate)
    C)    Conditional Instability 

  7. Buoyancy Oscillations 

[Note that not all of this material will be found in your textbook. You will likely have to go to other books in order to find all of the information required.]