Climate Dynamics

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. 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 


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 12:05-1:20  Walker Building 101 


Prof. Sukyoung Lee
519 Walker
Office hours: Tuesday 10:00-11:30 

Teaching Assistant

Mr. Lewis (Dong Wan) Kim
407 Walker
Office hours: Wednesday 1:30-3:00 


Global Physical Climatology by D. L. Hartmann, 2016, (Second Edition) Academic Press.

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 Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit 

Additional References:

 Physics of Climate, J. P. Peixoto, and A. H. Oorts, 1992, AIP.

The textbook and references are reserved in EMS library 

Supplementary Readings 


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
  • Climate Change 

Assessment Tools 

The due dates for these assignments are indicated in Detailed_Plan_470.doc posted on CANVAS.  

  1. Canvas quizzes (5) 10% (See Detailed Schedule for due dates)
  2. Homework problem sets (5) 30% (See Detailed Schedule for due dates)
  3. Midterm examinations (2) 30% ( 27 & Nov. 15, during class)
  4. Class Project 1 (more info below) 15%
  5. Class Project 2 (more info below) 15% 

Description of the Class Projects  

Class Project 1  

A literature review (3-5 pages excluding bibliography and figures, single-spaced, 12-point font) for the role of the ocean currents on Arctic sea ice. You may start your literature search from this highly cited paper. 

Shimada, K., T. Kamoshida, M. Itoh, S. Nishino, E. Carmack, F. McLaughlin, S. Zimmermann, and A. Proshutinsky, 2006: Pacific Ocean inflow: Influence on catastrophic reduction of sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L08605. 

If you search this paper on google scholar, you will find that this paper has been cited 423 times (as of Aug. 20, 2018). If you click “Cited by 423”, you will be sent to a page that lists all of these papers in the order of the number of citations. Surveying the titles in the list will give you some idea for the main point of each of the articles. Based on this  information, you could then decide which articles to check out for further reading.

Please choose two additional papers for your review and discuss your choice with me during the class period on September 25. 

Report format: the style of peer-review scientific journals which is comprised of abstract, introduction, results, and summary/conclusions.  Because the report is a literature survey, a method section is not necessary.   

Grading will be based on the rubric described in Writing_Rubric_for_Literature_Review.pdf 

Due date: December 6, 2018.  Please submit a hard copy. 

One extra point toward your final grade: For feedback from me, hand in your first draft by November 1st.  

Class Project 2 

This is a 2-person team project for Option 1 and individual project for Option 2.

For graduate students, Option 1 is also an individual project. 

Option 1: Extension of the data analysis homework that uses NCL. For example, Besong_Smith_report.pdf in the directory Project2-NCL-option-example shows the result of the authors’ analysis on the relationship between Arctic sea ice cover and top-of-the-atmosphere radiation.   

Option 2: Prepare an “Up in the Air” feature on a topic relevant for the class material and discussion. For resources and format, follow the Meteo 482 Mentor Project: 


Media commons in the Pattee Library (Knowledge Commons) will be available to use for this project. We will be visiting the Pattee Knowledge Commons for training purposes. iMovie and the “One Button Studio” are available in the media commons for production. Images and video used in the project must be either public domain (.org, .gov, AP, etc) or produced by the student.  You can rent camera equipment from Media Tech in Wagner Bldg.


A variety of pictures and video with a supporting voiceover should be put together to create one cohesive presentation.  The presentation should be saved as an .mp4 file in 16:9 (widescreen) format.  You should not include an ‘opening’ segment or text ‘credits’ part of the project. Do conclude your video by saying “For Up in the Air, I’m [name]”.  Your presentation should remain professional. 

Grading will be based on the rubric described in Rubric_for_Project2.pdf 

Due date: December 1, 2018.  Please upload your powerpoint file to Canvas by Dec. 1, 2018. Presentations will take place on December 4th and 6th. Your presentation files will be made available for other students to view. This will allow all members of the class to learn about each others’ projects and to prepare for questions and comments during the presentations. 

For Option 1: Prepare a 13-minute powerpoint presentation + a 2-minute Q&A and comment session.  Two-person teams should prepare to co-present the material with an equal amount of time for each member. 

For Option 2: Prepare a 2-minute feature, and also prepare a 2-5 minute Q&A and comment session. 

To receive one extra point toward your final grade, discuss your research/Up-in-the-Air project with me during the week of Oct. 22rd. If the office hour does not work for you, please make an appointment to see me.  

Grading Scales

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% 

Curving Policy  

For the exams, a curve will be applied if the class average is below 80; the curved average will be set to 80. 

Canvas Quizzes 

Quizzes are open book, but not open discussion.  The quizzes should be completed on your own. No curving will be applied. 

Late Penalty 

For homework assignments, a 10% late penalty will be applied for each day. 

Cell Phone Penalty 

Use of cell phones during class is not allowed. Everytime you use your cell phone, there will be a consequence to your grade. Please turn off your cell phone during class. If your cell phone rings during class, you have to bring lemonade for everyone.  

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 POLICY: 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. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

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. 

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy 

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 Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources 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: 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. 

ATTENDANCE: This course abides by the Penn State 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, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews).  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form:, at least one week prior to the activity. 

WEATHER DELAYS: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated ( and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395 Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400 Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 


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.

CLASSROOM CELL PHONE POLICY:  Please silence your cell phone in the classroom and do not use it. 

CONTACTING THE INSTRUCTOR: I will be in my office during the hours listed above specifically to answer your questions. Exceptions will occur due to unavoidable meetings, illness and travel. I am often available outside of office hours, so please feel free to call or stop by my office at any time. If I am available, I will be happy to talk with you. You can guarantee seeing me outside of office hours by making an appointment. During office-hour visits, please silence your cell phone and do not use it. 

COURSE WEB SITE: I will use Canvas to communicate with the class electronically, though I will always send a copy to your PSU account, and I would like you to do the same if you send me an email through Canvas. I will also use Canvas to post assignments, handouts, quizzes, exam answer keys, past exams, and visuals that I show in class. 

CAMPUS EMERGENCIES: 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 (to sign up, please see 

SYLLABUS AND PAPER ACKNOWLEDGMENT FORMS: In addition, the new recommendation from the college is that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form during the first week of the semester. The College also recommends the attached Paper Submission Form as a way to have students take responsibility for papers/labs/homework done as part of group work.

SYLLABUS AND PAPER ACKNOLEDGMENT FORMS It is the recommendation of the college that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form during the first week of the semester. The College also recommends the Paper Submission Form as a way to have students take responsibility for papers/labs/homework done as part of group work.

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.


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. 

NETIQUETTE: The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course. 


Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct

TECHNICAL REQUIRMENTS: For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the ITS Help Desk ( 


In the case of an emergency, we will follow the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Critical Incident Plan (  In the event of an evacuation, we will follow posted evacuation routes and gather at the Designated Meeting Site.  Evacuation routes for all EMS buildings are available at  For more information regarding actions to take during particular emergencies, please see the Penn State Emergency Action Guides

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct and Prevention & Response website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility. For additional information, see:

Accessible Syllabus

Notes: Any syllabus posted online (e.g. a Word/PDF file or an online syllabus) should make destinations clickable links such as is done throughout this page. Also, in order to comply with Penn State Policy AD69(Accessibility of Penn State Web Pages,, PDF documents cannot be the sole source of presenting online information. Such documents include syllabi, homework assignments, and scanned notes.  

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 to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.

Prepared by: Sukyoung Lee, August 2018