METEO 470 Mann SP2015

Climate Dynamics Instructor: Dr. Michael Mann 514 Walker Building TuTh 1:00-2:15P (101 Walker)

Climate Dynamics


Michael E. Mann
514 Walker Building

Meeting Time/Place

TuTh 1:00-2:15P (101 Walker)

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.


In order to under and model the climate system, we need to understand the dynamics of the underlying components, including the atmosphere and ocean, and the mechanisms by which they are coupled.

In this course, we will model the dynamics and thermodynamics governing the ocean and atmosphere on spatial and temporal scales appropriate for climate studies. We will investigate the processes by which the dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere are coupled on these timescales, with the goal of understanding the basic mechanisms of climate variability. Topics discussed will include the thermohaline and wind-driven ocean circulation, energy balance, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), internal and forced climate variability, and climate change.


We will regularly draw upon the course homepage as a resource for the course: METEO 470 Mann

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.


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.


There is no required textbook.

I recommend as a reference: Peixoto and Oort (1992), Physics of Climate, 2nd Edition, American Institute of Physics Press, 564pp. (suggested readings indicated in lecture schedule below).

Where appropriate, supplementary readings taken from various sources will be posted on the course website.


  • Problem Sets (40%): There will be several (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.
  • “Up In the Air” Project (10%): You will participate in a project (in teams of 2-3 students) aimed at producing content (related to some aspect of the course) for use in the Meteorology Department’s new “Up In the Air” Television program. Projects are **DUE MARCH 21**. Each project team will give a short presentation sometime after Spring Break (late March through late April).
  • Mid-Term Exam (20%): There will be an in-class mid-term examination roughly mid-way through the semester (March 5).
  • Final Exam (30%): There will a final examination for the course at the scheduled time and date.

Lecture Schedule
Date/Lecture Topic/Reading/Assignment

  1. T Jan 13 Introduction / 1; 2
  2. R Jan 15 Introduction (continued); Equations of Motion / 3.1-3.2.1
  3. T Jan 20 “Up in the Air” workshop PS #1 Assigned
  4. R Jan 22 Equations of Motion (cont)
  5. T Jan 27 Energy Equation / 3.4.1
  6. R Jan 29 Equation of State (for Atmosphere) / 3.5;3.5.1
  7. T Feb 3 Filtering of Governing Equations (for Atmosphere) / 3.2.2 PS #1 Due
  8. R Feb 5 Large-Scale Atmospheric Circulation / 3.2.2; 7 PS #2 Assigned
  9. T Feb 10 Large-Scale Atmospheric Circulation (continued)
  10. R Feb 12 No Class
  11. T Feb 17 Guest Lecture: Ocean Circ Tracers & Observations (Ray Najjar)
  12. R Feb 19 Hydrological cycle; Salinity; Equation of State for Ocean / 3.5.2;12;12.1.1-12.5.2 PS #2 Due
  13. T Feb 24 Guest Lecture: Ice Sheets-Climate Interactions (David Pollard)
  14. R Feb 26 Guest Lecture: Climate & Coastal Risk (Andra Reed)
  15. T Mar 3 Filtering of Governing Equations (for Ocean) / 3.2.3
  16. R Mar 5 Mid-term
  17. T Mar 10 No Class [Spring Break]
  18. R Mar 12 No Class [Spring Break]
  19. T Mar 17 Large-scale Ocean Circulation—Ekman transport / 3.2.3;8 PS #3 Assigned
  20. R Mar 19 Guest Lecture: Ice Sheets & Sea Level Rise (Patrick Applegate)
  21. T Mar 24 Large-scale Ocean Circulation—Ekman circulation
  22. R Mar 26 Large-scale Ocean Circulation—Sverdrup transport
  23. T Mar 31 Large-scale Ocean Circulation—gyre circulation   
  24. R Apr 2 Large-scale Ocean Circulation—thermohaline circulation (THC) PS #3 Due
  25. T Apr 7 Climate Modeling: Energy Balance Models / 6-6.3; 6.6-6.8; 10-10.7 PS #4 Assigned
  26. R Apr 9 Climate Modeling: Energy Balance Models (cont) / Supplemental Readings
  27. T Apr 14 Guest Lecture: Climate & Security (David Titley)
  28. R Apr 16 Guest Lecture: Earth’s Early Climate (James Kasting)
  29. T Apr 21 Climate Modeling: El Nino/Southern Oscillation Supplemental Readings
  30. R Apr 23 Climate Modeling: El Nino/Southern Oscillation (cont) PS #4 Due
  31. T Apr 28 Climate Modeling: Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Models Supplemental Readings
  32. R Apr 30 Anthropogenic Climate Change