METEO 470 - Climate Dynamics

Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Meeting Time/Place: Tu/Th 10:35-11:50 AM (107 Sackett)

Climate Dynamics (METEO 470, 3 credits)

Course Syllabus for Spring 2017 

Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology, 514 Walker Building, 

Meeting Time/Place: Tu/Th 10:35-11:50 AM (107 Sackett) 

TA: Dandan Wei, 412 Walker Building, 

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 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.

It is also assumed that you have satisfied the statistics requirement for the Meteorology major and therefore are familiar with basic statistical concepts including linear regression. 


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. 


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. 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 (40%): There will be 5 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 (March 3).
  • 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% 

Lecture Schedule (tentative and subject to change):


  • T - Jan 10: Introduction 

Module 1: Climate Data and Statistics

  • R -  Jan 12: Normal Distribution: PS1 Assigned
  • T -  Jan 17: Autocorrelation; Extremes
  • R - Jan 19: Regression-Trends
  • T - Jan 24: Regression-Statistical Modeling

Module 2: Zero-Dimensional Energy Balance Model

  • R - Jan 26: Global Energy Balance; Greenhouse Effect: PS1 Due; PS2 Assigned
    • G1 - T Jan 31: Guest Lecture: TBA (Jenni Evans)
    • G2 - R Feb 2: Guest Lecture: Ice Sheets & Climate (David Pollard)
    • G3 T Feb 7: Guest Lecture: Earth's Early Climate (James Kasting)
    • G4 - R Feb 9: Guest Lecture: TBA (Greg Jenkins)
  • T - Feb 14: Modeling Historical Temperature Changes and Climate Sensitivity: PS2 Due
  • R - Feb 16: Projecting Future Warming
  • T Feb 21: Mid-term

Module 3: One-Dimensional Energy Balance Model

  • R - Feb 23: Meridional energy balance: PS3 Assigned
  • T - Feb 28: Atmospheric heat transport
  • R - Mar 2: Snowball Earth; Hysteresis
  • T - Mar 7: No Class [Spring Break]
  • R - Mar 9: No Class [Spring Break]
  • T - Mar 14: No Class
  • R - Mar 16: No Class

Module 4: Role of Ocean Circulation

  • T - Mar 21: The Stommel Box Model of the AMOC: PS3 Due; PS4 Assigned
  • R - Mar 23: “The Day After Tomorrow”; The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
  • T - Mar 28: Ocean Gyres and Heat Transport; The Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Module 5: El Nino/Southern Oscillation

  • R - Mar 30: ENSO basics: PS4 Due; PS5 Assigned
  • T - Apr 4: The Delayed-Oscillator Model
  • R - Apr 6: The Cane-Zebiak Model
  • T - Apr 11: Climate Change & El Nino

Module 6: Climate Modeling and Climate Change

  • R - Apr 13: General Circulation Models: PS #5 Due; PS6 Assigned
  • T - Apr 18: IPCC Climate Model Simulations
  • R - Apr 20: Anthropogenic Climate Change
  • T - Apr 25: An Inconvenient Truth (part 1): PS6 Due
  • R - Apr 27: An Inconvenient Truth (part 2) + Discussion