Climate Dynamics

Climate Dynamics (METEO 470, 3 credits) 

Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology, 514 Walker Building, (office hours: Wed 1:00-2:15 PM) 

TA: Yuting He, 413 Walker Building,  (office hours: Mon 2:00-3:30 PM) 

Meeting Time/Place: Tu/Th 10:35-11:50 AM (214 Hammond) 

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 (50%): 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 (Feb 23).

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%

Date/Lecture topic/Assignment

  • T Jan 9 / Introduction / Module 1: Climate Data and Statistics
  • R Jan 11 / Normal Distribution / PS1 Assigned
  • T Jan 16 / No Class
  • R Jan 18 / Autocorrelation
  • T Jan 23 / Regression-Trends
  • R Jan 25 / Regression-Statistical Modeling / Module 2: Zero-Dimensional Energy Balance Model
  • T Jan 30 / Global Energy Balance; Greenhouse Effect / PS1 Due
  • R Feb 1 / Modeling Historical Temperature Changes and Climate Sensitivity / PS2 Assigned
  • T Feb 6 / Projecting Future Warming / G1
  • R Feb 8 / Guest: Antarctica & Sea Level Rise (Dave Pollard/Don Voigt) / Module 3: One-Dimensional Energy Balance Model
  • T Feb 13 / Meridional Energy Balance / G2 
  • R Feb 15 / Guest: Climate change & Tropical Cyclones (Jenni Evans) / G3 
  • T Feb 20 / Guest: Ethics of Climate Change (Peter Buckland)
  • R Feb 22 / [canceled guest lecture] / PS2 Due 
  • T Feb 27 / Mid-term
  • R Mar 1 / Atmospheric heat transport / PS3 Assigned
  • T Mar 6 / No Class [Spring Break] 
  • R Mar 8 / No Class [Spring Break]
  • T Mar 13 / Snowball Earth; Hysteresis / Module 4: Role of Ocean Circulation
  • R Mar 15 / The Stommel Box Model of the AMOC
  • T Mar 20 / No Class / PS3 Due
  • R Mar 22 / “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario; the PDO / PS4 Assigned
  • T Mar 27 / Stommel Model of Ocean Gyre / G4
  • R Mar 29 / Guest: Climate Change in West Africa (Greg Jenkins)
  • T Apr 3 / Ocean Gyres and Heat Transport; The Pacific Decadal Oscillation / Module 5: El Nino/Southern Oscillation
  • T Apr 10 / The Delayed-Oscillator Model 
  • R Apr 12 / The Cane-Zebiak Model 
  • T Apr 17 / Climate Change & El Nino / PS5 Due; PS6 Assigned / Module 6: Climate Modeling and Climate Change
  • R Apr 19 / Three-Dimensional Coupled Climate Models
  • T Apr 24 / Anthropogenic Climate Change; Skype Discussion w/ special guest
  • R Apr 26 / Anthropogenic Climate Change / PS6 Due