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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Meteorology

Undergraduate Course: Physics of Climate (METE10003)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThe course introduces the principal physics of climate and climate modelling, focussing on the Earth. The climate system is so complex that we approach it by constructing models with several different levels of complexity. These models allow us to explain the observed distribution of temperature, in relation to the fluxes of energy and matter through the climate system, and to consider the external and internal factors (both human and natural) which cause climatic change and variability. The course also briefly covers the carbon and water cycle, and understanding of pasts and predicting of future climate change.
Course description Lectures: The 20 timetable slots will consist of 10 lectures on energy balance, radiative transfer and modelling, followed by up to 6 special topics. These will be introduced by a student group presentation discussing a paper, and followed by lecture material on the broader background of that subject. 2 slots will be used for computing practical sessions to support the application of theoretical concepts, and by a tutorial on solving problems given in class.

Approximate outline:

Weeks 1-6: fundamental concepts of climate variability and change;
- global and zonal energy balance, climate sensitivity and time dependent climate change (weeks 1-3).
- Radiative transfer through the atmosphere and radiatively active gases (weeks 3-5)
- fundamentals of climate modelling (week 6)

Weeks 7-10: Overview of general atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, past climates and
observed and predicted climate change; supported by group presentations on a short scientific publication in general scientific audience journals:
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mathematics for Physics 4 (PHYS08038) OR Dynamics and Vector Calculus (PHYS08043)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who don¿t meet the prerequisites, but are able to manipulate differential equations and have some knowledge of physics (including fundamental conservation laws, ideal gas laws) should get in touch with the course organizer and may be able to take the course.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 15, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 1, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 78 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 80 %, Coursework 20 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Examination 80%
Abstract for Presentation 20%

Exam in May diet, will cover both theoretical background and examples from later lectures, although with stronger focus on theoretical background. Group mini-presentations based on discussion of scientific papers, focused on applied part of the course, in the later part of the course. The presentations are not assessed, but each student submits a written 1-page abstract on the paper discussed in the mini-presentation (individual work) which is assessed as course work. Please note that there are no assessed attendance requirements on this course.
Feedback Tutorial exercises are given each week for students to solve, with solutions posted on LEARN the week after for students to check their work. Verbal feedback is available after lectures or on appointment. Students receive written feedback on sticky-notes from CO and peers following their group mini presentation, and written feedback with their coursework mark within two weeks of submission. Exam marking includes comments to students.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)Physics of Climate2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Calculate the earth¿s average surface temperature
  2. Understand how changes in the earth¿s energy balance cause climate change
  3. Understand and predict the timescales of seasonal changes in climate, and climate change
  4. Understand how radiation travels through the atmosphere and how it is absorbed and emitted; and how the atmosphere causes the greenhouse effect
  5. View the climate systems as one which, although it is far too complex to represent exactly in mathematical terms, may nevertheless be modelled using physical principles
Reading List
The course is not oriented on a single book, and instead relies heavily on printed course notes posted on LEARN. The course draws on the following books:

D. L. Hartmann (1994): Global Physical Climatology. Academic Press. Vol 56 in their International Geophysics series, 411 pp.

Taylor, F. (2005): Elementary Climate Physics, ISBN is 0 19 856733 2 (hardback) 0 19 856734 0 (paperback)

Andrews, D. (2000): Introduction to Atmospheric Physics, Cambridge University Press.

Peixoto, J. and Oort, A. (1992): Physics of Climate, AIP. Comprehensive and lucid account of climate physics, with strong emphases on real world observations and rigorous mathematical treatment.

Hartmann, McGuffie and Andrews covers a fair bit of the material. The book by Peixoto & Oort is an excellent alternative if a fairly mathematical treatment suits you.

Further Reading

McGuffie and Henderson-Sellers (2005): A Climate Modelling Primer, John Wiley & Sons.

Wallace, J. M and Hobbs, P (2006): Atmospheric Science. Academic Press. Not same emphasis as in lectures but very well done and lots of relevant material

Trenberth, K. (1992): Climate system modeling, Cambridge University Press.

IPCC (2013): Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis. Full text at Excellent for state of science, but doesn't provide background.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 2 one-hour lectures per week
Course organiserDr Gabriele Hegerl
Course secretaryMiss Christine Lee
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
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