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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 observed climate, recent change and projections of future change.
Course description Lectures: The 20 timetable slots will consist of:
2 lectures on observed climate change and future projections of climate change
5 lectures on simple climate models
5 lectures on infra-red radiative transfer and modelling
2 on shortwave scattering and absorption
1 lecture on 3 dimensional general circulation models and 1 guest lecture on the climate of Mars.
1 computing practical session to support the application of theoretical concepts, 2 tutorials and one session of short student presentations.

Location: Room 304B, Times: 14:10-15:00 Monday and Thursday, Semester 2; with exception of computer lab which is held in KB house.

The course assumes you need only brief reminders of the following in order to understand their role in climate:
- Fundamental conservation laws
- Ideal gas laws
- First and second laws of thermodynamics
- Equilibrium, stability and feedback
- Integration of ODEs

The following physics is assumed not to be familiar:
- Radiation and its transfer through matter
- Simplified dynamical equations for atmosphere / ocean; hydrostatic balance
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introductory Dynamics (PHYS08052) OR Mathematical and computational methods in Geophysics (EASC09054) 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 organiser and may be able to take the course.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, 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 presentation (individual work) which is assessed as course work. Please note that there are no assessed attendance requirements on this course.

Submission of coursework is due in week 10.
Feedback Tutorial exercises are given each week for you to solve, with solutions posted on LEARN the week after for you to check their work. Verbal feedback is available after lectures or on appointment. You will receive written feedback on sticky-notes from CO and peers following your group mini presentation, and written feedback with their coursework mark within two weeks of submission.
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. Understand how changes in the earths energy balance cause climate change, and understand the meaning of the term 'Climate sensitivity'
  2. Understand and predict the timescales of seasonal changes in climate, and climate change
  3. Understand how radiation travels through the atmosphere and how it is absorbed, scattered and emitted; and how the atmosphere causes the greenhouse effect
  4. 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.
  5. Describe the various types of simple and some specialised climate models and understand the uses and limitations of each type. Specifically the student will be familiar with energy-balance models and one-dimensional radiative-convective models of the atmosphere. The students will gain some insight into the construction and use of general circulation models of atmosphere and ocean, and of earth system models.
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:

Essential Reading
Andrews, D. (2010): Introduction to Atmospheric Physics, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press. (This text covers much but not all of the material)

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

IPCC (2013): Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press
Full text at Excellent for state of science, but doesn't provide background.

Further Reading
Perrehumbert (2010) Principles of Planetary Climate, Cambridge University Press. A very well written book but covers much more than the course does.

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

D. L. Hartmann (2016): Global Physical Climatology, 2nd Edition. Elsevier, 485 pp.

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.

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

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 2 one-hour lectures per week
Course organiserProf Simon Tett
Tel: (0131 6)50 5341
Course secretaryMiss Eilein Fraser
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
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