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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Meteorology

Undergraduate Course: Atmospheric Dynamics (METE10001)

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
SummaryIntroduces the fundamentals of atmospheric circulation that govern weather and climate in the tropics and mid-latitudes. This includes large-scale flows and eddies, the General Circulation and mid-latitude storm systems. Meteorological data will be used to illustrate air flow patterns, jet streams, mid-latitudes cyclones and their intensification.
Course description Lectures 1-2: Overview and vertical structure
Hydrostatic equilibrium in the atmosphere. Potential temperature and its relevance to the vertical stability of a compressible atmosphere.
Lectures 3-4: Equations of motion for a rotating Earth
The Navier-Stokes equations for an inertial frame of reference of a compressible fluid based on Newton's first law of motion and the conservation of mass. The Navier-Stokes equations for a frame of reference rotating with the earth. Approximations for large-scale flow. Configuration of forces.
Lectures 5-8: Synoptic-scale approximations and frictional forces
The order of magnitude of forces and accelerations present in synoptic-scale weather patterns. Geostrophic and thermal wind approximations. Estimates of winds in synoptic-scale systems from pressure and temperature gradients. Mean and eddy flow. Wind variation with height due to frictional forces in the boundary layer.
Lectures 9-11: Vorticity and Divergence
Vorticity and divergence definitions for meteorology. Linking divergence and vertical velocity Potential vorticity and its usefulness as tool for understanding fluid motion.
Lecture 12-13: Tropical and mid-latitude circulations
The experimental evidence from "rotating dishpan" experiments that degree of departure from zonal symmetry depends on rotation rate and horizontal temperature gradients. Axi-symetric flow and conservation of angular momentum. Meridional circulations in the tropics and their relation to the sub-tropical jet.
Lectures: 14-16: Rossby wave and cyclone models
The motivation for and limitations of atmospheric wave motion as a perturbation from a basic flow. Barotropic and baroclinic conditions. Mid-latitude planetary-scale waves and the Eady model of mid-latitude cyclone growth. Climate change effects on mid-latitude storm behaviour.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mathematics for Physics 4 (PHYS08038) OR Dynamics and Vector Calculus (PHYS08043) OR Mathematical Methods for Geophysicists (EASC09021)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements In addition to passing at least one of the above courses, a further 30 credits at level 9/10 from schedule Q or N is also required
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 16, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 4, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 75 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 80 %, Coursework 20 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 80%, Course Work: 20%, Practical Exam: 0%.
The student will answer a series of tutorial style questions and perform calculations. Detailed information on the assessment will be provided in class. Since tutorial style questions also form part of the exam this will provide feedback that will aid with exam preparation.
There will be one coursework assignment submission. Submissions should be electronic.

Examination at the end of Semester 2 (80%) and tutorial questions (coursework) due Friday in week 9 Semester 2 (20%).
Feedback Exam marking includes comments to students. Examples of feedback can be found here:
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)Atmospheric Dynamics2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a detailed, integrated knowledge of the fundamentals of atmospheric dynamics that govern weather and climate in the mid-latitudes and the tropics.
  2. Learn how to apply fundamental equations of fluid flow to understand atmospheric circulation, wind patterns, jet streams, and mid-latitudes cyclone evolution.
  3. Explain the physical laws governing the structure and evolution of atmospheric phenomena spanning a broad range of spatial and temporal scales.
  4. Develop a solid background in the mathematical description of atmospheric and geophysical fluid dynamics, and apply mathematical tools to study atmospheric processes
Reading List
Please see current reading list for the course at:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 2 one-hour lectures per week
KeywordsAtm Dynamics
Course organiserDr Massimo Bollasina
Tel: (0131 6)51 3464
Course secretaryMr Johan De Klerk
Tel: (0131 6)50 7010
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