ESE 101: Earth’s Atmosphere


Prof. Tapio Schneider
238 Linde+Robinson
Office hours: Fridays 4-5pm


Schneider, T., Physics of Earth’s Climateevolving book draft.

Taylor, F. W., Elementary Climate Physics, Oxford UP (2005)

Hartmann, D. L., Global Physical Climatology, Academic Press (1994).

Marshall, J. and R. A. Plumb, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics, Academic Press (2008).

Pierrehumbert, R. T., Principles of Planetary Climate, Cambridge UP (2010).

Teaching Assistants

Katrina Hui
226 Linde+Robinson
Office hours: Tuesdays 4-5pm

Rui Cheng
102 Linde+Robinson
Office hours: Wednesdays 7:30-8:30pm


Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-2:25pm, 162 South Mudd

Mondays 5-6pm, 162 South Mudd


  • Homework 1 [PDF]

    Due Date: October 18
  • Homework 2 [PDF]

    Due Date: October 25
  • Homework 3 [PDF]

    Due Date: November 1
  • Homework 4 [PDF]

    Due Date: November 8
  • Homework 5 [PDF]

    Due Date: November 15
  • Homework 6 [PDF]

    Due Date: November 27

Grading Policy

  • Homework assignments: 60%
    • Homework assignments will be distributed on Thursdays and are due in class the following Thursday.
    • There will be about 7 assignments; the lowest score will be dropped in the final grade.
    • Collaboration on homework sets is encouraged, but please turn in solutions individually and state on your solutions with whom you collaborated.
  • Weekly tickets: 10%
  • Final exam (oral) or project: 30%

Schedule and Handouts

  • Week



  • 10/02

    Phenomena: Observed features of the atmospheric circulation

    Book draft, chapter 1. Phenomena slides.

  • 10/09

    Radiative energy. Planck's Law, Stefan-Boltzmann Law.

    Book draft, chapter 2. (Optionally: Hartmann, chap. 2, 3. Taylor, chap. 2, 6.). Radiative energy slides

  • 10/16

    Kichhoff's Law. Effective temperature. Greenhouse effect. Insolation and its variations with latitude and season.

    Book draft, chapter 2. Hartmann, chap. 3.

  • 10/23

    Insolation and its variations with latitude and season. Earth's orbital variations. Radiation and matter: Interactions of electromagnetic radiation with molecules.

    Book draft, chapter 3. Hartmann, chap. 3.5. Insolation slides

  • 10/30

    Infrared absorption, properties of absorbing molecules. Line broadening. Lambert-Beer law. Absorption rates and heating rates.

    Tuesday: Guest lecture by Maria Hakuba (JPL). Maria Hakuba’s slides

    Hartmann, chap. 3.5-3.8. Taylor, chap. 6.

    Radiation-matter slides

    Rayleigh scattering notes

  • 11/06

    Radiative transfer: Schwarzschild equation and simple solutions (e.g., cloud decks).

    Guest lectures by Lenka Novak.

    Pierrehumbert, chaps. 4, 5.


  • 11/13

    Radiative-convective equilibrium. Height of the tropopause. Greenhouse warming. Energy and temperature: TOA and surface energy balance. Bowen ratio and its dependence on climate.

  • 11/20

    Forms of energy and energy transport (eddies and mean circulations) and their relative importance. Winds and angular momentum: Angular momentum balance. theorem.

    Hartmann, chap. 6

    Energy transport slides

    Winds–Overview of historical ideas

    Historical overviews on winds: Lorenz (1983).

  • 11/27

    Hadley circulations in axisymmetric atmospheres. Ekman balance and surface winds. Extratropical winds.

  • 12/04

    Water: Water reservoirs, hydrologic cycle overview.

  • 12/11

    Final presentations

Papers for final presentation

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