ESE 101: Earth’s Atmosphere


Prof. Tapio Schneider
CliMA House (516 S. Catalina Ave.)
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).

Petty, G., A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation, 2nd Ed., Sundog Publishing (2006).

Teaching Assistants

Katrina Hui
226 Linde+Robinson
Office hours: Tuesdays 4-6pm

Clare Singer
CliMA House (516 S. Catalina Ave.)
Office hours: Wednesdays 5-7pm, L+R classroom


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

First class: Thursday, October 3

Mondays 7-8pm, 162 South Mudd


  • Homework 1 [PDF]

    Due Date: October 17

Grading Policy

  • Homework assignments: 60%
    • Homework assignments will be distributed on Thursdays and are due in class the following Thursday.
    • There will be 6-7 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%
    • Short quiz questions based on the readings given on Tuesdays at the start of class.
  • Final exam (oral) or project: 30%

Schedule and Handouts

  • Week



  • 10/03

    Phenomena: Observed features of the atmospheric circulation

    Book draft, chapter 1. Phenomena slides.

  • 10/08

    Radiative energy. Planck's Law, Stefan-Boltzmann Law. Kichhoff's Law. Effective temperature.

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

  • 10/15

    Greenhouse effect. Insolation and its variations with latitude and season. Earth's orbital variations.

    Book draft, chapters 2 and 3. Hartmann, chap. 3.8.

    Insolation slides

    Interactive greenhouse effect tools:

    2-layer model  and  n-layer model

  • 10/22

    Radiation and matter: Interactions of electromagnetic radiation with molecules. Infrared absorption, properties of absorbing molecules. Line broadening. Lambert-Beer law. Absorption rates and heating rates.

  • 10/29

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

    Hartmann, chap. 3.7. Taylor, chap. 6.

    For more detail: Petty, chaps. 7-8.

  • 11/05

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

    Radiative-convective equilibrium slides

    Hartmann, chaps. 2.8-2.9, 3.10-3.12, and 4.

    TOA and surface energy budgets


  • 11/12

    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).

  • 11/19

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

  • 11/26

    No class - Thanksgiving

  • 12/03

    Water: Water reservoirs, hydrologic cycle overview.

  • 12/10

    Final presentations

Papers for final presentation

Class Feedback

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