651-4911-00: Climate and the Global Circulation of the Atmosphere


Prof. Tapio Schneider
NO G 55
Office hours: Fridays 15:45-16:30h


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

Bettina Meyer
NO G 47
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11h

Michael Byrne
NO G 68.1
Office hours: Thursdays 15-16h


Wednesdays 13-15h, NO D 69

Mondays 9-10h, NO E 11

Grading Policy

  • Homework assignments: 70%
    • Homework assignments will be distributed on Wednesdays and are due in class two weeks later.
    • There will be about 6 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.
  • Final homework: 30%.

Schedule and Handouts

  • Week



  • 09/16

    Phenomena 1: Observed features of the atmospheric circulation: temperatures.

    Intro/phenomena slides 1. Book draft, chapter 1.

  • 09/23

    Phenomena 2: winds, evaporation and precipitation, clouds. Radiative energy (solar and terrestrial radiation).

  • 09/30

    Earth's albedo. Planck's Law, Stefan-Boltzmann Law.

    Book draft, chapters 2.2-2.4. Hartmann, chap. 2, 3. Taylor, chap. 2, 6. Radiative energy slides

  • 10/07

    Emission temperature. Greenhouse effect. Insolation.

    Book draft, chapters 2.5-3.4. Hartmann, chap. 3. Insolation slides.

  • 10/14

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

    Orbital variations slides. Hartmann, chap. 3.

  • 10/21

    Infrared absorption, properties of absorbing molecules. Line broadening.

    Hartmann, chap. 3.1-3.5. Taylor, chap. 6. Line broadening slides

  • 10/28

    Lambert-Beer law. Absorption rates and heating rates.

    Hartmann, chap. 3.6, 3.7.

  • 11/04

    Schwarzschild equation, two-stream approximation. Simple solutions (e.g., cloud decks). Radiative-convective equilibrium. Height of the tropopause. Greenhouse warming.

    Pierrehumbert, chaps. 4, 5. Radiative-convective-equilibrium slides

  • 11/11

    Energy: TOA and surface energy balance. Forms of energy and their relative importance.

    Hartmann, chaps. 2.8, 2.9 and 4. Energy Balance Slides

  • 11/18

    Bulk aerodynamic formula. Bowen ratio and its dependence on climate. Meridional energy transport: mean meridional circulations, stationary, transient eddies. Winds: Angular momentum balance. Historical ideas from Aristotle through Hadley.

    Energy Balance Slides. Historical overviews on winds: Lorenz (1983), Thomson (1892)

    Winds and AM Conservation Slides


  • 11/25

    Consequences of angular momentum conservation. Hide's theorem.

  • 12/02

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

  • 12/09

    Water: Water reservoirs, residence times. Specific humidity, relative humidity, balance equations. Clausius-Clapeyron relation. Evaporation and precipitation. Energetic constraints and response of hydrologic cycle to climate change.

  • 12/16

    Clouds and their response to climate change.

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