ESE 101: Earth’s Atmosphere

Fall 2016-2023 (Caltech)

Prof. Tapio Schneider

Teaching Assistants:

Jordan Benjamin
Office hours: TBD

Shirui Peng
Office hours: TBD


Introduction to the fundamental processes governing atmospheric circulations and climate. Starting from an overview of the observed state of the atmosphere and its variation over the past, the course discusses Earth’s radiative energy balance including the greenhouse effect, Earth’s orbit around the Sun and climatic effects of its variations, and the role of atmospheric circulations in maintaining the energy, angular momentum, and water balances, which determine the distributions of temperatures, winds, and precipitation. The focus throughout is on order-of-magnitude physics that is applicable to climates generally, including those of Earth’s past and future and of other planets.

Course Texts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grading Policy

  • Homework assignments: 70%
    • Homework assignments will be distributed on Thursdays and are due the following Thursday.
    • There will be 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.
    • Late homework is not accepted. Please email the TAs before the homework is due if you need to request an extension.
    • Homework is due via email to the TAs before 5pm. Please submit assignments as pdfs saved as lastname_hwX.pdf.
  • Take-home final: 30%

Schedule and Handouts

Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00pm-2:25pm
Sharp Lecture Hall (Arms 155)