MPhys Physics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

Course unit details:
Atmospheric Physics and Weather

Unit code EART23001
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 5
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

The module provides an overview of the atmosphere and the atmospheric processes that lead to the weather we experience. We look at the forces that determine air motion (wind), and the behaviour of dry and moist air (clouds and rain). We describe how the atmosphere is observed and measured, and how those measurements are combined with the laws of physics to provide a weather forecast, or on a longer timescale to explore climate change.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates

 

Aims

To give an understanding of the physics determining the behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere and its observed weather phenomena.

 

Learning outcomes

 

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

Developed

Assessed

ILO 1

describe the basic properties of the atmosphere

X

X

ILO 2

 

apply the basic laws of physics that control the behaviour of the atmosphere.

 

 

X

X

ILO 3

describe and explain the drivers for motion in the atmosphere on synoptic and global scales

 

 

X

X

ILO 4

explain the physical behaviour of dry and moist air

 

 

X

X

ILO 5

describe the main cloud types and cloud and rain formation processes

X

X

ILO 6

explain how a combination of dynamical and thermodynamical processes leads to observable weather   phenomena

 

X

X

ILO 7

account for the Earth’s energy balance and critically review the discussion about global warming

X

 

 

Syllabus

WEEKLY BREAKDOWN OF CLASSES

Week 1: L1 Intro to course.  Brief history and overview of instruments and observations

               L2 Recap, structure and composition of atmosphere. Detail on stratospheric ozone.

Week 2: L1  Present ideal gas law, laws of motion, laws of thermodynamics (first law)…..

               L2 ….. latent and specific heat, radiation laws

Week 3: L1 Hydrostatic equation. Dry adiabatic lapse rate, Radiosondes (launch radiosonde if possible after lecture)

               L2 Dynamics: hydrostatic balance, pressure measurement, unequal heating and PGF

Week 4: L1 Sea breeze, Coriolis force, friction, gradient and surface wind

               L2 Wind observations, Global circulation (3 cell model)….

Week 5: L1 ….convergence, divergence, jet stream

               L2 Moist air: evaporation, saturation, condensation, humidity

Week 6: Reading week. Coursework is set so that it can be done during this week.

Week 7: L1 Measurements of temperature and humidity

               L2 Convection, Saturated adiabatic lapse rate

Week 8: L1 Buoyancy and stability/instability, cloud base

               L2 Cloud classification. Homogenous nucleation, aerosols and nucleation

Week 9: L1 Droplet growth, ice and the growth process

               L2 Measurement of precipitation, visibility, cloud

Week10: L1 Air masses, fronts, Polar front model of cyclogenesis

               L2 UK weather: cyclones and anticyclones. Brief principles of weather forecasting

Week11: L1 Planetary energy balance with/without atmosphere, greenhouse effect

               L2  Climate change (in brief), indicators, confounders, Milankovitch cycles, mitigation

Week12: L1  Revision lecture

               L2   Revision lecture

Teaching and learning methods

The module is delivered by lectures, 2 per week, with powerpoint slides available on Blackboard for pre-/post lecture study and revision.

Blackboard quizzes (for self-study) are provided for the early weeks of the course so that students can confirm that they have grasped the essential principles underpinning the course. Feedback is immediate.

Thereafter short question tutorial sheets are provided for further self-study. Worked solutions are available on Blackboard and provide initial feedback, with the opportunity to discuss with GTAs for more detailed feedback, if required.

GTAs provide drop-in classes for anyone requiring help with the material – these are available on demand in the first half of semester and are timetabled (but optional) in the second half of semester.

Assessment is by coursework, and examination at the end of semester. The coursework takes the form of an unseen problem to be solved and submitted via Blackboard. The problem is provided in week 5 and must be returned after reading week (returned in week 7).

T&L Methods Table

Feedback methods

 

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates

Length

 

How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

Coursework:

Online test

20

End W5,

End W7

2 pages

Individual comments provided to students. General feedback provided in class within 1-2 weeks after work is handed in.

2

Open book summative assessment in January exam period

80

 

2 hours

Feedback provided after results made available

All

 

Recommended reading

 

Recommended reading

 

No one text covers this entire module. Books tend to lack the physics, or to go beyond what is required at this level. The texts recommended below have the advantage that they will also be used for third year courses that look in more detail at some of the aspects of atmospheric science which are introduced in this module.

 

Recommended:

 

Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey. Wallace and Hobbs, Academic Press - Covers the physics required, and goes further. Would also be suitable for 3rd year courses.

 

For the more descriptive aspects –

 

Ackerman and Knox (2006): Meteorology: Understanding the Atmosphere, 2nd ed.

 

  Supplementary animations and applets:

 

http://itg1.meteor.wisc.edu/wxwise/AckermanKnox/

 

OR

 

Essentials of Meteorology: An invitation to the Atmosphere. C. Donald Aherns, Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

 

Both are good on descriptions and concepts, but missing some of the physics. Also suitable for third year Meteorology course (Ackerman and Knox currently recommended for 3rd year).

 

Other Useful Texts:

 

Fundamentals of Weather and Climate. McIlveen, Chapman and Hall.

 

Previous text for this course, still relevant but not as advanced as Wallace and Hobbs:

 

Atmosphere, Weather and Climate. Barry and Chorley, Routledge. Good coverage of much of the course, without explicit physics.

 

An Introduction to Atmospheric Physics. Andrews, Cambridge University Press - Covers most of the physics, and goes further.

 

A Short Course in Cloud Microphysics. Rogers and Yau, Pergamon Press - Covers dry and moist processes, with emphasis on cloud physics. Good for those aspects of this, and third year, modules.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 72

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ann Webb Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Other Scheduled teaching and learning activities: Optional drop-in classes. GTAs provide additional help

Return to course details