MPhys Physics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

Unit code EART39102
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

The unit will :

1. Show how the temperature profile of the atmosphere determines where convection forms, and the fundamental importance of moisture in this process

2. Explain how winds are related to pressure patterns in the atmosphere, and how vertical motion patterns determine where cyclones and anticyclones form

3. Provide background knowledge for understanding the processes affecting global climate change

4. Explain the formation, propagation and dissipation of weather systems

5. Explain the role of atmospheric aerosol and cloud microphysical processes in severe storm characteristics.  

 

Pre/co-requisites

Pre-requisite units

Completion of first year Physics or equivalent

Co-requisite units

none

 

Aims

This unit introduces students to the physics of the atmosphere, starting from basic dynamics and thermodynamics. We show how simple physical concepts can explain the weather we see around us – the formation of convective clouds and rain, the development of weather systems and the nature and role of fronts. The abundant weather resources on-line are used to illustrate how the concepts described in lectures influence the weather on the day, giving students the ability should they wish to prepare their own weather forecasts.

 

Learning outcomes

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

Developed

Assessed

ILO 1

Use on-line weather resources to interpret the weather on any day, and make simple weather predictions

x

 

ILO 2

Explain the factors that determine whether the atmosphere is convectively unstable

 

 

 

x

x

ILO 3

Analyse the forces acting in the atmosphere and derive the patterns of motion that result from these

 

x

x

ILO 4

Relate atmospheric motions to weather patterns and the weather we experience

 

x

x

ILO 5

Explain mechanisms of cloud formation with respect to the small scale dynamics and micro-scale processes occurring within them.

 

x

x

ILO 6

Compare mechanisms of precipitation formation and discuss the observational evidence for each; derive theoretical relationships to aid

x

x

 

Syllabus

1. Atmospheric Thermodynamics                                                              (4 lectures)

Potential temperature, Brunt-Vaisala frequency, convective instability, moisture in the atmosphere

 

2. Basic Atmospheric Dynamics                                                                 (4 lectures)

Meteorological charts, introduction to synoptic scale.

Coriolis force and geostrophic balance

Thermal wind balance, pressure coordinates

 

3. Vorticity in the atmosphere                                                                     (2 lectures)

Parcel stretching and rotation. The vorticity equation. (Rossby) Potential Vorticity

Convergence, divergence and vertical motion

 

4. Clouds and their properties                                                                    (2 lectures)

Cloud types, microstructure, adiabatic liquid water content, and particle size distributions, Latham's geoengineering scheme.

 

5. Physics of cloud formation and growth of cloud particles                 (4 lectures)

CCN, growth of drops, ice nuclei, ice crystal growth, ice crystal habit.

 

6. Supersaturation in clouds                                                                       (2 lectures)

Supersaturation; quasi-steady state supersaturation in liquid only and ice only clouds; mixed-phase clouds

 

7. Growth of cloud and precipitation particles                                          (2 lectures)

Collision and coalescence, riming, aggregation.

 

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through 20 lectures. Formative assessment is provided at regular intervals through 4 example sheets. Course materials, model answers to the assessments, web links and on-line text books are provided through Blackboard.

 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates

Length

 

How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

Exam

100

 

1.5 hr

Feedback is provided on the formative assessment sheets. School organises feedback session for final exam.

1-6

 

Recommended reading

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Geraint Vaughan Unit coordinator

Additional notes

 

Type

Example student activity

Total Hours

New material

Consolidation and Practice

Contact time (students are in front of staff)

Lecture (new material)

Mostly listening & taking notes (mostly new material)

20

20

 

Lecture (revision/examples)

Mostly listening & taking notes (no new material- revision of course)

     

Practical (new material and practice.  Typically 25-50% of practical  time is spent on new material)

Interactive individual or group work (problem solving, experiments, watching demonstrations, describing and interpreting samples, paper-based exercises, computer-based exercises)

     

Tutorial

Interactive small group work

     

Seminar/examples class

Working on and discussing questions

     

Independent study time

Pre/post lecture work

Reading own notes, re-solving examples, prep work, revisit podcast

40

 

40

Pre/post practical work/write up

Complete practical work, prep work, reading feedback

     

Studio/workshop time

Individual or group work (student led), discussion, problem solving

 

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