ATOC4720 Syllabus

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ATOC 4720: Introduction to Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics 

Spring 2010


Time:                         Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30-1:15 pm  

Download Syllaus

ATOC 4720: Introduction to Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics 

Spring 2010


Time:                         Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30-1:15 pm  

Location:                   Duane G318


Atmospheric Sciences: An Introductory to Survey (2nd Edition) by John M. Wallace and Peter V. Hobbs. Copies of this text are available at the university bookstore.

Additional reading:

R. B. Stull, 2000: Meteorology for Scientists and Engineers (2nd Edition). Brooke/Cole-Thomson Learning, 502 pp.

D. G. Andrews, 2000: An Introduction to Atmospheric Physics. Cambridge University Press, 229 pp.

C. D. Ahrens, 2007: Meteorology Today.

R. R. Rogers and M. K. Yau, 1996: A Short Course in Cloud Physics (3rd Edition). Butterworth-Heinemann, 290 pp.

A. H. Lynch and J. J. Cassano, 2006: Applied Atmospheric Dynamics. Wiley, 290 pp.

Additional material: Colored pencils (black, red, blue, yellow, brown, purple, orange, and green), clean eraser and a calculator are required for each class.

Web Page:

The class web site contains a copy of the course syllabus, an electronic version of the lecture notes, a schedule of class lectures, homework due dates, exam dates, downloadable homework assignments, and links to a number of weather web sites. In addition important class announcements will be posted on the web site, so make sure to check the web site at least once per week for any important information. Access to the class web site is required as all homework assignments and lecture notes will be posted on this web page.

Instructor:             Prof. Katja Friedrich (Office in Duane D341);


Office hours: Tuesday after class until 3pm. I will also be available at other times. Please try to set up an appointment if you wish to see me at any time.

Summary: In this class we will quantitatively explore physical processes occurring in the atmosphere, with an emphasis on those processes that give rise to atmospheric circulations across a range of spatial and temporal scales. During the first two thirds of the semester we will explore the basic concepts required to understand the development and decay of mid-latitude storm systems. During the remainder of the semester we will explore other atmospheric phenomena as diverse as severe thunderstorms, mountain waves, and thermal circulation. Throughout the semester we will use real-world examples of atmospheric phenomena to illustrate the concepts being discussed in this class. At the end of the semester you should know the fundamental forces that drive atmospheric motion, be able to estimate the magnitude of these forces from standard weather maps, evaluate the types of atmospheric motion resulting from a balance of these forces, and understand the processes.

How to succeed in this class

  • Read the appropriate sections of the textbook before each lecture
  • Review the online lecture notes before each lecture
  • Attend the lectures and ask and answer questions during classes
  • Check the class web page at least once per week for updates and class news
  • Complete all homework on time and in a neat manner (if I can’t read your answer it will be marked as incorrect).
  • Show all necessary work on your homework assignments and exams – partial credit will be awarded as appropriate.
  • Do not miss exams
  • Ask for help if you don’t understand something


Student learning outcomes:

By the end of the course you should be able to do the following things:

  • Specialist Vocabulary: Recognize and define the major terms that apply to meteorology.
  • Structure of the atmosphere: Explain the chemical composition and vertical structure of the atmosphere.
  • Weather maps: Read, interpret and plot station information from weather maps. Read, interpret and plot isotherms and isobars. Determine wind direction and relative magnitude from maps of atmospheric pressure. Determine the location of ridges, troughs, and likely locations of storms.
  • Thermodynamic processes and stability: Explain the characteristics of atmospheric profiles in stable, unstable and conditionally unstable conditions and the associated motion of air parcels within each type of profile. Identify the lifting condensation level and temperature inversions from atmospheric sounding data.
  • Dynamical processes: Explain the main dynamical processes in the atmosphere that influence our weather. Distinguish between large-scale phenomena (e.g., Rossby waves, jet-streak and curvature effects) and mesoscale dynamics in thunderstorms and along cold fronts.
  • Mesoscale phenomena: Explain the development and characteristics of common phenomena in the atmosphere such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, surface boundaries, orographic precipitation.
  • Moisture: Define and calculate derived moisture parameter such as dew point, specific humidity, and mixing ratio from measured atmospheric variables.
  • Precipitation: Explain the physical processes that form rain, snow, hail, and freezing rain. Identify precipitation types on weather radar data.
  • Computation: Use a spread sheet program to read in observed data sets and calculate and plot atmospheric variables versus time and versus other atmospheric variables.
  • Teamwork: Work effectively in problem-solving teams.


Grading: The final grades consists of 35% homework, 50% exams, and 15% quizzes. There will be 8 homework assignments while only those 6 contribute to your final grad that have the highest scores. There will be two mid-term (75 minutes) and one final exam (75 minutes) while only the two with the highest scores contribute to your final grade. Additionally, there will be 8 quizzes (only 6 count). Grades will be assigned as follows:





















Homework: Homework assignments will be given almost every week. A deadline for handing in assignments will be given. Late submission will be panelized at a rate of 20% per day (i.e., three days late will get a maximum of half marks). If there is some reason why you cannot hand in work on time, contact me BEFORE the day it is due.

Quizzes: They force you to stay on top of the material, which ultimately will help you on exams in this course, as well as improve your retention of material beyond this course. Quizzes will be written almost once a week. Dates will be announced in class and can be found under the scheduler web page.

Exams: There will be two mid-term, and a final exam. The semester exams will be given during regular class periods on 2 March 12:30–1:45 pm, 6 April 12:30–1:45pm, and 29 April 12:30-1:45pm in Duane G138. The exams will be comprehensive.

Lecture Schedule: The lectures will consist of a 15 min quiz or homework discussion, a 60 min lecture with hands-on laboratory exercises and laboratory demonstrations.

  • Introduction to the atmosphere: Composition, origin and basic structure. (Chapter 1)
  • Atmospheric thermodynamics: Vertical structure of the dry atmosphere, the role of water vapor, understanding weather in terms of the vertical structure, application of thermodynamic charts. (Chapter 3)
  • Cloud physics: How rain and snow form in clouds. (Chapter 6) Atmospheric remote sensing: Active and passive remote sensors from space and from the ground, weather radars.
  • Atmospheric dynamics: How and why does the wind blow, the relationship between forces and winds. (Chapter 7)
  • Synoptic meteorology: Structure and behavior of weather systems, interpreting weather maps, sources of weather data, weather forecasting. (Chapter 8)
  • Atmospheric phenomena: Students will develop a physical understanding of atmospheric phenomena of interest and convey that understanding to their classmates. 


Honor Code

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior. All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at and at

Specific guidelines regarding violations of the Honor Code as relate to ATOC 4720 can be found on the class web site under the “Honor Code Policy” link. All students in ATOC 4720 are expected to know and understand the policies listed on both the class web site and the Honor Code web site.


Classroom Behavior Policy

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Students who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Faculty have the professional responsibility to treat all students with understanding, dignity and respect, to guide classroom discussion and to set reasonable limits on the manner in which they and their students express opinions. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender variance, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student’s legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. See polices at and at


Students with Disabilities

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to Professor Friedrich a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner (at least one week prior to the first exam) so that your needs may be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact: 303-492-8671, Willard 322, and http://www.Colorado.EDU/disabilityservices


University of Colorado Policy on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment, the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty. Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550. Information about the ODH and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at


Religious Observances

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to reasonably and fairly deal with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance. In this class, please contact Professor Friedrich as soon as possible if you have a conflict with any scheduled exams or assignments due to religious obligations. See full details at