E-PSCI 208: Physics of Climate

E-PSCI 208: Physics of Climate

E-PSCI 208

Meeting Time: Tuesday, Thursday 1:30pm - 2:45pm

Course Description: Overview of the basic features of the climate system (global energy balance, atmospheric general circulation, ocean circulation, and climate variability) and the underlying physical processes.

Geological Museum 455, 617-495-2354, kuang@fas.harvard.edu

Location:         Geological Museum 418

Meeting Time: Tu., Th., 1:30-2:45

TF:                 David Wei, davidwei@g.harvard.edu

Reference books:

                        We will not use a particular textbook (lecture notes will be provided), but the following books are useful references:

  1. Global physical climatology, Dennis Hartmann, 1994
  2. Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics, Marshall and Plumb, 2008
  3. Physics of the atmosphere and climate, Murray Salby, 2012
  4. Atmospheric Science, Second Edition: An Introductory Survey, Wallace and Hobbs, 2006


                        There will be bi-weekly homework assignments. Some will require the use of numerical models. Knowledge of some programming language, in particular Matlab, is needed. Go here for an online tutorial of Matlab: http://www.mathworks.com/academia/student_center/tutorials/register.html

There is also Matlab boot camp at Harvard: https://wiki.harvard.edu/confluence/display/fasmatlab/

 Midterm presentations:

For the midterm, you will be asked to find, read, and present a recent (published within the past ten years) paper that is relevant to the course. Influential old papers are fine too. Good sources for such papers (that are short) are, for example, Nature, Science, Geophysical Research Letters.

 Final projects:

You will be asked to do a research project or a more extensive literature review on a topic related to the course. We will provide some ideas. But you are encouraged to come up with your own projects, or to discuss with us to formulate one.

Policy on collaboration:

                        Discussions of the assignments among students are permitted but you must write your own solutions/reports (except in the case of a group project).


                        Homework 60%, Midterm 15%, Final project 25%.

Topics covered:

  1. The global energy balance
  1. Fundamentals of radiative transfer (absorption, scattering, equation of radiative transfer, radiative equilibrium)
  1. Vertical structure (or 1D view) of the atmosphere (convection, planetary boundary layer, radiative convective equilibrium, surface energy balance)
  1. Beyond 1D (gravity wave, geostrophic adjustment, Rossby wave)
  1. Atmospheric general circulation (observations and theory)
  1. Ocean circulation (wind-driven and thermohaline circulations)
  1. A survey of large-scale circulation features (e.g the Brewer-Dobson circulation, monsoon, El Nino-Southern Oscillation)
  1. Climate modeling
  1. Climate sensitivity and feedbacks

Accommodations for students with disabilities
Students needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a documented disability must present their Faculty Letter from the Accessible Education Office (AEO) and speak with the professor by the end of the second week of the term. Failure to do so may result in the Course Head's inability to respond in a timely manner. All discussions will remain confidential, although Faculty are invited to contact AEO to discuss appropriate implementation.

Course Summary:

Date Details