Many meteorological phenomena are familiar to us: clouds, fog, rain, snow, wind, lightning, and severe storms. However, the climate—weather averaged over decades and longer—is changing in response to human activities. In this course, we will use physics and chemistry to build an understanding of the fundamental features of the atmosphere from first principles as much as possible. The goals are to understand how weather and climate on Earth works, what is the climate forecast, and what can we do as individuals and as a society to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Fluid dynamics is fundamental to our understanding of the atmosphere and oceans. This course emphasizes the study of air motion associated with weather and climate. Topics will include conservation laws of momentum, mass, and energy; balanced flow and thermal wind; circulation, vorticity, and potential vorticity; atmospheric oscillations such as Rossby waves; and quasi-geostrophic analysis. The goal is to understand the behavior of large-scale, midlatitude weather systems in terms of the physical laws governing the atmospheric motions.
So-called “atmospheric rivers,” narrow regions of high water vapor transport, are associated with extreme precipitation along the west coasts of many continents, often triggering flooding and landsliding. Consequently, these events represent both an important natural hazard in California but also a critical water resource. This reading seminar will introduce students to the meteorology, climatology, hydrology, and geomorphology of atmospheric river events in the Western U.S.