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Winter Academic Term 2004 Course Guide

Note: You must establish a session for Winter Academic Term 2004 on in order to use the link "Check Times, Location, and Availability". Once your session is established, the links will function.

Courses in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences

This page was created at 7:01 PM on Wed, Jan 21, 2004.

Winter Academic Term, 2004 (January 6 - April 30)

Although AOSS 202 is offered through the College of Engineering, the course is approved by LS&A to earn LS&A credits and may be used to meet Natural Science distribution requirements. Other Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences courses are listed in the College of Engineering Bulletin, and in the Time Schedule as part of the offerings of the College of Engineering in the AOSS subsection and may be elected by LS&A students as a part of non-LS&A course work. These other courses do not help meet LS&A distribution requirements. Students who have a serious professional interest in the field should consult the department (2443 Space Research Building, 764-3335).

AOSS 202. The Atmosphere.

Section 001.

Instructor(s): Perry Samson (

Prerequisites & Distribution: (3). (NS). (BS). May not be repeated for credit.

Credits: (3).

Course Homepage:

MISSION: This course has the mission of providing an introduction to the science of weather analysis and forecasting. Lectures and textbook provide background information on the physics of the atmosphere to support learning through applied problem solving outside of class. The course builds through a series of steps toward a period of hands-on weather forecasting and assessment.

REQUIRED TEXT: METEOROLOGY TODAY (6th Edition) by C. Donald Ahrens


Hour Exam #1,15%
Hour Exam #2, 15%
Final Exam, 30%
Periodic Assignments (roughly weekly), 40%


  1. The Origins of the Atmosphere: The course begins with the formation of the Earth. How was it that the earth's atmosphere first formed and then became the air we now know and love?
  2. The Atmosphere's Energy Balance: The variability of life forms on the Earth, in fact the existence of life itself, depends upon the type and amount of radiation received from the Sun. What are the characteristics of solar radiation and how is this radiation modified by the Earth's atmosphere? How is the radiation distributed over the Earth and how does this change over the course of the year?
  3. Light and the Atmosphere: Solar radiation passing through the gases and particles of the atmosphere can be absorbed, scattered and reflected. These processes are also wavelength dependent offering rich colors and odd patterns. How are atmospheric optics formed and what might they tell us about approaching weather patterns?
  4. Laws Governing the Atmosphere: Even the atmosphere is constrained by certain laws. What are the laws of the atmosphere and what implication do they have on climate and weather forecasting? How does wind start to blow in the first place? What happens to air once it starts to move? How does the turning of the Earth affect wind direction? How much does the surface slow the air down?
  5. The General Circulation of the Earth: The general flow of the atmosphere dictates where deserts and rain forests exist. This lecture investigates why.
  6. Airmasses and Weather Fronts The frontal systems so often referred to by TV meteorologists are dividing lines between different air masses. How are these air masses defined? How do fronts form and why is so much precipitation usually associated with them? How do they dissipate? What is the relationship between fronts and the formation of low pressure systems? What's all this got to do with the upper atmosphere?
  7. Surface Weather Maps: The untold key to being a meteorologist is threefold: first you must be able to read the weather codes at weather stations; second, you must be able to draw contour maps from that data; and, third, you must be able to sound calm and confident even when you're frantic and confused. What is the code? Where do the fronts go on the map?
  8. Upper-Air Charts: Much of what happens at the Earth's surface weatherwise is the result of processes occurring higher in the atmosphere. How can we find out what is happening in the upper atmosphere? What are the criteria for deciding that the atmosphere is stable or unstable using this information?
  9. WEATHER FORECASTING: So you think YOU can do better? Here is your chance to shine as weather forecaster. Using knowledge from the course you will be asked to forecast into the future.
  10. Weather Folklore: Long before there were computers sailors and farmers made forecasts based on relationships they deduced from observation. What folklore do you know of? To what degree can we support these relationships based on current scientific understandings?
  11. Cloud Seeding: Sci-fi writers have for years glorified the prospects of humans controlling the weather. What techniques have been and are being used to stimulate/depress precipitation? How successful have these efforts been? What are the prospects for the future?
  12. Convection and Thunderstorms: Some of the most dramatic atmospheric phenomena are associated with convective storms. How do these storms develop? Why are some severe and other mild? What's the difference between a severe storm warning and a watch?
  13. Lightning: What causes hail to form in some thunderstorms? What causes lightning and thunder in some thunderstorms?
  14. Aviation Weather: Weather affects the aviation industry in many ways. What is the clear-air turbulence that causes your coffee to wind up in your lap? What is a microburst and why is it feared?
  15. Tornadoes!!!: Probably the most dramatic atmospheric phenomenon is the tornado. Why do they form? Where are they most apt to form? Where should you go if one is sighted to either (1) seek shelter or (2) get the best possible photograph of the inside of the funnel cloud.
  16. Tropical Weather (Hurricanes): The weather of the tropics can be a beauty or a beast. How do tropical storms form? Why do some become hurricanes? How well can we predict their movement? How is tropical weather interconnected with weather in the mid-latitudes?
  17. El Niño/La Niña: How is it that the water temperature off the coast of Peru is related to the rainfall amount in California and Australia? How well can we predict these features?

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This page was created at 7:01 PM on Wed, Jan 21, 2004.

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