Course Description

The most fundamental atmospheric measurements are temperature, pressure, and humidity. This course explores the meaning of these in great detail, so that students should come out with a strong understanding of the thermodynamics of the particular two-component system – dry air and water – most important to understanding weather.

Geog 220 presents the following sequence of steps: warming air becomes less dense (expands) and may rise, rising air cools, as the water vapor cools along with the air, it cannot stay in vapor state and starts to condense. Keep that going and a cloud will form. (Eventually, under the right circumstances, rain may fall, and that will be covered in 421/621.) This course repeats all those points, but tries to provide a deeper understanding, working from a few physical priniciples and using some math to get quantitative answers.


Geog 420/620 Atmospheric Physics & Thermodynamics

Fall 2017

11:15–12:05 Monday, Colburn 109

Printable course summary:


Office Hours

Text: J. M. Wallace & P. V. Hobbs, Atmospheric Science, An Introductory Survey, 2nd Ed., 2006. (Note: 1st edition is 40 years old – must get 2nd edition.) Textbook errata sheet (pdf)

Projects: Eight problem sets, mostly of pencil-paper-calculator problem solving with a little computer work.

Tests: two hour exams, a comprehensive final exam.


Problem Sets


Pseudoadiabatic Chart (PDF)

Skew T-log p chart (PDF)

FSL radiosonde data format

Mountain Problem Spreadsheet

Wetbulb Spreadsheet (Numbers)

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