METEO 470: Climate Dynamics

Instructor: Prof. Sukyoung Lee, Teaching Assistant: Mr. Zachary Moon,

METEO 470: Climate Dynamics

Fall 2016

Last update: Aug. 22, 2016

Course Description: Climate Dynamics delves into the fundamental processes that control the earth's climate of the past, present, and future. Fundamentals are developed from concepts of basic dynamic meteorology, radiative transfer, and thermodynamics. The surface energy and hydrologic budgets, and the atmospheric and oceanic circulation are covered. A survey of the earth's climate through geologic history is also explored, including extinction events and the impacts on climate. The concepts developed in this course are applied to the topic of anthropogenic climate change and how various aspects of the climate system could be influenced by global mean, long-term warming.

Course Designation: This course is required for METEO undergraduates

Prerequisites: Meteo 300, Meteo 421, and Meteo 431

Students who do not meet these prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:

Class Meeting Time and Location: TR 12:05-1:20 Earth and Engineering Science 119

Instructor: Prof. Sukyoung Lee
Office: 519 Walker
Office hours: MW 9:00-10:00

Teaching Assistant: Mr. Zachary Moon  
Office: Walker 530
Office hours: T 13:30-14:30, W 12:00-13:00

Textbook: Global Physical Climatology by D. L. Hartmann, 2016, (Second Edition) Academic Press.

Assistance with Textbooks: Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student and Family Services (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

Additional References:

  • Physics of Climate, J. P. Peixoto, and A. H. Oorts, 1992, AIP.
  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics, G. Vallis, 2006, Cambridge University Press.

The textbook and references are reserved in EMS library

Supplementary Readings

Canvas class notes

Topics Covered

  • Introduction (Chapters 1, 8, 11, 12)
    • Goals and Scope of the Course
    • Observations and Motivations
  • Radiative Equilibrium (Chapter 2)
    • Energy Balance of Earth
    • Emission Temperature of a Planet
    • Greenhouse Effect
    • Distribution of Insolation
    • Poleward Heat Flux
  • Atmospheric Radiative Transfer and Climate (Chapter 3)
    • Reading assignments (3.1-3.5)
    • Formulation of Flux Absorption
    • Infrared Radiative Transfer Equation
    • Heuristic Model of Radiative Equilibrium
    • Clouds, Radiation, and Energy Balance of Earth
  • The Energy Balance of the Surface (Chapter 4)
    • Surface heat and radiative fluxes
  • The Hydrological Cycle (Chapter 5)
    • Potential Evapotranspiration
    • Hydrological Cycle of warmer and cooler climates
  • Atmospheric General Circulation and Climate (Chapter 6 and Canvas note)
    • Atmospheric Motions and the Meridional Transport of Energy
    • The Axisymmetric Circulation
    • The Wave (weather)-Driven Circulation
    • Large-Scale Circulation Patterns and Climate
    • Moist effects on the Circulation and Hydrologic Cycle
  • Ocean General Circulation and Climate (Chapter 7 and Canvas note)
    • Properties of Seawater
    • The Mixed Layer
    • The Wind-Driven Circulation
    • Thermohaline Circulation & Two-Box Model
  • Natural Intraseasonal and Interannual Variability
  • History and Evolution of Earth’s Climate (Chapter 8)
  • Climate Sensitivity and Feedback Mechanisms
  • Global Climate Models

Assessment Tools:

  1. Canvas quizzes (5) 10% (See Detailed Schedule for due dates)
  2. Homework problem sets (5) 25% (See Detailed Schedule for due dates)
  3. Midterm examinations (2) 40% (Sept. 29 & Nov. 3, during class)
  4. One final examination (1) 25% (TBA)
  5. Group Work (TBD) Extra points: up to 3%

In addition, to recognize those of you who made exceptional contribution to the group work, toward the end of the semester, there will be an opportunity to nominate your fellow member. Those of you who receives more than 3 nominations from your team members will be awarded with additional 1%.

Grading Scales:

  • A: 92-100%;
  • A-: 88-91%;
  • B+: 84-87%;
  • B: 80-83%;
  • B-: 75-79%;
  • C+: 71-74%;
  • C: 63-70%;
  • D: 50-62%;
  • F: <50%.

Curving Policy For the exams, a curve will be applied if class average is below 80; the curved average will be set to 80.

Canvas Quizzes Quizzes are open book, but not open discussion. The quizzes should be completed on your own. No curving will be applied.

Group Work Group work is in-class activity. For each activity, record the name of the participants. No credit will be given to those who are not present during the group work.

Late Penalty For homework assignments, a 10% late penalty will be applied for each day.

Cell Phone Penalty Use of cell phones during class is not allowed. Everytime you use your cell phone, there will be a consequence to your grade. Please turn off your cell phone during class. If your cell phone rings during class, you have to bring lemonade for everyone.

Course Objectives

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the dynamics and thermodynamics governing the ocean and atmosphere on spatial and temporal scales appropriate for climate systems (relate to program objectives 1 and 2)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the basic mechanisms of climate variability that are related to the coupling of the ocean and the atmosphere (relate to program objectives 1, 2, and 3)

Expected Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of radiation and its role in determining atmospheric thermal structure. (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  2. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the atmospheric general circulation and energy budget as well as their roles in determining the climate state and its variability, with possible applications to ocean-atmospheric responses such as El Nino/Southern Oscillation and/or ocean circulation dynamics (relate to program outcomes a and c)
  3. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the appropriate temporal and spatial averaging of the governing equations relevant to the description of climate and its variability (relate to program outcomes a and b)
  4. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the state of the ocean, wind-driven oceanic circulations, thermohaline circulations, and coupled ocean-atmosphere processes, and their roles in determining the climate state and its variability (relate to program outcomes a and c)
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of internal and forced climate variability (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  6. Students can demonstrate knowledge of past climates (relate to program outcomes b and c)
  7. Students can demonstrate knowledge of the processes responsible for climate change and how global climate models are used to assess it (relate to program outcomes b, c, and d)

Academic Integrity Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to take their quizzes on their own. Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately. Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others. Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course. Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

Course Copyright All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website (

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines ( If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Attendance This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: tions/#44-35. Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes. Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews). Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help: Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

Weather Delays Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

Penn State E-mail Accounts: All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Deferred Grades If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Military Personnel:  Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Technical Requirements: For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the ITS Help Desk (

Netiquette: The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Disclaimer Statement: Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes will be posted to the course discussion forum.