Spring 2016 Department of Earth & Climate Sciences

ERTH 260:

Physical Processes
in the Atmosphere

Lecture/Lab: MW 9:10-12:00

604 Thornton Hall

Prerequisites: MATH 199 or equivalent
Credit: Four semester units (3 units lecture, 1 unit lab)*. (Fulfills General Education Lower Division Physical Science (B1) and Lab Science (B3) requirements).

*This should be the case. But there is an issue at the university level, and it might be that this class will be three semester units (2 units lecture, 1 unit lab).
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Instructor: Dr. John Monteverdi,
Prof. of Meteorology
Office: 613 Thornton Hall
Office hours: TBA
Phone: 338-7728

University Objectives for General Education Physical Science (B1):

  1. gather and interpret scientific information from a variety of sources and use that information to discuss scientific issues;
  2. describe ethical or sociological dilemmas arising out of scientific research and applications, which may include those related to social justice, and may have implications for local and/or global communities;
  3. use scientific theories and methods of inquiry to explain phenomena observed in laboratory or field settings;
  4. discuss the relevance of major scientific theories and/or research to modern day life;

University Objectives for General Education Lab Science (B3):

  1. apply appropriate methods of analysis to raw data
  2. carry out common laboratory procedures correctly and adhere to instructions on laboratory safety; recognize hazardous situations and act appropriately
  3. maintain a timely, comprehensive laboratory notebook, including any outside or background research, with sufficient detail to permit repeatability of experiments;
  4. explain the scientific method, including concepts of hypothesis and experimental controls, and why objectivity is essential;
  5. apply critical thinking in the laboratory and recognize whether results and conclusions make sense.

Course Objectives:

ERTH 260 is designed to meet the University Objectives listed above in a number of ways, (indicated as UO 1, 2, 3, or 4)

First, ERTH 260 has two general objectives:

ERTH 260 is designed to meet some specific thematic objectives and purposes:

Materials Needed to Support Class Activities. Since ERTH 260 sometimes takes a quantitative approach to the subject, please bring an inexpensive calculator to class. You should also purchase an inexpensive set of colored pencils for map work.

Class Attendance and Participation. regular class attendance essential to your success and I strongly encourage you to interact with me and the other students. I make extensive use of inquiry-based, small-group problem solving exercises based upon current weather events as an instructional strategy, and your attendance is crucial for you to benefit from those exercises.

Topics Covered.

  1. Introduction
  2. Guidelines for good physical problem solving; working with dimensions and units
  3. Composition and Structure of the Atmosphere
  4. Radiative Energy
    1. Laws of Radiation
    2. Principle of Conservation of Energy
  5. Atmospheric Moisture
  6. Measures of Humidity
  7. Clouds
  8. Precipitation Formation
  9. Atmospheric Instability
  10. Basic Laws Governing the Development and Evolution of Atmospheric Circulation Systems iin Theory and Practice
    1. Ideal Gas Law
    2. Conservation of Energy/First Law of Thermodynamics Review
    3. Hypsometric Relation
    4. Equation of Motion Review
    5. Conservation of Mass Applied to the Atmosphere
  11. Development of motion and weather patterns/systems
    1. Scales of circulation overview
    2. Mass conservation scaled for the synoptic-scale atmosphere and its implications
    3. Models of the General Circulation of the atmosphere and their limitation as conceptual models
    4. Synoptic scale systems in the middle latitudes and tropics: wave cyclones and hurricanes
  12. Operational Applications and Techniques
    1. Use of sounding analysis in support of thunderstorm forecasting
    2. Synoptic-scale weather systems in three dimension (wave cyclones)
    3. Synoptic-scale weather chart analysis and forecasting
    4. Thunderstorm types, including supercell thunderstorms
    5. Severe weather analysis and forecasting
    6. Ensemble forecasting

Exams, Assignments, and Grades. The contributions to your overall score will be determined as follows:

Assignments/Quizzes Contribution to Overall Score
Homework and Inclass Short Problems (6-8 total; lowest dropped) 10%
~Weekly Inclass Laboratories (10-12 total; lowest dropped) 30%
Biweekly Quizzes (7-8 total) 50%
Quality of in-Class Participation (Presence and Engagement With Class, Enthusiastic Participation in Discussions)* 10%

*Note:  To evaluate the “discussion and synthesis” part of the class, I had decide how each of you contributed, based upon your level in the program.  This comprised 10% of the grade in the course.  This is the scoring “rubric”:

Class Presence

Always/mostly on time/participates


Mostly on time/participates


Mostly on time/half not/participates/unexplained absences


Mostly Not on time/participates


never on time/misses discussions


Misses class/never on time


Please note that there will be NO makeups allowed for Quizzes and Homeworks. However, should illness or other emergencies prevent you from taking a quiz or turning in the homework, you need to contact me BEFORE the due date or the quiz time.

This is a majors class and grading will be on an absolute scale:

90—100% A's
80—89.9% B's
70—79.9% C's
60—69.9% D's
below 60% F

However, if for some reason the assignments seem too difficult for the class, I reserve the right to grade on a curve instead, which should effectively raise the grade for many people.

Disability Access

Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The [Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC)] is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The [DPRC] is located in the [Student ServiceBuilding and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email ( (]

Student Disclosures of Sexual Violence

SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination. If you disclose a personal experience as an SF State student, the course instructor is required to notify the [Dean of Students].

To disclose any such violence confidentially, contact. [The SAFE Place - (415) 338-2208;]
[Counseling and Psychological Services Center - (415) 338-2208; ]

For more information on your rights and available resources: [] This policy"[The SAFE Place - (415) 338-2208;]"