AOSC 431 - Fall 2016

Atmospheric Thermodynamics




News, Notes, & Upcoming Deadlines



Course Catalog Description

Classical thermodynamics applied to both the dry and the moist atmosphere. Composition; phase changes of water; stability concepts; Properties of aerosols and clouds, cloud nucleation and precipitation processes, atmospheric electricity, cloud and precipitation chemistry.


Course Objectives

  • Quantitative description and application of atmospheric thermodynamics
  • Analysis and interpretation of atmospheric variables on thermodynamic diagrams
  • Introduction to cloud physics and precipitation processes






Download Full Syllabus (PDF)


Instructor: Prof. Daryl Kleist, CSS 3421, dkleist @

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant:  Ms. Kelsey Malloy, CSS 3416/3400, kmalloy @, Office Hours M 6:00-7:00 p.m. or by appointment

Volunteer Teaching Assistant: Mr. David New, CSS 4339


Lectures: Tu/Th 9:30-10:45 a.m., CSS 2416  Office Hours: M/W 1:00-2:00 p.m. or by appointment



Math 141 - Calculus II

Phys 161/171 - General Physics (Mechanics and Particle Dynamics/Mechanics and Relativity)


Math 246 - Differential Equations for Scientists and Engineers


Required Text

Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey (2nd Edition), by J.M. Wallace and P. V. Hobbs, Elsevier.


Strongly Recommended Text

A First Course in Atmospheric Thermodynamics, by G.W. Petty, Sundog Publishing (available for purchase at ).


Other Reference Texts (not required)

An Introduction to Atmospheric Thermodynamics, by A. A. Tsonis, Cambridge.


Grading: Homework (30%), Two Mid-Term Exams (20% each), Final Exam (25%), Attendance and Participation (5%)


Letter grades will be assigned using the following breakdown:

A+ (97-100), A (93-97), A- (90-93)

B+ (87-90), B (83-87), B- (80-83)

C+ (77-80), C (73-77), C- (70-73)

D+ (67-70), D (63-67), D- (60-63)

F (<60)


Exams: Two "mid-term" exams and one cumulative final will be given.  All exams will be closed book (relevant constants, equations, etc. will be provided).


Honor Code

Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.  Students are responsible for educating themselves and following the university honor code (


Homework Policy

No late homework will be accepted without arrangements made prior to due dates.  Late homework will have reduced value (25% same day, 50% one day late).  Students are encouraged to study and work together, but all solutions submitted should be your own in your own writing and using your own words.


Special Needs

If special accommodations are required due to disability, religious observances, or other, please contact the instructor in advance to make arrangements.


Student Rights

Please visit the following page regarding University policies and resources:

Week 1

Tu., Aug. 30: Introduction, Syllabus (Lecture 1 Slides)


Reading: WH 1.1, Petty 281-314 (Petty Appendix B PDF)

Th., Sep. 1: Structure and Composition. Temperature, Pressure, Density (Lecture 2 Slides)


Reading: WH 1.2-1.3.4; Petty 2-26 (Petty Ch1-2 PDF)


Week 2

Tu., Sep. 6:  Dynamics of the Atmosphere:  Patterns of wind, pressure, and precipitation (Lecture 3 Slides)


Reading: WH 1.3.5-1.3.6

Homework #1 Distributed (Due 9/13)


Th., Sep. 8:  Temperature, Wind Chill, Intro to SkewT-LogP, Air Parcels (Lecture 4 Slides)


Reading: WH 3.4.1, Petty 13-17, 33-35, 44, 49-51


Week 3

Tu., Sep. 13: Physical Properties, Gas laws


Live Balloon Launch at 10:30 a.m.!


Reading: WH 3.1, Petty 61-69

Homework #1 DUE 5 p.m.

Th., Sep. 15: Equation of State for Moist Air, Hydrostatic Equation

Reading: Petty 71-77, 83-86, WH 3.5.1, 3.2


Homework #2 Distributed (DUE FRI. 9/23 5 p.m.)


Week 4

Tu., Sep. 20:  Geopotential, Hypsometric Equation, Pressure Profiles, Thickness, Sea Level Correction, Scale Height


Reading: WH 3.2, Petty 83-120

Th., Sep. 22: First Law of Thermodynamics, P-V Work, Specific Heats


Reading: Petty 123-134, WH 3.3


Homework #2 DUE 9/23 at 5 PM

Week 5

Tu., Sep. 27: Poisson's Equation, Potential Temperature, Dry Adiabats, Adiabatic Processes (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Petty 136-140, WH 76-79

Th., Sep. 29: Mid-Term #1

Week 6

Tu., Oct. 4: Adiabatic Processes, Heat Engine, Cyclic Processes, Reversible/Irreversible, Enthalpy (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Petty 142-153, WH 93-95

Th., Oct. 6:  Enthalpy, Subsidence Inversions, Diabatic Processes, Energy on a Skew-T, Comments on buoyancy (Lecture Slides)


HW #3 Distributed (Due 10/13/16)

Reading: Petty 153-158

Week 7

Tu., Oct. 11: Second Law of Thermodynamics, Entropy (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Petty 161-167, WH 95-97


Th., Oct. 13: Water Vapor Saturation (Guest Lecture David New)


Reading: Petty 167-176, WH 79-84


HW #3 DUE, HW #4 Distributed

Week 8

Tu., Oct. 18:  Clausius-Clapeyron, Saturation Mixing Ratio (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Petty 179-187, WH 97-102


Homework #4 Distributed (Due 10/25/16)

Th., Oct. 20:  Moisture Variables on a SkewT, LCL, Moist Adiabatic Lapse Rate (Lecture Slides)



Reading: Petty 185-194, WH 84-85


Week 9

Tu., Oct. 25: Guest Lecture (Dr. Manda Adams):  Equivalent Potential Temperature, Skew-Ts (Lecture Slides)


Homework #4 DUE

Mid-Term #2 Review Material


Reading: Petty 201-209, WH 85-88

Th., Oct. 27: Guest Lecture (David New): Mid-Term Review


Reading: Petty 209-232

Week 10

Tu., Nov. 1:  Mid-Term #2

Th., Nov. 3:  Atmospheric Stability, Dry Static Stability (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Petty 239-245, WH 88-9

Week 11

Tu., Nov. 8: Conditional Instability, Convective Instability (Lecture Slides)

Reading: Petty 246-252



Th., Nov. 10: CAPE, CIN, Deep Convection

Reading: Petty 253-278

HW #5 Distributed (Due 11/17/16)

Week 12

Tu., Nov. 15:  Stability Indices Continued (Lecture Slides)


Reading: Petty 253-278

Th., Nov. 17: CCN, Growth of cloud droplets, Cloud Water Content (Lecture Slides)


Reading: WH 209-221


HW #5 DUE 5 PM

Week 13

Tu., Nov. 22: No Class (Travel) 

Th., Nov. 24: No Class (Thanksgiving Holiday)


Week 14

Tu., Nov. 29:  Warm Clouds, Cold Clouds Intro (Lecture Slides)


Reading: WH 221-236


HW #6 Distributed (Due 12/8/16 at 5 PM)

Th., Dec. 1: Cold Clouds, Weather Modification (Lecture Slides)

Reading: WH 236-252

Week 15

Tu., Dec. 6: Electrification, Lightning (Lecture slides:  PDF, PPTX)


Reading: WH 252-263

Th., Dec. 8:  In-class review for final exam (Lecture Slides)


HW #6 DUE (5 PM)



Week 16

Final Exam:  Thursday, Dec. 15, 8:00-10:00 a.m.