Department of Geosciences

Climate Dynamics
Fall 2021

Inside the eye of Hurricane Katrina - August, 2005

Instructor: Michael Rawlins


Course Info

Objectives Location/Time Policies Textbook Reference Books Web Site
Project Office Hours Grading Schedule Some Useful Links


Climate System Research Center Department of Geosciences University of Massachusetts Academic Calendar

Some Weather Links

Weather Underground NWS Forecast Office, Boston, MA The Weather Channel Northeast Radar Loop Northeast Visible Satellite Loop

Send mail to Michael Rawlins

Course Objectives

Course objectives center on mastery of subject material and improvement in scientific reasoning. By the completion of this course students should be able to:
  1. explain components of the earth/atmosphere system such as radiation and energy balance, the hydrological cycle, and general atmospheric and ocean circulation.
  2. differentiate climates across multiple spatial scales.
  3. interpret the evidence supporting global climate change and weigh its implications.
  4. create new knowledge through inquiry and discovery.


The class will meet in Morrill Science Center II, room 225, on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule from 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm.

Policies and Expectations

  1. Attendance at all classes is essential.
  2. There will be many opportunities for you to participate in class. Your participation is essential in the group work for this course. Participation will also aid you in a better understanding of the class material.
  3. You are required to be present for exams on the the scheduled days. In extraordinary circumstances I will reschedule an exam for an individual, but only if I am notified in advance of the exam.
  4. Academic dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated and will lead to a reduction in final grade or course failure. See Academic Honesty Policy below.
  5. Submission of assignments after the due date will result in reduction of 5 percentage points (or the letter grade equivalent) for each day late.
  6. Many of the materials created for this course are the intellectual property of the instructor. This includes, but is not limited to, the syllabus, lectures and course notes. Except to the extent not protected by copyright law, any use, distribution or sale of such materials requires the permission of the instructor. Please be aware that it is a violation of university policy to reproduce, for distribution or sale, class lectures or class notes, unless copyright has been explicitly waived by the faculty member.

Academic Honesty Policy

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible.

Disability Statement

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to making reasonable, effective and appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and help create a barrier free campus. If you are in need of accommodations for a documented disability, register with Disability Services to have an accommodation letter sent to your faculty. It is your responsibility to initiate these services and communicate with faculty ahead of time to manage accommodations in a timely manner. For more information, consult the Disability Services website at


The text is Climatology by Robert V. Rohli and Anthony J. Vega, 4th Edition, Copyright 2017 by Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. (ISBN-13: 978-1284119985) Purchase of the text is optional. The text is not necessary for the course, but can provide valuable reinforcement and supplementary material. It will be available at the Textbook Annex. Text readings are coordinated with classes listed in the Schedule below.

Reference Books

An excellent two volume reference, Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather (QC 854 E 523 1996) is available in the reference section of the Integrated Sciences and Engineering Library, Lederle GRC lowrise, floor 2. Additional meteorology and climatology books are available in that library. The books have call letters from QC851 to QC999.

Web Site

A great deal of material is available only via this course Web Site. You must familiarize yourself with the procedures necessary to navigate this site. The Schedule will be updated at various times through the semester. Changes will be announced in class.


Climatology students individually engage in a research project culminating in a course paper that describes the major influences on the climate of a given location. You will explain the overarching climate influences in terms of the physical environment and the major processes for that location. As the semester progresses you may find it helpful to think about how various factors such as radiation, the hydrological cycle, atmospheric and ocean circulation, land/ocean contrasts etc influence the climate of your location. Analysis of data that you identify and obtain is also encouraged. More information on project requirements will be provided as the semester progresses.

Office Hours

Office hours are Wednesdays 11:00-12:00 PM, Thursdays 2:30-3:30 PM, and by appointment. My office is in the Climate System Research Center, room 134B, Morrill Science Center II.


Exam #1 20%
Exam #2 20%
Project 30%
Assignments/Exercises 15%
Quizzes 15%

Percentage Totals Grade Credit Points
93.00-100.00% A 4.0
90.00-92.99% A- 3.7
87.00-89.99% B+ 3.3
83.00-86.99% B 3.0
80.00-82.99% B- 2.7
77.00-79.99% C+ 2.3
73.00-76.99% C 2.0
70.00-72.99% C- 1.7
67.00-69.99% D+ 1.3
60.00-66.99% D 1.0
0.00-59.00% F 0


Below is the projected course schedule. Changes made during the semester will be reflected here.

T - textbook pages
A - assignment due
P - project due

1 Tue 9/3The climate system T:27-33
2 Thu 9/5Solar and terrestrial radiationT:82-89
3 Tue 9/10The global energy balanceIn Moodle: THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT: Radiative balance of the Earth (section 7.2)
4 Thu 9/12Net Radiation and TemperatureExercise under this week in Moodle
5 Tue 9/17Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:92-95,106-113 A1
6 Thu 9/19Precipitation and water budgetsT:119-123 (in 5_Water.pdf from Tuesday);
7 Tue 9/24Atmospheric motion IT:37-43
8 Thu 9/26General circulationT:129-141
9 Tue 10/1Mid-latitude cyclonesT:165-169
10 Thu 10/3Exam #1
11 Tue 10/8Project time
12 Thu 10/10Mid-latitude cyclones, air massesOutline due
Tue 10/15No class - Monday schedule on this day
13 Thu 10/17Monsoon climatesT:186-187
14 Tue 10/22El Niño/Southern OscillationT:62-68
15 Thu 10/24Tropical cyclones
16 Tue 10/29Dynamics - lake effect storms and Santa Ana windsWeb pages linked in Moodle
17 Thu 10/31Carbon cycleT:13-15 A2
18 Tue 11/5Influences on global climate changeT:289-294
19 Thu 11/7Observed climate changes
20 Tue 11/12PaleoclimatologyT:278-290
21 Thu 11/14Exam #2
22 Tue 11/19Future climates / climate modeling T:322-325
23 Thu 11/21Impacts of climate change - Northeast U.S.
24 Tue 12/3Mitigation and adaptationT:317-319
25 Thu 12/5Project Climate DescriptionsP
26 Tue 12/10No class; project paper dueP

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