Department of Geosciences

GEO-SCI 354: Climatology
Fall 2017

Inside the eye of Hurricane Katrina - August, 2005

Instructor: Michael Rawlins


Course Info

Objectives Location/Time Policies Textbook Reference Books Web Site
Assignments 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 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:05 am to 9:55 am.

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 highly encouraged, since the level of your participation will constitute a substantial part of your grade. 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 (see below) after assigned dates 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, Third Edition, Copyright 2015 by Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. (ISBN 978-1284032307) 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.


The following assignments are due on the dates listed in the course schedule (below):

Assignment #1 - An energy balance model

Assignment #2 - Analysis of surface weather map

Assignment #3 - Daily and annual temperature variations


You are required to complete a class project describing 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.

Click here for your location and a description of project/paper guidelines and requirements.

Office Hours

Office hours are Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 PM, Wednesdays 11:15-12:20 PM, and by appointment. My office is in the Climate System Research Center, rm. 134B, Morrill Science Center II.


Exam #1 20%
Exam #2 20%
Final Project 20%
Assignments 20%
Quizzes/Exercises 10%
Class participation 10%

Percentage Totals Grade Credit Points
93-100% A 4.0
90-92% A- 3.7
87-89% B+ 3.3
83-86% B 3.0
80-82% B- 2.7
77-79% C+ 2.3
73-76% C 2.0
70-72% C- 1.7
67-69% D+ 1.3
63-66% D 1.0
60-62% D- 0.7
59% or below F 0
Incomplete INC 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 Wed 9/6The climate system T:1-10,27-33
2 Fri 9/8Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:92-95,106-123
3 Mon 9/11Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:92-95,106-123
4 Wed 9/13Solar and terrestrial radiationT:18,19,80,83-86
5 Fri 9/15Solar and terrestrial radiationT:18,19,80,83-86
6 Mon 9/18The global energy balanceT:14-15,89-92
7 Wed 9/20Net Radiation and TemperatureSee Moodle (under week of Sep 17-23)
8 Fri 9/22Atmospheric stabilityT:97-100
9 Mon 9/25Atmospheric motion IT:37-43 A1
10 Wed 9/27Atmospheric motion IIT:44-46
11 Fri 9/29Precipitation and water budgetsT:119-123 (in earlier water reading);
12 Mon 10/2General circulationT:129-141,147-151
13 Wed 10/4Vorticity and Mid-latitude cyclonesT:144-145,165-169
14 Fri 10/6Climate DatabasesSee WebWIMP and Climate at a Glance
Mon 10/9Holiday - No class
Tue 10/10Exam #1
15 Wed 10/11Air masses and FrontsT:165-166
16 Fri 10/13Exam Review / Course Project Overview
17 Mon 10/16Tropical climatesT:156-159
18 Wed 10/18El Niño/Southern OscillationT:62-67
19 Fri 10/20Monsoon climatesT:186-187
20 Mon 10/23ENSO evolution and current conditionsENSO Exercise in Moodle Outline due; A2
21 Wed 10/25Polar climates; Desert climates
22 Fri 10/27Mid-latitude climatesT:337-340 (NAO & AO)
23 Mon 10/30Hurricane SandyHurricane Sandy in Moodle
24 Wed 11/1Severe weatherT:178-179
25 Fri 11/3Local Climates and Arctic AmplificationT:182
26 Mon 11/6Carbon cycleT:13-15
27 Wen 11/8Influences on global climate changeT:289-295;298-301
28 Fri 11/10Influences on global climate changeT:289-295;298-301
29 Mon 11/13PaleoclimatologyT:278-290
Wen 11/15Open - Class Project
Fri 11/17Exam #2
30 Mon 11/27Observed climate changes
31 Wen 11/29Climate modeling and future climate projections T:322-325
32 Fri 12/1Impacts of climate change - Northeast U.S.
33 Mon 12/4Mitigation and adaptationT:317-319
34 Wed 12/6Mitigation and adaptationT:317-319 A3
35 Fri 12/8Project Climate Descriptions
36 Mon 12/11Project Climate DescriptionsP

Return to Course Info and Links