Department of Geosciences

GEO-SCI 354: Climatology
Fall 2013

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/Questions 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 126, 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, Second Edition, Copyright 2010 by Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. (ISBN 978-0-7637-9101-8) 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 assignments are out of class work. See the schedule below. You will have one week to complete each assignment.

Assignment #1 - An energy balance model

Assignment #2 - Analysis of surface weather map


You are required to do a class project in which you will describe the climate of a given location. You will explain the overarching climate influence for that location in terms of the physical environment and the processes inherent in the climate system. As the semester progresses you may find it helpful to think about how processes such as radiation, the hydrological cycle, atmospheric and ocean circulation, etc. influence your project location.

Office Hours/Questions

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


Exam #1 15%
Exam #2 15%
Final exam 15%
Assignments/Quizzes 20%
Project 25%
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 schedule. Any changes in the course schedule will be reflected on this web page.

T -> relevant pages in textbook.
A - assignment due
P - project due
Q - quiz
Q/A - quiz;assignment;question/answer

Wed 9/4The climate system T:1-10,13,16
Fri 9/6Solar and terrestrial radiationT:13-16,19-23,26-32,78-87
Mon 9/9The global energy balanceT:13-15,26-28,87-90
Wed 9/11Net Radiation and TemperatureQ
Fri 9/13Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:90-93,104-121,133-135
Mon 9/16Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:90-93,104-121,133-135
Wed 9/18Water in the earth/atmosphere systemT:90-93,104-121,133-135; A1
Fri 9/20StabilityT:94-98
Mon 9/23Precipitation formation
Wed 9/25Atmospheric motion IT:36-42; Q
Fri 9/27Precipitation distributionT:111-113
Mon 9/30Atmospheric motion IIT:36-42
Wed 10/2Exam #1
Fri 10/4General circulation and wavesT:126-138,145-149,162-166
Mon 10/7Air masses and fronts; Mid-latitude cyclonesT:42-45
Wed 10/9Fronts and cyclonesT:139-141,144-145,165-166
Fri 10/11Tropical climatesT:152-158,220-222
Tue 10/15Tropical climatesT:152-158,220-222
Wed 10/16El Niño/Southern OscillationT:61-68
Fri 10/18Monsoon climatesT:182-183; Q
Mon 10/21Polar climates; Desert climatesT:212-216,253-255
Wed 10/23Mid-latitude climatesT:174-175,184-187,242-246; A2
Fri 10/25Mid-latitude climatesT:179-181; Q/A
Mon 10/28Mid-latitude climatesT:181-183,322-326
Wed 10/30Severe weatherT:174-176
Fri 11/1Local climates; Nor'eastersT:178-179,292-293,322-326Q/A
Mon 11/4Exam #2
Wed 11/6Carbon cycleT:13-16
Fri 11/8Recent and long term climate changeT:269,278-280,286-288,292-293; Q/A
Mon 11/11Holiday - no class
Wen 11/13Causes of climate changeT:266-268 Q
Fri 11/15Climates of the future
Mon 11/18Climate modelingT:309-312
Wen 11/20PaleoclimatologyT:278-290
Fri 11/22Climate change impacts - Northeast U.S.Q/A
Mon 11/25Climate change mitigationT:304-305
Wed 11/27Thanksgiving recess - no class
Fri 11/29Thanksgiving recess - no class
Mon 12/2Climate change adaptationT:304-305
Wed 12/4Final Projects
Fri 12/6Final ProjectsP

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