MPO 665: General Circulation of the Atmosphere

Spring 2008

Instructor: Prof. David S. Nolan

email:; phone: 305-421-4930

Teaching Assistant: Damianos Mantsis;

MSC 329, Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-12:00


I. Introduction

A. History of the study of the general circulation

B. Averaged quantities and other representations of the data

C. Observations, analysis, and re-analysis

II. The Observed Zonally Averaged Circulation

A. Radiation, temperature, pressure, winds, moisture

B. The oceans, land, ice, and their effects

C. Interseasonal and interhemispheric differences

III. Understanding the Zonally Averaged Circulations

A. Simple climate models

B. Hadley cell models

C. First look at wave and eddy transports

D. Zonally averaged heat and momentum fluxes

E. Quasi-balanced response: Eliassen and Kuo theories

IV. The Observed Nonzonal Circulations

A. Mid-latitudes - the jets and planetary waves

B. Cyclones and baroclinic life cycles

C. Local heat and momentum fluxes

D. Variations in the tropics - ITCZs and monsoons

E. Interseasonal and interhemispheric differences

V. Understanding the Nonzonal Circulations: Mid-latitudes

A. Baroclinic instability and cyclogenesis

B. Kinetic and available potential energy - the Lorenz Cycle

C. Forced planetary waves

VI. Understanding the Nonzonal Circulations: Tropics

A. ITCZ Dynamics

B. Monsoons

C. Waves in the tropics

D. Madden-Julian Oscillation

VII. The Stratosphere

A. Thermodynamic structure

B. The general circulation and seasonal variations

C. Stratospheric phenomena - waves, QBO, and sudden warmings

VIII. Assorted topics and presentation possibilities

A. Storm tracks

B. Low-frequency variability and blocking

C. Teleconnection patterns

D. Stratospheric-tropospheric exchange

E. General circulation modelling

F. Other planets

G. Physical analogues


There will be a mid-term exam (20%), occasional homeworks (20%), one 30 minute presentation by each student (25%), and a final exam (35%).


There is no single textbook for the class. Reading will be assigned from the following books on reserve in the library, and other papers will be handed out.


Reserve Books:

QC880.4.A8 G77 1993 Grotjahn, R.: Global Atmospheric Circulations

QC880.H65 2004: Holton, J. R.: An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology

QC880.4.A8 J34 1994 James, I. N.: Introduction to Circulating Atmospheres

QC981.P434 1992 Peixoto, J. P., and Oort, A. H.: Physics of Climate

QC881.2.S8 L33 1999 Labitzke, K. and Van Loon, H.: The Stratosphere

QC861.2.L55 1990 Lindzen, R. S.: Dynamics in Atmospheric Physics

fQC880.L65 1967 Lorenz, E. N.: The Nature and Theory of the General
Circulation of the Atmosphere

We may also use this new textbook:

Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics by Geoffrey K. Vallis