GEOL-G 332 – Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Cloud Processes

Spring 2017 – Indiana University

Instructor:  Dr. Cody Kirkpatrick (

Office Hours:  Wednesday, 1:30-3:30, in Geology 405.  If my office door is open, come in.  Appointments almost any time on Friday.

Meetings:  Monday & Wednesday, 11:15–12:30, Ballantine 149

Level:         3 credit hours, no lab.  Required prerequisites: MATH-M 211 (i.e., Calculus I); either G 122 or GEOG-G 109; plus one additional introductory natural science course; or permission of instructor.


“What is your goal for us in this course?”        1

“What is our course timeline?”        2

“What do I need to buy?”        3

“What will class meetings be like?”        3

“How do I get an A?”        3

Assessment Details        4

Exams        4

Warm-up Questions        5

“What other important details are there?”        5

Syllabus Rider for Enrolled Graduate Students        6

Learning Outcomes for Graduate Students        6

Literature Review        6

Tentative Textbook Coverage for Each Learning Outcome        7

“What is your goal for us in this course?”

To enable you to excel in more challenging upper-division and graduate studies in atmospheric science, while learning thermodynamics along the way.  But please do not let that scare you!  Yes, I expect this course to be challenging – but if it goes as planned, you’ll walk away knowing more about the atmosphere than you ever expected you could.

“What is our course timeline?”

“What are we going to do?”

The bottom line: structure of the atmosphere; laws of thermodynamics; how temperature and moisture relate to air motion; growth of clouds; remote sensing of clouds and rainfall.

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to apply fundamental thermodynamic laws to both dry and moist atmospheres, and describe the physical processes that control the development and growth of clouds and cloud systems.

Specifically, in achieving this goal students will be able to:

“What do I need to buy?”

Atmospheric Thermodynamics, A First Course, by Grant Petty.  List price $48.  The first two chapters are available on the publisher’s website for free.  After that, you are on your own.  If your copy is delayed, please make a new friend in class.

At no cost to you, supplements and additional exercises will be provided from:

“What will class meetings be like?”

Students will read from the textbook and answer questions in Canvas prior to each class period.  Their answers will help guide the classroom activities for the day.  The class meetings will include a variety of in-class instructional methods such as lectures, slideshows and videos, dataset interpretation and analysis, “mini-lab” experiments and demonstrations, quizzes, and quantitative problem solving.  Students will experience “science as science is practiced” – collaborative, interactive, and Socratic.

“How do I get an A?”

Please take notice: your grade is heavily weighted toward homework (out-of-class), quizzes, and in-class activities (in-class).  The exams certainly matter but please budget your effort properly!

15% each        Three exams (two in class, plus a comprehensive final)

15%                Traditional homework assignments

15%                In-class exercises to include quizzes, “mini-labs,” etc.

20%                “Warm-up” questions submitted online prior to each class

  5%                “Observing the Atmosphere” Presentation Series

The final exam is given at the University-required time and will be Wednesday, 3 May, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.  The final exam cannot be given early.

At the end of the semester, I will start with the traditional scale of 90% = A+/A/A-, 80% = B+/B/B-, etc.; these are guaranteed grades.

Assessment Details

Homework Assignments:  There will be “traditional” homework assignments (“Answer these questions on page X”).  Unless otherwise stated, these are all individual assignments.  Work that is not neatly prepared, typed, and stapled may not be accepted for grading, at the whim of the instructor.  Please do not submit your work via email without talking to me about it first.

Quizzes may be given in class and may or may not be announced.  Usually these are 2 or 3 questions and given at the start of a class period.

Late or missed assignments:  There are no make-ups for missed quizzes or other in-class activities—grades must be negotiated.  All homework and out-of-class assignments are due by the start of class (unless stated otherwise), but will be accepted late at a penalty of 10% per business day, maximum 3 business days.  Once I have handed back a graded assignment, I cannot accept late work.


We have three exams scheduled (that includes the final).  They will be a mixture of multiple choice/matching/fill-in-the-blank, short answer questions, mathematical and problem solving types.  Bring a calculator to the exams.  The exams will consist of different types of questions:

1. Factual knowledge and scientific vocabulary.  I will test your knowledge of scientific vocabulary, variables, equations, and their uses, by asking you to select the definition of a term in a multiple choice list.

2. Conceptual understanding.  A somewhat harder kind of question tests your understanding of a concept.  For example, I might give a term or its definition, and you will have to recognize and pick out the correct or appropriate example that applies to this term.  Or vice versa: I give an example, and you pick the term.

3. Solving problems.  I will also require you to use the information that you have learned in a new or different way to show that you can solve problems.  For example, as air temperature goes down overnight, dew will often form on the grass and on car windows.  To show that you really understand how this works, I might ask you to figure out how the temperature and dewpoint of the air are related to each other as the night goes by.

Logistics: All exams will be held in the usual classroom.  Make-up exams are permitted only after written documentation (note from the clinic, approved University absence, etc.) and may be substantially different from the exam given at the usual class time.  One possibility: a 75-minute oral exam standing in front of the whiteboard.  The final exam cannot be given early, and final exam absences will follow IU policy.

Warm-up Questions


The bottom line: weekly reading assignments from the textbook are required for success in G332.

Explanation:  Our class time will not be spent rehashing the reading—instead, our in-class discussions will build upon it.  Prior to almost every class, I will ask you to complete (via the web) two or three short warm-up questions about the upcoming class discussion.  These questions are designed to get you thinking about the day’s topic so that the in-class conversation will be a little more lively.

How it works:  Questions will be posted 24 hours prior to class on Canvas and via announcement, and you will have until 10 a.m. the day of class to complete them.  On the days they are graded (which will be often), you will get two attempts at all the questions; please work through them deliberately and don’t try to wait until the last minute!

Missed warm-up questions:  Because we will do this before many class periods, there are no “drops” or “make-ups” for missed questions.  These start on Wednesday.

Presentation Series.  Each student will give a five-minute presentation on an observational platform or instrument of their choice (to be negotiated with the instructor; many are found in the textbook).  The presentation will be considered part of the course, i.e., the material may appear on exams.  More details about the structure and scope of the presentation will be given in class.

“What other important details are there?”

Cancellations:  If any class is canceled by the University (bad weather, etc.), all deadlines, due dates, and assignments for that day are moved to the next class period.

Technology in the Classroom:  I have no problem with you bringing laptops, iPads, or whatever to class, as long as you are using them for a classroom purpose.  Texting the girlfriend or checking Facebook or ESPN usually won’t qualify.  If I find students abusing this policy, I reserve the right to ban individuals from using these devices, to ban certain devices, or to ban them entirely.  “Please use responsibly.”  My only other rule on this is – no headphones and no sounds/ringtones, please.

Reasonable Accommodation:  It is the policy of Indiana University to provide reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments as needed. These accommodations and adjustments will be made in a timely manner and on an individualized and flexible basis. Please review the University's ADA Policy and/or come speak to me so we can make the necessary arrangements.

Academic Misconduct:  As members of the University community, all of us, including me, are obligated to the “Indiana University Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct”.  The code is accessible on the internet at  

Complaints:  If you have difficulties or complaints related to this course, your first action usually should be to discuss them with me.  If such a discussion would be uncomfortable for you or fails to resolve your difficulties, you should contact Professor Brophy, Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences.  Professor Brophy’s office is in the Geology Building, Room 126.  If you are still unsatisfied, you should discuss the matter with Professor Musser, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Professor Musser’s office is in Kirkwood Hall, Room 104.

Disclaimer:  In cases of force majeure, I reserve the right to deviate from this syllabus.  I will notify you as soon as I realize this is necessary, and I will document all changes with the department and if necessary the Dean’s office.

Syllabus Rider for Enrolled Graduate Students

Learning Outcomes for Graduate Students

Ensuring the overall quality of instruction in mixed undergraduate/graduate courses can present a challenge.  It is particularly so in our course, which is a gateway course into upper-division atmospheric science study.  With this in mind, I have designed the undergraduate course to emphasize concepts and calculations and tools at a fundamental level.  Graduate students will be expected to demonstrate an integrated knowledge of these concepts and tools, and their mathematical foundations, and at a higher level than students enrolled as undergraduates.

To accomplish this advanced course goal, three additional standards will be imposed:

  1. Supplementary and advanced reading;
  2. Advanced problem sets, exercises, and quizzes; and
  3. Writing of a scholarly review of research literature.

Literature Review

Graduate students will write a formal literature review on any topic of their choosing, so long as they can justify that the topic is related to the general area of atmospheric thermodynamics and/or cloud physics.  More details will be provided later; for now, expect that a topic area and initial literature search will be expected by 15 February.

Tentative Textbook Coverage for Each Learning Outcome

(These will not necessarily be taught in the order listed)


Expected Reading

  1. Explain the origins of and sketch the vertical structure of Earth’s troposphere and stratosphere

Chapter 1 & 2

  1. Define and explain basic thermodynamic concepts including heat transfer, equilibria, work/energy, and phase changes

Chapter 3

  1. Restate and physically interpret the meaning of the Zeroth and various forms of the First Law of Thermodynamics

5.1 - 5.3

  1. Explain the concept of entropy and relate the Second Law of Thermodynamics to moving air parcels

Chapter 6

  1. State the meaning of and determine an air parcel’s potential and equivalent potential temperature

5.4 - 5.8

  1. Calculate the heat energy required to produce phase changes of water substance

7.1, 7.2

  1. Derive the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship and use it to calculate the saturation point of an air mass

7.3 - 7.5

  1. Plot data and perform basic calculations using a Skew-T Log-P diagram

7.6 - 7.10

  1. Describe and sketch the dominant microphysical processes that result in nucleation and droplet growth in warm clouds

Chapter 8; Houze “Cloud Dynamics” section 3.1 and 3.6.1

  1. Describe and sketch the dominant microphysical processes that result in nucleation and droplet and ice particle growth in cold clouds

Houze “Cloud Dynamics” section 3.2 and 3.6.2

  1. Use radar data to estimate rainfall rates occurring at a location

Web resources from the COMET Program