Homepage for Ph536, Atmospheric Convection

This is the homepage for a graduate course in the physics of atmospheric convection. We will cover the dynamics, thermodynamics, and microphysics of convection, as well as its interaction with the rest of the atmosphere.
Some notes from the continuum mechanics course may be a useful supplement for the first few weeks of lectures.


  1. Governing equations of fluid dynamics (2 weeks)
    1. Stress
    2. Newtonian fluids
    3. Mass continuity
    4. Momentum
    5. Incompressible fluid
    6. Ideal gas
  2. Convection and turbulence (2 weeks)
    1. Boussinesq energetics
    2. Boussinesq stability analysis
    3. Kelvin circulation theorem
    4. Turbulence
  3. Thermodynamics of moist convection (3 weeks)
    1. Review of fundamentals
    2. Ideal gas again
    3. Equation of state for air
    4. Condensed matter
    5. Vapor and condensate in equilibrium
    6. Moist entropy
    7. Thermodynamic governing equations
    8. Other thermodynamic variables
  4. Simple models of convection (2 weeks)
    1. Plume models
    2. Thermal models
    3. Nonsimilar thermals
    4. Adding moist thermodynamics
    5. Vertical mixing models
  5. Microphysics of convection (2 weeks)
    1. Nucleation of hydrometeors
    2. Diffusive growth
    3. Accretional growth
    4. Evaporation and breakup of raindrops
  6. Convection and the environment (3 weeks)
    1. Conditional instability
    2. Control of CAPE and CIN
    3. Development of deep convection
    4. Precipitation and the environment
    5. Form of convection

Expectations and grading

Class time will be split between lectures and problem solution. You will also be asked to write a paper (approx. 20 pages) on some aspect of atmospheric convection. The first draft of your paper will be peer reviewed by other members of the class. You will then present it orally near the end of the semester. The grading will be based 70% on problem solutions and 30% on the paper.

Paper schedule


Assignments will be announced in class and on the web. A few days after an assignment is made, we will discuss the problems in class. Shortly thereafter written versions will be due.