Knowledge Expectations for METR 4233
Physical Meteorology III: Radiation and Climate
Purpose: This document describes the principal concepts, technical skills, and fundamental
understanding that all students are expected to possess upon completing METR 4233, Physical
Meteorology III: Radiation and Climate. Individual instructors may deviate somewhat from the
specific topics and order listed here.
Pre-requisites: Grade of C or better in METR 3123, METR 3223.
Students should have a basic understanding of the structure, physics, dynamics and thermodynamics
of the atmosphere prior to starting this course.
Goal of the Course: This course introduces the physical processes associated with radiative
transfer in the atmosphere and energy balance at the earth’s surface. It uses radiative transfer
and simple atmospheric dynamics to explain the general circulation of the atmosphere, the mean
climate of the earth, climate variations in space and time, and climate change.
Topical Knowledge Expectations
I. Radiation and radiative transfer in the earth-atmosphere system.
• Understand the physical concepts of radiative transfer of energy, including radiation
characteristics, quantities and units.
• Understand the concepts of radiation from a black body, including the temperature dependence of
the total blackbody irradiance and the wavelength of peak emission.
• Understand the concepts of emission, absorption and scattering of radiation, including the
differences between direct and diffuse radiation.
• For solar (short-wave) radiation, understand the definition of the albedo and know typical values
for different surfaces. Understand the dominant causes of absorption and scattering of solar
radiation in the atmosphere.
• For long-wave radiation in the atmosphere, understand the important constituents (greenhouse
gases) and processes affecting emission and absorption.
II. Atmospheric energy balance
• Be able to compute the global equilibrium temperature for radiation balance at the surface
for the earth with no atmosphere and for a one and two layer atmosphere.
• Understand the important processes in the surface energy balance, including their typical
• For the tropospheric energy balance, understand the roles of radiative transfer and latent and
sensible heat fluxes.
• Understand simple concepts of the atmospheric boundary layer and surface layer, including
turbulent transport of heat, moisture and momentum between the atmosphere and the surface.
• Understand the time variations of the surface energy balance, including the diurnal cycle
and seasonal cycle of surface temperature over land and oceans.