Geography 370

Weather and Climate

Spring 2009

Mondays and Wednesdays 10 to 11:50 a.m., Stevenson 3036


Climate and Climate Change is increasingly one of the biggest issues of the 21st Century. It is important in terms of the politics and economics of dealing with climate change, but also in terms of understanding the dynamic interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, and land surfaces that are resulting in dramatic and rapid changes in our climate system regionally and globally. This course focuses on the scientific aspects of climate, including the impact of human activities on the climate of our world.

Climatology is the study of the distribution of climate from place to place, and how and why it varies spatially and temporally. The climate of a place is influenced by a number of factors, including general atmospheric circulation patterns, latitude, location relative to land and water, elevation, topography, vegetation and other surface covers, etc. Beginning with the basics of the forces that drive the weather engine, this course focuses on the causes of climate differences from the tropics to the poles, and from the oceans to the continental centers. A major theme throughout the semester is global climate change and controls on climate variation through time, particularly regarding global warming. We'll look at climatic differences on a range of spatial scales, from your back yard to the entire globe, and on a range of time scales, from a few years to many millions. Some of the other topics we'll touch on include El Niño (and La Niña), ozone depletion, and severe weather. Prerequisite: Geog 204 Global Environmental Systems, or consent of instructor.

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Dorothy Freidel, Professor, Geography and Global Studies, 3056 Stevenson, (707) 664-2314, email:

OFFICE HOURS: Monday and Wednesday 1:30 to 3:00 p.m., or by appointment.

Required: Edward Aguado and James E. Burt, (2007). Understanding Weather and Climate, 4th edition, Pearson/Prentice Hall.  Used copies available at North Light Books in the Oliver’s shopping mall, (550 E. Cotati Avenue, 792-4300, call for price); new and used at the SSU Bookstore ($110 new, $83 used at SSU Bookstore). May also be ordered on line for a lower price but in this case allow a couple of weeks for delivery.
Highly Recommended:  Michael Manning and Lee R. Kump, (2009). Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming. Prentice-Hall ($16.50 on Amazon). This is a very accessible illustrated summary of the 2007 IPCC Report on Global Warming, 150 pp.

CLASS EMAIL LIST: To be established first week of class. You will need to check your SSU email at least once a day to avoid missing important class announcements.


All course materials including syllabus, assignments, study guides, web resources, and announcements are posted on this course web page.


Your final course grade will be based on your total course score, which has a maximum possible value of 100%. Your total course score is the sum of


Two Midterms


15% each


Final Exam




Weekly Readings questions, etc.




Homework Assignments (~4)




Research project







The final exam is half comprehensive, half on the last one third of the course. 65 percent of your grade is based on lecture notes, participation, and reading. The other 35% is on your labs and research project.

CLASS ATTENDANCE IS ESSENTIAL. Never miss class, and don't arrive late. If absent, get notes from a fellow student. Read text assignments before the lecture. Ask questions; participate in class. Use the text CD to help with difficult concepts. Homework assignments will include use of computers and the Internet, so be sure you have regular internet access. Turn in homework on time. Homework scores will be dropped 10% per day late. If you must miss class please contact Prof. Freidel by email or phone ahead of the class time. There are no exam make-ups planned. If you are too ill to come, or have a serious family emergency, please include a doctor's note or other documentation with your request for a make-up and notify Dr. Freidel Ahead of the Exam! If you're having difficulties with the course, seek help early -- don't wait until right before the midterm! There is ZERO TOLERANCE for plaigarism or cheating on an exam; severest penalties will be applied.

If you are a student with a disability and think you may need accommodations in this course, you must contact the Disabled Students Services located in Stevenson 1038 (664-2677).

Read the assignments in order, not by date. If we skip a topic I will let you know.



Lecture Topic


M 1/26


Introduction: The science of Climatology


W 1/28


Atmospheric Composition, Structure, Ozone depletion


M 2/2


Energy, Radiation, Radiation laws


W 2/4


Seasons, Energy in the Atmosphere


M 2/9


Energy in the Atmosphere, cont (Exercise 1)


W 2/11


Temperature, Controls on Temperature


M 2/16


President’s Day


W 2/18


Atmospheric Pressure, Gradients, Wind


M 2/23


Pressure Gradients, Wind (Exercise 1 due)


W 2/25


Atmospheric Moisture, Water Vapor, Humidity


M 3/2


First Midterm


W 3/4


Adiabatic Processes, fog, dew (Prep for Ex 2)


M 3/9


Uplift, Stable & Unstable Air, Clouds (Begin Ex 2)


W 3/11


Precipitation  Processes


M 3/16


General Atmospheric Circulation, Winds


W 3/18


Air Masses, Fronts,  Midlatitude Cyclones


M 3/23


Video, Cracking the Ice (Freidel at conference)


W 3/25


Work on Term project, library & web resources


M 3/30


Midlatitude Cyclones, con’t (Ex. 2 due, begin Ex. 3)


W 4/1


Severe Weather, Tornadoes


M 4/6


Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, review (Ex. 3 due)


W 4/8


Second Midterm






M 4/20


Global Climate, Classifications (Begin Ex. 4)


W 4/22


Tropical Climates and Deserts


M 4/27


Midlatitude, High Latitude, and Highland Climates


W 4/29


California Geographical Society conference (Geog 314)


M 5/4


Natural Climate Variability, Climate Change (Ex. 4 due)


W 5/6


Global Warming


M 5/11


Impacts of Global Warming


W 5/13


Presentations, discussion (paper due)


M 5/18


Final Exam, 11a.m.-12:50 p.m., STV 3036










Last updated 1/16/09

Home | Syllabus & Schedule | Exercises | Web Links | Review