Concepts of Weather and Climate

These are the concepts studied during the first week on the campus of the City College of New York. The aim is for a physical understanding with plenty of time for discussion and hands-on demonstrations.

Forces and Motion The forces encountered in meteorology: Pressure, Buouyancy, Coriolis are explored in connection to Newton’s laws of motion in a conceptual manner. From this the flow of air around pressure systems can be described and predicted.
Temperature and Phase Changes of Water The interplay between temperature and the energy involved in phase changes of water are explored by theory and observation. Evaporative cooling and condensative heating are the main drivers of clouds and storm development, so when combined with the forces of meteorology become the keys that unlock understanding of weather. You will make your own clouds.
Global Circulation/Storms Weather is not a local phenomena, and an understanding of global wind patterns leads to an understanding of why the east and west coasts have different weather, why hurricanes follow the paths they do, etc. Understanding the effects of continents and mountain ranges on wind and moisture also explains why the United States is the only country with a distinct Tornado Alley.
Remote Sensing Understanding how Electromagnetic Waves (visible, thermal infrared and microwave) interact with the atmosphere and clouds explains how weather radar and satellite works.
Global Climate Change The earth’s climate is a balance between incoming solar radiation and the thermal infrared it radiates back to space. We will explore what affects this balance, how feedbacks can stabilize or destabilize the balance, and the reality behind the headlines.
Numerical Weather Models The computer models used for modern weather prediction are very complex, but the basic principles are easy to understand, and are based on the forces studied on the first day. We will do simple grid-box calculations by hand, leading into a discussion of what needs to be done for a full weather model. The all important “analysis cycle” by which new observations are brought into the model will be examined.


Using stacked paper boxes to understand pressure systems. More complicated than it seems!


Linking temperature, dewpoint, humidity by direct observation.