General circulation of the atmosphere

Semester 2 2018

General Information

The graduate level unit "General circulation of the atmosphere" will be running between weeks 2-9 of semester 2 2018. The unit will be taught by Martin Singh.

Lecture times

Lectures will run from the 30th of July 2018 to the 19th of September 2018. There will be two 1.5-hour lectures per week at the following times:

  • Tuesday 1:30pm - 3:00pm
  • Wednesday 1:30pm - 3:00pm

Lecture location

Lectures in the first week will be held in the CoE room on the first floor of 9 Rainforest Walk, Monash University Clayton Campus. In the following weeks, the lecture locations will be as follows:

Weeks 2-8 (7 Aug - 18 Sep)
  • Tuesday 1:30pm-3:00pm: Rm 325 (3rd Floor), 13 Rainforest Walk (Green Chemical Futures), Clayton Campus, Monash University.
  • Wedensday 1:30pm-3:00pm: CoE room
Note that after the first week, the Tuesday lecture is in a different room!

To join via zoom use this link:

Unit details

This unit introduces students to the large-scale circulation in Earth’s atmosphere and the processes by which this circulation is maintained. The unit will begin with a discussion of the mathematical techniques used to estimate the atmospheric state and analyse the behaviour of atmospheric circulations. This will include an introduction to state estimation and data assimilation as well as a discussion of Reynold’s decomposition and its application to the analysis of atmospheric motions.

Next, the unit will introduce the basic theory underpinning the tropical general circulation, including the Hadley circulation and monsoons. Theoretical concepts will be demonstrated using real-world data from the atmosphere and in qualitative experiments using a rotating tank apparatus.

The unit will also consider the midlatitude circulation and the maintenance of the global angular momentum budget. Concepts of eddy-mean flow interaction and the transformed Eulerian mean will be used to explain the formation of jets at midlatitudes, and the existence of the thermally indirect Ferrel cell.

Finally, the course will consider the water budget of the atmosphere and theories of how it may vary in the future. This will serve as an entry point for students to engage with the scientific literature regarding changes in the atmospheric general circulation with climate change.

Unit outcomes

On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Understand the various analysis techniques used to estimate the atmospheric thermodynamic state and large-scale circulation and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Identify the main features of the atmospheric circulation and the processes that contribute to their maintenance.
  3. Apply mathematical tools to analyse the transports of energy, momentum and water through the atmosphere.
  4. Critically engage with the scientific literature regarding the large-scale atmospheric circulation and its possible changes under climate change.