Physical Meteorology

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The course aims to give the students the opportunity to understand physical processes in the atmosphere, in particular related to solar and terrestrial radiation, phase changes, cloud processes and precipitation and their interactions in a weather-systems perspective.

The course will utilize typical weather systems at high and mid latitudes, such as extratropical cyclones, fronts, polar lows, cold-air outbreaks, convective systems, and anticyclones, as a context to understand the processes and roles of different physical processes in the atmosphere. In the radiation part of the course, the processes connected to radiative transfer of solar- and terrestrial radiation in the atmosphere are discussed. Here, both the spectral and the angular distribution of the radiation are discussed. In the course, both short wave and long wave radiation at the surface will be discussed, with special focus on spatial and temporal variations on local scale, and the connection to weather systems. The cloud physics part starts with a short introduction in cloud morphology and observation (visually from the ground and by satellites from space). It revisits basic thermodynamics and their application in atmospheric science, ncluding the adiabatic processes and atmospheric stability in an air-parcel perspective, leading up to a quantitative understanding of condensation processes. An introduction in aerosol particles and their function as cloud condensation nuclei is given. The chain of hydrometeor creation is described and the relevant physical processes are introduced, including the derivation of the main equations. It starts from the initial condensation and diffusional growth at aerosol particles and continues with further growth mechanisms, as collision and coalescence, as well as the involvement of the ice phase. Typical particle size distributions of hydrometeors are presented and discussed. Relevant measurement methods (rain gauges, distrometers, rain and cloud radar, passive microwave radiometry) and instrumentation are introduced and discussed in particular with respect to measurement uncertainties.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:



The student

  • has a good knowledge of the physical processes by radiative transfer of solar radiation and terrestrial radiation through the atmosphere (scattering, absorption, emission) and the effect of the surface on the radiation
  • understands the spatial and temporal variations of shortwave and longwave radiation at the surface of the Earth
  • has advanced understanding of atmospheric thermodynamics and its importance for the formation of clouds and precipitation
  • has extended knowledge on the process chain converting atmospheric water vapor into cloud particles and finally precipitation
  • has a general knowledge of instrumentation and measurement principles for atmospheric water vapor and precipitation



The student

  • can estimate the effect that gases and clouds in the atmosphere and different ground conditions have on solar and terrestrial radiation
  • can estimate the variability, both in time and space, of solar and terrestrial radiation at the surface
  • can apply the basic laws of thermodynamics for the derivation of the set of equations required to describe the microphysics of condensation and droplet formation
  • can perform and interpret manual/visual cloud observations


General competence

The student

  • is able to assess the role of radiation for the climate and for climate changes
  • is able to assess local variations in short- and long wavelengths of radiation in space and time
  • is able to assess the role and importance of atmospheric aerosols for the climate system both as direct and indirect aerosol effect
  • is able to assess the role and importance of water in form of vapor, liquid and ice in the atmosphere under the aspect of both, the hydrological cycle and the effect on solar and terrestrial radiation
  • is able to assess the role and interplay of cloud micro- and macrophysics and their importance for a wide range of atmospheric processes from local to global scale

Semester of Instruction

Spring. Runs last time spring 2024.
Enrolment to this course is based on application. Application deadline is wednesday in week 2 for the spring semester.

Please, see this page for more information:

Required Previous Knowledge
MAT111, PHYS111 and GEOF105 or equivalent course.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods

2 lectures á 2 hours per week

Presentation of instruments for measurements of radiation and precipitation, and the principles of these instruments. Submission of exercises, including a case study with review. Cloud observations.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

4 approved exercises.

(Valid for four semesters: The semester mandatory activities have been approved and the three following semesters.)

Forms of Assessment
Oral exam
Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.
Examination Support Material
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Geophysical Institute