ATSC 350 01: Atmospheric Thermodynamics

ATSC 350 - Atmospheric Thermodynamics

2023 Fall Syllabus, Section 01, CRN 1183

Course Information

You are responsible for knowing this material, so please read carefully. Any changes will be announced in a Blackboard Announcement. You will be responsible for any changes. Your continued enrollment in this course is your implicit agreement to abide by the requirements of this class.

Times and Location

MWF 11:15am-12:05pm in UND Odegard Hall, Rm 107

Instructor Information

Matt Gilmore


Office: CH 460

2023 Fall Office Hours:
TR 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
MWF After class
Or by appointment

Office Phone: 701-777-3124

Course Description

An introduction into the theory and application of atmospheric thermodynamics used in synoptic, meso- and microscale meteorology. The course covers the principles of classical thermodynamics and how they are applied to atmospheric processes.

Learning Outcomes

This course is one of the building blocks of meteorology. You will learn the methods meteorologists use to quantify moisture, describe heat transfer processes in the atmosphere and the physical structure of the atmosphere.

Chemistry 1, Calculus II, University Physics I

Course Materials

Required Materials

Skew T – Log P Manual (PDF file at ez:LMS)

Required Text

Petty, Grant, 2008: A First Course in Atmospheric Thermodynamics, Sundog Publishing, Madison, WI, 352 pp.

Recommended Texts

Bohren, Craig F. and Bruce A. Albrecht, 1998: Atmospheric Thermodynamics, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, NY, 402 pp.

Hess, Seymour L., 1979: Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology, Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida, 362 pp.

Iribarne, Julio Victor and W. L. Godson, 1981: Atmospheric Thermodynamics, 2nd Ed., D. Reidel Publishing Company, Inc., Dordrecht, Holland, 259 pp.

Stull, Roland, 2017: Practical Meteorology,, Anastasios A., 2002:

Introduction to Atmospheric Thermodynamics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 171 pp.

Wallace, John M. and Peter V. Hobbs, 2006: Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey, 2nd Ed.,Academic Press, Inc., Orlando, Florida, 483 pp.

Course Logistics

Course Topics

1. Introduction
     a. What is Thermodynamics
     b. Terms and Definitions
     c. System of Units

2. Kinetic Theory of Gasses

3. Ideal Gas Law
     a. Ideal vs. Non-Ideal Gasses
     b. Boyle’s & Charles’ Laws
     c. Dalton’s Law
     d. Mixture of Gasses
     e. Applications of the Ideal Gas Law

4. First Law of Thermodynamics
     a. Joules Law
     b. Heat Capacity
          i. Molar
          ii. Specific
     c. Applications of the First Law of Thermodynamics
          i. Isochoric Processes
          ii. Isobaric Processes
          iii. Isothermal Processes
     d. Enthalpy

5. Adiabatic Processes
     a. Adiabatic and Diabatic Processes
     b. Poisson’s Equations
          i. Applications of Poisson’s Equations
          ii. Potential Temperature
     c. Polytropic Processes

6. Carnot Cycle
     a. Processes
          i. Natural, Impossible and Irreversible
     b. Heat Engines
     c. Cyclic & Reversible Processes

7. Second Law of Thermodynaics
     a. Entropy
     b. Clausius Statement
     c. Kelvin Statement
     d. Efficiency of Heat Engines
     e. Clausius Inequality

8. Applications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
     a. Isothermal Transformations
     b. Adiabatic & Isentropic Transformations
     c. Isochoric Transformations
     d. Isobaric Transformations
     e. Thermodynamic Potentials
          i. Helmholtz Free Energy
          ii. Gibbs Free Energy
     f. Potential Temperature and Entropy

9. Water at Equilibrium
     a. Water Vapor Pressure
     b. Beer & Donuts
     c. Heterogenous Systems in Equilibrium
     d. P-T Diagrams
          i. Saturation Curve for Water Vapor
          ii. Boiling Point          
          iii. Critical Point iv. Isothermal Compression
          v. Isobaric Cooling
     e. P-V Diagram
          i. Phase Diagram (Amagat-Andrews Diagram)

10. Latent Heat
     a. Phase Changes
     b. Changes in Internal Energy & Enthalpy
     c. Variation of Latent Heat with Temperature

11. Clausius-Clapeyron Equation
     a. Derivation
     b. Other Formulations (Goff Gratch, etc.)
     c. Applications
          i. Boiling Point
          ii. Dew Point
          iii. Vapor Pressure
     d. Equilibrium with Ice
          i. Bergeron (Cold Cloud) Process
          ii. Triple Line and Point

12. Moisture Variables
     a. Vapor Pressure
     b. Virtual Temperature
     c. Mixing Ratio
     d. Specific Humidity
     e. Relative Humidity (Traditional and WMO)
     f. Dew Point Temperature
     g. Isobaric Wet Bulb Temperature
          i. Derivation
     h. Adiabatic Wet Bulb Temperature

13. Adiabatic Processes with Moisture
     a. Dry Adiabatic Processes
          i. Lapse Rate
          ii. Conservative Properties
     b. Unsaturated Adiabatic Processes
          i. Moist Adiabatic Lapse Rate
          ii. Dew Point Lapse Rate
          iii. Determination of Lifted Condensation Level

14. Saturated Adiabatic Processes
     a. Saturated Adiabatic Processes
     b. Pseudo Adiabatic Processes
     c. Equivalent Temperature and Equivalent Potential Temperature

15. Thermodynamic Diagrams
     a. Desirable Characteristics
     b. Equal Area Transformation
     c. Emagram
     d. Tephigram
     e. Skew T Log p
     f. Stuve

16. Skew T Log P Diagram
     a. RAOB Code
     b. Components & Coordinates
     c. Diagnosis of Temperature & Moisture
     d. Determination of Stability Parameters

17. Hydrostatics
     a. Vertical Equation of Motion
     b. Hydrostatic Assumption
     c. Hydrostatic Equation
     d. Hypsometric Equation
     e. Constant Pressure Charts
     f. Thickness

18. Theoretical Atmospheres
     a. Homogeneous Atmosphere
     b. Isothermal Atmosphere
     c. Constant Lapse Rate Atmosphere
     d. Dry Adiabatic Atmosphere
     e. Standard Atmosphere
          i. Altimetry
          ii. Reduction of Pressure to Sea Level

19. Hydrostatic Stability
     a. Parcel Theory
     b. Parcel Stability
     c. Static Stability
     d. Potential (or Convective ) Instability
     e. Buoyancy
     f. Brunt Vaisala Frequency

Assessment Summary

Grading Weightings

Assignments 20% +/- 5%
Projects 15% +/- 5%
Quiz/Participation 10% +/- 5%
Case Study (Term Paper) 15% +/- 10%
Exam (3) 40% +/- 10%
Final 0%

Students will have the opportunity to choose their own scale, within plus or minus the percentages above. Student chosen percentages must be “locked in” by the day the first exam is returned.

Grading Scale

90% and above A
80% to 89% B
70% to 79% C
60% to 69% D
59.9% and below F

Assessment and Grading


The purpose of assignments is to either introduce a new concept or reinforce a concept learned during lecture.  Assignments may be given and completed during the class period or assigned as homework. Assignments will be collected and some may be randomly graded. Students may be asked to demonstrate their ability to solve problems during the class period. Problems on the exam will be similar to those from the assignments. Late assignments will
be assessed a 10% penalty each calendar day starting immediately at the end of the class period for which they are due. Late assignments cannot be submitted after seven calendar days.


Projects are similar to assignments but typically of greater complexity and they are typically given more time to complete. Projects will be collected and graded and they are to be submitted during the class period. Late projects will be assessed a 10% penalty each calendar day starting immediately at the end of the class period for which they are due. Late projects cannot be submitted after seven calendar days.

Group Quizzes

Class quizzes will be based on lecture and reading material. They will help students assess their understanding of the lecture and reading material prior to the scheduled class. The class period will be used to discuss concepts that are difficult to comprehend.

Case Study

Students will demonstrate their ability to analyze the thermodynamics of a weather phenomenon in a written case study. The case study is a large portion of the final grade and therefore considerable effort needs to be devoted to the analysis and report. It is beneficial and prudent to select the same case as that required in ATSC 345 Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere. More details concerning the requirements and grading of the case study will be forthcoming. Late case studies will be assessed a 10% penalty each calendar day starting immediately at the end of the class period for which they are due. Late case studies cannot be submitted after seven calendar days.


 Exams must be taken on the scheduled exam day. Students should make every effort to be in class on exam day. Valid excuses will be accepted for extraordinary circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to use a different version of the exam for make up.

Final Exam

There is no final exam.

Course Policies


Class attendance is essential for success! Much of the material cannot be found in any text. You are responsible
for the material that you missed if you were absent from class. You may email me to inform me of your absence.
I will note your absence but please do not expect a response to your email. You will receive attendance points
from PollEverywhere and other exercises.

Student Effort

University faculty have a guide for the amount of effort expected of students in any particular course. The rule of
thumb is that students should put forth two hours of work for every hour in the classroom. Therefore, I expect six
hours of student effort outside of class each week for this course. The effort may take the form of reading, working
on problem sets, reviewing for exams or other activities.

Progress Surveys:

This course is part of the Progress Survey Program through Starfish. Twice during the semester, your instructor will
identify those students who are in danger of failing this course due to (when applicable):

  • Absences
  • Assignment scores
  • Test scores
  • Low Participation

These students will then be provided with information to assist in improving their performance in this course.

University of North Dakota Policies & Resources

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a serious matter, and any deviations from appropriate behavior will be dealt with strongly. At the discretion of the professor, situations of concern may be dealt with as a scholastic matter or a disciplinary matter.

As a scholastic matter, the professor has the discretion to determine appropriate penalties for the student’s workload or grade, but the situation may be resolved without involving many individuals. An alternative is to treat the situation as a disciplinary matter, which can result in suspension from the University, or have lesser penalties. Be aware that I view this as a very serious matter and will have little tolerance and/or sympathy for questionable practices. A student who attempts to obtain credit for work that is not their own (whether that be on a paper, quiz, homework assignment, exam, etc.) will likely receive a failing grade for that item of work, and at the professor’s discretion, may also receive a failing grade in the course. For more information read the Code of Student Life.

Access and Opportunity, Disability Support, & Medical Services

The University of North Dakota is committed to providing equal access to students with documented disabilities. To ensure access to this class and your program, please contact Disability Services for Students (DSS) to engage in a confidential discussion about accommodations for the classroom and clinical settings. Accommodations are not provided retroactively. Students are encouraged to register with DSS at the start of their program. More information can be obtained by email or by phone at 701.777.2664.


UND is committed to maintaining a safe learning environment while providing quality learning experiences for our students. COVID-19’s continued presence within our UND community may necessitate changes in classroom management as the academic year progresses. As such, UND asks students and instructors to be flexible when necessary to promote a safe environment for learning. Please do not attend an in-person class or lab if you are feeling ill, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been directed by health professionals to quarantine or isolate. If you are not able to attend class or lab, please notify your instructor as soon as possible and discuss options for making up any missed work in order to ensure your ability to succeed in the course. If you will have an extended absence due to serious illness or other uncontrollable circumstances, you may request an absence notification through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Similarly, if your instructor is ill they may need to cancel class or temporarily move your course to online delivery to ensure that you are able to complete the course successfully.  Instructors may require students to wear masks in the classroom or in the laboratory as a preventative measure designed to facilitate uninterrupted classroom engagement and to facilitate health and safety in the classroom.   If your instructor does require masks in class or in a laboratory, you are expected to comply with that request.

UND also strongly encourages all members of the University community, including students, to get vaccinated, seek out testing when needed, and model positive behavior both on- and off-campus to foster a healthy and safe learning environment for all students. Individuals who would like to discuss disability accommodations regarding masks should contact the Disability Services for Students (DSS) office at 701.777.2664 or Individuals who are unable to wear a mask due to a sincerely held religious belief should contact the UND Equal Opportunity and Title IX Office at 701.777.4171 or

Religious Accommodations

UND offers religious accommodations, which are reasonable changes in the academic environment that enable a student to practice or observe a sincerely held religious belief without undue hardship on the University. Examples include time for prayer or the ability to attend religious events or observe a religious holiday. To request an accommodation, complete the student religious accommodation request form. If you have any questions, you may contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office.

Pregnancy Accommodations

Students who need assistance with academic adjustments related to pregnancy or childbirth may contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office or Academic Affairs to learn about your options. Additional information and services may be found at Pregnancy Resources.

Notice of Nondiscrimination

It is the policy of the University of North Dakota that no person shall be discriminated against because of race, religion, age, color, gender, disability, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, veteran’s status, or political belief or affiliation and the equal opportunity and access to facilities shall be available to all. Concerns regarding Title IX, Title VI, Title VII, ADA, and Section 504 may be addressed to Donna Smith, Assistant Vice President for Equal Opportunity & Title IX and Title IX/ADA Coordinator, 102 Twamley Hall, 701.777.4171, or the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education, 230 S. Dearborn St., 37th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604 or any other federal agency.

Reporting of Discrimination, Harassment, or Sexual Misconduct

If you or a friend has experienced sexual misconduct, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, please contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office or UND’s Title IX Coordinator, Donna Smith, for assistance: 701.777.4171;; or visit the Title IX webpage. You may also contact the Equal Opportunity & Title IX office if you or a friend has experienced discrimination or harassment based on a protected class, such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, pregnancy, marital or parental status, veteran's status, or political belief or affiliation.

Faculty Reporting Obligations Regarding Discrimination, Harassment, or Sexual Misconduct

It is important for students to understand that faculty are required to share with UND’s Title IX Coordinator any incidents of sexual misconduct or of discrimination or harassment based on a protected class that they become aware of, even if those incidents occurred in the past or are disclosed as part of a class assignment. This does not mean an investigation will occur if the student does not want that, but it does allow UND to provide resources to help the student continue to be successful at UND. If you have been impacted by discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct, you can find information about confidential support services on the Equal Opportunity & Title IX webpage..

UND Cares Program

How to Seek Help When in Distress

We know that while college is a wonderful time for most students, however, some students may struggle or have issues that arise. You may experience students in distress on campus, in your classroom, in your home, and within residence halls. Distressed students may initially seek assistance from faculty, staff members, their parents, and other students. In addition to the support we can provide to each other, there are also professional support services available to students through the Dean of Students and University Counseling Center. Both staffs are available to consult with you about getting help or providing a friend with the help that he or she may need. For more additional information, please visit the UND Cares Program Webpage.

How to Recognize When a Student is in Distress

The term “distressed” can mean any of the following:

  • Student has significant changes in eating, sleeping, grooming, spending, or other daily activities.
  • Student has cut off or minimized contact with family or friends.
  • Student has significant changes in performance or involvement in academics, sports, extracurricular, or social activities.
  • Student describes problems (missing class, not remembering, destructive behavior) that result from experiences with drinking or drugs.
  • Student is acting withdrawn, volatile, tearful, etc.
  • Student is acting out of character or different than usual.
  • Student is talking explicitly about hopelessness or suicide.
  • Student has difficulty concentrating or difficulty carrying on a normal conversation.
  • Student has excessive dependence on others for company or support.
  • Student reports feeling out of control of one’s emotions, thoughts, or behaviors.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

Today, the University of North Dakota rests on the ancestral lands of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe and the Dakota Oyate - presently existing as composite parts of the Red Lake, Turtle Mountain, White Earth Bands, and the Dakota Tribes of Minnesota and North Dakota. We acknowledge the people who resided here for generations and recognize that the spirit of the Ojibwe and Oyate people permeate this land. As a university community, we will continue to build upon our relations with the First Nations of the State of North Dakota - the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

Additional Resources

It is my goal to foster an environment of mutual respect in which everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions, sharing their stories, and learning about potentially heavy or personally relevant material. If, at any point, you feel like the information covered in this class elicits thoughts, feelings, or concerns that you would like to discuss further, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or the UND Counseling Center (701-777-2127).

Further, if you experience extenuating circumstances, sexual violence, identity-based harm, or any other personal crisis during the semester, don’t hesitate to reach out to me so we can provide academic assistance and help you in this course, and put you in contact with the appropriate resources and services (if needed).