81754 - Climatology

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - knows the basics of physical climatology; - knows the main statistical methods used in climate analysis; - can use the results of both numerical global climate simulations and regional climate models for future climate scenarios evaluation: - acquires abilities in communication on the subject and becomes familiar with the English terminology used in climatology; - knows how to use scientific literature.

Course contents

The course aims to provide knowledge of the physical aspects of the Earth's climate system, of its dynamics and of the factors that determine its variability. The main mechanisms influencing climate will be taught, including interaction between the different components, global balances, and fluxes. The atmosphere and ocean general circulation and their main mechanisms of variability will be reviewed in the framework of climate and climate variability. Finally, students are introduced to climate data analysis.


The Global Energy Balance

  • The nature of electromagnetic radiation
  • Emission temperature of a planet and greenhouse effect
  • Radiative-Convective Equilibrium
  • Surface energy balance

The Hydrological Cycle

  • Terrestrial branch and atmospheric branch of the hydrologic cycle
  • The concept of evapotranspiration

    Conservation laws and general circulation

    • Primitive equations
    • Conservation of angular momentum, energy and momentum transport

    General Circulation of the Atmosphere: Tropics

    • Observations
    • Held-Hou model and exercises

    General Circulation of the Atmosphere: Extra-Tropics

    • Observations
    • Balance of the extra-tropical circulation and exercises

    The stratosphere

    • Observations
    • The Brewer-Dobson circulation and the Ozone Hole
    • Sudden Stratospheric Warming

    Climate variability

    • Teleconnections: definitions and fundamentals
    • ENSO teleconnections and exercises
    • North Atlantic Oscillation and exercises
    • The Madden-Julian Oscillation
    • Climate Change

    ·Feedback and sensitivity

    Definition and derivation.

    ·Carbon Cycle

    · The Ocean in the Climate System

    Ocean Circulation-Large Scale Transport. Surface fluxes. Mixed layer and convection.

    · The Ocean Circulation and its Variability

    Wind-driven and thermohaline ocean circulations.

    · Exercises: Analysis of Climate variability and changes using existing observational or model derived dataset.


    Lecture notes and slides

    Dennis L. Hartmann: Global Physical Climatology ; Academic Press, (2015). 2nd edition, ISBN: 978-0123285317

    Introduction to Circulating atmospheres, Ian James Cambridge University Press (1994)

    Wilks D. S.: Statistical Methods in the Atmospheric Sciences, 3rd Edition (2011)


    · Apel, J.R. Principles of Ocean Physics. 634pp. (Academic Press, London, 1987).

    · Gill, A.E. Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics. 662pp. (Academic Press, San Diego, 1982).

    · Peixoto, J.P. & Oort, A.H. Physics of Climate. 520pp. (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1992).

    Teaching methods

    Frontal lectures

    Assessment methods

    The final exam is intended to verify the understanding/comprehension of all phenomenological, mathematical/statistical aspects of the topics dealt during the two modules.

    The final exam consist in an oral examination during which the student will be asked generally three questions selected between the two modules.

    The exam lasts 40 minutes on average.

    Teaching tools

    PC and Projector

    Office hours

    See the website of Paolo Ruggieri


    Climate Action

    This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.