72611 - Cloud Physics

Course Unit Page


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

Clean water and sanitation Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The following topics will be treated during the the classes and the student is expected to achieve an appropriate knowledge on all of them: - atmospheric instability and cloud formation; - hydrometeor formation; - liquid and solid precipitation formation; - role of the atmospheric aerosol; atmospheric electricity; - elements of radarmeteorology; - elements of satellite meteorology. The student will develop skills on the understanding of the role of clouds in meteorology and climate. He/she will be enabled to apply the acquired knowledge in the interpretation of the observations from remote sensing instruments and numerical weather predictions that are necessary for operational meteorology. Moreover, the student will autonomously approach the observational techniques and judge the quality of measurements. Finally, the student will go into some depth exploring the links with dynamic meteorology, atmospheric radiative transfer and climatology.

Course contents

- Cloud types, their visual and physical characterization.

- Mixing and convection. 

- Observed cloud properties.

- Cloud droplet formation.

- Condensation of atmospheric water vapor.

- Warm clouds.

- Ice crystals.

- Rain and snow.

- Elements of radar meteorology.

- Precipitation processes.

- Elements of atmospheric electricity.

- Severe storms.

- Elements of satellite meteorology.


The student is not requested to purchase any textbook in particular. The teacher makes available his lecture notes via the University web site https://iol.unibo.it.

However, in case the student wants to take a look at some relevant books on the topic, the following titles are deemed useful:

1) H. R. Pruppacher and J.D.Klett, Microphysics of clouds and precipitation, Springer, 2nd Ed., 2010. 

2) R. R. Rogers and M. K. Yau, A short course in cloud physics, Butterworth-Heinemann, 3rd Ed., 1996. 

3) J. M. Wallace and P. V. Hobbs, Atmospheric science: An introductory survey, Academic Press, 2nd Ed., 2006. 

4) P. K. Wang, Physics and dynamics of clouds and precipitation, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013.

Teaching methods

Lectures are no different than those of any other class. However, the continuous contact with the teacher is deemed essential for a correct approach to the more applied  aspects. The students are encouraged to pursue a continuous learning during the classes that will allow them to tackle the more modern aspects of the disciplines, such as radar and satellite remote sensing of clouds and precipitation, without which it would be difficult to understand modern cloud physics. Relevant meteorological events that happen during the teaching period are commented and described from a cloud physics perspective.

Assessment methods

The student will be tested through a final examination that aims at verifying the acquired knowledge and abilities by means of an oral exam. The oral exam consists in 4-5 questions, the topic of the first of one being chosen by the student. Starting from this first topic, the oral test goes on via other questions that encompass all the aspects of the course so that the acquired knowledge of the student can be assessed. The duration of the oral exam is 45 minutes - 1 hour on average.

Teaching tools

Lectures will be integrated with seminars, visits to the CNR labs and additional lectures by specialists in various fields of cloud physics (e.g., aerosol, cloud ice, climatic aspects...).

Office hours

See the website of Vincenzo Levizzani