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ATM 270 Tropical Atmospheric Dynamics



This course is to develop an order-of-magnitude understanding of atmospheric and climate dynamics in Earth’s tropics. A key component of this course is to understand how moist convection (thunderstorms) interacts with atmospheric circulations. Topics will include the Hadley circulation, monsoon, equatorial waves, convective organization, the MJO, tropical cyclones, ENSO and tropical climate stability. Implications on atmospheres over “tropical planets”, such as Venus, Titan and slowly rotating exoplanets will also be discussed.

Instructor: Da Yang (             


Class schedule: Lecture: 10:30 - 11:50 am, M/W

This course will be offered as an online course for Fall 2020. There will be a mixture of real-time discussions (via zoom) and videotaped lectures. The real-time discussions will be scheduled during the proposed lecture time, and the lecture videos will be released on the day of the lecture and can be watched at your leisure.


ATM 121a&b or Instructor’s permission.


Required textbook:

Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics: Fundamentals and Large-scale Circulation-2nd Edition by Geoff Vallis  


Recommended textbooks:

Atmospheric Convection by Kerry Emanuel

An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology by James Holton



Homework (30%), Class participation (30%), Class project (40%)



Homework will be distributed and collected in class.


Class project: 

Topics and details will be announced in class. Students will give oral presentations and submit final reports during the last week of instruction. Each student must provide a contribution statement in the final report.


Office hours:

Da Yang: by appointment



All course materials are copyrighted, including slides, videos, homework, and exams. Distribution or posting of course material may be a violation of law and University policy.


Honor code:

Academic misconduct or a violation of course policy will result in sanctions. See the link below.


Syllabus: This syllabus is tentative, and Canvas announcements will be sent out for any changes. (recorded lectures)

Lecture 1: Overview and governing equations 


Lecture 2: Dimensional analysis and scale analysis


Lecture 3: Surface winds and the Hadley circulation I


Lecture 4: Surface winds and the Hadley circulation II


Lecture 5: Monsoon


Lecture 6: The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ)


Lecture 7: Equatorial waves


Lecture 8: The Walker circulation


Lecture 9: Moist thermodynamics


Lecture 10: Atmospheric moist convection I


Lecture 11: Atmospheric moist convection II


Lecture 12: Revisit Hadley circulation, monsoon and ITCZ with moisture


Lecture 13: Revisit equatorial waves with moisture


Lecture 14: Spontaneous organization of convection and circulation


Lecture 15: The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)


Lecture 16: Tropical cyclones


Lecture 17: El Nino and Southern Oscillation (ENSO)


Lecture 18: Quasi biennial oscillation (QBO)


Lecture 19: Tropical climate stability


Lecture 20: Class project presentations

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