Introduction to physics of the atmosphere

Physics, First Cycle
Educational Physics
3 year
Hours per week – 1. semester:

Passed problem-solving written examination and seminar work is a prerequisite for the theoretical part of the examination.

Content (Syllabus outline)

Atmospheric statics: composition of the air. Basic meteorological quantities, their measurements. Mathematical tools, gradient and advection. Pressure and pressure gradient force. Hydrostatic equilibrieum. Altimetry. Pressure reduction and sea-level pressure maps. Standard pressure levels and upper-level maps.

Dry atmosphere thermodynamic: First law od thermodynamics. Adiabatic processes. Potential temperature. Stability of dry air. Buoyancy oscillations.

Thermodynamics of moist air: Quantities for description of moist air. Equation of state for the moist air. Measurement of dew point and relative humidity. Stability of moist and saturated air and equivalent potential temperature. Thermodynamic diagrams definition and practical use. Lafting of air parcels and estimation of parameters LCL, CCL, LFC, EL. papers. Moist energy, CAPE and CIN. Clouds, precipitation and overview of the global hydrological cycle.

Energy budget: definition of atmospheric energetics. Basic radiation laws. Longwave and shortwave radition spectra. Absorption, scattering and reflection of incoming solar radiation in the Earth system. Energy bilance of the atmosphere and climate system, simple models for energy budget. Greenhouse gasses and greenhouse effect.

Atmospheric motions and stacionary winds: Conservation of momentum on rotation Earth. Scaling of 3D momentum eqaution. Large-scale horizontal motions. Geostrophic winds. 2D motions in natural coordinate system. Balanced 2D motions: inertial, geostrophic, cyclostrophic and gradient winds. Average upper-level winds and synoptic climatology. Weather systems. Influence of friction on balanced flow near the surface. Basics of planetary boundary layer.

Fundaments of numerical weather prediction: what is the prognostic model and its components. Global observing systems and preparation of initial conditions for numerical weather models. Basics about outputs of weather forecasting models, forecast errors and climate modelling.


J. M. Wallace in P. V. Hobbs: Atmospheric Science, Second Edition: An Introductory Survey. International Geophysics Series.
J. Marshall in R. A. Plumb: Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics. Academic Press.
J. Rakovec in T. Vrhovec, Osnove meteorologije za naravoslovce in tehnike. DMFA.
S. Gaberšek, G. Skok in R. Žabkar: Rešene naloge iz osnov meteorologije. DMFA

Objectives and competences

Course provides basics of atmospheric statics, thermodynamics and large-scale motions. It defines weather and climate by using physical quantities, presents their governing mathematical laws and derives basic equations for atmospheric motions and stationary horizontal flows. Completed course ensures basic understanding of the Earth energy budget and fundaments of weather forecasting and climate modelling.

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding: Introductory meteorological course providing a basis for further meteorology studies and an overview of several fundamental fields such as NWP and climate for other students who attend it as an optional course.
Application: Understanding of basic meteorological outputs and climate discussion. Ability to continue studies of dynamical meteorology and atmospheric physics.
Reflection: Use of mathematical-physical methods and formalisms on dynamical and thermodynamic processes in the atmosphere.
Transferable skills: Use of meteorological outputs on basic level. Use of physical laws and mathematical tools for understanding nature.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures, exercises and training by using observations and weather maps, homeworks and individual discussions.


2 written tests (mid-term and end-term) applied towards the problem-solving examination, problem-solving examination
Theoretical examination
grading: 5 (fail), 6-10 (pass) (according to the Statute of UL)

Lecturer's references

SKOK, Gregor, HLADNIK, Veronika. Verification of gridded wind forecasts in complex alpine terrain: a new wind verification methodology based on the neighborhood approach. Monthly weather review, 2018, vol. 146, no.

1, str. 63-75.

SKOK, Gregor, ROBERTS, Nigel. Analysis of Fractions Skill Score properties for random precipitation fields and ECMWF forecasts.

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 2016, vol. 142, iss. 700, str. 2599-2610.

SKOK, Gregor, BACMEISTER, Julio T., TRIBBIA, Joe. Analysis of tropical cyclone precipitation using an object-based algorithm. Journal of climate, 2013, vol. 26, iss. 8, str. 2563-2579.

SKOK, Gregor, TRIBBIA, Joe, RAKOVEC, Jože, BROWN, Barbara. Object-based analysis of satellite-derived precipitation systems over the low-and midlatitude Pacific Ocean. Monthly weather review, ISSN 0027-0644, 2009, vol. 137, str. 3196-3218.

RAKOVEC, Jože, SKOK, Gregor, ŽABKAR, Rahela, ŽAGAR, Nedjeljka. The influence of the depth of a very shallow cool-pool lake on nocturnal cooling. Agricultural and forest meteorology, 2015, vol. 203, str. 17-29.

KOZJEK, Katja, DOLINAR, Mojca, SKOK, Gregor. Objective climate classification of Slovenia. International journal of climatology, 2017, vol. 37, iss. S1, str. 848-860.