METEO 533 Harrington SP2015

CLOUD PHYSICS Instructor: Jerry Harrington MWF 11:15 - 12:05pm 101 Walker Building

METEO 533 Cloud Physics

INSTRUCTOR: Jerry Y. Harrington
OFFICE: 517 Walker Building
PHONE: 863-1584
OFFICE HOURS: 4:30 – 5:30 pm Monday and Thursday, 5:00 – 6:00pm Wednesday


101 Walker Building
11:15am – 12:05pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Make-up Classes, Thursday 7 – 8 pm  (Location to be determined)


Thermodynamics (Meteo 531 or equivalent)


The following are recommended

  • The Physics and Chemistry of Clouds by D. Lamb and H. Verlinde
  • Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation by H. Pruppacher and J.D. Klett   


METEO 533 is a graduate level course in cloud physics. The course is designed to provide graduate students with a background in the physics of clouds.


  • Exam 1 (Thurs., Feb 19th, 6-8 pm): 20%
  • Exam 2 (Thurs., March 26th, 6-8 pm): 20%
  • Exam 3 (Thurs., April 23rd, 6-8 pm): 20%
  • Homework: (~one per week) 20%
  • Project: 20%

Location of Exams: 529 Walker



  • “I see and I forget, I hear and I forget, I do and I understand.” - Confucius
  • If you merely read books and listen to others, you will never really learn anything new. New knowledge is only truly gained by thinking and working things through for yourself. The difference is like that between one who simply reads about an experience and one who lives it. – Paraphrase of one of Schopenhaurs’ Aphorisms.
  • “The main job of a teacher is to free the student from the teacher” - Zen Buddhist Saying


This course is designed to provide graduate students with diverse backgrounds a foundation in, and an overview of, the physics of clouds as typically found in the atmosphere. Our understanding of clouds will develop naturally through examinations of the fundamental physical processes operating across a wide variety of scales. We will place primary emphasis on microphysical properties of clouds since this ultimately determines the evolution of clouds.


As you can see from the grade breakdown, homework is an important part of your grade. It is very difficult to learn the material in any class unless you spend a significant amount of time thinking about the subject matter and actually using the ideas. I try to design homework that accomplishes this. Homework is typically due 1 week after the assigned date. Late homework is a zero grade unless there are extenuating circumstances. You will be required to turn in a final project in this class. I’ll discuss the particulars in class. Tests given in this course will be closed book, though a note sheet and calculators are allowed. I provide values for all physical constants and I also provide the basic equations covered in class. Tests can cover anything related to the material. Lectures are only a guide through the material and I expect that you have mastered the concepts presented in class through outside work of your own.


Because you are all graduate students, or advanced undergraduates, I expect a high level of participation in this course. This means not only asking questions in class, but also coming to see me to ask about the material outside of class. As graduate students, you must start taking responsibility for your own education and the development of the knowledge base you will use to form your scientific career. Consequently, I expect you to read material on your own, and look up concepts that are unclear to you so that you can master them. Seeing me outside of class is also a great way to enhance your knowledge base! There is little that I enjoy more that talking about intellectual topics, especially science. So stop by!


As you are probably well aware of by now, grades below that of a B are rare in graduate school. I use two procedures to assign grades in graduate classes. I generally score homework, tests, and projects such that scores above a 90 are in the range of an A grade. Scores that are between 80 and 90 are generally in the B range. Scores below 80 are generally considered to be C (or lower), and hence below graduate student standards. I do this so that you will have immediate feedback on your progress in the course. At the end of the semester, I look not only at the mean score of each student, but also at the grade distribution. Depending on where the mean and median class score resides, I may shift the lowest A grade below 90, or above, depending on how the class has done as a whole. I assign plus and minus to the general letter grade (of A, B, C etc) based on the grade distribution.

Academic integrity:

For information about the EMS Integrity Policy, which this course adopts, see:

Here’s a brief interpretation of that integrity policy, as it applies specifically to this course:  You may never copy answers from another person and present them as your own.  This applies to quizzes, exams, and problem sets.  You are allowed to discuss the problem sets with other students, but the work you turn in must be your own, in your own words.  Suspicion of copying on problem sets will result in an immediate 50% reduction for the first offense, and an F for the course on the second offense.  Cheating on exams or quizzes will result in an immediate F for the course.

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

The Office of Disability Services at requests and maintains disability-related documents; certifies eligibility for services; determines academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services; and develops plans for the provision of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services as mandated under Title II of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  A list of these ADA List of Services is provided at


During this course, you will need to complete a final paper that delves more deeply into a topic of your choosing in cloud physics. The topic can be anything, but it must be related to clouds in the atmosphere. Prior studies have included topics like: (1) Stratocumulus cloud impacts on climate, (2) Arctic clouds and climate change, (3) Turbulence influences on the growth of water drops, (4) Why ice crystals have dendritic forms, (5) The molecular nature of liquid water, (6) How does ice impact thunderstorm evolution, (7) Lake effect snow storms, etc. Literally any topic that relates to clouds can be used. Once a topic is defined, it is up to the student to do an in-depth literature review (books, articles from journals) on the topic. This should be done during the semester. A final paper is then turned in that is10 pages or less, not including references and figures. The paper must be either 11-point or 12-point font, with double or at least 1.5 line spacing. Single line spaced papers will be returned ungraded. I will turn out a separate document describing the details of the project. The paper is due on the last day of class.

Recommended Books:

On 2-hour reserve in Earth & Mineral Sciences Library - 105 Deike Building. (Books I have found useful)

Title / Author(s) / Call Number

  • Physics and Chemistry of Clouds / Lamb and Verlinde / QC921.6 D95L36 2011
  • Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation / Pruppacher and Klett / QC921.5 P78 1997
  • A Short Course in Cloud Physics / Rogers and Yau / QC921.5 R63 1998
  • The Physics of Rainclouds / Fletcher / QC921.5 F55 1962
  • The Physics of Clouds / Mason / QC921.5 M3 1971
  • Elements of Cloud Physics / Beyers / QC921.5 B9 1965
  • Microphysical Processes in Clouds / Young / QC921.5 Y68 1993
  • Storm and Cloud Dynamics / Cotton and Anthes / QC921.6 D95 C67 1989
  • Clouds and Storms / Ludlam / QC921.5 L83
  • The Structure and Properties of Water / Eisenberg / QD169.W3E 35
  • Ice Physics / Hobbs / QC920.H6
  • The Chemical Physics of Ice / Fletcher / QD931.F48
  • Atmospheric Science An Introductory Survey / Wallace and Hobbs / QC861.3.W35 2006
  • Cloud Dynamics / Houze / QC921.6 D95 H68 1993
  • Global Physical Climatology / Hartmann / QC981.H32 1994
  • Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics / Marshall and Plumb / QC880.4 A8A877 2007

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Basic overview of cloud processes (Chapter 1)
  2. Microphysical processes
    1. Phase thermodynamics and nucleation (Chapter 7)
    2. Growth of Liquid and Ice: Vapor deposition (Chapter 8)
    3. Growth of Liquid and Ice: Collision interactions (Chapter 9)
    4. Population Effects: Supersaturation evolution (Chapter 10)
    5. Population Effects in Warm clouds (Chapter 11)
    6. Population Effects in Cold clouds (Chapter 12)
  3. Cloud Evolution, Dynamics and Radiation
    1. Cloud formation and evolution (Chapter 6)
    2. Basic overview of radiation in the atmosphere (Chapter 2.2.1)
    3. Solar and Infrared heating of clouds
    4. Impact of radiation on cloud thermal structure and buoyancy
    5. Cloud-aerosol interactions
    6. Impacts on surface and atmospheric radiative budget

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