Postgraduate course

Physical Meteorology

ECTS Credits




Teaching semester


Objectives and Content


The course aims to give the students a basic knowledge of the physical processes with regard to solar and terrestrial radiation, condensation, cloud formation and precipitation and their interactions and importance for the earth-atmosphere system and its climate.


In the radiation part of the course, the processes connected to radiative transfer of solar- and terrestrial radiation in the atmosphere are discussed. Here, both the spectral and the angular distribution of the radiation are discussed. Besides, a quantification of the radiative effect of the surface of our planet is given. In the course, both short wave and long wave radiation at the surface will be discussed, with special focus on spatial and temporal variations on local scale. The cloud physics part shortly introduces and repeats the thermodynamic basics and their application in atmospheric science. The concept of atmospheric stability and air parcel behavior is introduced to describe the atmospheric forcing leading to condensation. A short introduction in aerosol particles and their function as cloud condensation nuclei is given. The chain of hydrometeor creation is described and the relevant physical processes are introduced, including the derivation of the main equations. It starts from the initial condensation and diffusional growth at aerosol particles and continues with further growth mechanisms, as collision and coalescence, as well as the involvement of the ice phase. Relevant measurement methods and instrumentation are introduced and discussed in particular with respect to measurement uncertainties. Finally a short introduction in cloud morphology and observation is given.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student

  • has a good knowledge of the physical processes by radiative transfer of solar radiation and terrestrial radiation through the atmosphere (scattering, absorption, emission) and the effect of the surface on the radiation
  • understands the spatial and temporal variations of shortwave and longwave radiation at the surface of the Earth
  • has advanced understanding of atmospheric thermodynamics and its importance for the formation of clouds and precipitation
  • has extended knowledge on the process chain converting atmospheric water vapor into cloud particles and finally precipitation
  • has a general knowledge of instrumentation and measurement principles for atmospheric water vapor and precipitation



The student

  • can estimate the effect that gases and clouds in the atmosphere and different ground conditions have on solar and terrestrial radiation
  • can estimate the variability, both in time and space, of solar and terrestrial radiation at the surface
  • can apply the basic laws of thermodynamics for the derivation of the set of equations required to describe the microphysics of condensation and droplet formation
  • can perform and interpret manual/visual cloud observations


General competence

The student

  • is able to assess the role of radiation for the climate and for climate changes
  • is able to assess local variations in short- and long wavelengths of radiation in space and time
  • is able to assess the role and importance of atmospheric aerosols for the climate system both as direct and indirect aerosol effect
  • is able to assess the role and importance of water in form of vapor, liquid and ice in the atmosphere under the aspect of both, the hydrological cycle and the effect on solar and terrestrial radiation
  • is able to assess the role and interplay of cloud micro- and macrophysics and their importance for a wide range of atmospheric processes from local to global scale

Required Previous Knowledge

MAT111, PHYS111, toghether with either GEOF120, or GEOF100 + GEOF105 or equivalent course.

Access to the Course

Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Teaching and learning methods

2 lectures á 2 hours per week

Presentation of instruments for measurements of radiation and precipitation, and the principles of these instruments. Submission of exercises, with review. Cloud observations.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

4 approved exercises.

(Valid for four semesters: The semester mandatory activities have been approved and the three following semesters.)

Forms of Assessment

Oral exam

Grading Scale

The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.

Assessment Semester

Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.

Reading List

The reading list will be available within June 1st for the autumn semester and January 1st for the spring semester.

Course Evaluation

The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.

Programme Committee

The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.


Geophysical Institute


Contact Information


Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Oral examination

    Withdrawal deadline