PX399-15 The Earth and Its Atmosphere
This module describes the behaviour of the solid Earth and its atmosphere. We will look at the models of the Earth's outer structure and its core as well as how they are probed using seismic activity, magnetic and heat signatures. We will also investigate how the composition and physical properties of the Earth's atmosphere influence both local weather events and global climate trends.
To present an understanding of the Earth and its atmosphere in terms of simple physical principles. By the end of the module, students should appreciate how, with simple ideas from electromagnetism, mechanics and thermodynamics, it is possible to explain most of what we call 'weather' and to understand the motion and structure of the solid Earth.
This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.
- Introduction: The basic characteristics of Earth, its formation during the early Solar System and the measurement of geological time using radiometric dating.
- Earth's geometry: Spherical co-ordinates, consequences of spherical geometry, gravity measurements and anomalies due to variations in density. The different models of isostasy and the consequences for mountain heights.
- Seismology: Types of seismic waves, earthquake location and magnitudes and the determination of Earth's interior.
- Plate tectonics: Plate movement on flat earth, rotation poles, past and present plate motions and the role of Earth's magnetic field.
- Heat: Overview of the Earth's heat budget, heat flow in its interior, convection in the mantle, thermal structure of the core and the origin of Earth's magnetic field.
- Description of the atmosphere: layer profile; atmospheric energy balance; origin of the earth's atmosphere and the role of life in determining past and future climates; pressure and temperature profiles
- Vertical motion and role of water: Atmospheric stability; evaporation and condensation; precipitation; atmospheric electricity
- Global circulation patterns: Pressure gradients and their origins; the Coriolis force; synoptic scale motion; global climates; influence of the oceans
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Discuss the physical principles governing the Earth's radioactivity, gravity, waves, heat and magnetism
- Give an overview of the structure of the Earth and of the experimental and observational techniques used to probe them
- Describe the structure and composition of the earth's atmosphere and how it developed
- Describe the dynamic processes in the atmosphere from precipitation to global air circulation
- Explain the effect of human activity on the Earth and its Atmosphere
Indicative reading list
Lowrie, W. and Fichtner, A., 2020. Fundamentals of geophysics. Cambridge University Press.
Fowler, C.M.R., 1990. The solid earth: an introduction to global geophysics. Cambridge University Press.
McIlveen, J.F.R., 1992. Fundamentals of Weather and Climate. Chapman & Hall.
Physics has provided techniques and principles which are valuable to other sciences including geology and meteorology. This module shows how electromagnetism, gravity, mechanics and thermodynamics account for the structure of the solid Earth and drive most of what we call the weather.
Subject specific skills
Knowledge of mathematics and physics. Skills in modelling, reasoning, thinking
Analytical, communication, problem-solving, self-study
|Lectures||30 sessions of 1 hour (20%)|
|Private study||118 hours (79%)|
|Assessment||2 hours (1%)|
Private study description
Working through lecture notes, solving problems, wider reading, discussing with others taking the module, revising for exam, practising on past exam papers
No further costs have been identified for this module.
You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.
Assessment group B
|On-campus Examination||100%||2 hours|
Answer 4 questions
Feedback on assessment
Personal tutor, group feedback
This module is Option list A for:
- Year 3 of UPXA-F300 Undergraduate Physics (BSc)
This module is Option list B for:
- Year 3 of UPXA-GF13 Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc)
- Year 3 of UPXA-FG31 Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (MMathPhys)
- Year 3 of UPXA-F303 Undergraduate Physics (MPhys)