PX39915 The Earth and its Atmosphere
Introductory description
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.
Module aims
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.
Outline syllabus
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 coordinates, 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
Learning outcomes
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.
View reading list on Talis Aspire
Interdisciplinary
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
Transferable skills
Analytical, communication, problemsolving, selfstudy
Study time
Type  Required 

Lectures  30 sessions of 1 hour (20%) 
Private study  118 hours (79%) 
Assessment  2 hours (1%) 
Total  150 hours 
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
Costs
No further costs have been identified for this module.
You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.
Assessment group B1
Weighting  Study time  

Inperson Examination  100%  
Answer 4 questions

Feedback on assessment
Personal tutor, group feedback
Courses
This module is Option list A for:

UPXAF300 Undergraduate Physics (BSc)
 Year 3 of F300 Physics
 Year 3 of F300 Physics
 Year 3 of F300 Physics

UPXAF303 Undergraduate Physics (MPhys)
 Year 3 of F300 Physics
 Year 3 of F303 Physics (MPhys)

UPXAF3F5 Undergraduate Physics with Astrophysics (BSc)
 Year 3 of F3F5 Physics with Astrophysics
 Year 3 of F3F5 Physics with Astrophysics
 Year 3 of UPXAF3FA Undergraduate Physics with Astrophysics (MPhys)
This module is Option list B for:

UMAAG105 Undergraduate Master of Mathematics (with Intercalated Year)
 Year 4 of G105 Mathematics (MMath) with Intercalated Year
 Year 5 of G105 Mathematics (MMath) with Intercalated Year

UMAAG100 Undergraduate Mathematics (BSc)
 Year 3 of G100 Mathematics
 Year 3 of G100 Mathematics
 Year 3 of G100 Mathematics

UMAAG103 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath)
 Year 3 of G100 Mathematics
 Year 3 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
 Year 3 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
 Year 4 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
 Year 4 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
 Year 4 of UMAAG106 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath) with Study in Europe

UPXAGF13 Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc)
 Year 3 of GF13 Mathematics and Physics
 Year 3 of GF13 Mathematics and Physics

UPXAFG31 Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (MMathPhys)
 Year 3 of FG31 Mathematics and Physics (MMathPhys)
 Year 3 of FG31 Mathematics and Physics (MMathPhys)
 Year 4 of UPXAGF14 Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (with Intercalated Year)
 Year 4 of UMAAG101 Undergraduate Mathematics with Intercalated Year
 Year 3 of UPXAF303 Undergraduate Physics (MPhys)