Atmospheric Dynamics

Lecture notes by Aarnout van Delden home

Utrecht University, Netherlands,

IMAU, (room 615 BBG)

These lecture notes used in the courses on "Climate Dynamics", "Dynamical Meteorology" and "Boundary Layers, Transport and Mixing"

These lecture notes are work-in-progress, i.e. a "living document" reflecting my own knowledge (and ignorance!) of the subject.

If you have any comments or critiscm, please feel free to tell me. Science is never finished!

I thank Carleen Tijm-Reijmer for finding some errors in chapters 1 and 2 of version 2015


Chapter Contents

0) Preface

1) Introduction to the Atmosphere

2) Energy Balance

3) Hydrostatic Balance

4) Convection

5) Geostrophic Balance

6) Orographic Effects

7) Zonal Mean State of the Atmosphere and Potential Vorticity Inversion

8) Thermal wind Balance and Cross-frontal Circulations

9) Baroclinic Waves, Cyclogenesis and Frontogenesis

10) Numerical simulation of the life-cycle of unstable baroclinic waves

11) Planetary Waves, Wave Drag and Meridional transport

12) Diabatic-Dynamical Interaction in the General Circulation

13) Zonal asymmetries in the General Circulation


pdf's of the Chapters

(I am working on a third edition)

Third edition (2017-2018)

AtmosphericDynamics2017cCh1.pdf (4 December 2017)

I am continuously working on this document. If interested, keep an eye on this page.

Second edition (2016-2017)

AtmosphericDynamics2016Ch1.pdf (version October 2016)

AtmosphericDynamics2016Ch3.pdf (version December 2016)

AtmosphericDynamics2016Ch9.pdf (version December 2016)


Chapters 2 (short version), 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12:

LectureNotesBLT&M2017.pdf (small corrections/additions to chapters 2, 11 and 12 added in January 2017)


First edition (2014-2015)

AtmosphericDynamics2015aCh1.pdf (April 2015)

AtmosphericDynamics2015aCh2.pdf (February 2015)



Lectures and seminars


Seminar in Reading (UK) (10-11-2014): pdf.

Lecture on the synoptic setting of deep convection in Western Europe (Wageningen, 14-04-2014): pdf.

Lecture on warm core cyclone dynamics (Wageningen, 14-04-2015): pdf.

Lecture on baroclinic life cycle (Wageningen, 12-04-2016): pdf.


My Scientific Papers


The help of many students doing a master thesis (among other Koen Manders, Rob Groenland, Roel Neggers, Alwin Haklander, Jeroen van Zomeren, Pieter Groenemeijer, Wouter de Geus, Niels Zweers, Roos de Wit, Arjan van Beelen, Michiel Baatsen Remko Klaver and Teresa Macarico Morins), inspired me in my research. Interaction with colleagues, close by, at IMAU and at KNMI, such as Wim Verkley, Rein Haarsma, Hylke de Vries, Sander Tijm, Theo Opsteegh, Yvonne Hinssen, Carleen Tijm-Reijmer and Roderik van de Wal, and in Wageningen, such as Henk de Bruin, Bert Holtslag and Jordi Vila and farther away (Maarten Ambaum) have aided my "creative" thinking on problems related to understanding the thermal structure and dynamics of the atmosphere. I enjoyed very much documenting the insights which I had when I did the research for the following papers, together with PhD-students, Sander Tijm, Yvonne Hinssen.


The zonal mean general circulation (2012, 2014): In the first paper (pdf ) we identify the extratropical tropopause region with a potential vorticity (PV) anomaly, which we call the Ex-UTLS PV-anomaly, and show that this PV-anomaly induces the subtropical jet. Details are given in chapter 7 of the lecture notes. A follow-up paper (pdf) investigates how the observed PV-distribution is established by studying the interaction between diabatic processes (mainly radiation and latent heat release) and adiabatic processes (heat transport by the circulation and eddy meridional vorticity transport, also known as "wave drag"). Details are given in chapter 12 of the lecture notes.

Synoptic setting of thunderstorms (2001): pdf . This paper discusses the mechanisms and synoptic features (such as frontogenesis and jetstreak dynamics) that promote thunderstorm formation in Western Europe. Operational meteorologists will hopefully find this paper interesting. See also chapter 4 of the lecture notes.

Sound waves and sea-breeze initiation (1999): pdf . We show how sound waves establish the pressure distribution that initiates the sea-breeze circulation. This explanation can also be found in chapter 3 of the lecture notes.

Deepening and filling of cyclones by diabatic heating (1989): pdf. I show that diabatic heating in the eye-wall of a balanced warm core cyclone leads to cyclone-deepening (reduction of the central sea-level pressure), or cyclone- intensification, only if the radius of the eyewall is smaller than the local Rossby radius of deformation. I also conclude that diabatic heating leads to cyclone intensification only if the core of the cyclone is warm (see especially section 10, p. 141). This paper also defends the theory of CISK, due to Charney and Eliassen (1964) and Ooyama (1969), against unfair criticism by Kerry Emanuel. This controversy continues today (see (9) under the heading "Scientific Papers" in right column on this page). In hindsight, it is not surprising that my 1989-paper met with very strong opposition by two of the three reviewers after submitting for publication in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.














Nature Geoscience




ERA-40 Atlas

JRA-25 Atlas


blog Isaac Held





Scientific Papers


Most of the papers listed below are relatively "old", but are interesting, very well written and/or represent "break through's" .

1. First verification of dispersion relation of Rossby waves: Hovmoller[1949].pdf

2. First Simulation of the General Circulation: GeneralCirculationModel[Phillips1956].pdf

3. Frontogenesis and vertical motion: Sawyer[1956].pdf

4. Vertical Rossby wave propagation: Charney&Drazin[1961].pdf

5. Two- and three-dimensional turbulence: Tennekes[1978].pdf

6. Planetary Wave drag and the Eliassen-Palm Flux: EP-Cross-sections[1980].pdf

7. Omega equation, Q-vector and synoptic development: OmegaEquation[1978].pdf, OmegaEquation[1980].pdf

8. Stratospheric warmings: McIntyre[1982].pdf

9. Tropical Cyclone Theory: Ooyama[1982].pdf ; the confusion still exists in 2015 (!); see: UnderstandingTropicalCycloneIntensification.pdf

10. Breaking planetary waves and the Surf Zone: McIntyre&Palmer[1983].pdf

11. Potential vorticity: HMR[1985].pdf ;comment: HMR1985]_Comments.pdf

12. PV-theta view of the General Circulation: PV_ThetaView[Hoskins1991].pdf

13. Baroclinic life-cycles: Thorncroft_etal[1993].pdf

14. Planetary scale flow regimes: Marshall&Molteni[1993].pdf

15. Annular modes: Hartmann_etal[2000].pdf

16. Tropical waves: WheelerKiladis&Webster[2000].pdf

17. Jetstream: JetStreamConundrum.pdf

Here is a list of "classical papers" on Atmospheric Dynamics: pdf

Recommended Books


A.E. Gill: Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics, Academic Press, 1982.

J.R. Holton: An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, Academic Press, 2004.

B.J. Hoskins and I.N. James : Fluid Dynamics of the Midlatitude Atmosphere. Wiley Blackwell, 2014. 408 pp.

I.N. James: Introduction to Circulating Atmospheres. Cambridge University Press, 1994 .

G. Lackmann: Midlatitude Synoptic Meteorology. Dynamics, Analysis and Forcasting. American Meteorological Society. 2011.

P. Markowski and Y. Richardson: Mesoscale Meteorology in Midlatitudes. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

J. Marshall and R.A. Plumb, 2008: Atmosphere, Ocean and climate Dynamics. Academic Press, 319 pp.

K. Mohanakumar: Stratosphere Troposphere Interactions. An Introduction. Springer, 2008. link .

R.T. Pierrehumbert: Principles of Planetary Climate. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

G.K. Vallis: Atmosphere and Ocean Fluid Dynamics. Cambridge University Press, 2006 .

J.M. Wallace and P.V. Hobbs, 2006: Atmospheric Science. An Intructory Survey. Acadmic Press, 483 pp.