Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science

Summary and Final Tasks

We started with the Ideal Gas Law and Dalton’s Law to develop an understanding of the atmosphere’s behavior and atmospheric density, a fundamental driving force for vertical motion in the atmosphere. We saw that composition matters, and developed a new quantity, virtual temperature, that allows us to compare the densities of different moist air parcels. Using these laws along with Newton’s laws, we were able to derive a fundamental property of the atmosphere: the hydrostatic equation, which states that the change in pressure with altitude is proportional to the negative of the density times gravity. We applied a new constraint – the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy is conserved and saw that combining it with the gas laws enabled us to calculate temperature changes and to derive an important atmospheric quantity – the potential temperature. With these concepts, we were able to determine the stability (and instability) of an air parcel. We could also determine the buoyancy of an air parcel, which allows us to calculate the acceleration and thus the velocity of an air parcel after it has accelerated for a while.

Reminder - Complete all of the Lesson 2 tasks!

You have reached the end of Lesson 2! Be sure to complete the Activities within three days of the end of the lesson. I strongly encourage you to do them as you are going through the lesson.