Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Mutually Exclusive
Satisfactory completion of part 1 of the degree scheme
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 36 hours
Seminars / Tutorials 4 hours
Practical 6 practicals


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Written Examination  70%
Semester Assessment Assignment sheets  Deadlines are detailed in the Year 2 Assignment sheet schedule distributed by the Department  20%
Semester Assessment Modelling Course Work.  Example Sheets deadlines are detailed in the Year 2 Example Sheet schedule distributed by the department.  10%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Written Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe the physical processes that underlie the evolution of the solid planets.

2. Explain how climate is influenced by orbital motion.

3. Describe the evolution of terrestrial and planetary atmospheres. Explain how non-Keplerian orbital motion arises. Explain how observations enable us to probe planetary interiors.

4. Use the principle laws of fluid statics and fluid dynamics to solve problems in atmospheric dynamics.

5. Explain the balance of energy and the vertical structure of the neutral atmosphere in terms of the underlying physics.

6. Discuss the factors controlling winds and tides above a planetary surface.

7. Solve simple problems on the properties of atmospheric acoustic-gravity waves.

Brief description

This course will provide students with the basic techniques in fluid dynamics, and overview of planetary and planetary atmospheric science.


The end of lower atmosphere research at AU and the departure of staff with a background in meteorology has left a gap in our teaching programme. The aim of this revised module is to replace the traditional atmospheric science section of the course with a series of lectures and workshops on planetary atmospheres and atmospheric modelling which is integrated much more closely with the planetary science section of the course and with the 3rd year Ionised Atmospheres module (PH39010).

Planetary science is one of the fastest-developing fields of solar system science. In particular, recent years have seen rapid advances in studies of planetary atmospheres. The changes to the module add a section discussing planetary exploration and introduce a series of workshops in interpreting the results of modelling planetary atmospheres - an important introduction to the use of computational modelling and data visualisation.


Introduction to the solar system. Origin, age and mass of the solar nebula. Contraction of the solar nebula.

Orbits, resonances. Non-Keplerian orbits.

Tides, moons and rings.

Condensation and accretion of planetismals.

Planetary interiors - self compression and density structure in terrestrial planets and gas giants. Gravity fields and planetary shape.

Planetary thermodynamics, heat sources and variation of temperature with depth.

Planetary magnetic fields - movement of material inside planets and the dynamo mechanism.

Fluid mechanics and its application to neutral atmospheres.

Introduction to atmospheres. Structure of the Earth's atmosphere. Heating and layer formation.

Vertical structure. Hydrostatic equilibrium and scale heights. Atmospheric layers.

Planetary atmospheres - differences from Earth.

The vertical structure of the Earth's neutral atmosphere.

Winds and tides in the Earth's atmosphere.

Atmospheric acoustic-gravity waves.

Modelling planetary atmpospheres - approaches and constraints.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Solve quantitative problems will naturally involve application of number. Use of a computational modelling.
Communication Students are required to present the results of the modelling section of the module via a poster.
Improving own Learning and Performance Reflection on poster results
Information Technology Use of a computational fluid flow suite to simulate the interaction of a planet's atmosphere with its surface. Use of visualisation facilities to view the results. Use of presentation software to generate posters.
Problem solving Students are required to apply theoretical concepts covered in lectures to specific science problems.
Research skills Students are required to design a model terrain to investigate effects of a planetary surface on the atmosphere.
Team work Students will work in pairs during the computational modelling section of the course.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Hargreaves, J.K. (1995) The solar-terrestrial environment: an introduction to geospace - the science of the terrrestrial upper atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere Primo search Hartmann,W.K. Moons and Planets Wadsworth Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5