12.307 Weather and Climate Laboratory

Course content
Tank Expts
Synoptic Lab
Useful links

Course content

A Laboratory Course intended to illustrate, by means of "hands on" projects, the basic dynamical and physical principles that govern the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean and the day to day sequence of weather events.

Real time meteorological observations will be studied together with laboratory fluid experiments.

Click here for projects for  grading and calendar.


Projects based on the use of real-time meteorological observations will stress the analysis and dynamical interpretation of weather and climate phenomena.  These will be complemented by rotating tank experiments, which will offer the possibility of using a controlled laboratory environment to plan an experiment, explain ideas to be tested, observe and record the data.

The projects will be introduced by means of written Assignments and by brief introductory lectures, explaining the underlying physical and dynamical ideas.  The lecture component will be minimal, with emphasis on the planning and discussion of each project by the students themselves.

List of Projects - see calendar

Project 1: Mass and Wind: balanced motion
(effects of rotation:
cyclostrophic, geostrophic and ageostrophic flow)

Atmospheric data

Tank Experiment

Hurricanes; upper air observations Radial inflow
Surface friction and cross-isobaric flow Ekman layer


Project 2: Fronts 

(Hydrostatic balance and thermal wind shear)

Atmospheric data

Tank Experiment

Thermal wind shear Geostrophy and thermal wind shear
Fronts Slope of a frontal surface


Project 3: Convection


Atmospheric data

Tank Experiment

Thermodynamic diagrams and convection Convective plumes


Project 4: General Circulation and Climate

Atmospheric data

Tank Experiment

Atmospheric climatology: jet stream and Eddy heat transport Hadley Circulation
Surface wind patterns, Hadley and Ferrel circulation Baroclinic instability


Students will be asked to critically summarize the results of each project in a written 'Project Report', on which grades will be based.  There is a new 'project theme' every three weeks (see calendar), a total of four during the semester. Each comprises an atmospheric data component and a fluids laboratory component.

Students are also required to present their projects orally to the whole class.  It is our intent to give to the students not only an opportunity to develop oral presentation skills but also a chance to discuss results with their peers.


For problems or questions regarding this web contact [illari@mit.edu].
Last updated: February 07, 2012.