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Study information


Module titleWeather
Module codeGEO3227
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Ewan Woodley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

From the minor inconvenience of a rain shower, to the catastrophic failure of a harvest, weather systems impact upon the World’s population in myriad ways. This module is designed to introduce you to the key concepts behind the working of the atmosphere and how atmospheric processes interact with each other and the land/ocean surface to produce very different types of meteorological system. With an understanding of the key determinants and components of atmospheric motion, we will focus in depth on four types of weather system which each have significant environmental impacts, but which are very different in geographical scale, structure and function. In each case, we will critically examine the current academic debates and contestations surrounding these types of weather system and what these mean for our ability to understand, forecast and warn of specific atmospheric hazards and their potential impacts.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module provides an opportunity to learn about the processes and factors that control the formation and evolution of key weather systems across the World, including extra-tropical cyclones, tornadoes, tropical cyclones and monsoons. We will explore how and why these systems form in certain regions of the globe, why they occur over specific spatial and temporal scales, and how the physical mechanisms controlling these systems, and the state of the atmosphere at a given time, impact upon our ability to accurately forecast such phenomena. Building on this understanding, we will examine the latest academic debates associated with each of the four types of weather system to critically evaluate the contestations and knowledge controversies in these areas of meteorological research. In focusing on a limited range of weather systems, you will have the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of 1) recent advances in theoretical understanding, 2) the latest observation, measurement and modelling of key phenomena, 3) the current limitations of atmospheric science, and 4) the extent of agreement and disagreement on weather system behaviour and projected changes. This module will help you develop skills to enhance your employability potential and career development through:

  • giving you an appreciation of the contested and provisional nature of knowledge
  • encouraging you to think critically about the ways in which knowledge is applied in a range of research and management contexts
  • providing you with the opportunity to engage in enquiry-led learning through reflection on a meteorological research topic of your choosing
  • and providing you with the opportunity to develop communication skills through formative in-class group work and independent study.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the general working of the atmosphere, including the dominant forces and factors affecting atmospheric motion, energy transfer, and movement of water
  • 2. Discuss the environmental controls on the formation and evolution of extra-tropical cyclones, tornadoes, tropical cyclones and monsoons, and draw and accurately interpret meteorological diagrams associated with these weather systems
  • 3. Discuss and critically evaluate a comprehensive range of academic literature concerned with recent debates on the formation, forecasting and modelled future evolution of extra-tropical cyclones, tornadoes, tropical cyclones and monsoons
  • 4. Transfer the approach taken to understanding knowledge controversies in these areas of meteorological research to other scientific debates

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Recognise and explain how meteorology incorporates core concepts in physical geography and necessitates an understanding of atmosphere-land and atmosphere-ocean interactions;
  • 6. Discuss how science operates and how new claims to knowledge through observation, measurement, forecasting and modelling should be evaluated
  • 7. Identify where scientific knowledge is provisional and contested in nature and why this is the case in specific contexts
  • 8. Recognise the relative importance of different elements in an academic debate

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently
  • 10. Develop a sustained, reasoned argument supported by a wide range of appropriate academic literature
  • 11. Identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources
  • 12. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 13. Work as a participant of a group and contribute effectively to the achievement of formative exercise objectives
  • 14. Describe how core skills acquired and enhanced throughout the module relate to career planning and development

Syllabus plan

Part 1 – An introduction to meteorology

A module introduction lecture will be recorded and made available online prior to the start of the module. This session will cover the aims of the module, ILOs, module structure, content, style of delivery, assessment, support and module expectations.

Lectures 1 and 2 will introduce you to the atmosphere and to the field of meteorology. We will discuss the structure of the atmosphere, and the roles of energy, motion, water and topography in understanding meteorological phenomena. We will also explore how advances in theory and measurement/modelling have informed our understanding of weather systems. These lectures and associated reading are designed to act as a foundation for part 2 of the module.

Part 2 – Exploring the processes and critical debates associated with specific weather systems

The majority of the module is centred on exploring four different weather systems in detail, using and building on the knowledge gained in part 1 of the module. For each weather system, we will explore 1) the characteristics and processes behind each system and 2) the current debates associated with these phenomena to critically evaluate the contestations in each area of research.

The themes covered in part 2 will be as follows:

  • Lecture 3 Extra-tropical cyclones – Characteristics and processes
  • Lecture 4 Extra-tropical cyclones – Exploring current debates
  • Seminar 1 Extra-tropical cyclones – Exploring current debates
  • Lecture 5 Tornadoes – Characteristics and processes
  • Lecture 6 Tornadoes – Exploring current debates
  • Seminar 2 Tornadoes – Exploring current debates
  • Lecture 7 Tropical cyclones – Characteristics and processes
  • Lecture 8 Tropical cyclones – Exploring current debates
  • Seminar 3 Tropical cyclones – Exploring current debates
  • Lecture 9 Monsoons – Characteristics and processes
  • Lecture 10 Monsoons – Exploring current debates
  • Seminar 4 Monsoons – Exploring current debates

Lecture 11 will provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between module content and assessment, with an opportunity to work through a sample paper for both Examination 1 and Examination 2.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Seminars (4 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for seminars
Guided Independent Study40Reading for Examination 1
Guided Independent Study60Reading for Examination 2

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar group discussions4 x 15 minutesAllIn-class feedback from lecturer

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination 1401.5 hours1-14Written
Examination 2602 hours1-14Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Examination 1Examination 11-14August Ref/Def
Examination 2Examination 21-14August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Aguado, E. And Burt, J.E. 2009. Understanding Weather and Climate, 5th Edition. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
  • Ahrens, C.D. 2011. Essentials of Meteorology: An Invitation to the Atmosphere, 6th Edition. Brooks Cole, New York.
  • Allaby, M. And Garratt, R. 2007. Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate. Facts on File Inc, New York.
  • Barry, R.G. and Chorley, R.J. 2009. Atmosphere, Weather and Climate, 9th Edition. Routledge, Oxford.
  • Burt, S. 2012. The Weather Observer’s Handbook, 1st Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Coiffier, J. 2011. Fundamentals of Numerical Weather Prediction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Holton, J.R. 2004. An introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, 4th Edition. Academic Press, London.
  • Lutgens, F.K., Tarbuk, E.J., Tasa, D. 2012. The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology. Pearson, Harlow.
  • McIlveen, R. 2010. Fundamentals of Weather and Climate, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Walker, M. 2011. History of the Meteorological office, 1st Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Weather, meteorology, atmospheric processes, numerical modelling and forecasting, extreme weather events.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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