Curriculum Guideline

Earth Environments: Weather and Climate

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOG 1110
Earth Environments: Weather and Climate
Geography and the Environment
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Labs/field work: 3 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Field Experience
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lecture, labs, field work, analysis and interpretation of surface weather charts and satellite images, multimedia, individual and/or team projects and small group discussions.

Course Description
This introductory Physical Geography course explores Earth's atmosphere and biosphere by examining topics ranging from day-to-day weather variations to global climate change and the distribution of plants and animals on Earth. Using an Earth-systems approach and the concepts of energy balances and radiation laws, this course seeks to answer questions such as why do certain places have particular kinds of weather? How do forecasters predict the weather? What are the causes of global climate change? Human impacts on the atmosphere and biosphere are also examined.
Course Content

1. Introduction

Scientific method

Systems theory and its application to planet Earth

Sun / Earth geometry

2. Solar Energy and Radiation Laws

First Law of Thermodynamics

Electromagnetic radiation

Wien’s Displacement Law, Stephan-Boltzmann Law and the Inverse Square Law

Variation in the receipt of solar radiation

3. The Earth's Atmosphere

Evolution of the modern atmosphere

Classification of the atmosphere

Anthropogenic atmospheric pollutants and their effects

4. Energy Concepts, Energy Balance

Second Law of Thermodynamics

Energy transfer, transmission and absorption

Heat energy concepts

Radiation and energy balances

5. Temperature Variation

Influences on temperature

Temperature patterns

Measurement of temperature

6. Pressure and Atmospheric Circulation

Pressure and its variation, distribution and measurement

Gas Law

Forces influencing the direction and speed of upper level and surface winds

Patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Macro- and meso-scale winds

7. Moisture in the Atmosphere

Indices of water vapour content

Methods and forms of condensation

Mechanisms and forms of precipitation

8. Adiabatic Processes and Stability

Diabatic and adiabatic processes

Lapse rates

Concept and types of stability

9. Air Masses, Fronts, Mid-latitude Cyclones

Air mass formation, classification and modification

Front types, formation and characteristics

Development, evolution and movement of mid-latitude cyclones


10 Severe Weather

Characteristics and life-cycles of air mass and severe thunderstorms

Tornado formation, characteristics and dimensions

Hurricane development, characteristics, structure, forecasts and damage

11. Biogeography

Ecological biogeography and its relationship to climatic patterns

Abiotic and biotic influences on primary productivity in various ecosystems

Trophic relationships in ecosystems

Stages of general ecological succession in ecosystems

12. Climate Change

Evidence for past climate variation

Urban heat island

Atmospheric greenhouse effect and critical analyses of global warming predictions

Local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be  able to:

  1. Describe and use the frameworks of science applicable to 1st-year physical geography.
  2. Think critically and examine climatological, meteorological and biogeographical issues in a scientific context at local, regional and global scales.
  3. Describe and explain the processes that occur within earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere systems, and identify and describe interactions among these systems.
  4. Communicate effectively using the language, graphical presentation methods and quantitative methods employed in physical geography.
  5. Connect theoretical applications to “real-world” observations and measurements.

Means of Assessment

The evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria during the first week of classes.


An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Laboratory Assignments 10%
Laboratory Exams 30%
Midterm Exam 25%
Final Exam 25%
Term Project 10%
Total 100%






Note:  This course received a standing variance from Education Council in June 2016 to allow up to a 20% lab exam during the last 14 calendar days of the semester.  This is not a final exam; it is an assessment of student learning of lab work performed in the second half of the semester.

Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:


  • Christopherson, R. W., Birkeland, G., Byrne, M.L. and P. Giles  (2016). Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography, Fourth Canadian Edition.  Pearson /Prentice Hall.
  • Lutgens, F.K., Tarbuck, E.J., and D.G. Tasa (2016). Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology, Thirteenth Edition. Pearson /Prentice Hall.


Which Prerequisite