ATSC 201 · Meteorology of Storms

Characteristics and physical processes of thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning, hail, hurricanes, blizzards, cyclones and other storms. [3-0-0] Prerequisite: Completion of first-year science.

Course Availability & Schedule

Course Webpage

 Non-specialist course

Learning Goals


  • This is a course on practical meteorology.
  • It is designed for students and professionals in science and engineering who want to understand and use basic concepts, but who don't need to derive the equations.
  • These concepts are demonstrated in the context of storms.
  • This course serves both as a terminal meteorology course for science & engineering students, and as an entry course for atmospheric-science (ATSC) majors.



By the end of this course, you should be able to: 

  • Enjoy the beauty and power of storms without fear.(Affective)
  • Describe the characteristics and evolution of:(Cognitive)
    • thunderstorms (lightning, thunder, tornadoes, hail, rain, downbursts, gust fronts)
    • mid-latitude cyclones (lows, fronts, air masses)
    • hurricanes
    • general circulation (global climate, jet streams, Rossby waves)
  • Use the following meteorological tools skillfully to diagnose the atmospheric condition:  (Psychomotor)
    • radar images
    • satellite images
    • weather maps
    • thermo diagrams (for temperature soundings & stability)
    • hodographs (for wind soundings)
    • Excel (for calculations and graphs)
  • Forecast your local weather by looking at the sky, identifying the clouds, and using the meteorological tools.  (Psychomotor)
  • Explain the role of dynamics (forces and winds) and thermodynamics (heat and moisture) in atmospheric processes and phenomena.(Cognitive)
  • Relate atmospheric phenomena to the equations that describe them.(Cognitive)
  • Reliably compute numerical answers in the face of missing data and mismatched units, and to qualitatively interpret the result.(Psychomotor & Cognitive)
  • Defend and criticize meteorological issues (such as why perfect forecast skill is impossible for a chaotic fluid like the atmosphere).(Cognitive)



  • There will be lots of interaction with your classmates during the class meetings -- an approach called "peer instruction."
  • Also, based on a couple warm-up exercises that you do online the day before each class, I will learn which topics you are having difficulty with, and will focus my lectures on those topics -- an approach called "just-in-time teaching."

This course is part of EOS-SEI, the EOS Science Education Initiative.


Prof. Roland Stull


Required are the FREE online textbook  and the FREE "iClicker Student" app for your cell phone or iPad:

  • Textbook:  Stull, 2018: "Practical Meteorology: An Algebra-based Survey of Atmospheric Science". 
  • i-clicker: The "i-clicker" brand of personal response system has been adopted UBC-wide. We will use it extensively during each lecture. (We use the free app for your cell phone or electronic pad.  We don't use the old iClicker handheld transmitter.)

Lecture Topics

Week Topics
1 Introduction; meteorological conventions & fundamentals; tools such as Excel
2 Basic heat and pressure relationships, Thunderstorm types; weather radar
3 Interpreting radar images; atmospheric radiation; forces acting on the air
4 Hodograph; winds; continuity; vorticity
5 Tornadoes; helicity; lightning & thunder
6 More lightning & thunder; Lagrangian & Eulerian heat budgets
7 Moisture: saturation & variables; moisture budets: Lagrangian & Eulerian; hail
8 Thermo diagrams: components, types, thermodynamic state, applications; soundings; static stability, CAPE
9 Downbursts & gust fronts; global circulation
10 Cloud identification; Fall break. 
11 Satellite image interpretation,  global circulation - characteristics and forcings; jet stream; Rossby waves,  airmasses & fronts
12 Synoptic weather maps, isoplething, more fronts, extratropical cyclone evolution & cyclogenesis
13 West-coast weather, Hurricanes: characteristics, evolution, thermodynamics, dynamics.
14 Hurricane models, climatology, hazards & forecasting.  Review.