1-3: Atmospheric Structure and Circulation

1-3: En Español 1-3: Em Português

Importance of this Unit to the Course

This unit describes structures and processes in the atmosphere that will be needed to understand processes leading to global warming and ozone depletion. Temperature and moisture patterns across the globe, together with distribution of soil types, determine the global distribution types and amounts of vegetation.


  • To understand how shortwave and longwave radiation create differential patterns of heating and cooling and establish the vertical and horizontal patterns of atmospheric temperature and pressure.
  • To understand the time and space scales and flow patterns that constitute the circulation of the global atmosphere.

Preparation for Discussion (You must complete this section before class.)

  1. Read the summary information. (Print text for offline review; images only.)
  2. Take the Quiz over the summary information. (see your portfolio)
  3. Review additional reading material (this material is not covered in the quiz, but offers more ideas for online discussion)
    • None.

Discussion (online / face-to-face) (See your portfolio for due dates and times)

A major component of the course is participation in the online dialog. The following types of comments are required:

  • Social Comments
  • Knowledge-building Comments
  • Ethical Comments
The following may be used as discussion starters for the online dialog:
  • Unit Problem to Ponder:
    You are driving down Interstate 35 with a semi full of canaries and you are required to stop at a weigh station. You know full well that your load is overweight, so when your truck is on the scale, you bang the side of the trailer to get all the canaries flying and reduce your weight. Is your truck still overweight? What does this have to do with atmospheric pressure measured at the earth's surface?
  • Unit exam questions from previous years
  • Unit discussions from previous years, available from the current online discussion

Additional Reading