Course Content and Outcome Guide for GS 109

Course Number:
GS 109
Course Title:
Physical Science (Meteorology)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Covers characteristics of our atmosphere, air pressure and winds, atmospheric moisture, large air masses, violent storms, the effect of oceans on weather, and climates. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisite: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The purpose of this course is to develop an understanding of our atmosphere, weather, and climate, including historical perspectives. It is a one-term survey course that may be included as part of the year€™s sequence in physical science for college transfer credit.

The course will have as many of the following components as feasible: lectures, discussions, lab activities, videos, CD€™s, slides, live television and computer reports, and computer-aided instruction. It is necessary to successfully complete the lab part of the course in order to pass the course.

The text and materials for this course have been chosen by the faculty and viewpoints shall be that of the author(s). This includes the topics of relativity, the geologic time scale, evolution of the Earth and its atmosphere, the solar system, the galaxy and the universe.

Regarding the teaching of basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology Department stands by the following statements about what is science.


  1. Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. A scientific theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth. The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation.
  2. €œCreation science,€ also known as scientific creationism, is not considered a legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy. This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1004).
  3. Geology instructors at Portland Community College will teach the generally accepted basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution) not as absolute truth, but as the most widely accepted explanation for our observations of the world around us. Instructors will not teach that €œcreation science€ is anything other than pseudoscience.
  4. Because "creation science", "scientific creationism", and "intelligent design" are essentially religious doctrines that are at odds with open scientific inquiry, the Geology/General Sciences SAC at Portland Community College stands with such organizations such as the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute in excluding these doctrines from our science curriculum.

Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations to successfully complete this course.

Intended Outcomes for the course

A student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

  1. Use an understanding of atmospheric processes to elucidate the practice of weather prediction.
  2. Use an understanding of atmospheric structure and global circulation to explain the climates of the Earth.
  3. Access atmosphere science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of meteorological processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory based observations and measurements of the atmosphere, weather, and climate, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current models of meteorological processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  5. Use scientifically valid modes of inquiry, individually and collaboratively, to critically evaluate the hazards and risks posed by meteorological processes both to themselves and society as a whole, evaluate the efficacy of possible ethically robust responses to these risks, and effectively communicate the results of this analysis to their peers.
  6. Assess the contributions of meteorology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of meteorology in its historical and cultural context.

Course Activities and Design

The laboratory is not separate from the lecture, but will usually be correlated in such a way as to reinforce the materials being discussed in the lecture section. It is necessary for the student to successfully complete the laboratory section of the course in order to earn a grade in the course. Math will be used to solve ratio, percentage, and simple algebraic problems. Also included are the design, reading, and interpreting of graphs.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

The instructor will choose from the following methods of assessment: exams, quizzes, lab exercises, written reports, oral presentations, group projects, class participation, homework assignments, and field trips. The instructor shall detail the methods to be used to the students at the beginning of the course.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Explain the nature and history of meteorology as a science
  2. Discuss the structure and dynamics of the earth€™s atmosphere.
  3. Discuss the basic physical principles of energy
  4. Explain how solar and gravitational energy drive weather
  5. Describe the different facets of the hydrologic cycle and atmospheric circulation
  6. Outline the details of weather observation
  7. Discuss weather systems and major theories used to explain and predict the behavior of these systems
  8. Outline the details of weather forecasting
  9. Discuss climate, climate zones, and the factors that shape them
  10. Explain how and why climate changes
  11. Discuss humans impact weather and climate change
  12. Other topics as desired by the instructor.

Meteorology as a science

  1. The scientific method as it applies to meteorology
  2. Major divisions and activities of meteorology
  3. Short history of meteorology

Atmospheric basics

  1. Physical and chemical properties of air
  2. Structure of the atmosphere
  3. Energy flow and dynamics of the atmosphere

Basics of weather

  1. Physics of energy €“ States and forms of energy, energy conversions, and types and behavior of radiant energy.
  2. Flow of energy through the atmosphere
  3. Heat and temperature €“ Basic physics, measurement, and temporal and geographic variation
  4. Physics and chemistry of water
  5. Water cycling within the atmosphere
  6. Humidity
  7. Clouds, cloud formation, and precipitation
  8. Physics of air €“ Air pressure and density
  9. Movement of air within the atmosphere
  10. Measuring and mapping air pressure and winds
  11. Types of winds €“ Micro, meso, global scale

Weather systems

  1. Typical global and regional weather patterns
  2. Systems, theory, and modeling
  3. Global atmospheric circulation within the troposphere
  4. Air mass characteristics and development
  5. Weather front characteristics and behavior
  6. Mid-latitude and tropical cyclone characteristics and development

Weather forecasting

  1. Weather data gathering and organization
  2. Forecast techniques

Climate and climate change