ATOC’s Introductory Courses (ATOC 1000, 1050 and 1060) are designed to accomplish the following learning goals. These learning goals combine knowledge-based and skill-based attributes that will prepare our students for a successful undergraduate career. The following learning goals were developed by the Spring 2016 ATOC TRESTLE Team.


ATOC Introductory Course Learning Goals

  1. Graphical literacy:  Draw conclusions from atmospheric and oceanic data through creating and/or interpreting plots and graphs.
  2. Investigative thinking:  Be able to use logic, data, reasoning, critical thinking, and/or the scientific method to formulate and/or answer a question that is posed about atmospheric and oceanic systems.
  3. Societal and personal relevance:  Apply principles from the course to inform everyday choices relating to weather, climate, and/or oceans (e.g., weather safety, weather maps, energy and water conservation.)
  4. Enthusiasm for atmospheric and oceanic sciences:  Develop an enthusiasm for the skills and perspectives of atmospheric and oceanic science.
  5. Physical processes:  Identify and explain the basic physical processes that drive the coupled atmosphere-ocean system (e.g., energy distribution, phase changes, stability, winds and currents), and be able to apply logic to predict how processes are impacted as different environmental characteristics change.
    • Distinguish between weather and climate processes. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • Identify examples of weather and climate
      • Appreciate regional differences in weather and climate and their respective causes
      • Distinguish the temporal and spatial scales associated with weather and climate processes
      • Appreciate the differences in the predictability of the weather versus the predictability of the climate
    • Describe the global distribution of incoming/outgoing/net energy and the influence of the atmosphere on the Earth’s temperature. Appreciate how this impacts global temperatures and heat transport in the atmosphere and ocean. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • The greenhouse effect (highly recommended)
      • Radiation distribution, including longwave and shortwave radiation, and the seasons
      • Milankovitch cycles
      • Net radiation budgets
      • Global wind belts and ocean currents
      • Oceanic and atmospheric sensible and latent heat fluxes
      • Transient weather phenomena
      • The daily cycle of the atmospheric boundary layer
    • Explain how phase changes of water occur, and how they impact weather, climate, and/or ocean circulation. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • Methods of achieving saturation
      • Relative versus absolute measures of humidity
      • Latent and sensible heat, Bowen ratios
      • Cloud formation and cloud seeding
      • Precipitation processes
      • Sea ice and land ice formation/melt
    • Analyze how the atmosphere and ocean are a coupled system. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • Additional couplings between the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, biosphere, and/or solid Earth
      • The carbon cycle
      • Heat and gas fluxes
      • Wind stress and its influence on upwelling, sea ice processes, thermohaline circulation
      • Tropical cyclone and sea surface temperature feedbacks
      • El Nino - Southern Oscillation
      • Land-sea breezes and monsoon circulations
      • Interaction between physical circulations and the distribution of life (e.g. phytoplankton)
    • Name and describe the dynamics that drive atmospheric winds and/or ocean currents across all scales, and use physical principles to predict how processes will evolve over time. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • Force Balances
        • Pressure gradient, Coriolis, centrifugal, and frictional forces
        • Geostrophic and gradient wind balances
      • Heat budgets
        • Temperature advection
        • Surface radiative and turbulent fluxes
      • Global general circulation
        • The three-cell atmospheric model
        • Divergence and convergence in the atmosphere
        • The ocean’s wind-driven circulation
          • Surface currents
          • Ekman transport, downwelling, and upwelling
          • Western intensification
        • Thermohaline circulation
      • Basic weather-scale features in the atmosphere and ocean
        • Air masses and fronts
        • Thunderstorms and tornados
        • Midlatitude cyclones
        • Tropical cyclones
        • Oceanic eddies
    • Describe stability in the atmosphere and oceans and apply these concepts to assess how situations will evolve. This could include, but is not limited to concepts such as:
      • Positive, negative, & neutral buoyancy
      • Positive and negative feedbacks
      • Assessing stability
      • Factors influencing the atmospheric lapse rate
        • Inversions
      • Factors influencing the vertical profiles of ocean temperature, salinity, and density
        • Sea ice impacts on oceanic stability

Additional desired learning goals that should be implemented when resources are available

  1. Communication:  Demonstrate skill in communicating scientific concepts clearly and elegantly.