Geophysiology - Course Description

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The focus of this block is on the geophysiology of the earth.  From Hadley Cells, the Coriolis Effect and ocean currents, to the pressure gradient force, jet streams and global climate change, we look at many of the complex phenomena that make up the biosphere of this planet.


  • Maps & your observations about the shapes of the continents and land/water distribution. 
  • Diagram of ITCZ with Hadley Cells.  Explain how the convection loops around the ITCZ arise and what causes the band of deserts at 30 degrees N & S of the equator?
  • The angle of the sun at different latitudes and how this affects its intensity (+ drawing). Drawing of the earth's 23.5 degree tilt and how that affects the sun's force in Chicago throughout the year.  Drawing of sun’s changing arc over Chicago.
  • Factors that affect local climate.
  • Latent heat diagram. How latent heat manifests in everyday examples like ice cubes in drinks and sweating.
  • The Three-Cell Model: drawing that includes highs and lows, doldrums and horse latitudes. The Coriolus Effect.
  • The make-up of air. Air Pressure: the column of air at sea level--what it weighs and examples of how it varies with elevation changes. Pressure Gradient Force (PGF): winds blow form H to L (w. drawing). Formula (∆ P / d).
  • The three primary factors influencing winds.  Geostrophic winds: with less air density and less friction, how do they flow differently from surface winds.(w. formula: 1/p x ∆ P / d).
  • Diagram of the way winds curve out of a H into a L due to the interaction of these three forces.
  • Diagram of the way winds curve out of a H into a L due to the interaction of these three forces. Geostrophic winds flow parallel to isobars due to lack of friction. 
  • Weather map Dec. 10
  • Descending air in Highs moves clockwise In N. Hemisphere.  Ascending air in Lows moves counterclockwise.   How can we tell where a High or a Low is by looking at the winds above?  Weather map Dec. 11.
  •  Explanation and sketches of jet streams.
  •  Warmth distribution in oceans.  Horizontal not vertical circulation.  Cause of surface currents.  Sketch of ocean gyres with explanation. Map of the surface ocean currents
  •  The importance of the Gulf Stream for Europe. The importance of vertical circulation in the oceans. The Thermohaline Current with map.
  •  The Breathing of the Biosphere: the Keeling Curve (three handouts).  What do the graphs show?  What are the two main causes of the CO2 increases?  Reading on Global Warming.
  • Handouts to fossil fuel consumption, burning rates, atmospheric green house gas and CO2 concentrations since 1000 CE & global average surface temperatures since 1861.  Greenhouse gases.


Faculty:                      Michael Holdrege, High School Sciences Teacher
Class Dates:             February 24-March 21, 2014
Curriculum Area:    Morning Lesson Block
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