EAE3142 - Tropical meteorology - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment

Chief examiner(s)

Professor Michael Reeder


Professor Michael Reeder

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


One of ATM2030, ENG2005, EAE2122, MTH2010, MTH2015


Tropical weather is very different from that in the mid and higher latitudes. For example, compared with the mid and higher latitudes, temperature and pressure gradients are (mostly) very weak in the tropics. This unit describes the key properties of the tropical atmosphere and explains the science underpinning tropical climate and weather. The governing equations of motion are introduced and the approximations relevant to the tropics described and justified. The most important of these approximations, and the fundamental reason for the differences between the tropics and the mid and higher latitudes, is that the effect of the earth's rotation (as expressed through the Coriolis force) is small in the tropics. Another important distinction between the tropics and elsewhere is that the atmosphere is more strongly coupled to the ocean. The approximated equations of motion will be used to explain the Hadley circulation, equatorial waves and the El Nino - Southern Oscillation, and these explanations compared in detail with observation. Unlike the midlatitudes, moist convection is essential in understanding the weather and climate of the tropics. For this reason emphasis will be placed on the parts played by convection and radiation in driving the large-scale circulation and in producing locally important weather. The unit concludes with an examination of tropical cyclones, perhaps the most destructive weather system on the planet.


On completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Describe in detail the key structural features of the tropical weather and climate;
  2. Reproduce the governing equations and the approximations relevant to the tropical atmosphere;
  3. Utilise the approximate equations to explain how the key features of the tropical weather and climate work;
  4. Explain why the weather and climate of the tropics is so different to the that at higher latitudes;
  5. Recognise the central importance of diabatic processes to the weather and climate of the tropics, and be able to explain how these diabatic processes drive tropical weather and climate;
  6. Communicate clearly the key concepts covered in the unit, both verbally and in written form.


NOTE: From 1 July 2019, the duration of all exams is changing to combine reading and writing time. The new exam duration for this unit is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Examination (2 hours): 60%

Assignments: 20%

Group presentation: 10%

Tests: 10%

Workload requirements

Three 1-hour lectures and one 2-hour tutorial/practical per week

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study