Taking the lower part of the troposphere as an integrative factor in the most important processes involved in terrestrial biochemistry, my approach to lecturing is that my BSc and MSc students need first to learn and assimilate the relevant physical processes that govern the lower part of the Atmosphere, namely the atmospheric boundary layer. Key meteorological processes such as atmosphere turbulence and cloud formation play crucial roles in determining air quality (for instance by controlling their mixing and dilution of pollutants) and hydrometeorology (for example by determining energy balance at the surface and the influence of soil moisture and carbon dioxide concentration on the partitioning of the thermal heat and evaporation fluxes). In proposing BSc and MSc research topics, I therefore regard it as essential to emphasize that crucial processes such as evapotranspiration, which regulates our climate system, depend on interactions between atmospheric physical/chemical conditions and soil-vegetation dynamics closely linked to the carbon cycle.
On the basis of my own teaching, my research group is therefore developing new methods and educational tools to bridge the gaps between fields by broadening students’ field of view without abandoning the need to deepen their understanding of their own particular fields. My methods are based on understanding theoretical concepts by practice and encouraging students to play a more active role in the learning process . An example of this approach is our book entitled ‘Atmospheric boundary layer: integrating air chemistry and land interactions’, which was published by Cambridge University Press in June 2015. Strongly supported by new interactive software package CLASS, the book proposes a journey under the motto "learning by doing" on the role played by the atmospheric boundary layer in governing the atmospheric budgets of heat, moisture, wind, CO2 and reactive species. By performing systematic numerical experiments, readers learn the main features of the coupling between land and the atmosphere, with special emphasis on the interaction between vegetation and soil. CLASS is also very appropriate as a means of introducing the main processes associated with boundary layer clouds: stratocumulus and shallow cumulus. Finally, CLASS is a valuable modelling tool that supports the interpretation of field experiments, thanks to its flexibility and ease of use in situ. Since the model is designed to be used at near-observational scale, it provides a useful means of disentangling the interactions of surface and atmospheric processes.
The CLASS Software, instruction and knowledge clips, and book have been developed on the basis of active teamwerk that combines a wide range of expertise.
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Developing and lecturing these courses
These lectures introduce students to the main concepts concerning the atmospheric boundary layer. By starting with the physical meaning of turbulent flux and turbulent kinetic energy. I explain step by step the relevance of atmospheric turbulence to the two most important prototypes of the atmospheric boundary layers: the convective boundary and the stable boundary layers. Special emphasis is placed on analysing the relevance of scaling and providing a mathematical framework that allows the student to calculate key variables such as boundary layer depth growth and the diurnal variability of state variables. To reinforce the relevance of boundary-layer dynamics to air quality, the final lecture centres on the turbulent dispersion of pollutants. The course is aimed at BSc level, but also serves to introduce the mathematical and physical framework of dispersion of pollutants and boundary-layer clouds. The main learning outcomes of the course are an understanding of the diurnal variability of the atmospheric boundary layer and the assimilation of the main principles of boundary-layer schemes. The course consists of six weeks of lectures that combining theoretical classes with closely related supportive pen and paper exercises.
Intended as an introductory course to prepare for the final MSc research project, this tailor-made course aims to impart the fundamental principles of atmospheric modelling, getting acquainted with the use of state-of-the-art meteorological models and critically analysing their results. The course emphasises the design of numerical experiments in relation to research questions (sensitivity to parameterizations of physical processes, land use changes, etc.). An important component of the course is the critical discussion of results by comparing them with field observations, with the results of other models and previous literature. In the course of six weeks, students perform their own research in the shape of experiments with the Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) model or the conceptual model CLASS. By the end of the course students are therefore familiar with the design of numerical experiments and are capable of critically discussing the results of atmospheric modelling experiments. Evaluation is based on the final report in form of a research article and an oral presentation that summarises its main findings.
Clouds and evaporation in present and changing climate
This course provides insight into cloud processes coupled to land and see conditions, and their relevance for weather and climate on a variety of scales. Here, I place special emphasis on boundary layer clouds such as stratocumulus (marine boundary layer) and shallow cumulus (atmospheric boundary layers formed over land), and their interactions with the surface energy balance, mainly the partitioning of the available net radiation in evapotranspiration and sensible heat flux. The modular character of the course allows students to design their own path according to their interests in either more theoretical or practical aspects of the interaction between the dynamics of the surface and clouds, with the possibility to introduce atmospheric chemistry. The practical part of the course involves the use of model simulations to study the evolution and vertical structure of convective boundary layers. Besides the numerical exercises, a major part of the course involves the use of model simulations to study the evolution and vertical structure of convective boundary layers. At the end of the course, students are asked to define their own research questions related to land-atmosphere systems and to answer them by analysing numerical experiments. The course is offered at MSc level and an important component is therefore the reading and discussion of research articles related to land-atmosphere interactions and boundary-layer clouds.
Taylor Made courses for PhD and postdocs
These short courses (which have a flexible format ranging from two days to a week) are specially designed for MSc and PhD students interested in learning specific aspects of the atmospheric boundary layer in relation to cloud formation, atmospheric chemistry or the interaction between atmosphere and land (vegetation and soil). I have presented these courses at the Max Planck Institutes of Meteorology (Hamburg) and Chemistry (Mainz), the Cyprus Institute, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Barcelona), Universidade Federal Santa Maria (Santa Maria, Brazil), CzechGlobe (Brno, Czech Republic) and Istanbul Technical University (Istanbul, Turkey).