McMaster University

McMaster University


Surface Climate Processes and Environmental Interaction

Calendar Description

3 unit(s)
The surface heat and water balance of natural and human-modified landscapes. Emphasis on interactions of people and the biosphere with climate.
Two lectures, one lab (two hours); one term
Prerequisite(s): One of EARTHSC 1G03, ENVIRSC 1A03, 1B03, 1C03, 1G03, ISCI 1A24 A/B 
Cross-list(s): ENVIR SC 2C03, EARTH SC 2C03

Time/Term Offered: Term One, Fall, 2015-16

Instructor: Dr. M. Altaf Arain
Room: General Science Building Rm. 221
Tel:(905) 525.9140 x27941
Office hours: Mondays, 4:00-4:30pm

Teaching Assistant:

Katey Daly Email:                                   

Eric Beamesderfer Email:        

Course Outline Avenue to Learn


In this course, we will focus on understanding the near-surface climate processes by which energy (radiation and heat) and mass (water and gas such a CO2) is stored and transferred between the Earth and the Atmosphere in natural and human-modified landscapes. We will focus primarily on the planetary boundary layer, which ranges from a few meters below the surface to a few hundred meters above the surface.
Upon completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define the various layers of the Earth-Atmosphere boundary, and describe the energy and mass exchange processes occurring within each;
  2. Demonstrate an ability to analyze and resolve energy and mass budgets over a variety of vegetated and non-vegetated surfaces;
  3. Explain and use the relations that are helpful in modeling/estimating exchanges of mass and energy within and between the components of the Earth-atmosphere system;
  4. Effectively use analysis software (e.g. MS Excel) with the scientific methods to investigate surface climate processes and extract understanding from observations; and,
  5. Use your knowledge of near-surface climate dynamics to synthesize new and holistic understanding of complex Earth-atmosphere systems and climate scenarios.


Monday,         11:30 am - 12:20 pm,             Hamilton Hall, Room 302
Wednesday,    11:30 am - 12:20 pm,             Hamilton Hall, Room 302

LAB SECTIONS:                





Teaching Assistant



4:30pm – 6:20pm

BSB 238

Katey Daly



8:30am – 10:20am

KTH B107

Katey Daly



4:30pm – 6:20pm

BSB 122

Eric Beamesdefer



8:30am – 10:20am

KTH B107

Eric Beamesdefer


Required Text Books/Course materials:

Oke, T.R., 1987, Boundary Layer Climates, 2nd Ed. Routledge. ISBN: 0-415-04319-0
(available at The Campus Store or other venues) 


Lab assignments

30% (3 @ 10% each)

In-class quizzes

10% (best 3 of 4 @ 3.33% each)

Midterm exam                       


Final exam (cumulative)




Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  • Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.

  • Improper collaboration in group work.

  • Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The Instructor and University reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The University may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar “Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work”.




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