Course Aim

To provide an understanding of the physical properties of the atmosphere and how they affect the weather, with an emphasis on the factors affecting aviation.



Relationship to Standards

  • Forms part of the Basic Instructional Package for Meteorological Technicians (BIP-MT) as described in WMO 1083 – Manual on the Implementation of Education and Training Standards in Meteorology and Hydrology.

  • Conforms to the WMO 1209 background knowledge and skills requirements for Aeronautical Meteorological Observers.

  • Accredited by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Summary of Content

  • The Atmosphere

  • Moisture in the Atmosphere

  • Heat Exchange Processes

  • Air Temperature

  • Air Density and Pressure

  • Atmospheric Stability

  • Clouds

  • Wind

  • Thunderstorms and other Hazards

  • Major Weather Systems and Patterns

  • Aerodrome Weather Reports and Forecasts

Assessment Method

Online examination.

Note: The course assessment is available only to enrolled users.

Assessment Criteria

The Atmosphere

  1. Recall the composition of gases in the troposphere

  2. Describe the normal air temperature and pressure profile in the troposphere, at the tropopause, and the lower stratosphere

  3. In the international standard atmosphere (ISA) recall:

    • Sea level temperature and pressure

    • Temperature lapse rate in the troposphere

Moisture in the Atmosphere

  1. Recall the three states of water and the process involved in a change of state.

  2. Define the following terms:

    • saturated air, relative humidity, dew-point temperature

    • evaporation, condensation, freezing, deposition, sublimation

Heat Exchange Processes

  1. Understand the process of heat exchange through incoming solar radiation and outgoing terrestrial radiation

  2. Describe the way the sun’s energy is redistributed within the atmosphere through the following processes:

      • Conduction, advection, convection, radiation and latent heat

  3. Describe the role of latent heat in the change of state of water between a solid, liquid and vapour

Air Temperature

  1. Describe the method of measuring surface air temperature, and understand how temperatures throughout a locality may vary.

  2. Define the following terms:

    • isotherm, temperature inversion

  3. List factors that influence the diurnal variation of surface air temperature.

Air Density and Pressure

  1. Define the following terms:

    • isobar, pressure gradient

  2. Recall the density of dry air at sea level in the international standard atmosphere

  3. Recall the pressure lapse rate near sea level.

  4. Understand the effect that temperature, pressure and humidity have on air density, and how this affects aircraft performance.

Atmospheric Stability

  1. Define the following terms:

    • adiabatic process

    • dry and saturated adiabatic lapse rates

  2. Describe the behaviour of a rising parcel of air under various conditions of stability.

  3. On an aerological diagram, identify:

    • stable, unstable, neutral and conditionally unstable areas

    • surface radiation inversions and subsidence inversions


  1. Describe the basic characteristics of the main cloud types

  2. Recall which of the main cloud types belong to the low, middle and high levels.

  3. Recall the boundary heights used between the low, middle and high cloud levels in Australia.

  4. Describe the basic cloud formation processes.


  1. State the standard height for measuring surface wind.

  2. Describe the relationship between pressure and wind and apply Buys Ballot’s law to approximate the location of high and low pressure systems for large-scale flow.

  3. Define:

    • squalls and gusts

    • backing and veering

  4. Describe the effect of surface friction on wind direction and speed when comparing winds above and below the friction layer.

  5. Describe the characteristics of the Coriolis force.

  6. Describe the process for the formation of:

    • sea-breezes and land breezes

    • katabatic and anabatic winds

    • a Föhn wind

    • mountain waves

Thunderstorms and other Hazards

  1. Recall the lifecycle of an ordinary thunderstorm cell.

  2. State the conditions necessary for thunderstorm development.

  3. Describe the hazards to aviation associated with thunderstorm activity and microbursts.

  4. State the conditions favourable to the development of:

    • radiation fog

    • advection fog

  5. Describe the conditions favourable for the formation of the following structural airframe icing types:

    • clear ice, rime ice, and mixed ice

    • hoar frost

Major Weather Systems and Patterns

  1. Identify the following features depicted on a mean sea level weather chart:

    • high and low pressure systems

    • troughs, ridges, cols

    • warm, cold, occluded and stationary fronts

  2. Indicate the change in wind direction, temperature and pressure following the passage of a front.

  3. With respect to tropical cyclones, recall:

    • the cyclone season for the southern hemisphere

    • the requirements for cyclone development in terms of

      • latitude; and

      • water temperature

    • the associated wind speeds

    • the life cycle

Aerodrome Weather Reports and Forecasts

  1. Decode the following products:


    • TAF

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Last modified: Monday, 13 June 2022, 11:53 AM