ES 560: Topics in Earth Science: Phase Change of Water in the Atmosphere


Contact the Course Instructor:



Electronic Mail


Office Hours

Dr. Rob Hellström

209A, Conant Science Building, Bridgewater State College

(508) 531-2842

Contact instructor by e-mail or phone

Course Prerequisites:

Eligible to sign up for graduate level courses at Bridgewater State College.

Course Structure:


Course #



Internet Browser


(1 credit hr)

One meeting at end of course (TBA)


Required Textbook:

No required textbook: students will receive laboratory handouts and copies of lecture notes.

Helpful Resources:

These text resources are not required, but may be helpful (available from instructor):

Ahrens, C. D., 2001: Essentials of Meteorology. 3rd ed. Brooks/Cole Publishing. 464 pp.

Lutgens, F. K., and E. J. Tarbuck, 2001: The Atmosphere. 8th ed. Prentice Hall. 484 pp.

Danielson, E. W., J. Levin, and E. Abrams, 1998: Meteorology. WCB McGraw-Hill. 462 pp.

Online Weather Studies: Study Guide, 2001: Fourth Printing. American Meteorological Society. Preview at:

Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks for Massachusetts: World Wide Web access to MS Word download:   

Course Objectives:

This course is designed for middle and high school teachers of earth science and general science. Topics, presented over the Internet, will include data collecting and weather analysis. Teachers will gain experience through development of Internet-based modules and experiments with physical models in the classroom. Emphasis will be placed on current issues and innovative use of available resources. A course web page will provide access to content material and updates; access using the Internet Explorer or Netscape world wide web browsers. The course will be taught online with one class meeting for lab experiments.


Grading for this course is based on completion of two (2) experiments and development of one (1) Internet-based activity related to Earth and/or Space Science. The online activity will include a short paper describing the background of the module content. Students will complete two (2) online quizzes and one (1) final exam.

·         Experiments (20%): The instructor will provide descriptions of and you will complete two (2) group experiments during the second of three class meetings. Motivating critical thinking, inquiry, use of mathematics, and understanding the scientific method are the primary objectives of the projects. Projects will include field observations, Internet activities, interpretation of real-time weather images and digital data, lab-oriented content material and applications of a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) for graphing and analysis. The exercise outline accessible from the course web page provide further details of the projects below.


Experiment #1: Supercooled Water and Latent Heat in the Atmosphere

Experiment #2: Clouds and Snow


Phase change of water releases or absorbs energy from its surrounding environment. This project examines the concept of latent heat and supercooled water through hands-on experimentation and graphical analysis. An understanding latent heat and other forms of heat transfer is fundamental understanding meteorological phenomena, such as precipitation formation and thunderstorm and hurricane development. Material requirements are kept simple and easily acquired at low cost. The project will emphasize field observations, interpretation of patterns, working with fractions and geometry, graphing techniques, and scientific writing skills.  Students must acquire the materials necessary to complete the experiments. Each experiment provides a set of questions, including multiple choice, short answer, graphing/analysis and short essays. Your grade is based on accuracy and completeness of the answers to questions in each experiment.


·         Development of online activity (30%): The course web page will provide a tutorial and detailed procedure for developing and publishing your Internet activity. Your activity should motivate critical thinking, inquiry, use of mathematics, and understanding the scientific method. You may use concepts stated in Strand 1: Earth and Space Science, of the Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework for Massachusetts. Furthermore, the activity should be appropriate for the grade level you are teaching. Content will draw upon your experience with science and math and should focus on subjects in Earth Science. Your grade is based on how well your module meets the motivational requirements given above.


·         Short paper (10%): This 3-to-5 page, double-spaced, paper will provide sufficient background information for understanding the content of your online activity. The paper must be submitted to the instructor in digital format (MS Word document is preferred). 


·         Quizzes (10%): Two online quizzes will demonstrate your understanding of content related to the two experiments. Quizzes will be activated according to the course outline. You will have a limited amount of time to evaluate and answer each question and will submit answers to quizzes by clicking on a “submit” button. You may repeat the quiz and submit the answers a second time. Your final quiz grade is based on the average of all submitted quizzes, up to two per quiz (4 total).


·         Final exam (30%): The final exam will draw from course online lecture material and experiments completed in this class. A set of online review questions will help you study for this exam. The final exam is online and consists of multiple choice and short answer questions.

Attendance and Communication:

You must attend one class meeting (TBA) to share your activities with other students in the class. You will be contacted if poor weather conditions necessitate cancellation of the meeting. The course web site will facilitate communication among students and the instructor. You must provide your e-mail address to the instructor at the onset of the course.

Supplies you need to purchase or acquire (each student):
  • One loose-leaf, 3-ring binder (1.0 inch size recommended)
  • One 3.5 inch floppy diskette (IBM formatted)
  • You will receive additional materials to complete the course content
  • 1 empty (clear) 2 Liter bottle with cap
  • Styrofoam cooler
  • Clear plastic cup
  • Ordinary table salt (1/4 cup per student)
  • Access to hot water tap
  • Two liquid-in-glass thermometers
  • Flat-black spray paint
  • Large disposable aluminum cookie sheets
  • Glass coffee pot or large glass beaker of similar size
  • Large Zip-lock bag
  • Enough ice cubes to fill the Zip-lock bag
  • Book of matches
  • Flashlight
  • Leather or insulated work gloves (handling dry ice)
  • Duct tape (about 2 meters length)
  • Dry ice pellets (order from the Dry Ice Corporation, Rockland, MA:
    • Phone: 781.871.4407
    • Comes in 50 pound boxes at about $32.00 per box => enough for 5 experiments

Special needs: 

Any student eligible for and needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a disability is requested to contact the instructor prior to starting the course.