How climate change works
Understanding how the Earth’s climate works, how and why it changes, and how it’s likely to change over the coming years is not just a way to satisfy your curiosity. No matter what your field of study or what kind of work you do, the problem (and solutions!) of climate change will very likely be a major theme in your life. After taking this course, you will no longer be confused by conflicting media stories about climate. You will actually understand the processes that control the Earth’s climate, the sensitivity of those processes to atmospheric greenhouse gases, the impacts of climate change, and the options available to mitigate and adapt to those changes.
“Climate Science for Poets!”
This course will provide a thorough grounding in the science of global climate change for undergraduates. It is intended to be accessible to nonscience majors, and uses minimal mathematics (familiarity with high-school algebra). We will cover the basic physics of radiation and energy as it applies to incoming solar and outgoing longwave radiation that determines the energy balance of the Earth and the forcing of climate change. Human perturbations to this balance will be considered, especially the emission of greenhouse gases by combustion of fossil fuels. The fate of anthropogenic emissions will be explored. Climate feedback processes and climate sensitivity to Radiative forcing will be explained. Numerical models will be explained qualitatively, and the projections of future global change will be put in the context of past climate change.
The course itself:
The class format consists of three formal lectures per week. Lecture notes will be downloadable from this web site. Readings will be assigned each week from the required textbook. In-class demonstrations of basic physical principles used to develop understanding. The semester grade will be determined by two exams (1/3 each), plus four homework assignments (1/3 total).
Students are encouraged to download and print lecture notes to bring to class.