Syllabus: Climate Change 1: The Earth’s Climate System
Instructor: Prof. Wolfgang H. Berger, Teaching Assistant: Patty Anderson
Confused about the global warming Debate? This is your chance to get the story straight from scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. This introductory on-line course presents Earth’s climate system and explores the science and politics of global climate change. This 5 week course consists of 12 lessons. Course topics include the greenhouse effect, El Niño, ocean circulation, the science and politics of global warming and climate change impacts on California. All the reading, course material and assessments are on-line, there are no regularly scheduled class meetings: learn where and when you want! Included are printable lecture notes, engaging discussion groups, weekly group assignments and links to additional material.
It is an introductory course; there are no prerequisites.
Text: Our courses are self-written and all lecture notes and reading material are available on-line as html documents and printable pdf files. There is no other required text.
Method of Teaching: This is an on-line course, all course materials are available on-line. Learning methods include printable lecture notes, asynchronous threaded discussions, weekly assignments, on-line short quizzes at the end of each chapter, and links to additional material.
- 20%: Thoughtful participation in on-line threaded discussions.
- 30%: Successful completion of short weekly assignments (i.e. writing a short essay or position piece, outside web-based research on a class topics, etc.)
- 50% Short quizzes at the end of each chapter (multiple choice and short answer)
Topical Outline: The course is 5 weeks; we introduce 2-3 lessons per week for a total of 12 lessons. Each lesson requires about 2 hours to complete – including reading, a short assignment, discussion and a quiz.
- Lesson 1: Introduction
-Climate in the Spotlight, -The Spectrum of Scientific Opinion, -Pundits, Advocates and Apocalypse, -How to Tell Science from Rubbish
- Lesson 2: The Earth’s Natural Greenhouse Effect
-General Overview ,-Why the Earth is a Nice Place to Live,-The Radiative Balance,-The Importance of Water
- Lesson 3: greenhouse gases
-Greenhouse Gases: An Overview, -The Role of Carbon Dioxide, -The Role of Methane, -Major Uncertainties
- Lesson 4: CO2 Emissions
-Human Emissions of CO2, -How Much Carbon in the Ground?, -Different Concerns of Rich and Poor Countries
- Lesson 5: The Earth’s Carbon Reservoirs
-What is Biogeochemistry?, -Why is the Atmospheric Carbon Reservoir so Small?, -Breathing of Gaia, -The Missing CO2 Sink
- Lesson 6: Carbon Cycling: Some Examples
-The Physical Carbon Pump, -The Biological Carbon Pump, -The Marine Carbon Cycle, -The Terrestrial Carbon Cycle
- Lesson 7: Climate and Weather
-Climate and Weather: Some Definitions, -The Earth’s Climate Machine
- Lesson 8: Global Wind Systems
-Trade Windsand the Hadley Cell,-The Highs and Lows of the Westerlies, -The Vital Importance of Monsoon Rains, -Why are there Seasons?
- Lesson 9: Clouds, Storms and Climate
-Cloud Formation and Climate,-Hurricanes and Global Warming
- Lesson 10: Global Ocean Circulation
-Introduction and Overview, -Strawberries in Norway, -The Icelandic Whirlpool,-Origin of the Gulf Stream,-The Deep Atlantic Conveyor
- Lesson 11: El Niño and the Southern Oscillation
-El Niño and its Effects,-Upwelling and Climate
- Lesson 12: Outlook for the Future
-Introduction to Climate Change,-Advances in Computer Modeling,-Physics versus Fudge Factors
Upon completion of this course students should be able to describe how the Earth’s climate system works and summarize general atmosphere circulation patterns, ocean circulation patterns and climate oscillations such as the El-Niño Southern Oscillation. Students should be able to illustrate components of the Earth’s carbon cycle and quantitatively describe how addition of CO2 to the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels will influence the climate. Importantly, students will gain the scientific basis to analyze and critique policy issues related to global warming.