Thursday, August 29, 2013

The science behind climate change: learn to rumble with skeptics or enthusiasts

Climate Change Processes (Geography 494/Atmospheric Sciences 694) will be offered this fall at UAF.
Geography Assistant Professor Daniel Mann said students will gain a basic understanding of climate and the confidence to rumble with global warming skeptics and enthusiasts alike.
Daniel Mann

"Climate change is one of the main challenges of life on Earth over the coming century," Mann said. "Everyone needs to understand why it is happening, what it may involve and what could happen."
The four-credit course will cover the causes of the ice ages, global energy balance, natural climate variability, greenhouse gases, anthropogenic climate change, climate feedbacks and much more.

Prerequisites: senior standing, graduate student, ATM 401/601 or equivalent or instructors' permission. It is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 to 11:30 in the Reichardt Building and Friday from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Aksofu Building (IARC).

In addition to Dr. Mann, Dr. Uma Bhatt, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, will instruct the course.

Course Description: This class explores the causes of climate change by combining a review of Earth’s long and varied climate history with a review of the physical processes controlling climate and weather today. Lectures move between paleoclimate history and climate dynamics and back again in order to describe what is currently known about the causes of climate change on this planet. The climate dynamics portion of the class is divided into seven topics: 
  1.  Radiation: Shortwave radiation, longwave radiation, radiative energy balance,
  2.   Chemistry and Carbon Cycle:
  3.  Thermodynamics:
  4.   Dynamics of atmosphere and ocean:
  5.   Hydrological cycle:
  6.   Modeling:
  7.   Synthesis and relevance:  sea level change, changes in Greenland, unknowns for projections of future climate
The paleoclimate portion of the class is divided into four parts:
  1.  Tectonic-scale climate change (billions to millions of years)
  2.  Orbital scale climate change (100,000 to 20,000 years)
  3.  Millennial-scale climate change and events of the last 40,000 years
  4.  Holocene and future climates

Course Objectives: This is a capstone course for the B.S. Geography “Landscape Analysis and Climate Change” option. It is also designed as a synthesis course for Geography, NRM and Natural Sciences undergraduates who wish to gain literacy in the rapidly developing field of climate change science. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the Earth’s climate history and climate dynamics and will be trained to critically evaluate both the validity of paleoclimatic reconstructions and of climate-model predictions.

Required Text:
William F. Ruddiman, Earth’s Climate Past and Future. Second Edition 2008.
Recommended Texts:
  • Dennis Hartmann, Global Physical Climatology (The International  Geophysics Series, Vol 56) by Academic  Press, 1994, ISBN: 012328530-5. List Price:  $83.95.
  •  IPCC Report: Climate Change 2007: The Scientific Basis, downloadable from the internet for free.
  • Numerous climate books will be on reserve at the Geophysical Institute Library in the Akasofu Building (ground floor level).

Student Learning Outcomes:
Students who are successful in this class will learn:
  • The climate history of Earth as we now understand it, with particular emphasis on the last 2 million years.
  • A basic understanding of how the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere interacted in the course of the striking prehistoric shifts between ice age and interglacial climates.
  • Become familiar with the basic concepts of climate dynamics including: global energy balance, surface energy balance, hydrological cycle, atmospheric and oceanic general circulation as related to climate, past climate, climate feedbacks, climate models and natural and anthropogenic climate variability/change.
By the end of this class, students will:
  •  Be able to discuss intelligently paleo- and current climate-change issues.
  • Apply concepts from this class to their own research where applicable (Pass comprehensive exam in Climate for ATM Ph.D. program).
  • Be able to read journal articles in the mainstream paleoclimate and climate scientific literature.

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