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Global Climate Change

E&ES 359
Spring 2011
Section: 01  
Certificates: Environmental Studies

The climate of the earth has been changing over the course of Earth history. Over the last few decades we have come to realize that humans may be the strongest driver of climate change in the 20th century and near future. In this class we evaluate that hypothesis in some depth, using the basic physical foundations of climate science with a focus on radiative principles. We study the details of the short carbon cycle and the empirical climate record of the last 1000 years, with data from the instrumental record, historical indicators, and physical (pollen, geochemical/isotopic temperature indicators) records. Besides the principles of fundamental climate science, we will deal with some of the results of climate change, mainly sea level rise and feedbacks on the biosphere. We look at the impact of humans on atmospheric chemistry and how human civilization has caused changes in the carbon cycle, possibly already during the transition from hunter gatherers to agricultural society. The final part of the lecture section is on future climate, using economic scenarios, mitigation and adaptation efforts, and climate/economics models. Parallel to the lectures, several experimental projects are done by groups of students: studies with our experimental "analog earth" climate model; monitoring CO2 in Middletown air for a semester; working with data from the new Wesleyan Weatherstation to calculate theoretical climate fluctuations; experimental work on the absorption of CO2 into water for the geochemically inclined; the impact of raised CO2 levels on plant growth for the biologically inclined; and a social economic global assessment on carbon policies for the environmental studies types. In other years, students built solar ovens and a basic infrared spectrometer as well as projects.

This class goes into some depth into the theory of climate, and is demanding regarding the independently run student projects: fiddling with unruly instruments, dealing with large datasets, learning to program in Excel, etc. Students need enthusiasm, self reliance and a `spirit of discovery' attitude. Having taken the EES core course Oceans and Climate (EES290) is recommended, but not a strict requirement.

Essential Capabilities: None
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: NSM E&ES
Course Format: LectureGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (CIS)(E&ES)(ENVS-MN)(ENVS)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUN-14-2024
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