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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eric J Steig
ESS 201
Seattle Campus

The Earth System and Climate

Earth's dynamic environment, global energy balance, interplay of chemical, physical, and biological processes shaping the Earth's surface and climate. Emphasis on quantitative methods for measuring, evaluating, and understanding contemporary changes relative to the last several thousand years. Prerequisite: either MATH 124, MATH 144, or Q SCI 291.

Class description

Climate change is frequently in the news and is a subject of intense political debate. This course provides solid introduction to the scientific basis of modern understanding of climate change. Students will learn what we know about how the earth's climate system works today, how it has operated in the past, and how this information can be used to help us know what we can expect in the future.

Student learning goals

To develop an appreciation for current state knowledge in the interdisciplinary earth sciences -- oceanography, geology, atmospheric sciences, particularly as they related to the earth's climate

To develop understanding of the science underlying "global warming" projections of the future.

To improve quantitative skills relevant to the earth sciences and other fields

To learn the fundamental of earth's radiation budget (what determine's the earth's temperature)

To dig deeper into one subject area of the student's choice, relevant to the overall topic of the class

General method of instruction

This class uses a combination of lectures, labs and problem solving sessions, and group discussion.

Lectures T and Th provide a step-by-step guide to the various components of the Earth system (solid earth, ocean, atmosphere, biosphere and cryosphere): how they function and how they are important in shaping earth's climate.

Labs M or W provide lab demonstrations, hands on lab experience and problem solving time.

Recommended preparation

The only pre-requisites for this class are some basic math skills. QuatSci 291, Math 124, OR Math 144 would be appropriate. If you haven't taken any of these, you can still take this class: simply get an entry code by contacting Student Services in Earth and Space Sciences via email at advising@ess.washington.edu. Some students have found the math skills challenging; others may find it to easy. Talk with the instructor if you are unsure.

No textbook required.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly problem sets/classroom discussion. Two midterm exams. Final paper. No final exam.

Grades weighted 15% each on the midterm exams, 35% on the weekly problem sets, and 5% on class participation and 30 % on final paper.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
More information available soon on class web page
Last Update by Eric J Steig
Date: 02/13/2014