Paul D Quay
Evolution of an idea or concept central to the natural sciences. Intended for non-science majors. Content varies from year to year. For University Honors Program students only. Offered: W.
This course examines the earth's past for evidence of extreme climate conditions in order to help understand possible future climate changes. For example, climate conditions that occurred during the Neo-Proterozoic (Snowball Earth: 750 to 550 million years ago), Cretaceous Hothouse (100 million years ago), Pleistocene Icehouse (1 million years ago) will be compared to the Present Greenhouse climate.
The climate impacts resulting from natural variations in solar insolation, changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, plate tectonics, evolution of vascular plants will be discussed.
One class period per week will be spent in an active class discussion of an important paper. There will be weekly take home problem sets that will demonstrate the quantitative application of climate concepts.
The textbook for the class is Earth's Climate Past and Future by William Ruddiman (2001).
Student learning goals
Learn about the major climate changes that occurred on earth in the past.
Learn how preserved records climate 'proxies' are used to reconstruct past climate change.
Understand key processes and feedbacks in the earth's system that controlled past climate changes.
Learn how human activity has perturbed current climate on earth.
Examine predictions of likely future climate change.
General method of instruction
Lectures, paper discussions and problem sets.
Class assignments and grading
Read textbook (about two chapters/week); Weekly paper discussion; weekly problem sets (take home).
Grades will be based on problem sets, paper discussions, mid-term and final.