GEOS 215(F) Climate Changes (Same as Environmental Studies 215) (Q)

In recent years, there has been a growing public and scientific interest in the Earth's climate and its variability. This interest reflects both concern over future climate changes that may result from anthropogenic increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases and growing recognition of the economic impact of "natural" climate variability (for example, El Nino events), especially in the developing world. Efforts to understand the Earth's climate system and predict future climate changes require both study of parameters controlling present day climate and detailed studies of climate changes in the past. In this course, we will review the processes that control the Earth's climate, like insolation, distribution of heat, ocean circulation, and the greenhouse effect. At the same time, we will review the geological record of climate changes in the past, examining their causes, positive and negative feedback effects, and indicators of the stability or instability of the climate system. Format: lecture/discussion, three hours per week. Evaluation will be based on weekly problems (25%), two hour exams (50%), and a final project (25%) where students will collect, analyze, and interpret data. Weekly exercises will emphasize developing problem solving skills and using quantitative analyses to assess if a given explanation is possible and reasonable. These exercises will include developing and applying numerical models of the carbon cycle and basic radiative balance models. No prerequisites. No enrollment limit (expected: 25). This course satisfies "The Natural World" requirement for the Environmental Studies concentration.