METR 211 Global Warming: Causes and Consequences • 5 Cr.
Provides an overview of the earth's climate system, and discusses how dynamic changes in the climate have occurred in the past and are occurring now. Specific topics include global warming, ozone depletion, El Nino/La Nina, and the impacts of climate change on human society and the biosphere.
After completing this class, students should be able to:
- Explain the idea of “systems approach” in the natural and earth sciences.
- Diagram and explain the main elements of the earth’s planetary energy balance, including feedback mechanisms involving the atmosphere, ocean, and land masses.
- Summarize the key elements of ocean-atmosphere interaction, including surface ocean circulation, air mass modification, and the hydrologic cycle.
- Describe the origin and function of the deep ocean thermohaline “conveyor belt” circulation.
- Define and describe the science of paleoclimatology, and list the research tools commonly used by paleoclimatologists.
- Relate the geologic history of the earth, including plate tectonics, volcanism, and glacial/interglacial cycles, to climate variability.
- Explain the theories of long-term climate change that involve astronomical and earth-orbital variations (Milankovitch cycles).
- Diagram and explain the planetary carbon cycle.
- Describe the function of ozone in the earth’s atmosphere, and the mechanisms controlling its formation and destruction.
- Identify and describe the major anthropogenic changes in the earth’s climate since the start of the Industrial Revolution, including global warming, ozone depletion, and particulate pollution.
- Identify the major types of actual and proxy climate data, and contrast their respective strengths and weaknesses.
- Summarize the concepts of random, systematic, and compound error, as related to time series data.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of various climate forecasting techniques, and explain their principal limitations.
- Explain the three major sources of uncertainty in predictions of global warming.
- Enumerate potential impacts to human society and to the biosphere resulting from anticipated climate change over the next century.
- Critically discuss the political and economic implications of global climate change, including existing and pending international agreements and treaties.