Spring 2023

Climate Dynamics: Past, Present, and Future

Listed in: Geology, as GEOL-331


Nicholas D. Holschuh (Sections 01 and 01L)


At the planetary scale, Earth’s climate is simple. Earth’s surface absorbs light energy from the sun, it radiates energy through the atmosphere back into space, and the balance of inputs and outputs sets our surface temperature. Thus, changes in solar radiation, atmospheric chemistry, and Earth’s orbital configuration can explain the large-scale climate changes throughout Earth’s history. But the details that matter to individual countries, cities, and communities are much more complicated. The atmosphere and ocean, engines driven by energy from the sun, work to distribute heat around the globe and drive regional variation. To understand the operation of the climate system, scientists use two complementary approaches: climate models, which rely on foundational principles of physics and modern observations to explain how energy flows through the Earth system; and the paleoclimate record, physical and chemical proxies, preserved in geologic materials, that tell the story of Earth’s past.

In this class we will explore the processes that control both planetary and regional climate, identify the tools we use to understand climate change through time, and contextualize modern change using data sets derived from the geologic record. We will use our lab period to build skill with data analysis and visualization in Python, allowing hands-on experience working with the climate models and climate data policymakers use for our projections of future climate change. No prior Python experience is expected.

Requisite: GEOL 112 or 121 or CHEM 151 or PHYS 116 or consent of the instructor. Spring 2023. Assistant Professor Holschuh.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: An emphasis on readings, independent research, oral presentations, group work, exams, and quantitative work.

GEOL 331 - LEC

Section 01
M 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM BEBU 311
W 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM BEBU 311
F 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM BEBU 311

GEOL 331 - LAB

Section 01L
M 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM BEBU 311


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023