Modes of Climate Variability (CAS ES 520)

Natural variability in the Earth’s climate system is generated by complex physical processes that govern the redistribution of energy and moisture over a rotating sphere with heterogeneous boundary conditions. Despite this complexity, much of the variability in the Earth’s climate system on interannual to decadal time scales can be explained by a few major modes (“patterns”) of climate variability. In this course, we discuss these major modes of climate variability, including: El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, Monsoons, and Annular Modes. We assess the dynamics/physical mechanisms driving these modes of variability and their impact on weather, climate and society. We also investigate the evolution of each mode through time, using paleoclimatic evidence to assess how they have changed in the past and climate model simulations to project how they are expected to change in the future.   By assessing the evolution of these modes of variability and the physical mechanisms behind them, we gain an improved understanding of how changes in climate forcing (e.g., greenhouse gases, solar radiation, volcanic eruptions) affect global and regional climate. The class is a mixture of lectures, discussions, and student presentations.

Modes of Climate Variability Syllabus Spring 2016

Climate and Earth System Science (CAS ES 107)

Earth is a remarkable, complex, and ever-changing planet. The rise of humans is a relatively recent event in Earth history, but in the short time we have been here, humans have heavily altered many aspects of our planet. As the global population grows to between nine and thirteen billion people by the end of the 21st Century, never has it been more important for society to understand how the Earth’s climate, oceans, and terrestrial ecosystems function as an integrated system that supports life and society as we know it. The goal of this course is provide an integrated and systematic understanding of how the natural and physical systems of Planet Earth function. The course treats the Earth as a dynamic system, comprised of interacting sub-systems (oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, etc.) that exhibit properties of internal feedback regulation and stability. A core theme of the course is that change and variability are core properties of the Earth system that arise from complex interactions among its physical and biogeochemical subsystems. As part of this, we will explore how human activities alter the fundamental properties of the Earth system. Laboratory exercises will examine Earth system processes at both local and global scales, and will focus on local, regional and global processes to illustrate concepts discussed in lecture. This course serves as a foundation for the CAS major in Earth and Environmental Science, and as a natural science divisional studies elective.

ES107 Syllabus Spring 2017