Monday, October 21, 2013

Free Course on Global Warming Starts Today

A free 8 week online science based class on global warming begins today, Monday, October 21, 2013.

"This class describes the science of global warming and the forecast for humans’ impact on Earth's climate. It brings together insights and perspectives from physics, chemistry, biology, earth and atmospheric sciences, and even some economics. The simple mathematics underlying these differing approaches is the only background one needs. It is an accessible, multidisciplinary tour of climate science for a general audience."

This class is an updated version of Open Climate 101, which ran a few years ago. Open Climate 101 was a massive open online class (MOOC) and was disseminated from a computer at the University of Chicago. The new class is called Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change. It has been entirely redone and uses the Coursera platform which offers a suite of on-line interactive models.

The easy to watch videos are short duration and last between 2-10 minutes each. All-new on-line computer models, including extensive new browsing systems for global climate records and model results from the new AR5 climate model archive, and an ice sheet model.

Course Format
  • A series of short lecture videos for each section. Videos will have embedded quizzes.
  • Reading assignments associated with each section.
  • Weekly problem sets, six of which rely on computer simulations of climate models.
  • Forum discussions and regular Google Hangouts. (These are optional, but encouraged.)
  • Four optional programming assignments construct numerical models of the Earth system.
  • Final exam.
Course Outline and Syllabus

The class is based on the textbook Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast. This is a highly accessible science based class does not require any special background. The course has three units.

Unit One (weeks 1-4) - What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Heat and Light / Our First Climate Model / Greenhouse Gases / The Atmosphere / Weather and Climate / Feedbacks

The first unit begins with the basic principles for understanding the Earth's climate. It reviews a simple model for the temperature of a planet, and build a picture of the complexity of the real climate system on Earth, with the greenhouse effect and climate feedbacks.

Unit Two (weeks 5-6) - Fossil Fuels and the Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle / Fossil Fuels and Energy / The Perturbed Carbon Cycle

The second unit describes the carbon cycle of the Earth, how it stabilizes Earth's climate on some time scales but destabilizes it on others. Fossil fuel carbon is part of the cycle, and a discussion of the impact of fossil fuel energy on the Earth's carbon cycle.

Unit Three (weeks 7-8) - The Forecast 

The Smoking Gun / Paleoclimate / Impacts / Mitigation

The third and last unit of the class is about the human impact on Earth's climate: why we believe it's changing, why we believe we’re changing it, the impacts that could have, and the options we have to mitigate the situation.

Interactive Features - A time-series browser provides access to:
  • The GHCNM (NOAA) global meteorological station monthly mean temperatures (7169 stations)
  • Global glacier length records (472 records).
  • The new AR5 model results.
  • A total of 12 different models and four scenarios, including Historical, HistoricalNat (natural-only), RCP2.6 (an optimistic ramping-down scenario), and RCP8.5 (less optimistic).
  • An AR5 output mapper makes colored maps of output from climate models, including 3-D atmospheric temperature, specific humidity, cloud fraction, and 2-D fields of precipitation, soil moisture, runoff, leaf area index, and snow cover.
  • These are monthly mean values from the Historical then RCP8.5 scenarios. The browser buffers the maps so that you can switch between them quickly, or show them in a slide show or movie.
  • The Slugulator, a new model for comparing the climate impacts of CO2 and CH4, lets you release slugs of either greenhouse gas and compare the antics that ensue. Using this feature you can compare the energy yield from fossil fuels, next to the total greenhouse energy trapped over the lifetimes of the gases.
  • An interactive ice sheet model, enables users to clobber with slugs of CO2 (or just drag the temperature around) as it’s running.
  • Modtran is an old favorite which enables you can demonstrate the band saturation effect, Geocarb, which shows the long tail of fossil fuel CO2 in the atmosphere, and lots more.
Students can also explore topics of personal interest and investigate topics of their own devising, which they will write up and submit to grading by other students.

Suggested Readings

All required reading will be provided within the course. Discussion forums will be focused on two optional books, Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas and Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America, by Thomas L. Friedman.

Click here to find our more or enroll.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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