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Viewing: MEA 517 : Fundamentals of Climate Change Science

Last approved: Mon, 22 Feb 2016 16:11:28 GMT

Last edit: Mon, 22 Feb 2016 16:11:23 GMT

Change Type
MEA (Marine, Earth, and Atomspheric Sciences)
Dual-Level Course
Cross-listed Course
Fundamentals of Climate Change Science
Fundamentals: Climate Science
College of Sciences
Marine Earth & Atmospheric Science (17MEA)
Term Offering
Fall Only
Offered Every Year
Fall 2016
Previously taught as Special Topics?
Course Prefix/NumberSemester/Term OfferedEnrollment
593_002Fall 201210
593_002Fall 20138
593_002Fall 20147
593_002Fall 20158
Course Delivery
Face-to-Face (On Campus)
Distance Education (DELTA)
Hybrid (Online/Face to Face)

Grading Method
Contact Hours
(Per Week)
Component TypeContact Hours
Course Attribute(s)

If your course includes any of the following competencies, check all that apply.
University Competencies

Course Is Repeatable for Credit
Fredrick Semazzi

Open when course_delivery = campus OR course_delivery = blended OR course_delivery = flip
Enrollment ComponentPer SemesterPer SectionMultiple Sections?Comments
Open when course_delivery = distance OR course_delivery = online OR course_delivery = remote
Delivery FormatPer SemesterPer SectionMultiple Sections?Comments
Prerequisite: Graduate standing
Is the course required or an elective for a Curriculum?
SIS Program CodeProgram TitleRequired or Elective?
17CCSMRClimate Change & Society PSMRequired
This course will present the basic science of climate change, including chemical and physical systems and processes. The students will be introduced to how the climate system works and the role of greenhouse gases in the climate system. Students will learn about climatological data, climate models and how predictions/projections are made. Emphasis will be placed upon relating predicted/projected changes to manifestations such as sea level rise and changes in the distribution and character of precipitation. Topics include the primary climate components, ocean-atmospheric teleconnections, decadal and multi-decadal climate indices, natural and anthropogenic climate variability, and climate model projections.

The Fundamentals of Climate Change Science course is required for the completion of the Climate Change & Society PSM (see Course of Study link:  It is a prerequisite course for the MEA 518 Climate Risk Analysis course.  The course provides fundamental climate science education necessary as a basis for student learning in support of the graduate degree and certificate program's mission to bridge the gap between climate science and career applications.  This course has been taught for four consecutive years.  We anticipate significant increase in enrollment via the launch of the online version, which has been funded for its development and supported by DELTA.


Is this a GEP Course?
GEP Categories

Humanities Open when gep_category = HUM
Each course in the Humanities category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Mathematical Sciences Open when gep_category = MATH
Each course in the Mathematial Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:




Natural Sciences Open when gep_category = NATSCI
Each course in the Natural Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:




Social Sciences Open when gep_category = SOCSCI
Each course in the Social Sciences category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Interdisciplinary Perspectives Open when gep_category = INTERDISC
Each course in the Interdisciplinary Perspectives category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:








Visual & Performing Arts Open when gep_category = VPA
Each course in the Visual and Performing Arts category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:






Health and Exercise Studies Open when gep_category = HES
Each course in the Health and Exercise Studies category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:








Global Knowledge Open when gep_category = GLOBAL
Each course in the Global Knowledge category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve objective #1 plus at least one of objectives 2, 3, and 4:


Please complete at least 1 of the following student objectives.






US Diversity Open when gep_category = USDIV
Each course in the US Diversity category of the General Education Program will provide instruction and guidance that help students to achieve at least 2 of the following objectives:
Please complete at least 2 of the following student objectives.








Requisites and Scheduling
a. If seats are restricted, describe the restrictions being applied.

b. Is this restriction listed in the course catalog description for the course?

List all course pre-requisites, co-requisites, and restrictive statements (ex: Jr standing; Chemistry majors only). If none, state none.

List any discipline specific background or skills that a student is expected to have prior to taking this course. If none, state none. (ex: ability to analyze historical text; prepare a lesson plan)

Additional Information
Complete the following 3 questions or attach a syllabus that includes this information. If a 400-level or dual level course, a syllabus is required.
Title and author of any required text or publications.

Major topics to be covered and required readings including laboratory and studio topics.

List any required field trips, out of class activities, and/or guest speakers.

College(s)Contact NameStatement Summary
College of EngineeringDr. Joe DeCarolisDr. DeCarolis reviewed and provided a combined feedback on how MEA 517 (this course action) and MEA 518 (course action submitted simultaneously with this course action) relate to his CE 578 Energy & Climate course.

Dr. Joe DeCarolis' Feedback: "My course [CE 578 Energy & Climate] is more technically oriented and does not cover the same material in the same way."
College of EngineeringDr. Ranji RanjithanSummary of Comments:
Both courses are relevant to our students and could be considered as potential electives. MEA 517 overlaps slightly the CE 786 Hydroclimatology course, but it provides additional material on the fundamentals of climate science. CE 772 Environmental Exposure and Risk Analysis course may have some overlap but not in apparently significant manner; however, there should be acknowledgment of CE 772 as an existing course.
College of Humanities and Social SciencesDean Deanna DannelsSummary of Comments: "There does not seem to be significant issues that are arising for the other courses (MEA 517 and MEA 518) as they do not duplicate content/foundational material in courses such as Risk Communication, etc."
This course has previously been offered as a special topics course and is part of an existing faculty member's regular course load. Standard library services provided via the University. The course will be offered both in-person and online.

The course reviews current status regarding knowledge about the fundamentals of climate variability & climate change science, national and international activities in support of climate services, and the climate research framework. The course also provides experience for students in analyzing climate data relevant to the development of adaptation and mitigation management strategies/policies in climate-sensitive application sectors.

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to demonstrate Master’s level competence in the following:

1. Identify the 5 components of the climate system and outline the mechanisms through which each of them contributes to climate change.

2. Rank the contribution each of the leading 10 greenhouse gases in terms of their contributions to the observed global warming; for the greenhouse gases assign the corresponding levels of uncertainty in the estimates of their contributions to global warming.

3. Outline the components and balance among the atmospheric radiative and non-radiative energy budget and explain which components are responsible for driving climate change.

4. Describe the main networks of the global observational climate system and the main gaps contributing to uncertainties about past climate change.

5. Describe the basic 3-dimensional long-term average structure of the global atmosphere and global oceans.

6. Explain how the positive climate feedback processes work to perpetuate climate change.

7. Describe the main components of climate models used to make climate projections, the specific nature of advances in the formulation of the models over the past 3 decades and rank the leading remaining deficiencies and limitations that should be addressed to reduce uncertainty of climate projections.

8. Interpret climate change over the past century and climate change projections up to the end of this century in terms of the contributions of natural climate variability and human-induced climate change.

Evaluation MethodWeighting/Points for EachDetails
Homework30%homework assignments; literature review presentations; progress reports presentations on course project
Midterm30%Mid-term exam
Major Paper40%Final course report:
Oral Presentation (10%)
Written component (30%)
TopicTime Devoted to Each TopicActivity
Introduction to Course1 lecture (75 min)Overview of course: Course objectives, grading and schedule, class project, brief introduction to DELTA Moodle environment
Climate Components2 lecturesDiscussion of climate components (Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Cryosphere, Lithosphere, Biosphere).
The Atmosphere2 lecturesBasic structure of the atmosphere (e.g. troposphere, stratosphere, and temperature profile), atmospheric composition, and variables used to describe fluid systems and fundamental units (e.g. temperature, density, pressure, joule, watt, zonal vs. meridional wind). Origin of Earth and atmosphere.
Fundamentals of Energy and Energy Transfer2 lectures(i) Fundamentals of energy and energy transfer: electromagnetic spectrum, shortwave vs. longwave, conduction, convection, radiation principles (frequency, wavelength, laws), land/ocean fluxes, (ii) Fundamentals of energy and energy transfer: absorption, emission, scattering, latent vs. sensible energy, greenhouse effect, and albedo
Radiation Balance2 lecturesRadiation balance – solar (percentages absorbed, reflected, etc.), terrestrial, simple balance equations, observed radiation balance (by season, by latitude)
Representation of the Climate System in Climate Models2 lecturesIntroduction to global and regional climate models, model grids, resolutions, and the evolution of climate models over time.
Climate Observational Networks2 lecturesIntroduction to climate observational networks (surface, upper air, oceanic datasets, satellite data, field projects, reliability of data)
Mean State of the Atmosphere2 lecturesDiscussion of the mean state of the atmosphere:
- global temperature (seasonal variability)
- geopotential height, general circulation (wind, pressure, climatological features)
- variability of the general circulation, precipitation and cloudiness.
Also, Circulation of a Non-Rotating Earth; Idealized General Circulation on Rotating Planet; Modifications to the Idealized General Circulation
Mean State of the Oceans2 lecturesDiscussion of ocean surface currents, deep ocean currents, general circulation of the ocean, sea surface temperatures, salinity distribution, Ekman spiral and thermohaline circulation.
Governing Physical Forces of Atmospheric Motion2 lecturesDiscussion of factors that control climate. (Latitude;
Solar Beam Attenuation; Earth-Sun Orbital Relationships; Distance to Large Bodies of Water; Circulation; Topography; Local Features; Spatial and Seasonal Variations in Energy)
Exhange Processes Between Surface & Atmosphere2 lecturesExchange processes between the surface and the atmosphere – Planetary boundary layer, stability considerations, hydrologic cycle; Climate feedback mechanisms – positive vs. negative, ice-albedo feedback, water vapor feedback, energy feedbacks, cloud feedbacks, bio feedbacks, climate memory.
Natural Climate Variability2 lecturesDiscussion of natural climate variability over a broad range of time scales: intraseasonal, interannual, decadal, multi-century. Examples include ENSO, NAO, PNA, AMO, PDO, MJO, Milankovitch cycles, volcanic activity, and solar variability. Introduction to paleoclimatology.

Anthropogenic Climate Variability2 lecturesDiscussion of anthropogenic drivers and greenhouse gases forcing agents. Review of IPCC Assessment including evaluation of models, detection and attribution and projections of Earth's future climate.
Climate Models Projections and Uncertainties2 lecturesOverview of IPCC Assessments AR3 to AR5, definitions of uncertainty in numeric probabilities (virtually certain, extremely likely, very likely, etc.). Further discussion of detection and attribution. AR5 projections. Climate modeling (projections and uncertainties) –regional applications (sea level rise, hurricanes, floods), emission scenarios.
Special session and exam review1 lectureSpecial climate change based a current major climate event (such as El Nino) or policy action (such as COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris, December, 2015). Review for Test#1
mlnosbis 12/16/2015: Consultations obtained from related departments, see consultation comments above. No further consultation needed.

ghodge 12/16/2015 Changed the course length to the standard 16 weeks. Ready for ABGS reviewers.

ABGS Reviewer comments:
-Low to modest demand. Has department considered offering as dual-level to increase enrollment rather than create a course with anticipated low enrollment?
-How are the oral presentations judged for DE students? How to DE students present?
allloyd (Thu, 03 Sep 2015 23:03:34 GMT): Rollback: Edits/consults, as per email
allloyd (Mon, 07 Dec 2015 17:06:56 GMT): Positive vote of college committee, 12/3/2015, pending edits, as discussed by email.
allloyd (Mon, 07 Dec 2015 17:07:37 GMT): Rollback: rolled back for edits, as discussed
allloyd (Thu, 10 Dec 2015 16:52:10 GMT): Rollback: syllabus needs edits, as discussed
cohen (Tue, 15 Dec 2015 14:23:24 GMT): Rollback: Rollback as requested by the committee chair.
Key: 7298