The 2017-2018 school year is off to a great start! First up in Block 1: Introduction to Global Climate Change. I really enjoy teaching this class in part because of all the non-environmental science (and non-science) majors who take it. I try to capitalize on the increased diversity in my class by including assignments that focus on communicating science to the public through social media and video shorts.
During week 1 students learn about how climate works – the basic chemistry and physics behind climate change. They dip their toes into the world of GIS and compare the incoming, absorbed, and outgoing radiation for the earth as well as surface and cloud albedos; they test their understanding of the drivers of ocean currents through the “Imaginary Earth” exercise where they are given a map of past plate configurations and have to determine the ocean currents and likely weather patterns for the continents, and watch Scott Denning do molecular dances to explain why some molecules are greenhouse gases while others don’t absorb IR.
During week 2 the class is focused on paleoclimate. We visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and the students have to come up with a social media post (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.) that communicated evidence of long term climatic change. Later in the week they plot the stable isotopes from the Vostok Ice Core to investigate intermediate scale change driven by orbital variations.
During week 3 the class heads up to the University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station to learn about how we study the effects of climate change in the present at the Niwot Long Term Ecological Research Station.
Students learn about all sorts of long term data collection from snow pack (SNOTEL), carbon dioxide concentrations (NOAA, Niwot LTER), temperature and precipitation (Niwot LTER), stream flow (Niwot LTER), and the chemistry of precipitation (NADP). Using data collected from the alpine and subalpine portions of Niwot LTER the students investigate questions connecting global change drivers to ecological, hydrological, and biogeochemical consequences.
Week 4: Climate and Society & Creating Climate Change PSAs