Courses Taught

ENVS 204-001 Global Climate Change (last taught: Fall 2014):


The course goal is to provide a general understanding of the Earth’s climate system and how and why this has changed through time.

The class focuses on Quarternary climate (i.e., the climate of the past 1.8 million years) in the longer geological context. Topics discussed include: orbital theory, Milankovitch cycles and radiocarbon dating; basic physics and chemistry of the oceans; history of oceanic thermohaline circulation; paleoceanography and the use of sedimentary cores to understand past climates; ice cores and the use of oxygen isotopes to understand past temperature and ice volume changes; major physical atmospheric and oceanic mechanisms responsible for future climate change, glacial-interglacial cycles, Heinrich and Dansgard-Oescheger events; basics of climate modeling; adaptation and vulnerability to future climate change; mitigation strategies for future climate change.

As part of this class, students are required to undertake an original research project based on the collection and/or analysis of data related to a subject area covered in the course. This is a group project (4-6 students), which counts for a significant percent of the grade.

ENVS 312/PHYS 314 Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics and Implications for Future Climate Change (next: Spring 2016):


This course covers the fundamentals of atmosphere and ocean dynamics, and aims to put these in the context of climate change in the 21st century. The lectures focus on the physical mechanisms responsible for large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation, the global energy balance, and the global hydrological cycle. I introduce fundamental concepts of fluid dynamics and apply these to the vertical and horizontal motions in the atmosphere and ocean. Concepts covered include: hydrostatic law, buoyancy and convection, basic equations of fluid motions, Hadley and Ferrel cells in the atmosphere, thermohaline circulation, Sverdrup ocean flow, modes of climate variability (El-Nino, North Atlantic Oscillation, Southern Annular Mode). The course incorporates student led discussions based on readings of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and recent literature on climate change.

Aimed at undergraduate or graduate students who have no prior knowledge of meteorology or oceanography or training in fluid mechanics. Previous background in calculus and introductory physics is very useful. This is a very general course, which spans many sub-disciplines (fluid mechanics, atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology).

Other Climate and Sustainability-Related Courses at Penn:

In association with the University of Pennsylvania's Climate Action Plan, the Green Campus Partnership has compiled a list of environmentally-related academic courses being taught across the university called the Sustainability Course Inventory. Classes offered span a multitude of interdisciplinary topics and are hosted across a wide range of the University of Pennsylvania's various graduate, professional, and undergraduate schools.

Students with an interest in sustainability or students who are considering careers for which environmental considerations are relevant should strongly consider consulting the list of courses provided. This list is published annually, and the current edition is valid for all classes to be taught during the Fall '13/Spring '14 academic calendar year.