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Climate Courses

The climate faculty teach courses that focus on aspects of meteorology, climatology, atmospheric science, and analytical techniques. Introductory courses include Weather and Climate, Human Impacts on the Environment, Climate and Society, and Air Pollution Climatology. Upper-level courses include Synoptic Meteorology, Climate Change and Variability, Applied Climatology, Microclimatology, Quantitative Methods, Long-Term Environmental Change, and advanced seminars in climatology. A number of these courses involve hands-on, practical experience with instrumentation and associated software.

Course descriptions are provided below. Please note that the 500 level courses may be taken for either undergraduate or graduate credit. Additional work is required of graduate students taking 500 level courses. Undergraduate students can minor in Climatology and Meteorology by taking a set of prescribed courses.

For additional information about all of the Geography Department's course offerings, consult the University's on-line Undergraduate Studies Bulletin and the on-line Graduate Studies Bulletin. Visit the Geography Department's website for a description of the current semester's course offerings.

Courses Taught by Climate Faculty

  • 202-Weather and Climate. (4)
    This course provides students with a general understanding of the processes which influence weather and climate patterns on the earth. It first examines the sources of energy driving atmospheric processes, the importance of atmospheric moisture, and the forces creating the winds. The second part of the course focuses on storm systems, including mid-latitude cyclones and severe weather. The last third of the class is devoted to the study of climate, climate variability and change, and the influence of human activity on such change. The laboratory sections will include experiments, workbook exercises, and analysis of real-time computer weather graphics. The final grade will be based on three exams(75%) and weekly laboratory exercises (25%).

    Taught by: Carbone

  • 343-Human Impacts on the Environment. (3)
    No part of the Earth remains isolated from the influence of human activities. To understand "nature" today requires examining the interactions between humans, our social systems, and the biochemical processes that have generated particular patterns of environmental damage across the globe - degradation of rich coastal ecosystems, heavy losses of tropical biodiversity, alterations in the global climate, desertification of marginal arid lands, and concentrations of municipal and industrial wastes associated with increasing urbanization. The class addresses the causes and consequences of human activities and examines some solutions being implemented and proposed to reduce these impacts. Evaluation in the course is based upon a series of exams and short papers/assignments.

    Taught by: Dow

  • 346-Climate and Society. (3)
    This course examines the interrelationship between climate and human activities. We study the physical nature of the climate system, climate variability, and climatic change, and the social, economic, and political factors that influence how weather and climate affect people. Using a series of case studies (e.g. interannual variability caused by El Nino, global warming, and stratospheric ozone depletion) we investigate the degree to which climate affects society, how human activities affect the earth's climate, and how non-climatic issues complicate our understanding of the relationship between climate and society. One thread through the case studies is the use of forecasts. We consider how projections of future weather and climate affect decision making and how people make decisions under uncertain conditions. Class sessions vary between lecture, discussion, debates, and in-class exercises. Evaluation is based on several short writing assignments, a mid-term and final, and a semester project. There are no course prerequisites.

    Taught by: Carbone/Mock

  • 348-Biogeography. (3)
    Biogeography is a synthetic field, incorporating various physical and human geographic aspects as they relate to present and past changes in the biosphere. The course emphasizes physical processes and controls of plant and animal distributions with a spatial perspective. Topics discussed in the course include 1) an overview of climatic, hydrological, and edaphic controls on life, with an emphasis on biomes in North America; 2) concepts of dispersal, endemism, and evolution in a spatial context; 3) how biogeographic histories are reconstructed and examined in the context of temporal changes in the earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere; 4) Quaternary biogeography and extinctions; 5) human impact as related to agricultural and historical changes in land use; and 6) potential biogeographic changes resulting from global warming.

    Taught by: Kupfer/Mock

  • 360-Geography of Wind. (3)
    Fundamental principles of wind formation, measurement, and its impacts on the natural and human environment – landscape, human settlement and health, transportation, and energy.

    Taught by: Ellis

  • 365-Hurricanes and Tropical Climatology. (3)
    Atmospheric circulation, structure, and processes of tropical climates and hurricanes. Forecasting and model simulations of hurricanes. Temporal variations of tropical climate change and hurricanes.

    Taught by: Mock

  • 371-Air Pollution Climatology. (3)
    Air pollution—at local, regional, and global scales—stands as one of the most important environmental problems of the modern technological age. This course examines the processes and issues that relate to air pollution. Emphasis is on the role of the atmosphere in air quality, with two perspectives: how air pollution affects surface climate, and how climate and meteorology influence air quality. Additional topics of enquiry include sources of air pollution, environmental and health effects of air pollution, air quality sampling and monitoring, urban smog, and ozone depletion.

    Taught by: Hiscox

  • 531-Quantitative Methods in Geographic Research. (3)
    Nature of geographical data sets, statistical measures, and quantitative models commonly used by geographers to describe general characteristics, temporal variations, spatial variations and patterns, distributions, and relationships among geographical data. Each student will be given opportunities to apply these techniques to his/her own research interest, with practice involving use of computer-based exercises and written examinations. The course assumes knowledge of only high school algebra.

    Taught by: Mock/Upchurch

  • 545-Synoptic Meteorology. (4) (Prereq: GEOG 202 or equivalent)
    This course examines the main principles and controls of weather and climate as they occur at the regional scale. Description of the main types of meteorological data used for daily weather forecasting. Analysis and interpretation of regional (synoptic) scale atmospheric circulation, mid-latitude cyclones, and severe storms by using weather maps, soundings, cross sections, thermodynamic diagrams, computer models, and satellite imagery. Introduction and practice to techniques commonly used in daily weather forecasting, such as those conducted by the National Weather Service.

    Taught by: Mock

  • 546-Applied Climatology. (4)
    This course examines the role of the atmosphere in applied environmental problems. The course begins with a study of the atmospheric processes—primarily, energy and mass exchanges—that characterize the physical basis of climates in the boundary layer. This provides a framework for analysis of climates of both natural and human-modified surface environments. Topics of enquiry typically include the role of climate in water resources, solar energy, urban planning, air quality, agriculture, and tourism. Course work includes lab and field experimentation.

    Taught by: Mock

  • 567-Long-Term Environmental Change. (3)
    An understanding of past environmental changes is imperative in order to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic variability and to assess how global climate changes impact various components of the physical landscape. This course provides an overview of the tools and databases used to study past climatic changes and associated environmental responses that occur in the biosphere, oceans, and lithosphere. An emphasis is placed on 1) the Quaternary (last 2.5 million years), as it is during this timeframe that the global climate system experienced multiple glacial/interglacial cycles and numerous rapid climatic changes at millennial timescales; and 2) the past 1000 years since high resolution annual changes at this timeframe are important for planning schemes and societal impacts. Specific topics also include an overview of different proxy data types, pre-Quaternary climatic changes, and paleoclimatic implications of future global warming.

    Taught by: Mock

  • 568-Human Dimensions  Of Global Environmental Change. (3)
    While global environmental change is a physical phenomenon, understanding social systems is crucial to investigating causes, consequences, and response opportunities. Human activities have always resulted in environmental change at local levels; however, environmental change on the global scale is a different type of problem.  Current human-induced environmental changes are taking place at scales, rates, and magnitudes that often exceed those of natural systems and demand innovation in social systems, such as international governance. The cumulative impact of large populations and local activities are adding to the pace of change. Social processes driving these transformations, such as trade, development, migration, urbanization, and environmental awareness, are increasingly operating at global scales and creating new linkages among places.  The focus of reading, discussion, and research is on the social processes shaping environmental changes. Major sections of the course will deal with the role of human driving forces, social processes of defining environmental problems, assessments of consequences, and social and policy responses.

    Taught by: Dow

  • 571-Microclimatology. (4) (Prereq: GEOG 202 or consent of instructor)
    This course provides both theoretical and field-oriented approaches to investigating the climatic energy balance near the surface of the earth. Processes and phenomena of enquiry include radiation, soil heat fluxes, turbulence, momentum, latent and sensible heat fluxes, moisture, evaporation, and atmospheric turbidity. Lab exercises are designed to help students appreciate the practical application of theoretical concepts covered in class. Students work with microclimatic data and instrumentation including pyranometers, net radiometers, anemometers, soil heat flux plates, temperature and relative humidity sensors, and dataloggers.

    Taught by: Hiscox

  • 573-Climatic Change and Variability. (3) (Prereq: GEOG 202 or equivalent)
    Today, climate variability and change receive media attention, foster scientific debate, and even become issues of political campaigns. This course examines both past climate variations and those projected to occur in the next century. We seek to understand potential causes of climate variability and change from the theoretical perspective of climate modeling and from empirical evidence preserved in climate observations. We examine a range of spatial (global, continental, and regional scales) and temporal scales (interannual variability as well as long-term changes). Specific topics include: the climate system, radiative forcing and anthropogenic climate change, the recently observed temperature record, El Niño/Southern Oscillation, and the North Atlantic and Pacific decadal oscillations. The course involves a combination of lectures, discussions, and interactive computer exercises.

    Taught by: Carbone

  • 731-Seminar in Quantitative Analysis in Geography. (3)
    The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to the use of multi-variate statistical methods in geographic research. Students should gain an appreciation of the utility of these methods for geographic research and learn how to apply them to their own research. For selected topics, the student will analyze data relating to the use of the technique and prepare a brief report based on his/her interpretations. Examinations will be given on each topic and research proposals and papers with be written by students on selected topics.

    Taught by: Mock

  • 746-Seminar in Climatology. (3)
    Major theories, measures of climatic change and variability, climate models, statistical analysis, and climate impacts. This course is taught annually and the research theme changes each semester.

    Taught by: Carbone/Mock/Hiscox

  • 847-Advanced Seminar in Physical Geography. (3)
    Research and discussion on various topics in physical geography. Literature varies with seminar topic but will include prevailing theories, data types, and modeling strategies in climatology, meteorology, hydrology, biogeography, soils, or geomorphology.

    Taught by: Carbone, Ellis, Hiscox, James, Kupfer, Mock

Minor in Meteorology and Climatology

In order to minor in Meteorology and Climatology a student must take the following courses:

  • Required: (4 hours): GEOG 202 Introduction to Weather and Climate (4)
  • Four courses from the list below, two of which must be 545, 546, or 571 (14-15 hours):
    • GEOG 346 Climate and Society (3)
    • GEOG 371 Air Pollution Climatology (3)
    • GEOG 545 Synoptic Climatology (4)
    • GEOG 546 Applied Climatology (4)
    • GEOG 571 Microclimatology (4)
    • GEOG 573 Climate Variability and Change (3)