Teach the Earth > Complex Systems > Workshop 2010 > Participants and Their Contributions > Cindy Shellito
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Introducing students to the complexities of the atmosphere and climate system

Cindy Shellito, University of Northern Colorado

As a meteorologist and paleoclimate modeler, nearly every course I have taught in the past five years has required students to delve into the complexities of the atmosphere and climate system, and consider both short and long-term temporal changes and feedbacks between system components. In introductory meteorology courses, I introduce students to the 3-dimensional fluid nature of the atmosphere; in Climatology and Paleoclimatology courses, I introduce students to the complex interactions between and among the Earth system that affect global climate on varied temporal and spatial scales; in Mesoscale Meteorology, a senior-level course, we focus on the complex dynamics of 'mesoscale' atmospheric phenomena such as low-level jets, thunderstorms and tornadoes. I have taught no class the same twice, as I find that each year I have a better grasp of the extent to which students have difficulty understanding concepts in my courses.

The primary challenges of teaching students about complex topics in meteorology and climate system dynamics are generally similar between introductory and more advanced courses. I see the following as the primary challenges:

Among the strategies I've adopted in my courses and scholarly pursuits to meet the challenges outlined above:

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