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This page first made public: Sep 15, 2017
In this course, we develop the qualitative and quantitative tools for constructing, experimenting with, and interpreting dynamic models of different components of the Earth system. The integrated set of ten modules within this course explores a range of systems that all relate to the dynamics of Earth's climate, including interactions with humans. The course is aimed at an intermediate-level geoscience student with some knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, which form the foundation for building and understanding computer models of these systems.
Strengths of the Course
- By building and working with models of the climate system, population growth, water resources, and the intersections between climate change and economic systems, students will develop the ability to integrate information from a variety of disciplines, including geosciences, biology, physics, chemistry, and economics. Further, students will be asked to apply the results of their models to societal problems.
- Using models in this way explicitly encourages the use of prediction and experimentation as ways of learning. Modeling also fosters quantitative and analytical thinking. Finally, models allow students to simulate processes that occur over geologic time.
- Geoscience data will be used as the initial conditions for some systems models, for example the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Geoscientific data will also be used as points of comparison for model output in other units, for example, students will compare General Circulation Model outputs to records of surface warming over the past several decades.
- The use of visually-based models helps students to see connections between different parts of dynamic systems. Students will be asked to make predictions about model (system) behavior over time, and analyze results in the context of 1) the specific system being modeled and 2) how and why predictions may have differed from results.
A great fit for courses in:
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Studies
- Earth Modeling
- Geology/Earth Science
- Systems Thinking
The course may be taught in its entirety, or individual modules may be extracted for use within other courses. This course works well as a "blended" course, with the modules being completed at home and the activities being completed or presented in a weekly in-person class meeting. It could also be taught entirely online, or the activities could be used in conjunction with lectures developed by the instructor to introduce the relevant concepts in a traditional lecture-based course.
Supported NSF Earth Science Literacy Principles:
- Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
- Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
- Big Idea 6: Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
- Big Idea 7: Humans depend on Earth for resources.
- Earth Science Literacy 1.1: Earth scientists find solutions to society's needs.
- Earth Science Literacy 1.2: Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
- Earth Science Literacy 1.5: Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth's future.
- Earth Science Literacy 8.1: Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
- Earth Science Literacy 8.7: Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards, but can engage in activities that reduce their impacts.
- Earth Science Literacy 8.8: An Earth-science-literate public is essential for reducing risks from natural hazards.
Supported NOAA Essential Principles of Climate Science:
7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
- Identifying feedback between natural and perturbed systems
- Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects
- Develop, enhance, and integrate observation systems to manage global and regional environmental change.
- Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
- Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
- Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.
Addressed community developed, nationally-recognized Atmospheric Science Literacy Principles:
- Atmospheric Science Literacy Principle 7.4: Weather forecasts and predictions of future climate assist us in implementing mitigation strategies and adaptation to new climatic conditions.
- Atmospheric Science Literacy Principle 7.5: Citizens need to become educated about Earth's atmosphere to make informed decisions on issues at local, regional, and global scales.
Table of Contents
- Instructor Materials: Modeling Earth Systems Course
Unit 1Introduction to Modeling Dynamic Systems Unit 2Modeling Population Unit 3Simple Climate Models Unit 4Daisyworld Unit 5Growth and Decay of Ice Sheets Unit 6Hydrologic Balance and Climate Change Unit 7Heat Flow in Permafrost Unit 8Thermohaline Circulation Unit 9Carbon Cycle and Ocean Chemistry Unit 10Coupled Economic and Environmental Models Summative AssessmentCreating a Model
- Student Materials
- Instructor Stories
- Join the Community