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Global Climate Change

Robert Jacobel
Robert Jacobel
Robert Jacobel

Course URL: http://www.stolaf.edu/people/jacobel/courses/climate/climate.html
Course Type:

Course Size:


This interdisciplinary courses focuses on how and why Earth's climate has changed thoughout its history and how it is likely to change in the near future. It draws from geology, chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, and policy studies. Much of the science involved in this topic is cutting-edge, so quite a bit of the reading will be from scientific journals. According to Dr. Jacobel: "One of the goals of the climate course is for participants to learn about significant new research and developments in the field of earth and planetary sciences."

Course Context:

This is an interdisciplinary environmental studies seminar.

Course Goals:

During this course, students will:
  • Develop an understanding of how Earth's climate has changed over time
  • Learn about the methods scientists use to determine paleoclimate
  • Understand the factors that determine climate, including carbon cycling, plate tectonics, and solar radiation
  • Read primary literature
  • Engage in group work, writing, and public speaking

Course Content:

Course topics include:
  • Geologic time
  • The mechanics of the climate system: including the carbon cycle, Milankovitch cycles, etc.
  • Energy balance
  • Climate models and proxies
  • Cenozoic climate history
  • Human policy considerations

Teaching Materials:

The course website ( This site may be offline. ) contains:
  • Course schedule
  • Assignment descriptions
  • Links page


The grade is based on two exams, a paper, a presentation, and a group report.

References and Notes:

The text for this course (Ruddiman, W.F. 2001. Earth's Climate: Past and Future. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co. ISBN 0-7167-3741-8) is an unusual and interesting book, a very focussed look at Earth history, with a strong systems approach.