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GEOS 2004 - Evolution of the Earth System

Course URL: http://www.ou.edu/mcee.html
Course Type:

Earth Systems Science

Course Size:


Overview of Planet Earth from a systems perspective. Draws on knowledge from all geosciences to explore interconnections and co-evolution of the solid earth, atmosphere, oceans, and living things. Evolution of Earth's climate over geologic time including the hydrologic cycle, carbon cycle, and "greenhouse effect". Role living things play in the global environment. Extensive use of numerical models to explore structure and response of the Earth system.

Course Context:

This introductory course has no prerequisites, but certain background knowledge is assumed:

  • Ability to access the course web site.
  • Ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
  • Ability to understand fractions and ratios.
  • An understanding of scientific notation.
  • Ability to carry out metric - English unit conversions.
  • Ability to read simple charts, graphs, and maps.
  • A working knowledge of world geography.
The class includes 3 lecture and 1 lab session per week. This course was last offered at the University of Oklahoma in the Fall term of 2001.

Course Goals:

Students will develop:

  • An informed view of the past, present, and likely future behavior of the Earth System,
  • A basic understanding about how and why there is continuous change in the Earth System, and
  • An aesthetic appreciation of phenomena that occur in, on, and around Planet Earth.

The learning objectives of the course are for students to:

  • know key facts about the main components of the Earth System and its bounding space environment.
  • understand the meaning of scientific thought in an Earth System context.
  • be able to use simple numerical models of the planetary system and its major sub-systems to explore the evolution of the Earth System over time.

Course Content:

The central theme of this course is Numerical Modeling of the Continuously Evolving Earth System. THe class discusses the concepts of systems and their terminology along with the interconnections and interactions of the different components of the Earth System through this lens.

Teaching Materials:

In striving for a "paperless course" built around the World Wide Web, almost all the course materials can be found posted on the course web site. There is no required textbook. A recommended text that covers much of the material in the couse is:

  • Smil, Vaclav, 1997: Cycles of Life: Civilization and the biosphere. Scientific American Library, distributed by W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, New York. 221 pp. ISBN 0-7167-5079-1.

The following texts are recommended to broaden understanding of the Earth System:

  • Broecker, Wallace S., 1985: How to Build a Habitable Planet. Eldigio Press, LDGO Box#2, Palisades, New York 10964.
  • Lovelock, James E., 1991: Healing Gaia - Practical Medicine for the Planet, Harmony Books, New York. 192 pp.
  • Weiner, Jonathan, 1986: Planet Earth. Bantam, New York. 370 pp.
  • Westbroek, Peter, 1992: Life as a Geological Force, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York. 240 pp.


Examinations (2) - 350 points
In-class Quizzes (5-10) - 100 points
Laboratories (15) - ? points
Term Modeling Project - 350 points

References and Notes:

The course URL referenced above is for all of the Earth Systems Science Education course offereings at the University of Oklahoma (these pages are presented in frames on the site). Course pages for GEOS 2004 - Evolution of the Earth Systems are available under the Course Offerings link.