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Introduction to Earth's Climate: Syllabus

Week 1


Welcome to Moodle and Course Introduction

During the first week you will learn the features of the courseware system used in this online course. You will practice using the Web site. We will explain the basic "flow" of a typical week's activities, how the course will be graded, and how we will seek your input on and feedback related to the course content. You will install and test required software with our support.

Week 2


What Is Climate and An Overview of Earth System Science

You will refresh your knowledge of the Earth's climate.  You will learn about the elements of climate, such as temperature, precipitation, wind, and insolation, as well the Earth's climate zones.  You will learn the difference between weather and climate, as well as the difference between climate averages and ranges. You will enhance your knowledge of Earth Systems Science (ESS), learning about the spheres of the Earth and how they work together to form the Earth system.

Week 3


Climate Science: How Do We Study Climate?

You will become familiar with the methods used by climate scientists including direct measurements of climate, indirect measurements, and climate models. You will learn about the many different scientific disciplines involved in the study of climate, how climate scientists quantify their record of "the climate," and what sorts of instruments and techniques they use.

Week 4


Paleoclimate: The Ghost of Climate Past

How do scientists study climates of the past? You will learn about the climate of relatively recent times through historical records made by humans using instrumental measurements and their descriptions of past climate preserved in art and writing. Several different "proxy" indicators of past conditions (such as tree ring and ice core records) and their relationships to proxies and climactic conditions will also be explored.

Week 5


Earth's Energy Balance and Solar Energy Input

The focus this week is on the Sun's role as the primary energy source driving Earth's climate. You will learn how the Sun (our "friendly neighborhood star") generates energy and emits it into space in various forms and wavelengths. You will learn what happens to the portion of this solar energy that reaches Earth, exploring how solar energy is distributed around our planet; how it is transmitted through, absorbed by, and reflected from our atmosphere; and how both spatial and temporal variations in energy distribution influence our planet's climate.

Week 6


Exam and Synthesis

Climate Discovery, a series of six-week courses for middle and high school educators. The course offerings include:

What is an NCAR Online Education course?

The online courses, instructed by science education specialists, incorporate information about state-of-the-art research and modeling efforts of nationally renowned climate scientists with classroom-tested science inquiry activities. All activities are classroom-ready. The online course experience features a high level of interactivity, tools for assessment, and effective community-building interactive technologies.