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Understanding Climate Change Today: Syllabus


Week 1


Welcome to Moodle and Course Introduction

During the first week you will learn or review the features of Moodle, the courseware system used in this online course. 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.  You will also participate in introductory activities, such as discussion forums, that will start the important community-building aspect of this course.

Week 2


Future Climates: Where Are We Heading?

This week we will ponder where we may be heading in the future, climate-wise. We'll take an in-depth look at the IPCC, the international organization that summarizes state-of-the-art climate science. To establish a baseline, we'll look at the state of Earth's climate today. Next, we'll delve a bit into the workings of the climate models that run on supercomputers. Finally, we'll look at some of the projections about future climate and explore some of the uncertainties involved in predicting future climate.

Week 3


Changes in Regional Weather & Urban Impacts

During the third week, we'll change our focus from the global scale to a more regional perspective as we continue to explore the expected impacts of climate change. We'll first take a look at broad regional trends in climate change, addressing questions like: will the oceans or the land warm more quickly? are polar regions more susceptible to change than the tropics? We'll then delve into the emerging field of regional climate modeling, and see what it has to say about expectations for future climate in specific areas, like Africa, North America, Europe, and so on. We'll also discuss how certain aspects of climate change influence various places differently; tropical islands being at risk from both rising sea levels as well as increased hurricane frequency, for instance. We will also explore how changes in the urban environment, such as the heat island effect and air pollution, affect climate on a regional scale.

Week 4


Impacts of Warming – Two Case Studies

In this week of the course we will take an up-close look at two different impacts of climate change. We will investigate ways in which climate change is affected, and will continue to affect human health – including the impacts of extreme heat events, flooding, vector-borne diseases, and water availability.  In the second case study we will focus in on the Greenland ice sheet – a massive layer of ice that covers most of the world’s largest island.

Week 5


Impact on Environments – Two Case Studies

This week we will focus on two more case studies of the impacts of climate change.  Specifically we will be looking at how global warming and associated global changes are affecting ecosystems. First we will explore the relationship between climate change and phenology—the science that measures the timing of life cycle events for all organisms.  For the remainder of the week, we will look underwater on the impacts of global change on coral reef ecosystems.

Week 6


Mitigating the Impacts of Changing Climates: What Can We Do?

We will explore the relationship between climate change adaptation & mitigation, focusing on adaptation strategies to reduce the effects of climate change, as well as mitigation efforts to reduce its causes. We will also evaluate classroom activities that students can use to explore how human activities affect the earth system.

Week 7


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.