ESCI 305

Earth's Climate, Past and Future

4 Undergraduate credits
Effective December 15, 2012 – Present

Graduation requirements this course fulfills

A fundamental question surrounds discussion of the current evidence for recent global climate change: to what extent is climate variation a normal feature of earth-system history? Through a series of investigations using data from a variety of climate archives, this course develops the history of earths climate on a range of time scales. We will investigate the scientific data used in recognition of multiple controls on climate, including long- and short-term patterns in solar output, plate tectonic and ocean circulation patterns, variations in earths orbit, ocean oscillations, ice sheet dynamics, and biogeochemical cycles. Having established this background knowledge, students in this course will be well-equipped to analyze the evidence for human-caused climate change. Although this course is intended primarily for non-scientists, it builds on established quantitative skills and basic scientific knowledge of earth systems.

Special information

Note: First day attendance required except by instructor permission.

Learning outcomes


  • Familiarity with the geological, paleontological, and geochemical systems and materials that serve as proxies for past (Pre-historic) climate variations.
  • Ability to analyze and interpret data that come from various climate archives.
  • Ability to speak and write clearly and knowledgeably about earth's climate history, and to accurately place scientific analysis of current climate change in that context.