I’m proposing a new graduate course for our department, to be offered next January (after I return from sabbatical). For the course calendar, I’m required to describe it in fewer than 150 words. Here’s what I have so far:

Climate Change Informatics

This introductory course will explore the contribution of computer science to the challenge of climate change, including: the role of computational models in understanding earth systems, the numerical methods at the heart of these models, and the software engineering techniques by which they are built, tested and validated; challenges in management of earth system data, such as curation, provenance, meta-data description, openness and reproducibility; tools for communication of climate science to broader audiences, such as simulations, games, educational software, collective intelligence tools, and the challenges of establishing reputation and trustworthiness for web-based information sources; decision-support tools for policymaking and carbon accounting, including the challenges of data collection, visualization, and trade-off analysis; the design of green IT, such as power-aware computing, smart controllers and the development of the smart grid.

Here’s the rationale:

This is an elective course. The aim is to bring a broad range of computer science graduate students together, to explore how their skills and knowledge in various areas of computer science can be applied to a societal grand challenge problem. The course will equip the students with a basic understanding of the challenges in tackling climate change, and will draw a strong link between the students’ disciplinary background and a series of inter-disciplinary research questions. The course crosscuts most areas of computer science.

And my suggested assessment modes:

  • Class participation: 10%
  • Term Paper 1 (essay/literature review): 40%
  • Term Paper 2 (software design or implementation): 40%
  • Oral Presentation or demo: 10%

Comments are most welcome – the proposal has to get through various committees before the final approval by the school of graduate studies. There’s plenty of room to tweak it in that time.


  1. I’d love to take a course like this. Where would it fall in the range of CS area umbrellas?

    [Christian: I think I’ve broken the entire categorization of our CS courses. I’ll take feedback from the committee on this…-Steve]

  2. I think some of the Information Systems Stream people at the Faculty of Information would be interested in this, so would I! Except that I have no software implementation experience, but would love to opportunity to learn how to work with climate related data. Maybe I could audit?

    [Margaret: It would be great to get some FI students in the course. I don’t plan on implementation being a requirement (it’s too much to expect within the bounds of a single term), so interpret ‘design’ here very liberally: a paper prototype, or even a systematic critique of an existing system would be good alternatives – Steve]

  3. Great course! But why limit it to CS students?

    [I don’t intend such a limit, but I do want to get deeply into some CS issues, which might make it less attractive to students with no technical background – Steve]

  4. sounds good! the option to do one bigger project as opposed to a review and a project woudl be nice.

  5. Pingback: New undergrad course on climate models | Serendipity

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