After an exciting sabbatical year spent visiting a number of climate modeling centres, I’ll be back to teaching in January. I’ll be introducing two brand new courses, both related to climate modeling. I already blogged about my new grad course on “Climate Change Informatics”, which will cover many current research issues to do with software and data in climate science.
But I didn’t yet mention my new undergrad course. I’ll be teaching a 199 course in January, which I’ve never done before. 199 courses are first-year seminar courses, open to all new students across the faculty of arts and science, intended to encourage critical thinking, communication and research skills. They are run as small group seminar courses (enrolment is capped at 24 students). I’ve never taught one of these courses before, so I’ve no idea what to expect – I’m hoping for an interesting mix of students with different backgrounds, so we can spend some time attacking the theme of the course from different perspectives. Here’s my course description:
“Climate Change: Software, Science and Society”
This course will examine the role of computers and software in understanding climate change. We will explore the use of computer models to build simulations of the global climate, including a historical view of the use of computer models to understand weather and climate, and a detailed look at the current state of computer modelling, especially how global climate models are tested, what kinds of experiments are performed with them, how scientists know they can trust the models, and how they deal with uncertainty. The course will also explore the role of computer models in helping to shape society’s responses to climate change, in particular, what they can (and can’t) tell us about how to make effective decisions about government policy, international treaties, community action and the choices we make as individuals. The course will take a cross-disciplinary approach to these questions, looking at the role of computer models in the physical sciences, environmental science, politics, philosophy, sociology and economics of climate change. However, students are not expected to have any specialist knowledge in any of these fields prior to the course.
If all goes well, I plan to include some hands-on experimentation with climate models, perhaps using EdGCM (or even CESM if I can simplify the process of installing it and running it for them). We’ll also look at how climate models are perceived in the media and blogosphere (that will be interesting!) and compare these perceptions to what really goes on in climate modelling labs. Of course, the nice thing about a small seminar course is that I can be flexible about responding to the students’ own interests. I’m really looking forward to this…