Karen M. Shell     


ATS 420/520: Principles of Climate

The Physical Science of Climate and Climate Change

Note: this course will count as a COAS core course for students currently in the old COAS degree program (i.e., students who entered the program before Fall 2010).

This course will study the physics of climate past, present, and future. Topics to be covered include radiative processes, thermodynamics, and dynamics, as well as the paleoclimate record and mechanisms driving this variability. Current modes of climate variability (e.g., ENSO) will also be surveyed. Climate models, ranging from 0 to 3 dimensional, will be examined and projections for the future assessed. See the complete syllabus (PDF) for more details.

With the introduction of the new COAS core sequence, in particular OEAS 530, "The Fluid Earth", ATS 420/520 will be revised yet again. I will decrease coverage of material included in OEAS 530 and focus more on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Working Group 1:"The Physical Science Basis".

This course is designed for science, math, and engineering graduate or upper-level undergraduate students interested in understanding the Earth's climate. Students who take this course as ATS 520 (as opposed to ATS 420) will be expected to answer additional homework and exam questions.


The class will meet three times a week, with an optional recitation meeting once a week on a date TBD on the first day of class. The recitation is entirely optional; attendance does not count. For the first few weeks, I will review basic physics and calculus concepts as needed during the recitations. I will also go through some homework solutions in detail and have additional problems for practice. We will use the time for additional demonstrations, more explorations of simple climate models and observational data sets, and discussions of current climate papers. Assignments and lecture notes will be posted to Blackboard. See the detailed class schedule.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this course.

Last modified: Wed Jan 19 11:17:51 PST 2011