1. You are expected to submit a summary of a current climate / environmental-related article from the mainstream press, along with your personal evaluation/reflection. Using a recent news article from a reliable source, please feel encouraged to explore topics that include extreme weather (e.g. winter storms, drought), climate change, energy (e.g. decreases in crude oil price, fracking, coal mining, nuclear power plants, alternative energy, etc), adaptation of animal behavior to recent climate change (including mammals, insects, fish, etc), policy related topics (international climate change conferences), and more. Due by January 28.
    Guidelines of this assignment are:

    • Article summary: Your own summary – do not copy from an original source (1 page).
    • Reflection: Your own discussion about the topic(s) of the article. Please apply your knowledge from this course and incorporate it into your discussion (1 page)
    • Maximum pages: 2
    • Font type and size: Times New Roman/Times, 12-point size, double spaced
    • Data (optional): include source data 
    • Figures and Tables (optional): include source data
    • List of reference(s)
  • http://forecast.uchicago.edu/lectures.html
  • This link provides the video lecture in Chapter 1

Lecture 2
4 Fundamental Questions &

Weather versus Climate

1. Rank your sense of alarm about global warming, where 1 is
“not too worried, much less important than other problems”
and 5 is “very worried, about the most important problem
we face.”

6 Questions about Global Warming
Here are fundamental questions associated with recent changes in our earth’s
climate. Please take a moment to write down your answers and think about

2. Is the greenhouse effect considered an established
scientific theory?

6 Questions about Global Warming
You may or may not have heard some of these critical terminologies used
by climate scientists. They will be further discussed in this course.

3. What is Climate Sensitivity?
4. What is Radiative Forcing?
5. What is the pre-industrial atmospheric concentration of CO2?


6. What percentage of the world’s energy comes from
About 11% of the world’s marketed energy consumption is from renewable
energy sources (biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and
wind) with a projection for 15% by 2040 (U.S. Energy Information
Administration (EIA)

�Global temperatures are rising due to human emissions of
greenhouse gases and their resultant accumulation in the


Is this true?
What are the fundamental questions that we have to ask
ourselves to test this notion? (5 min group discussion).

1.  Are global temperatures rising?

2.  Is the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increasing?

3.  Is the concentration of greenhouse gases increasing because of us?

4.  Is global warming due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases?

Under the current administration, we have witnessed the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) remove the climate change section from its website. Also, the White
House’s website has removed the entire climate change section that ties climate
change to anthropogenic cause (e.g. The Reuters, January 25, 2017,
The Gardians, May 14, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-
As a result, It is even more important for you to learn about the scientific mechanisms
of climate change and develop an understanding of what the scientific data implies.

Let’s think like a scientist! Assume that you encounter someone who asks you “Is this
true?” to the above mentioned statement which was deleted from the White House’s
and EPA’s website. To answer this question, what fundamental questions come to

Here are four fundamental questions that need to be addressed. The answers will be
covered throughout this course, and you should be able to address these questions

�Global temperatures are rising due to human emissions of
greenhouse gases and their resultant accumulation in the


Is this true?
What are the fundamental questions that we have to ask
ourselves to test this notion? (5 min group discussion).

1.  Are global temperatures rising?

2.  Is the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increasing?

3.  Is the concentration of greenhouse gases increasing because of us?

4.  Is global warming due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases?




Global Warming – Understanding
the Forecast, 2nd Edition by David


PDF file:

Suggested Course Text

There is a series of lecture videos, taught by Dr. David Archer of Chicago
University, the author of this book that are available online. While his lectures
are wonderful and inspiring, please know that the lectures are for an
introductory physics class and may cover more detail than necessary for this
course. For lecture videos, please go to

Arctic Climate Change – Who Cares?

More story, go to

Let me begin this course by presenting an impact of climate change observed in the
This figure shows the Arctic sea ice extension in September 2012. The purple solid
line was the arctic extension in 1979. The 2012 minimum, which correlates closely
with the ice visible through clouds in this image, fell substantially below previous
records. Why do we care? One of our goals is to learn why this is happening,
especially in the Arctic – also, why do we need to care about this phenomenon.

Arctic Climate Change

Differences during the summer
is increasing while sea ice

extension is decreasing in the
recent past.

To view other years, please visit the interactive web site at

First, important things to keep in mind when we discuss Arctic conditions is that
sea ice extension varies seasonally. It may be strange to think that sea ice will
naturally melt in the Arctic, but the sea ice recedes seasonally, when the surface
sea temperature exceeds freezing level [e.g., Average July temperatures range
from about −10 to +10 °C (14 to 50 °F)].

This figure shows the month to month sea ice extension from 2010 to 2014. Sea
ice grows to its maximum during the early spring and to its minimum in September
(late summer). This cycle seems to show similar patterns for the past 6 years,
except for the time of minimum in 2012. The minimum extension in 2012 was
obviously significantly reduced compared to the past 6 years of observation.

We will cover more on this topic in future lecture slides. For now, to view other
years, please visit the interactive web site at:

Climate Change in Continental Glacier
Not only true for sea ice, but continental glaciers show a similar trend.


1928-2000 comparison: These photos of the South Cascade Glacier in
the Washington Cascade Mountains show dramatic retreat between
1928 and 2000. Photos courtesy USGS.


Andes Meltdown: New Insights Into Rapidly
Retreating Glaciers


See more at:

When we talk about changes in climate, we need to discuss this as a change from
the global average. For instance, we often refer to a deviation from global mean
temperature. The article, referred by the website above, written on Dec 13, 2010,
tells us an interesting story and offers insight about why we need to discuss this
with the global average – please go to the web link to learn more about this. We
will re-visit this topic later this semester.

Quote: “This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar – the
refrigerator warms up, but all the cold air spills out into the house.”

As Polar Vortex Stirs, Deep Freeze Threatens
U.S. and Europe
By Brian K Sullivan, Bloomberg.com
January 10, 2021
“The icy blasts threatening to sweep across
North America, Europe and Asia starting in
late January are from the same weather
pattern that triggered the 2014 cold snap
known as the polar vortex…”

Climate change and Weather are
not the same!

Important facts. Climate is not equal to weather.

Weather – day to day, week to week synoptic

Climate – average condition of 3 decades or

Two key ideas for this course:
1st: Climate is regulated by complex interactions amongst different components of
the Earth’s system.
2nd: Understanding climate change can be reduced to understanding how “the
control knobs” function.


Global temperatures through 2020

Here we see changes in mean global temperature from 1880 to 2020. The
numbers are shown in “anomaly”, which is a deviation from long-term mean

University of East Angria Climatic Research Unit: Data

Global temperatures and carbon dioxide through 2009

Union of Concerned Scientists

Further reading (Massachusetts – Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast):

Further reading (What Climate Change Means for Massachusetts, 2016):

Recently, there have been outbreaks of mosquito related diseases during the
summer in New England. These diseases were typically limited the southern
states for a long time, however, may now be our new norm given recent
changes in the northern climate. Who would have imagined that we would
encounter these diseases in New England?

Imagine you have a fever for the
first time.

How will your body respond?

Knowing you have a history of
fevers and chills, you know how
to deal with the symptoms.

That experience/history is
important to your response!

Epica Community, 2006

This figure shows reconstructed temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration
variations over the past 800,000 years. Such reconstructed values are based upon CO2
concentration and other “proxy” records retrieved from Antarctic ice cores.

There are periodic ups and downs throughout the interval – natural cycles. Throughout
this time interval, CO2 concentrations are always somewhat below 300 ppm except for
the past couple hundred years, which both CO2 concentrations and temperature are
rising abruptly with unprecedented speed!

What is the current atmospheric CO2 concentration? On May 2013, the concentration
almost exceeds the historical milestone of 400 ppm. As you can see from the figure,
almost 30 % higher than the highest CO2 concentration for the past 800,000 years, and
this increase occurred rather abruptly, just within a couple hundred years. Check
(http://co2now.org) for the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Trends in atmospheric CO2

I’d like to end this lecture with a quote from Thomas Edison. The idea of exploring
alternative sources of energy was already spread in the 1930s.