GAIA - THE EARTH SYSTEM (EARTH 002, Section 2; 3 credits)

Course Syllabus for Fall 2009


Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences, 523 Walker Building,

Teaching Assistant: Joshua Dorin, Department of Geosciences, 242 Deike,

Meeting Time/Place: MWF 01:25-2:15 PM (101 OSMOND)

Office Hours:

You are welcome to visit the instructor or TA’s office for questions during scheduled office hours or by appointment. Office hours are: Thursday 11:15 AM-12:30 PM (instructor) and Tuesday 10:00 AM-11:30 AM (TA). You may also email the TA or instructor at the email addresses indicated above. Responses may be delayed.

Course Description:

EARTH 002 is a broad introduction to the Earth and to the forces and processes that shape the present-day global environment. The course focuses on global-scale changes, both natural and human-induced. These include: global climate change, destruction of stratospheric ozone, and tropical deforestation, species extinction, and the loss of biodiversity.


The course homepage is:

Aside from links to the course syllabus, there will be links to the readings, problem sets, and required MATLAB routines, slides from the lectures, and other course-related materials. Problem Set, Quiz, and Mid-Term Solutions will in general be posted on the course ANGEL site.


Attendance of all lectures is expected. You are strongly encouraged to ask questions and participate constructively in class. Copies of slides from the lectures will usually be made available electronically through the course website (see above) after the lecture has been completed.


There are two required text books for the course, available at a reduced package rate through the Penn State bookstore:

The Earth System (2nd ed.) by L. R. Kump, J. F. Kasting, and R. G. Crane.

Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, by M.E. Mann and L.R. Kump

Where appropriate, supplementary readings taken from various sources may also be used, in which case they will be posted on the course website. Copies of the textbooks are available in the Penn State library system on reserve.


Problem Sets (25%): There will be a number of assigned problem sets that will involve applications of topics covered in class.

Quizzes (15%): There will be occasional short in-class quizzes to help insure that you keep up with the course material.

Mid-term Exams (25%: 10% for 1st + 15% for 2nd):

Final Exam (35%)

Academic Integrity Policy: This course adopts the academic integrity policy of the EMS College, described at  Briefly, students are expected to do their own problem sets and to work the exams on their own.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up his or her answers separately.  Students may not copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own.  Students who present other people's work as their own, as well as the students providing the answers, will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F in the course.

Special Fall 2009 Flu Protocols: In compliance with Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control recommendations, students should NOT attend class or any public gatherings while ill with influenza. Students with flu symptoms will be asked to leave campus if possible and to return home during recovery. The illness and self-isolation period will usually be about a week. It is very important that individuals avoid spreading the flu to others. Most students should be able to complete a successful semester despite a

flu-induced absence.


COURSE SCHEDULE (tentative and subject to change)

#              DATE                          TOPIC                                                            Assignment                          Reading


M Aug 24

Course Overview: Gaia; Earth System Science




W Aug 26

Intro. Global Change: Global Warming, Ozone Depletion, Faint Young Sun Paradox

PS #1 Assigned

KKC-1:1-15; MK: 10-11,14,15


F Aug 28

Introduction to System Science; Feedbacks


KKC-2: 18-23


M Aug 31



KKC-2: 23-27


W Sep 2

Daisyworld (cont)


KKC-2: 27-31


F Sep 4

Electromagnetic Radiation; Temperature


KKC-3: 34-38;


M Sep 7

No class – Labor Day




W Sep 9

Blackbody Radiation

PS #1 Due

KKC-3: 39-41;


F Sep 11

Planetary Energy Balance

PS #2 Assigned

KKC-3: 41-43; MK: 12


M Sep 14

Atmospheric Composition and Structure; The Greenhouse Effect


KKC-3: 44-48; MK: 22-23, 26-35


W Sep 16

Radiation and Energy Budget


KKC-3: 48-50;


F Sep 18

Intro to Climate Models; Climate Feedbacks


KKC-3: 50-53; MK: 24-25, 64-65


M Sep 21

Large-scale Atmospheric Circulation: Overview


KKC-4: 55-80; MK: 13


W Sep 23

Large-scale Atmospheric Circulation: Seasonality



F Sep 25

Large-scale Atmospheric Circulation: Hydrological Cycle

PS #2 Due


M Sep 28

Large-scale Ocean Circulation


KKC-5: 83-103; MK: 60-61


W Sep 30

Large-scale Ocean Circulation (cont)



F Oct 2





M Oct 5

Climate Models Revisited


KKC-6: 104-115; MK: 66-67


W Oct 7

Climate Models Revisited (cont)



F Oct 9

Climate Models Revisited (cont)



M Oct 12

Climate Models Revisited (cont)



W Oct 14

Structure of the Solid Earth

PS #3 Due;

PS #4 Assigned

KKC-7: 117-126


F Oct 16

Seafloor spreading; Plate Tectonics


KKC-7: 126-137


M Oct 19

Plate Tectonics (continued)


KKC-7: 137-145


W Oct 21

The Organic Carbon Cycle


KKC-8: 147-161; MK: 94-97


F Oct 23

The Inorganic Carbon Cycle


KKC-8: 161-170


M Oct 26

Origin of the Earth; Geologic Time


KKC-10: 187-195


W Oct 28

The Origin of Life

PS#4 Due

KKC-10: 195-204


F Oct 30

The Rise of O2: Cyanobacteria

PS#5 Assigned

KKC-11: 207-220


M Nov 2

The Rise of O2: Geologic Evidence


KKC-11: 220-228


W Nov 4

Faint Young Sun Revisited


KKC-12: 230-236


F Nov 6

Faint Young Sun Revisited (cont)




M Nov 9





W Nov 11

‘Snowball Earth’; Mesozoic Warmth; Cenozoic Cooling


KKC-12: 236-249; MK: 40-43, 82-85


F Nov 13

Pleistocene Ice Ages; Milankovitch Cycles

PS #5 Due

KKC-14: 270-281; MK: 62-63


M Nov 16

Glacial Climate Feedback Processes

PS #6 Assigned

KKC-14: 281-287


W Nov 18

MOVIE: An Inconvenient Truth (Part 1)




F Nov 20

MOVIE: An Inconvenient Truth (Part 2)




M Nov 23

No class - Thanksgiving




W Nov 25

No class - Thanksgiving




F Nov 27

No class - Thanksgiving




M Nov 30

Glacial Climate Feedback Processes (cont)



W Dec 2

Stratospheric Ozone


KKC-17: 343-353


F Dec 4

The Ozone Hole

PS #6 Due

KKC-17: 353-359


M Dec 7

Modern Climate Change – Fundamentals; The Observations


MK:  17-21,36-39,44-59, 68-75


W Dec 9

Modern Climate Change – Future Projections


KKC-16-317-328; MK 77-81; 86-93; 98-105


F Dec 11

Modern Climate Change – Impacts; Mitigation


KKC-16: 329-340; Skim MK 108-197