EMS First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Potential Societal Impacts (EM SC 100S, 3 Credits)

Course Syllabus for Fall 2014


Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology, 514 Walker Building, mann@psu.edu

Teaching Assistant: Nichole Marsh, nwm5120@psu.edu

Meeting Time/Place: T R 2:30 – 3:45 PM (10 DEIKE)

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Wed, 1-2:15 PM), or by appointment. You may also email for questions (please use "mann@psu.edu"). Responses may be delayed.


How certain are we that human activity is altering Earth's climate? How much more warming might we expect over the next century? What will the impacts be on severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, floods and drought? How might climate change impact water availability in arid and semi-arid regions already stressed for water resources? What is the threat to coastal regions? How might climate change impact natural ecosystems? Are there winners and losers? This course will explore the scientific evidence underlying each of these questions, reviewing the most recent international assessments of the science.


We will regularly draw upon the course homepage as a resource for the course:


Aside from links to the course syllabus, there will be links to the readings, slides from the lectures, and other course-related materials.


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) the morning prior to the lecture. The assignments given for a particular class meeting are due before that class begins (i.e. at the beginning of that class meeting).


The course textbook is: "Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming" by Mann and Kump. It is available in the Penn State bookstore.

In addition, you are expected to read various other selected materials provided through the course webpage. The readings should be completed in advance of our covering the material in class. Readings for each week will typically be posted on the course website by the end of the previous week.

You are welcome (and indeed encouraged) to make use of supplementary sources of information that you may find. You should be sure, however, to assess the reliability of any supplementary sources used in assignments, with respect to the qualifications and expertise of the source, and any biases or conflicts of interest that may compromise its objectivity.

Course Requirements and Grades

Students will be expected to complete homework assignments based on the readings, in advance of our covering the material in class (assignments will be collected at the end of class). Students are expected to participate in in-class discussion and debates, and students are expected to participate in the World In Conversation exercise, which will take place outside of class sometime during October (this will count as one homework assignment). Students will take turns leading discussions over the course of the term, and will prepare and present to the class at the end of the semester a multimedia presentation on a topic to be determined (projects will be selected in consultation with the instructor mid-way through the term).

Course Schedule (subject to change)

#              DATE                                                             TOPIC                                                                    


T Aug 26



R Aug 28

Introduction (cont);


T Sep 2

Greenhouse Gases on the Rise


R Sep 4

The Greenhouse Effect


T Sep 9

The Greenhouse Effect (cont) 


R Sep 11

Observations of Modern Climate Change


T Sep 16

Observations of Modern Climate Change  (cont) 


R Sep 18

Internet/Web Workshop w/ EMS info. tech. expert Tim Robinson (112 Boucke Building)


T Sep 23

Academic Integrity Workshop w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright


R Sep 25

A Tempest in a Greenhouse: Have Hurricanes Become More Frequent or Intense?


T Sep 30

Humans vs. Nature


R Oct 2

Writing Workshop w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright


T Oct 7

The Paleoclimate Perspective


R Oct 9

Study/Work Smarter - Libraries can help + introducing world of research! w/ EMS head librarian Linda Musser


T Oct 14

The Day After Tomorrow: A Possible Scenario?  


R Oct 16

The Day After Tomorrow: A Possible Scenario? (cont)


T Oct 21

Media Workshop w/ Lauren Rishe (W140 PATTEE)


R Oct 23

Online Publishing Workshop w/ EMS info. tech. expert Tim Robinson (112 Boucke Building)


T Oct 28

Climate Modeling; Can't We Explain Climate Trends by Natural Factors Alone?


R Oct 30

How Sensitive is the Climate?


T Nov 4

Scientific Uncertainty


R Nov 6

Projections of Future Climate Change:  Emissions Scenarios


T Nov 11

Projections of Future Climate Change: Surface Warming


R Nov 13

Projections of Future Climate Change:  Melting Ice, Rising Sea Level, Extreme Weather


T Nov 18

The science in An Inconvenient Truth


R Nov 20

In class Media Lab w/ Lauren Rishe (working on your project videos) (W140 PATTEE)

T Nov 25

No Class [Thanksgiving break]


R Nov 27

No Class [Thanksgiving break]


T Dec 2

The science in An Inconvenient Truth (cont)


R Dec 4

Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]


T Dec 9

Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]


R Dec 11

Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]