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

Course Syllabus for Fall 2015


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

Teaching Assistant: Laura Hartman, lwh5228@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 Climate Change" (2nd edition) 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 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). Students are also 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).

Course Schedule (subject to change)

#              DATE                                                             TOPIC                                                                    


T Aug 25



R Aug 27

Introduction (cont);


T Sep 1

Greenhouse Gases on the Rise


R Sep 3

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


T Sep 8

The Greenhouse Effect


R Sep 10

Observations of Modern Climate Change


T Sep 15

Observations of Modern Climate Change  (cont) 


R Sep 17

Media (iMovie) Workshop w/ Markus Fürer (W140 PATTEE)


T Sep 22

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


R Sep 24

Humans vs. Nature


T Sep 29

The Paleoclimate Perspective


R Oct 1

The Day After Tomorrow: A Possible Scenario?  


T Oct 6

“The Power of the Story in Science” w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright


R Oct 8

“The Danger of the Single Story” w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright


T Oct 13

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


R Oct 15

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


T Oct 20

How Sensitive is the Climate?


R Oct 22

Projections of Future Climate Change:  Emissions Scenarios


T Oct 27

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


R Oct 29

Projections of Future Climate Change: Surface Warming; Rainfall and Drought


T Nov 3

Media (iMovie) Follow-up Workshop w/ Markus Fürer (W140 PATTEE)


R Nov 5

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


T Nov 10

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


R Nov 12

The science in An Inconvenient Truth


T Nov 17

Guest lecture on Climate Change & Coastal Risk by Andra Reed


R Nov 19

The science in An Inconvenient Truth (cont)

T Nov 24

No Class [Thanksgiving break]

R Nov 26

No Class [Thanksgiving break]


T Dec 1

Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]


R Dec 3

Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]