E&ES 260: Oceans and Climate

Earth's climate is not static. Even without human intervention, the climate has changed. In this course we will study the major properties of the ocean and its circulation and changes in climate. We will look at the effects of variations in greenhouse gas concentrations, the locations of continents, and the circulation patterns of oceans and atmosphere. We will look at these variations on several time scales. For billions of years, the sun's energy, the composition of the atmosphere, and the biosphere have experienced changes. During this time, Earth's climate has varied from much hotter to much colder than today, but the variations were relatively small when compared to the climate on our neighbors Venus and Mars. Compared with them, Earth's climate has been stable; the oceans neither evaporated nor froze solid. On shorter time scales, different processes are important. We will look at these past variations in Earth's climate and oceans and try to understand the implications for possible climates of the future.