MAST 226
The Oceans and Climate
Last Offered Spring 2015
Division III Writing Skills
Cross-listed GEOS 226 / ENVI 252
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

The oceans are a fundamental part of Earth’s climate system. Ocean currents redistribute heat and water vapor around the globe, controlling temperature and precipitation patterns. Marine phytoplankton blooms and air-sea gas exchange modulate the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The dynamic interaction of the atmosphere and the sea surface results in multi-year climate variations such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. This course will examine gradual and abrupt climate shifts from Earth’s history and the ocean’s role in driving, amplifying or dampening the changes, the ocean’s response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and the projected impacts of continued emissions and climate change on the ocean in the coming decades and millennia. We will analyze articles from the scientific literature that lay out the theory on the ocean’s influence on climate, reconstruct past climate and ocean changes, test the mechanisms responsible for those changes, and with that knowledge, project the consequences of continued anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Topics may include the climate effects of opening and closing seaways with plate tectonics, ocean feedbacks that amplify the intensity of ice ages, the instability of ocean circulation during ice-sheet retreat, the evolution of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation with changing carbon dioxide through the geologic past and the next century, ocean heat and carbon dioxide uptake during the last century and into the future, and the impact on sea level, seafloor methane reservoirs, ocean acidification, oxygenation and marine ecosystems. This course is in the Oceans and Climate group for the Geosciences major.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 4056
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on the critical analysis of reading from the scientific literature through discussion, writing and revision
Prerequisites: at least one GEOS course
Enrollment Preferences: students with a strong interest in Geosciences and Geosciences majors
Distributions: Division III Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GEOS 226 Division III ENVI 252 Division III MAST 226 Division III
WS Notes: each student will write five 5-page position papers and five 1-page response papers; students will give and receive feedback through peer review and tutorial meeting discussions and will develop their writing and critical analysis skills through revision
Attributes: ENVI Natural World Electives
GEOS Group A Electives - Climate + Oceans
MAST Interdepartmental Electives

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