Course Coordinator: 
Satoshi Mitarai
The Earth System

This course will develop student understanding of key components of the Earth system, as well as past and future variability. Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to, global energy balance, atmospheric circulation, surface winds and ocean circulation, deep-sea thermohaline circulation, Holocene climate, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, projections of future atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse-gas concentrations, and the effects of climate change on marine environments. Hands-on exercises using predictions of the latest atmosphere-ocean coupled general circulation models will be employed to assess how climate change affects oceanic environments, e.g., based upon IPCC future climate change scenarios and past climate records. This course is open to any student, while it mainly targets marine science students. Basic mathematical knowledge (calculus) will be required. Students are expected to apply the skills they acquire in this class to their own marine biological and/or ecological studies to describe the influence of climate change on ocean environments quantitatively, and also to discuss potential outcomes for marine ecosystems on which their own research is focused.

For the project, students will analyze predictions of CMIP (Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project) models to assess the effects of climate change on marine environments, and write a brief report (a few pages) including some figures.

Successful students will understand the mechanics of the changing Earth environment. They will also comprehend past global changes and those anticipated in the future due to anthropogenic carbon releases. Students will acquire skills to utilize cutting-edge atmosphere-ocean data coupled with general circulation models, enabling them to assess potential effects of climate change on ocean-atmosphere systems. Target Students This course is designed for students who intend to work on marine biological and/or marine ecological studies in relation to the changing Earth environment. Students with any background are welcome to take this course. Some mathematical skills will be required to understand ocean-atmosphere dynamics, but will be limited to basic calculus (no prerequisite courses). While this course mainly targets marine science students, it will also be useful for those who study terrestrial ecology or related fields.
Course Content: 

First, this course covers key components of the Earth system: global energy balance, the greenhouse effect, blackbody radiation, global distributions of temperature, effects of the Earth’s rotation, geostrophic balance, seasonal variability, Hadley circulation, surface winds and ocean circulation, Ekman layers, western boundary currents, and the thermohaline conveyor belt, etc.

Second, the course addresses global change on short and long time scales: long-term climate records, Holocene climate, the last glacial maximum, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, projections of future atmospheric CO2 concentrations, etc.

Furthermore, atmosphere-ocean coupled general circulation models will be introduced. Effects of climate change, such as projected global warming scenarios, on marine environments will be discussed through exercises based on model predictions.

Course Type: 
Homework (about 5 times): 50%, Project (see below): 50%.
Text Book: 
Lee R. Kump, James F. Kasting, Robert G. Crane. The Earth System, 3rd Edition. Pearson, 2010.
Gerold Siedler, Stephen M. Griffies, John Gould, John A. Church. Ocean Circulation and Climate: A 21st Century Perspective. Elsevier, 2013.
Reference Book: 
Philippe Bertrand, Louis Legendre. Earth, Our Living Planet. Springer, 2021.
Prior Knowledge: 

B28 Elementary Differential Equations and Boundary Problems  and/or A104 Vector and Tensor Calculus