Quaternary Paleoclimatology, Geol 415X/515X

Spring 2007, MWF 3:10-4:00 p.m.

Drs. Germán Mora and William Gutowski
10 Science I and 3021 Agronomy
gmora@iastate.edu and gutowski@iastate.edu

Images courtesy of:  http://www.agu.org/history/SV.shtml and http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/CORE_REPOSITORY/10a.MC21Data.html

Course Description: Introduction to mechanisms that drive climate, including the interplay between oceanic and atmospheric circulation and fluctuation in Earths orbital parameters. Examination and analysis of past climate records ranging from historical documentation to ecological and geochemical proxies (e.g. tree ring analysis; O and C isotopes of skeletal carbonates and soils). Dating methods used to constrain and correlate climatic periods, utility of computer models to reconstruct past climates and predict future climate change. Emphasis placed on paleoclimatolgy and paleoecology of the late Quaternary (last ~1 million years).

Course Objectives: We hope to provide an understanding of (1) what drives climate; (2) how ancient climates can be reconstructed; and (3) what are the important questions currently being asked in the field of paleoclimatology and their significance to present and future climate change.

Structure of Course: The class meets 3 times a week. Lectures will introduce topics for the majority of the semester. Five meetings during the semester will be devoted to a seminar-style format where we will discuss current journal articles in various topics of paleoclimatology. Graduate students will be required to hand in a 1-2 page written critique of each paper. Undergraduate students will be required to hand in (at the start of the seminar class)

  1. a brief paragraph describing the major questions posed in the paper, the methods used to address the questions and the major conclusions
  2. a question to address in the class discussion
Major, overriding concepts (not specific details) from each paper are fair game for exam questions.

Readings: Chapters relating to each week's topic will be assigned from the following textbook:  Bradley R. S. (1999) Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, Vol. 68, International Geophysics Series, 2nd ed., Harcourt Academic Press, New York. Journal articles to be discussed in class will be located in a marked folder in the Geology Office (253 Science I).

Term Papers: All students enrolled in the course will be required to write a 10-12 page term paper and submit an outline for topic approval. Graduate students are required to pick their topics and to present their findings orally during the last week of classes. Undergraduates can pick their topic or have one assigned to them. Relevant milestones for term papers appear in the course schedule below. Please read the further details for term papers.


415X (Undergrads)

Exams 40 pts
Term Paper 20 pts
Seminar Participation 15 pts
Final 25 pts

515X (Grads)

Exams 40 pts
Term Paper & Oral Presentation
20 pts
Seminar Participation & Critiques
15 pts
Final 25 pts

NEW: Grades on the final exam and for the course are posted here.

Pre-recorded Lectures:

We may use pre-recorded lectures for some topics for times when both professors are out of town. Note that material covered on these lectures may appear on tests. We will of course answer questions you may have about the material presented in these lectures.

To view and listen to them, you simply need to click on the link for the lecture identified as pre-recorded lectures in the course schedule, so long as you have an appropriate browser with the Macromedia Flash Player extension included. Typically, this extension is already in your browser, but if it is not, you will be asked if you want it downloaded and installed on your machine. Basically, Windows and Macintosh OS X machines are ok. Linux machines should work, but success is not guaranteed. Further details on compatibility appear on the Breeze requirements page.

For best visual clarity, you should make your browser window as large as possible. If you are listening to the lectures with others around you, out of courtesy, please use headphones.

Students Needing Disability Accommodation:

Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Please address any special needs or special accommodations with me at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your needs. Those seeking accommodations based on disabilities should obtain a Student Academic Accommodations Request (SAAR) form from the Disabilities Resources (DR) office (515-294-6624), located on the main floor of the Student Services Building, Room 1076.

Tentative Schedule:





8, 10 January




12 January

Climate and Climatic Variation (Pt. 1)



15 January

ML King Day - no classes


17, 19 January

Climate and Climatic Variation (Pt. 2)



22, 24, 26 January

Dating Methods I



29, 31 January
2 February

Dating Methods II



5, 7, 9 February

Ice Cores



9 February

Term paper topic due

12, 14 February

Marine Sediments and Corals (Pts 1 & 2)



16 February

No class - check for pre-recorded lecture

19 February

Marine Sediments and Corals (Pt 3)



21 February

Exam 1

23, 26, 28 February

Non-Marine Geological Evidence (Pts. 1 & 2)



2 March

Seminar - Paper to be reviewed -
IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policymakers

5, 7 March

Non-Marine Geological Evidence (Pt. 3)
Lakes Lecutre (download pdf file)



9 March

Non-Marine Biological Evidence
(download ppt file)



9 March

Term paper outline due

10-18 March

Spring Break - no classes


19, 21 March

Pollen Analysis
(download ppt file)



23 March

Seminar - Paper to be reviewed:
Leduc et al. (2007) Nature

Supplementary material

26, 28 March

(download ppt file)



30 March

Exam 2

2, 4 April

Documentary Data
(download ppt file)



6 April

Seminar - Paper to be reviewed:
Kuper & Kropelin (2006) Science

Supplementary material

6 April

Turn in term papers for peer review

9, 11 April

Paleoclimate Models
(download ppt file)



13 April

Seminar - Paper to be reviewed:
deMenocal (2001) Science

13 April

Peer review on term papers due

16, 18, 20 April

Late Quaternary Climate Periods
(download ppt files: 1 2 3)



20 April

Completed term papers due

23 April

Seminar: Graduate Student Presentations


25, 27 April

20th Century and Future Trends
(download ppt file - incomplete)



2 May

Final Exam, 7:30-9:30 am (TENTATIVE)