Global Change

Meteorology/Agronomy/Env. Science/Env. Studies 404/504

Spring 2015, MWF 11:00-11:50 p.m.
Room G541 Agronomy

William J. Gutowski, Jr.
3021 Agronomy

Teaching Assistant
Martin Coolidge

(Image courtesy of

Course Description

Current understanding of how climate evolves under natural and human influences. Global energy balance, structure and circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, role of land and snow/ice processes, climate variability, climate modeling, implications of climate change for natural and human systems, policy and ethical issues of climate change.

Course Objectives

To understand

Structure of Course

The class meets 3 times a week. Lectures will introduce topics for the majority of the semester.

Some meetings during the semester may be devoted to a seminar-style format where we will critique current journal articles in various relevant topics or do other types of class exercises. In some cases, a laptop or other internet-ready device may be useful.

This course is administered through Blackboard Learn. You will need to use it for a variety of course ativities (quizzes, exams, lectures, some discussions, some computations, etc.) The course is listed there as MTEOR/AGRON/ENSCI/ENV_S 404/504 (Spring 2015) for all students registered in this course, whether 404 or 504 and whatever of the cross-listings you registered under.


  • Parts of chapters relating to each week's topic will be assigned from the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) or Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. You can download relevant chapters from this link. Some chapters are rather long; the lectures will highlight the key points you need to learn.
  • Journal articles to be discussed in class will be linked to the Blackboad Learn page in either the Assignments, the Media Library or the Current News links.
  • Readings from the book Climate Change: Picturing the Science by Schmidt and Wolfe will be assigned to provide additional understanding of the material.
    You should order this book from (Go to a direct link here) or other preferred book seller. (It's possible that the Union bookstore might have a few copies on hand.) I do provide scans of early readings in the course, since you most likely will not have the book already. They will appear in the Media Library.
  • Other relevant materials will be linked as appropriate.


    Quizzes are administered through Blackboard Learn. Quizz previews are available for download ahead of time. Watch for notices from me.

    You may find it useful to look at the quiz preview first before attempting to take it online. The quiz preview includes all the questions in the actual quiz, plus additional questions.


    The in-class seminar meetings will require participation a written report and participation in discussion by break-out groups and, on occasion, a written report. You should read the further details for seminar reports. Attendance is required for seminar meetings and other in-class exercises.

    Major, overriding concepts (not specific details) from each assigned seminar paper are fair game for exam questions.

    Discussion Groups

    Online discussion and classroom exercises will use assigned discussion groups. You can download the discussion group list. (I will notify you when it is available.) Groups are designed to provide a mix of the backgrounds of students in the class, but also be small enough that everyone should feel they have opportunity to contribute.

    Class Exercises

    1. EPA CO2 emissions inventories

    2. Global Energy Balance: Background and tasks

    3. Wind power controversies

    Online Dialogue

    The discussion will use Blackboard's tools to organize it. The online discussion focuses on a particular topics of interest in climate change. Further information on how to contribute to the dialogue and grading criteria appears at this location.

    For 504 (graduate-level) students: some of the online dialogue may require a written report in addition to participation in online discussion by break-out groups. You should read the further details for online dialogue reports. The online discussion and other online activities contribute to your grade.

    Major, overriding concepts (not specific details) from each assigned seminar paper are fair game for exam questions.


    Exams will be administered to on campus (or nearby students) through the Iowa State's Engineering-LAS Online Testing Center. You should go to this link before your exams to find the locations and to review the General Instructions and the Rules. Note especially the strict rules of operation for the center, including the hours of access. Also, taking an exam early in an exam period is generally better than doing it later, as you may encounter delays from heavy usage of the Testing Center.

    If you are too far from campus to use the Online Testing Center, you must make provisions to have a qualified proctor administer your exam! Please do this early in the semester to avoid problems with trying to rush approvals. You should read the information on Proctored Testing under all the categories on that page. There are strict requirements that the proctor and the site of the proctored exam must satisfy. Make sure that both you and the prospective proctor read these requirements first before filling out any application. Please be sure that you can satisfy these requirements early in the course. Note that the proctor must fill out an Off-Campus Proctor Application.

    Term Papers

    Students enrolled in the graduate-level version course (Mteor/Agron/EnSci/EnvS 504) will be required to write a 10-12 page term paper and submit an outline for topic approval. Students in the 504 course are required to pick their topics and to present their findings orally during the last week of classes. Relevant milestones for term papers appear in the course schedule below. Please read the further details for term papers.

    Note the first deadline: January 30, for paper topics.


    404 (Undergraduate level)

    Quizzes 25 %
    Seminar Participation and Reports 20 %
    Mid-term Exam 25 %
    Final 30 %

    504 (Graduate level)

    Quizzes 10 %
    Seminar Participation & Critiques 15 %
    Mid-Term Exam 20 %
    Final 30 %
    Term Paper & Oral Presentation 25 %


    I communicate frequently with the class by email.

    The email address I have for all students is their address. Students who prefer to use some other email address should follow these instructions to automatically forward your email to another system.

    When sending email to me, please start the SUBJECT line with the words "Global Change". This will help me greatly in finding your emails to me.

    Pre-recorded Lectures

    I use pre-recorded lectures for the core of the course material. 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.

    I would like to know about whatever problems you encounter, so please send me an email on those, even if you fix the problem yourself.

    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.

    Academic Dishonesty

    The class will follow Iowa State University’s policy on academic dishonesty. Anyone suspected of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Students Office. See the Academic Misconduct page for further detail.

    Disability Accommodation

    Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sect 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please contact (instructor name) to set up a meeting, ideally early in the semester or as soon as you become aware of your need. Before meeting with (instructor name), you will need to obtain a SAAR form with recommendations for accommodations from the Disability Resources Office, located in Room 1076 on the main floor of the Student Services Building. Their telephone number is 515-294-7220 or email

    Dead Week

    This class follows the Iowa State University Dead Week policy as noted in section 10.6.4 of the Faculty Handbook.

    Harassment and Discrimination

    Iowa State University strives to maintain our campus as a place of work and study for faculty, staff, and students that is free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and harassment based upon race, ethnicity, sex (including sexual assault), pregnancy, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or status as a U.S. veteran. Any student who has concerns about such behavior should contact his/her instructor, Student Assistance at 515-294-1020 or email, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612.

    Religious Accommodation

    If an academic or work requirement conflicts with your religious practices and/or observances, you may request reasonable accommodations. Your request must be in writing, and your instructor or supervisor will review the request. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office or Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612.

    Contact Information

    If you are experiencing, or have experienced, a problem with any of the above issues, email


    This offering of Mteor/Agron/EnvSci/EnvSt 404/505 is a major revision of the version taught for several years by Prof. Gene Takle. Despite these changes, the overall goals and inspiration for the course stems from the earlier developments by Prof. Takle, whose efforts are much appreciated.

    W. Gutowski's Away Schedule

    Because I am actively involved in research on climate change and its impacts, I will have to be out of town at times during the semester for various program and project meetings. Some of this will involve my ongoing work with the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).

    In all cases, I should have access to email during at least part of the time I am away. Please keep in mind that I may not be in the same time zone, so replies may be slow. Since nearly all of the course is available and can be followed online, through Blackboard and the class web page, I hope my travel will not be much of a disruption.

    My travel schedule:

  • 29-31 January 2015 (Thurs-Sat): Regional Arctic System Model project meeting (Boulder, CO)
  • 23-28 February 2015 (Mon-Sat): Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment - Science Advisory Team Meeting (Norrköping, Sweden)
  • 4-5 March 2015 (Wed-Thurs): NCAR Community Earth System Model's Societal Dimensions Working Group winter meeting (Boulder, CO)
  • 6-11 April (Mon-Sat): WCRP Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) and WCRP Modeling Advisory Council (WMAC), Geneva, Switzerland
  • 29 April - 2 May (Wed-Sat): Science Advisory Board and Program Annual Meeting, Canadian Network for Regional Climate and Weather Processes, Montreal, Canada

    Other meetings may occur during the semester, but I will try to avoid them as much as possible and let you know well in advance.

    Course Schedule

    This is the intended schedule for lectures and other assignments. Note that I may add other assignments.

    The Testing Center schedule for exams may change. Watch for announcements about this.





    Other Materials


    12 January 2015


  • Read and listen to material in Blackboard under the "Course Information" link (under links on the left side of the Blackboard page for this course).
  • Read the information above about this course on this web page and pages linked linked to it.
  • -

    Assigned reading:Schmidt & Wolfe - Preface, p. xi-xii; Introduction, p. 1-3


    14-16 January 2015

    Overview of Climate Change Science

  • Summary for Policy Makers - AR4 (ppt)
  • Summary of AR5 by T. Stocker (pdf)
  • Uncertainty Guidance - AR4 (ppt)
    Pre-recorded lecture: Summary for Policy Makers - AR4
    Pre-recorded lecture: Uncertainty Guidance - AR4
  • IPCC Working Group-I

  • Summary for Policy Makers - AR4
  • Summary for Policy Makers - AR5
  • Uncertainty Guidance - AR4
  • Uncertainty Guidance - AR5
  • Background (from earlier GC courses)

  • Summary of AR5 by T. Stocker (pdf)
  • An alternate summary of the AR5 WG I report - in haiku (pdf)

    Assigned reading: S&W - Introduction, p. 7-9


    19 January

    ML King Day




    21 January 2015

    Historical Overview

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 1

    Historical overview from the American Institute of Physics


    23 January 2015

    Atmospheric Composition and Radiative Forcing

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 2

    Assigned reading: S&W - Commonly Used Terms, p. 10-15

    Evolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide


    26 - 30 January 2015

    Observed Climate: Surface & Atmosphere

    Animations in the lecture:

  • Surface air temperature annual cycle
  • Precipitation annual cycle
  • IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 3

    Assigned reading: S&W - 19-27.

    Animations of climatic fields (courtesy of Geography Dept., Univ. Oregon)


    30 January 2015

    504 term paper topic due




    2 February 2015

    Observed Climate: Snow, ice, permafrost

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 4

    Assigned reading: S&W - 27-34

    Assigned reading: Box 4.1 in AR4-WGI-Chapter 4 (page 367)


    4 February 2015

    Observed Climate: Oceans & Sea Level

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 5

    Assigned reading: Box 5.1 in AR4-WGI-Chapter 5 (page 397)


    6 February 2015


    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 6

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.135-148

    Assigned reading: Box 6.3 in AR4-WGI-Chapter 6 (page 461)

    Assigned reading: FAQ 5.1 in AR5-WGI-Chapter 5 (page 392)


    9 February 2015

    In-class exercise (attendance required):

  • Global Energy Balance: Background and tasks

    Letter co-signed by W. Gutowski to governor, legislature & presidential candidates (November 2011):

  • Article about letter with link to letter.
  • A critical blog
  • A more humorous commentary
  • 3

    11-13 February 2015

    Biogeochemistry & Climate

    (Note: For part of this topic, you should follow the online lecture.)

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 7

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.148-155

    Assigned reading:Box 7.4 in AR4-WGI-Chapter 7 (page 540)

    Assigned reading:FAQ 6.2 in AR5-WGI-Chapter 6 (page 544)


    13 February 2015

    In-class exercise (attendance required)
    Readings for in-class discussion:

  • Essay: Stewart Brand in Nature (2007)
  • Philip W. Boyd: News & Views in Nature Climate Change (2007)
  • The Laws of Global Warming: Carlson in Iowa Now (2012)
  • Geoengineering Patents: Cressey in Nature (2012)
  • Kolbert in the New Yorker (2009).[WARNING: Language in this article may be offensive to some. Please contact Prof. Gutowski if you have problems with language used.]

    Notes from the class discussion.



    16-18 February 2015

    Climate Models

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 8

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.73-80

    Assigned reading:Box 8.1 in AR4-WGI-Chapter 8 (page 632)

    Assigned reading:FAQ 9.1 in AR5-WGI-Chapter 9 (page 824)


    20 February 2015

    Climate Models (continued)

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 8

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.195-199

    Assigned reading:Box 9.2 in AR5-WGI-Chapter 9 (page 769)


    23-27 February 2015

    Attribution of Changes

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 9

    Assigned reading: FAQ 9.1 (page 696) and FAQ 9.2 (pages 703-703) in AR4-WGI-Chapter 9 (page 632)

    Assigned reading: FAQ 10.1 (pages 894-895) and Box 10.1 (pages 875-876) in AR5-WGI-Chapter 10 (page 632)


    2-6 March 2015

    Projected Future Changes

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 10

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.199-209

    Assigned reading: SRES Emissions Scenarios and FAQ 10.1 (page 783)in AR4-WG1-Chapter 10.

    Assigned reading: Box 11.1 (pages 959-961) and FAQ 11.1 (pages 964-965) in AR5-WGI-Chapter 11
    FAQ 12.2 (pages 1084-1085) and FAQ 12.3 (pages 1106-1107) in AR5-WGI-Chapter 12.


    9 March

    504 term paper outline due




    9 - 13 March 2015

    Administered by the Engineering-LAS Online Testing Center.
    If using external proctor, you need to have received approval well before this time.

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapters 1-8 + AR5 equivalent



    9-13 March 2015

    Regional Changes

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 11

    Assigned reading: S&W - p.95-111

    Assigned reading: FAQ 13.1 (pages 1148-1149) in AR5-WGI-Chapter 13
    FAQ 14.1 (pages 1228-1229) and FAQ 14.2 (page 1256-1257) in AR5-WGI-Chapter 14.


    16-20 March

    Spring Break




    23 March 2015

    Regional Changes (cont'd.)

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGI-Chapter 11



    25 - 30 March 2015

    Impacts: Water Resources

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGII-Chapter 3

    AR5-WGII-SPM (key points)

    Assigned reading: Box 3.1 (page 195) and Box 3.2 (page 197) in WG-II, AR4-WGII-Chapter 3


    1-3 April 2015

    Impacts: Ecosystems
    (Note: For part of this topic, you should follow the online lecture.)

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGII-Chapter 4



    3 April 2015

    In-class exercise (attendance required)
    Readings for in-class discussion:

  • Hassol in EOS (2008)
  • Akasofu in EOS (2008)
  • Boykoff and Boykoff in Global Environmental Change (2004)

    Notes from the class discussion.





    6 April 2015

    Impacts: Human Health

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGII-Chapter 8

    Assigned reading: Box 8.4 (page 403) and Box 8.5 (page 413) in WG-II, AR4-WGII-Chapter 8


    6 April

    504 term paper due for peer review




    8-10 April 2015

    Impacts: Agriculture




    13 April 2015

    Impacts: Coastal Systems
    (Note: For this topic, you should follow the online lecture.)

    IPCC Reports AR4-WGII-Chapter 6



    13 April 2015

    In-class exercise (attendance required)
    Readings for in-class discussion:

  • Harte in Population and Environment (2007)
  • Potts in Population and Enviroment (2007)
  • Monbiot in The Global Warming Reader (2009)

    Notes from the class discussion.


    Kalnay slides on population issues.


    13 April

    504 term paper peer reviews due




    15-20 April 2015





    22 April 2015

    Development of a Climate Change Assessment: An Example - old version
    Development of a Climate Change Assessment: An Example - new version

    U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Report 3-3

    Supplementary Documents NOAA news release and companion brochure


    24 April 2015

    Future Directions (updated)




    27 April

    504 term paper: Final versions due




    27 April 2015

    GC504 term paper presentations

    1. Presentation - Zhang

    2. Presentation - Fingerle (pdf version)

    3. Presentation - Togliatti

    4. Presentation - Roby



    29 April 2015

    (Do finishing work for the class)




    1 May 2015

    (Do finishing work for the class)




    2-8 May 2015

    Hours: See ELO Testing Center hours.

    Final Exam
    Administered by Engineering-LAS Online Testing Center.


    Additional Sources of Information:


    (Images courtesy of USGS EROS Data Center: Himalayas, Deforestation in Bolivia, Namibian Desert)