AOSC401 Global Environment
Fridays 10-12:15    Room: CSS 2416    Credits: 3   Instructor: Prof. Ning Zeng   Course web:

Outline and Syllabus
Weekly Progress
Reading Assignments
Books, Grading, Office Hours

Student Projects


This course is really about Global Environmental Change.  It's about changes that are of global scale or of global implication. For instance, we will talk more about climate change than air pollution.

Background of the global environment:  climate, biosphere, biogeochemical cycles, geophysics.  Natural variabilities on shorter timescales (ENSO etc.). Changes throughout the Earth's history (the rise of oxygen, glaciations, extinctions, Gaia Hypothesis, ...).  Climate change and ancient civilizations. Human induced environmental changes: global warming, sea-level rise, ozone depletion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. Impacts of global environmental change on economy and society. Future of Energy. Engineering and policy options to combat climate and environmental changes.

The course has broad scope, but we will focus on selected specific issues, partly depending on students' interest. In particular, students will read selected chapters of the upcoming IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and present it to the class.  There  will also be a course project.


1.  A survey of the global environment  (1-2 weeks)
    Weather and climate
     Ocean ecosystem
     Biogeochemical cycles
2. Processes underlying the natural variability (3 weeks)
    Solid Earth
3.  Short-term variability (1 week)
    Disturbances such as fire

4. Environmental changes in the past (3 weeks)
    Holocene: environmental change and the rise and fall of civilizations
    Glacial-interglacial cycles
    Last 500 million years and beyond

5 Human induced changes I    (1 week)
    Sea-level rise
   Acid rain, Ozone
    Land-use: deforestation

6. Human induced changes II: global warming (3-4 weeks)
    Recent changes
    Integrated assessment

7. Impact of climate change on future energy use and options (1-2 weeks)
      Rnewable energy resources

9. Geoengineering (1 week)

Grading Method
Students will be evaluated based on two in-class quiz, 1-2 reading/presentation, and a hands-on project.

Reference books (no required text book)
The Earth System, Second Edition (Paperback)
by Lee R. Kump, James F. Kasting, Robert G. Crane

Earth's Climate: Past and Future
William Ruddiman


        Prof. Ning Zeng
        Office: CSS 2421
        Phone: (301) 405-5377    Fax: (301) 314-9482

Office Hour
  Fridays from 12:15 or by appointment