METR 110: Earth's Changing Climate

Class Program
Weekly Contact Hours
Course ID
Meets Degree Requirements For
Natural Science

Study climate and climate change. Determine what controls global climate and individual climate zones on earth. Reconstruct changing climates of the past. Analyze the effects of greenhouse gases and aerosols, human influences on climate, and the effects of Earth's changing climate on humans and other species.

Grading Basis

Course Learning Outcomes

Core Topics


  1. What is climate, what is weather?
  2. What is climate change?
  3. Climate on Earth, global and regional.
  4. Climate controls.
  5. Decade-scale climate changes such as El Niño.
  6. Greenhouse gas.
  7. Global warming.
  8. Geological record of climate change.
  9. Glacial ice and sea ice, how they are different, their roles in climate change.
  10. Oxygen and carbon isotopes in climate change studies.
  11. Circulation of atmosphere and oceans.
  12. Albedo and climate change feedback effects.
  13. Aerosols, pollutants, and greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide.
  14. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and climate change.
  15. Anthropogenic effects on climate: greenhouse gases, aerosols, CFC, other.
  16. Milankovitch cycles, glaciation-deglaciation cycles, and how to understand their bearing on current trends in greenhouse gas and climate.
  17. Radiation and climate forcing.
  18. Changes of state of water and heat transfer processes.
  19. Changes in the amount of radiation produced by the Sun over time, including the sunspot cycle and the Maunder minimum.
  20. Little Ice Age.
  21. Climate change on scales of centuries, millennia, hundreds of thousands of years (back through the last “ice ages” of the Pleistocene epoch), and millions of years (back into Precambrian time).
  22. The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum and how it compares to modern climate change.
  23. Possible roles of geological processes in climate change: volcanism, rates of plate motion, sea level, plate tectonics, mountain building, erosion, evolution of life (for example, possible effects on carbon cycle from first flourishing of reef-building sea life, forests on land, and grassland).
  24. Origins of fossil fuels.
  25. Alternative, possibly sustainable, energy sources.
  26. Possible technologies for reducing or sequestering greenhouse gas from fossil fuels.
  27. Possible technologies for cheaper, “cleaner” energy sources.
  28. Economics, politics, and individual choices: how we make a difference as an individual or with a group.
  29. Human choices in energy production, natural resource use, and mitigating climate change.
  30. Health, environmental, and economic effects of climate change.