Spring 2024
E-PSCI 139
January 22 - April 24
Monday, 9:00AM - 11:45AM
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Paleoclimate as Prologue


In this course we will quantitatively assess past events in Earth’s history involving temperature, precipitation, and sea level, and leverage these past phenomena to inform about future changes in climate. Topics include inferring temperature from instrumental, dendrochronological, ice-core, and marine proxy records over the Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, and post-industrial epochs; exploring variations in sea level recorded by tide gages and coral records over the Holocene and Last Interglacial; assessing precipitation variability using modern instrumental records and late-Pleistocene lake level and speleothem records; and evaluating changes in mountain glaciers and ice sheets over the Plio-Pleistocene. Statistical approaches paired with these analyses include Bayesian inference, Fourier analysis, quantile regression, and extreme value theory. You will be provided with data, example code, and sufficient context to come to your own conclusions regarding past phenomena and how they inform regarding future warming, drought, and changes in sea level. A typical class session involves discussion of a scientific paper, lecture introducing relevant theory and analytical approaches, hands-on data analysis, and a brief interview with an outside expert. A complimentary component of the course involves you individually, or in a small team, developing a line of research in collaboration with the teaching staff. Your research will extend upon class topics or related paleoclimate questions. Student projects sometimes lead to senior theses and publication in professional journals. There are no firm prerequisites but background in the sciences, mathematics, statistics, and/or coding is helpful.
Course Notes: Each class will involve lecture, discussion, and in-class data analysis. This course fulfills the EPS sub-discipline requirement of either Atmosphere(s) and Oceans or Earth History and Geobiology.
Recommended Prep: EPS 131 or EPS 132, or permission of instructor; experience with statistics and coding is helpful.

Earth & Planetary Sciences
Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Course Level
Interest Area
Physical Sciences
Cross Registration