Graduate Courses (6000 & 8000 level)

Weekly seminar series that brings speakers in to discuss current topics in the Earth sciences.

This class provides a foundation for analytical methods used in geochemistry through a combination of lectures, and a hands-on laboratory project followed by data acquisition, data reduction and interpretation. Theoretical principles behind the operation of key instruments used in geochemistry in general are presented in lectures with emphasis on those instruments available at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and joint laboratories with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), but also including other commonly used instruments. A major component of this course is a hands-on geochemistry project teaching ultra-clean laboratory techniques. The students will analyze the samples they chemically prepare in the ultra-clean laboratory on at least three instruments (electron microprobe, thermal ionization mass spectrometer, inductive coupled plasma mass spectrometers) and finish the project by integrating the results acquired by the whole class.

Prerequisites: basic background in Earth sciences and chemistry.


Basic techniques of linear and non-linear inverse theory, and the validation of numerical models with sparse and noisy data. Includes discussion of genetic algorithms and evolutionary programming, theories of optimization, parameter tradeoffs, and hypothesis testing.

Communicating science well in the context of the earth and environmental sciences is critical. This science communication course will transect specific earth and environmental science disciplines to provide a foundational understanding of what it means to communicate science and how to do so effectively. Within this overarching theme of science communication, students will gain a comprehensive and holistic understanding of how to communicate earth and environmental science across a variety of formats and to a diversity of audiences. Practical outcomes include but are not limited to students learning 1) how to rationalize a research topic, 2) write a hypothesis driven proposal, 3) evaluate proposals, 4) produce clear and compelling graphics, 5) adopt the latest pedagogical approaches, and 6) present science findings to a diversity of audiences.

Prerequisites: At least three graduate level courses in discipline or permission of the instructor.


This course explores the origin of magmas and their subsequent movements; their ascent, stalling and eruption; their transport of heat and mass through the earth; their formation of crust and creation of volcanoes. The course will explore magmatism itself - its chemical and physical underpinnings - and also develop magmatic tools used to understand other earth processes. Topics will be focused around Grand Questions. Example questions include: What do magmas tell us about the thermal structure of the earth? Why do magmas store and stall where they do? What drives the largest eruptions on Earth? Does continental extension drive melting or melting drive extension? Questions will evolve to reflect the state of the field and student interest. The course is designed to serve as an accessible breadth course for Earth Science graduate students in any discipline.

Prerequisites: One year each of Chemistry, Physics, Calculus and Earth Sciences.

This course explores igneous and metamorphic processes during creation and evolution of the Earths crust and mantle lithosphere. We will start with decompression melting and melt transport in the mantle beneath the mid-ocean ridges, focusing on petrological, geochemical, geophysical and geological constraints on these processes. Then, we will take a similar approach to understanding igneous accretion of oceanic crust, and subsequent cooling and alteration via hydrothermal convection. This topic leads naturally into crustal formation during continental rifting. Then we will consider evidence for formation of continental crust via magmatism in volcanic arcs, review constraints on arc magmatic processes, and consider proposed processes for modification of arc crust to produce continental crust. Finally, if there is time, we will review data and ideas on formation of the cratonic upper mantle (mantle lithosphere). The course is designed to serve as an accessible breadth course for Earth Science graduate students in any discipline.

Prerequisites: Graduate student status and coursework equivalent to admissions requirements to the Earth and Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program (one year each of chemistry, physics, calculus) and at least two courses in geology/geophysics/geochemistry disciplines; or permission of the instructor.

It is clear from the geologic record that CO2 has been a major player in climate change on all time scales. Further, it is poised to play a huge role in the coming hundred or so years. Hence, it is important to understand the processes which influence its content in the atmosphere. In this course we will explore case histories of important episodes where changes in atmospheric CO2 have occurred. Three problems are considered:We will start with a discussion the identity of how we go about determining how the missing sink for fossil fuel CO2 is apportioned among the atmosphere, ocean CO2, the cause of the low atmospheric CO2 content during glacial time, and terrestrial biosphere reservoirs. the possibility of a tie between tectonics and atmospheric CO2 content. Next, we will explore the causes for the large drawdown of atmospheric CO2 content during the course of each 100 kyr glacial cycle. Then, we drop back in time to the Eocene. We will first consider the so-called PETM, considered to be the poster child for global warming. An amount of CO2 roughly equal to that in our fossil fuel reserves was added to the atmosphere over a time interval of just a few thousand years. It warmed the earth by about 5 degrees centigrade and acidified the ocean. Also, during the Eocene India collided with Asia. this collision set the world on a cooling course which continues today. Key to understanding this transition is the role of CO2 in chemical weathering. Then, after a brief discussion of two major extinction events (i.e. the emplacement of the huge Siberian lava mass 250 million years ago and the asteroid hit of 69 million years ago0 we will jump back to the snowball earth era. Carbon dioxide bailed us out from each of these freeze-ups. It also may have gotten us into them. Finally, we will consider what kept the earth warm during the faint young sun era. Lectures twice a week, weekly problem sets, midterm and final exams.

In depth exploration of the identity, diversity, distributions, activity and roles of ocean microbes, the predominant organisms in the largest ecosystems on earth. Emphasis is on the contemporary ocean in the Anthropocene, but roles of microbes both past and future will be considered.

Prerequisites: EESC GU4923 or EESC GU4926 (or equivalent) or the instructors' permission. Upper level undergraduates may take the course with the instructors' permission.

Computing has become an indispensable tool for Earth Scientists. This course will introduce incoming DEES PhD students to modern computing software, programming tools and best practices that are broadly applicable to carrying out research in the Earth Sciences. This includes an introduction to Unix, programming in three commonly used languages (Python, MATLAB and Fortran), version control and data backup, tools for visualizing geoscience data and making maps. Students will learn the basics of high performance computing and big data analysis tools available on cluster computers. Student learning will be facilitated through a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and class projects. All topics will be taught through example datasets or problems from Earth Sciences. The course is designed to be accessible for Earth Science graduate students in any discipline.

Prerequisites: Graduate student status, calculus, or instructor permission Priority given to first year PhD students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Introduction to the fundamentals of quantitative data analysis in Earth and environmental sciences. Topics: review of relevant probability, statistics and linear algebra; linear models and generalized least squares; Fourier analysis and introduction to spectral analysis; filtering time series (convolution,deconvolution,smoothing); factor analysis and empirical orthogonal functions; covariance and correlation; methods of interpolation; statistical significance and hypothesis testing; introduction to Monte Carlo methods for data analysis.

Prerequisites: calculus. Recommended preparation: linear algebra, statistics, computer programming.

The current climate and its variations over Earth history are interpreted as consequences of fundamental physical processes, including radiative transfer, the atmosphere and ocean circulation, and the carbon cycle. Perturbations to climate, resulting from changing atmospheric composition or insolation, are examined using a combination of simple interpretative models and full Earth System Models.

Prerequisites: EESC GU4008, and advanced calculus, or the instructor's permission.

This course is a continuation of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (APPH E4210) which is a prerequisite for this course. Exploration of atmospheric circulation based upon oabservations and interpretive models. Topics include wave/mean-flow interaction (the equilibration of instabilities and the wave-driven contribution to meridional transport), zonally symmetric circulations (Hadley and Ferrel Cells), maintenance of the mid-latitude circulation through extratropical cyclones, the zonally asymmetric circulation (stationary waves and storm tracks), and the stratospheric circulation (the quasi-biennial oscillation and meridional transport).

Prerequisites: EESC W4008, APPH E4210, and advanced calculus, or the instructor's permission.

This course provides a basic but solid quantitative introduction to scattering of light. Properties such as spectra, angular distribution, and polarization of light in the atmosphere are of interest to remote sensing communities and to climate modeling communities. Hence, these properties of light play a central role in this course: What parameters can we use to describe them? How do they change when light is scattered, absorbed or emitted by clouds, aerosols, and gasses? How can we relate these changes to the physical parameters of clouds, aerosols, and gasses? How do such changes affect the light measured by satellites? Examples of past, current and future satellite measurements are briefly discussed.

Prerequisites: Advanced calculus and general physics or the instructor's permission.

This course teaches students to design and apply idealized models to study the fundamental properties of climate system processes and their interactions. Though these models typically have at their core only a handful of interacting differential equations, they can significantly advance process understanding. We cover three topical areas in climate system science: (1) the interpretation and attribution of atmospheric methane trends (2) the role of the ocean in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide, and (3) the influence of climate system feedbacks on the Earth’s energy balance. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on identifying assumptions underlying conclusions drawn from simple models and the time scales over which different processes operate.

Prerequisites: EESC GR6901. 

The focus of this course is the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon, which requires some consideration of the atmosphere. Linear equatorial wave theory allows a unified treatment of motions in the atmosphere and ocean. Other topics include boundary layer physics, and the mean structure of the atmosphere and upper tropical ocean. Theories for ENSO will be critiqued. The course will use the draft text The El Nino-Southern Oscillation Phenomenon by E.S. Sarachik and Mark A. Cane.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008, W4925, G6921 or G6930, and W4950 or its equivalent.

An introduction to the physics governing the large-scale behavior of the tropical atmosphere. Topics covered include the Hadley and Walker circulations, monsoons, atmospheric equatorial waves, the Madden-Julian oscillation, tropical cyclones, and El Nino. Principles of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics will be introduced as needed.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008,EESC W4210/APPH4210 and EESC G6927, or some prior exposure to linear equatorial wave theory.

Hydrodynamical equations, vorticity dynamics, ocean circulation theories.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, vector algebra, fluid mechanics.

This course will showcase how novel technologies have allowed fascinating new insights into key aspects of our environment that are of high societal importance. Students will gain a detailed knowledge of the design and underlying principles of environmental instrumentation, especially via the hands- on laboratory sessions, as well as an understanding of the physical chemistry principles behind them. We will also focus on the application of these principles to topics such as climate change, air pollution and geochemistry.

Prerequisites: Previous graduate-level coursework in atmospheric or ocean physics science. One year of calculus. Courses GR6901 Research Computing in Earth Science and GR6908 Quantitative Methods of Data Analysis are strongly recommended. Or permission of instructor.

Essential theory, methods and techniques of seismology as applied to study of the Earth beneath the oceans. Acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of near-vertical and wide-angle data with varied geologic applications. Emphasis is on forward modeling, inversion and imaging of modern marine seismic data types. Students will have hands-on experience with imaging codes and inversion schemes.

Prerequisites: a solid background in geophysics and the instructor's permission.


Seismic waves in layered media, matrix methods, free vibrations of the Earth, dislocation theory, source mechanics.

Prerequisites: a solid background in geophysics, and a knowledge of complex variables.


This course covers the fundamentals of electromagnetic (EM) geophysics for mapping Earth’s electrical conductivity structure, with a focus on the magnetotelluric and controlled-source electromagnetic methods. The curriculum spans electromagnetic induction theory, electrical conduction in rocks and multi-phase systems, and theory and practice of EM geophysics with an introduction to numerical modeling and inversion methods. Student learning is facilitated with in-class data processing and modeling software tutorials. Case studies from the literature provide example applications for imaging volcanic systems, tectonic boundaries and crustal and mantle structure, as well as for groundwater studies and resource exploration.

May be repeated for up to 9 points of credit, if taken in different areas. Estimated expenses: depends on locality visited. Field study in various geologic settings. Plans for the course are announced at the beginning of each term.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

Advanced topics in radiogenic isotope and trace-element geochemistry. Origin and composition of the Earth, evolution of the continents and mantle, and applications to igneous and surficial processes.

Prerequisites: the instructors permission.