Joint Undergraduate & Graduate Courses (4000 level)

Basic physical processes controlling atmospheric structure: thermodynamics; radiation physics and radiative transfer; principles of atmospheric dynamics; cloud processes; applications to Earths atmospheric general circulation, climatic variations, and the atmospheres of the other planets.

Prerequisites: advanced calculus and general physics, or the instructor’s permission.

In this course we will look at geochemical problems from a thermodynamic and kinetics standpoint. We will first review mathematical and theoretical thermodynamic concept before applying them to problems of geological interest. We will see how thermodynamic equations can be used to derive the crystallization depth and temperature of metamorphic and magmatic mineral, describe the solubility of volatile species in magmas, predict the composition of volcanic gas mixtures, model the nucleation and growth of crystals and bubbles in a melt and determine the chemical interaction between water and rock at the surface. We will then look at kinetic problems such as the diffusion of heat and matter through crystals and melts and how these can allow us to get timing constraints on geological processes.

Prerequisites: There are no enforced pre-requisites to this course, some mathematical and chemical knowledge is expected. Knowledge of mineralogy (EESC 4113) and petrology (GU4701) is recommended.

The accelerating climate change of the current day is driven by humanity’s modifications to the global carbon cycle. This course offers an introduction basic science of the carbon cycle, with a focus on large-scale processes occurring on annual to centennial timescales. Students will leave this course with an understanding of the degree to which the global carbon cycle is understood and quantified, as well as the key uncertainties that are the focus of current research. We will build understanding of the potential pathways, and the significant challenges, to limiting global warming to 2o C as intended by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The course will begin with a brief review of climate science basics and the role of CO2 in climate and climate change (weeks 1-2). In weeks 3-4, the natural reservoirs and fluxes that make up the global carbon cycle will be introduced. In week 5-6, anthropogenic emissions and the observed changes in climate associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 will be discussed. In weeks 7-11, we will learn about how the land biosphere and ocean are mitigating the increase in atmospheric CO2 and the feedbacks that may substantially modify these natural sinks. In weeks 12-13, the international policy process and the potential for carbon cycle management will be the focus. In weeks 14, students will present their final projects

Prerequisites: One semester of college-level calculus and chemistry; Plus, one semester of college-level physics or geoscience, or instructor's permission.

Thermodynamics of atmospheric and oceanic processes fundamental to the climate system.  Physical mechanisms of vertical energy transfer: surface fluxes, boundary layers and convection.

General introduction to fundamentals of remote sensing; electromagnetic radiation, sensors, interpretation, quantitative image analysis and modeling. Example applications in the Earth and environmental sciences are explored through the analysis of remote sensing imagery in a state-or-the-art visualization laboratory.

Prerequisites: Advanced level undergraduates may be admitted with the instructors permission. Calculus I and Physics I & II are required for undergraduates who wish to take this course.

An introduction to how the Earth and planets work. The focus is on physical processes that control plate tectonics and the evolution of planetary interiors and surfaces; analytical descriptions of these processes; weekly physical model demonstrations.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, introductory physics.

An overview of approaches to estimating ages of sedimentary sequences and events and processes in Earth history. Intended for students with good backgrounds in the physical sciences, who want to use geochronological techniques in their studies.  Because of the hands-on nature of geochronology and thermochronology, the course is run as a series of 6 workshops held on Saturdays- this is our third iteration of this format. Five of the 6 meetings will be in room 603 in Schermerhorn at Columbia's Morningside campus. The mass spectrometry workshop will be at LDEO. Grading for the course will be based on completion of exercises (50%) and the final requirement will be an outline of a proposal for a research project that applies to geochronology or thermochronology (50% based on quality of proposed research as evaluated from the outline and oral presentation).

Prerequisites: one term of college-level calculus, and solid Earth system science or its equivalent.

Minerals come in dazzling colors, amazing shapes and with interesting optical effects. But mineralogy is also an essential tool for the understanding of Earth evolution. Minerals represent fundamental building blocks of the Earth system and planetary bodies. Minerals form through geological and biological processes such as igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary from high to low temperatures, from the deep interior to the Earth’s surface and related to volcanism, tectonics, weathering, climate and life. Minerals are one of our most important sources of information on such processes through Earth’s history. Minerals also represent important natural resources and are fundamental to the global economy and modern technology as we know it. The goal of this class is to (1) understand the physical and chemical properties of minerals, (2) learn techniques of mineral identification with an emphasis on optical mineralogy, (3) understand the relationship between minerals and the broader geological context.

Prerequisites: introductory geology or the equivalent, elementary college physics and chemistry, or the instructor’s permission.

Fundamental concepts in the dynamics of rotating stratified flows. Geostrophic and hydrostatic balances, potential vorticity, f and beta plane approximations, gravity and Rossby waves, geostrophic adjustment and quasigeostrophy, baroclinic and barotropic instabilities.

Prerequisites: APMA E3101, APMA E3201 or equivalents and APPH E4200 or equivalent or the instructors permission.

This course examines processes controlling how glaciers and ice sheets grow, retreat, modify their landscape and interact with the rest of the Earth system. We focus on what controls surface mass balance, the transformation from snow to ice, ice deformation, basal sliding, the temperature and age of ice, the flow of water through ice sheets and glaciers, and the two-way interactions between ice and the oceans, atmosphere and solid earth. Weekly lectures are accompanied by practical computer sessions that equip students with key numerical and data analysis skills used in research of glacial processes.

Prerequisites: At least a year of calculus and physics; any 1000-level or 2000-level EESC course. Recommended: EESC2100 (Climate System), EESC2200 (Solid Earth), EESC3201 (Solid Earth Dynamics). Experience using MATLAB.

Two required weekend field trips in September. An overview of sedimentology and stratigraphy for majors and concentrators in Earth and environmental sciences, and for graduate students from other disciplines. Lectures, class discussions, labs, and field exercises are integrated, with emphasis on processes, the characteristics of sediments and sedimentary rocks, interpretation of the geological record, and practical applications. Details at Lab required.

Prerequisites: EESC UN2200 or equivalent introductory geology course approved by the instructor.

Description: Introduction to the fundamental concepts of structure and deformation processes in the Earth's crust. Fundamental theories of stress and strain, rock behavior in both brittle and ductile fields, large-scale crustal contractional and extensional structures with focus on their geometries and mechanics of formation. Introduction to the principles of earthquake mechanics with emphasis on physical processes. Laboratory sessions (part of the lecture) will cover techniques of structural analysis, recognition and interpretation of structures on geologic maps, and construction of interpretive cross sections.

Prerequisites: Introductory geology and one year of calculus. Recommended preparation: One semester of college physics.

The course aims to explore sea level changes that take place over a wide variety of timescales and are the result of multiple solid Earth and climatic processes. The course will link a series of solid Earth processes such as mantle convection, viscoelastic deformation, and plate tectonics to the paleoclimate record and investigate how these processes contribute to our understanding of past and present changes in sea level and climate. The course will step chronologically through time starting with long term sea level changes over the Phanerozoic, followed by Plio-Pleistocene ice age sea level variations and lastly modern and future sea level change. This is a cross-disciplinary course, which is aimed at students with interests in geophysics, cryosphere evolution, ocean dynamics, sedimentology, paleogeography, and past and present climate.

Prerequisites: At least a year of calculus and physics; any 1000-level or 2000-level EESC course; basic,programming experience (e.g. EESC3400 - Introduction to Computational Earth Science). Recommended: EESC2100 (Climate System), EESC2200 (Solid Earth), EESC3201 (Solid Earth,Dynamics).

An overview of the geophysical study of the Earth, drawing upon geodesy, gravity, seismology, thermal studies, geomagnetism, materials science, and some geochemistry. Covers the principal techniques by which discoveries have been made, and are made, in deep Earth structure. Describes fundamental properties and features of the crust, mantle, and core.

Prerequisites: Vector calculus, differential equations, one year of college physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, waves)

Understanding the fundamental processes driving our Climate System is more important than ever. In this course, I will give an overview of the archives in which evidence of terrestrial paleoclimate is preserved, the approaches to developing and applying proxies of climate from these archives, approaches for constraining the time represented by the information, and interpretations that have been developed from such archives. Important archives to be included are ice cores, caves, wetlands, lakes, trees, and moraines. The time interval covered will be mostly the last few tens of thousands of years, and chronometers based on radiocarbon, U-series and cosmogenic nuclide dating will be presented. A particular emphasis will be put on natural climate processes and interactions that are relevant for the ongoing climate crisis and potential solutions. The course will consist of formal lectures that alternate with recitation and discussing examples and problem solving.

Course is a survey of the biological and biogeochemical evolution of the Earth System. Students focus not only on a narrative of the panoply of biodiversity though time, but also on the development and the testing of evolutionary and geochemical hypotheses within a historical science. Case studies of mass extinctions and biological innovation as well as current topics and debates will be examined in detail. There are 4 full-day field trips.

Prerequisites: high-school biology, introductory college-level geology.

Biogeochemistry considers how the basic chemical conditions of the Earth, from atmosphere to soil to seawater, have been and are being affected by the existence of life. Human activities in particular, from the rapid consumption of resources to the destruction of the rainforests and the expansion of smog-covered cities, are leading to rapid changes in the basic chemistry of the Earth.

This course will examine biogeochemical processes in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Earth’s Biosphere. We will cover the historical development and evolution of biogeochemical cycles and compare past biogeochemical systems on the planet to contemporary and future eco-biogeochemical systems that are increasingly perturbed and dominated by human activity.

Prerequisites: College biology, chemistry, physics and math; and any other 2000-level or above EESC or EEEB course. EESC 2100, 2200 and 3101 are recommended. Please consult Instructor. 

Plant organismal responses to external environmental conditions and the physiological mechanisms of plants that enable these responses. An evolutionary approach is taken to analyze the potential fitness of plants and plant survival based on adaptation to external environmental factors. One weekend field trip will be required.

Prerequisites: General biology or the instructors permission. Given in alternate years.

Survey of the origin and extent of mineral resources, fossil fuels, and industrial materials, that are non-renewable, finite resources, and the environmental consequences of their extraction and use, using the textbook Earth Resources and the Environment, by James Craig, David Vaughan, and Brian Skinner. This course will provide an overview but will include a focus on topics of current societal relevance, including estimated reserves and extraction costs for fossil fuels, geological storage of CO2, sources and disposal methods for nuclear energy fuels, sources, and future for luxury goods such as gold and diamonds, and special, rare materials used in consumer electronics (e.g.; Coltan; mostly from Congo) and in newly emerging technologies such as superconducting magnets and rechargeable batteries (e.g. heavy rare earth elements, mostly from China). Guest lectures from economists, commodity traders, and resource geologists will provide real-world input.

Prerequisites: none; high school chemistry recommended.

An overview of oceanic and atmospheric boundary layers including fluxes of momentum, heat, mass, (eg. moisture salt) and gases between the ocean and atmosphere; vertical distribution of energy sources and sinks at the interface including the importance of surface currents; forced upper ocean dynamics, the role of surface waves on the air-sea exchange processes and ocean mixed layer processes.

Prerequisites: solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Some background in fluid mechanics (as in EESC W4925/APPH E4200) or the instructors permission.

Compositional characteristics of igneous and metamorphic rocks and how they can be used as tools to investigate earth processes. Development of igneous and metamorphic rocks in a plate-tectonic framework.

Prerequisites: introductory geology or the equivalent. Recommended preparation: EESC W4113 and knowledge of chemistry.

Analysis of modern wetland dynamics and the important ecological, biogeochemical, and hydrological functions taking place in marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps, with a field emphasis. Wetlands as fossil repositories, the paleoenvironmental history they provide, and their role in the carbon cycle. Current wetland destruction, remediation attempts, and valuation. Laboratory analysis and field trips.

Prerequisites: introductory biology or chemistry, or the instructors permission.

Introduction to geochemical cycles involving the atmosphere, land, and biosphere; chemistry of precipitation, weathering reactions, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and groundwaters; students are introduced to the use of major and minor ions as tracers of chemical reactions and biological processes that regulate the chemical composition of continental waters.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: a solid background in basic chemistry.

Introduction to nuclear and radiochemistry, origin of the chemical elements, principles of radiometric dating, processes responsible for the chemical makeup of the solar system and the Earth.

Prerequisites: basic background in chemistry and physics.

This class will be an introduction to the field of stable isotope geochemistry and its application to understanding current and past environmental processes. The utility of stable isotopes as tracers will be examined with respect to the disciplines of hydrology, oceanography, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, landscape evolution, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle dynamics. We will focus on the stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in the water, ice, carbonates, and organic compounds and why they fractionate in the environment. The theoretical background for isotope fractionation will be discussed in class. Radiocarbon as a tracer and dating tool will also be reviewed. In addition, the mechanics of how mass spectrometers analyze different isotope ratios will be explored in class and during experiments in the laboratory. Additional key parts of the class will be a review of paper or laboratory reports and student-lead reviews of published papers on relevant topics.

Prerequisites: Introductory Chemistry and Earth Science coursework. Given in alternate years.

Based upon the most current understanding of our planet and our impact on it and how we make decisions about the threats we face, a new knowledge-based green framework is developed for our relationship to our planet and to each other as well as its general implications for human stewardship of our planet and meeting the needs of 8 billion humans. This new framework is explored using case studies, class participation, and term papers on specific current scientific and policy issues like global warming, renewable energy, carbon dioxide removal and their impact on the sustainability and resilience of our planet and ourselves.

The course examines the ocean's response to external climatic forcing such as solar luminosity and changes in the Earth's orbit, and to internal influences such as atmospheric composition, using deep-sea sediments, corals, ice cores and other paleoceanographic archives. A rigorous analysis of the assumptions underlying the use of climate proxies and their interpretations will be presented. Particular emphasis will be placed on amplifiers of climate change during the alternating ice ages and interglacial intervals of the last few million years, such as natural variations in atmospheric greenhouse gases and changes in deep water formation rates, as well as mechanisms of rapid climate change during the late Pleistocene. The influence of changes in the Earth's radiation distribution and boundary conditions on the global ocean circulation, Asian monsoon system and El Nino/Southern Oscillation frequency and intensity, as well as interactions among these systems will be examined using proxy data and models.

Prerequisites: Compliments GU4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography, intended as part of a sequence with GU4330 Terrestrial Paleoclimate. For undergrads, UN2100 Earth System: Climate or equivalent, or permission of instructor. 

An overview of the biology and ecology of the oceans with a focus on the interaction between marine organisms and the physics and chemistry of the oceans.

Prerequisites: introductory college-level biology and chemistry.

Physical and chemical processes determining the atmospheric composition and the implications for climate and regional air pollution. Atmospheric evolution and human influence; basics of the greenhouse effect, photolysis, reaction kinetics; atmospheric transport of trace species; stratospheric ozone chemistry; tropospheric hydrocarbon chemistry; oxidizing power, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, carbon, mercury cycles; chemistry-climate-biosphere interactions; aerosols, smog, acid rain.

Prerequisites: Physics W1201, Chemistry W1403, Calculus III, or equivalent or the instructor's permission. EESC W2100 preferred.

Physical properties of seawater, water masses and their distribution, sea-air interaction influence on the ocean structure, basic ocean circulation pattern, relation of diffusion and advection with respect to distribution of ocean properties, ocean tides and waves, turbulence, and introduction to ocean dynamics.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Factors controlling the concentration and distribution of dissolved chemical species within the sea. The physical chemistry of seawater, ocean circulation and mixing, gas exchange, and biogeochemical processes interact to influence the distribution and fate of elements in the ocean. The course examines in some detail the two-way interaction between marine ecosystems and their chemical environment, and the implications of these interactions for distributions in the ocean of carbon, nutrients, and trace metals.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: one year of chemistry.

Mixing and dispersion in the ocean are of fundamental importance in many oceanographic problems, including climate modeling, paleo, and present-day circulation studies, pollutant dispersion, biogeography, etc. The main goal of this course is to provide in-depth understanding (rather than mathematical derivations) of the causes and consequences of mixing in the ocean, and of the properties of dispersion. After introducing the concepts of diffusion and turbulence, instruments, and techniques for quantifying mixing and dispersion in the ocean are reviewed and compared. Next, the instabilities and processes giving rise to turbulence in the ocean are discussed. The course concludes with a series of lectures on mixing and dispersion in specific oceanographic settings, including boundary layers, shallow seas, continental shelves, sea straits, seamounts, and mid-ocean ridge flanks.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: some background in fluids, as provided by courses like EESC GU4925 or APPH E4200, or the instructor's permission.

Physical properties of water and air. Overview of the stratification and circulation of Earth's ocean and atmosphere and their governing processes; ocean-atmosphere interaction; resultant climate system; natural and anthropogenic forced climate change.

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: a good background in the physical sciences.

Introduces the physical, chemical, and biological processes that govern how and where ocean sediments accumulate. Major topics addressed are: modes of biogenic, terrigenous and authigenic sedimentation, depositional environments, pore fluids and sediment geochemistry, diagenesis, as well as biostratigraphy and sediment stratigraphic principles and methods. The second half of the semester focuses on major events in Cenozoic paleoceanography and paleoclimatology including orbital control of climate, long-term carbon cycle, extreme climate regimes, causes of ice ages in Earths history, human evolution, El Niño evolution, and long-term sea-level history.

Prerequisites: college-level geology helpful but not required. 

Plate tectonics is the foundation of our understanding of all Earth processes including the climate system.  This course will focus on four aspects of the development of the plate tectonic theory: the history of science concerning ideas about the evolution of the Earth including accounts of the plate tectonic revolution from the point of view of the people, many at Columbia, who led the way; geophysical methods such as the magnetic, gravity, heat flow and seismic tools and techniques that sparked, and continue to advance, the revolution; unresolved tectonic questions including the generation of mountain belts, the splitting of continents and the formation of large igneous provinces; climatic effects of plate tectonics such as changes in sea level and planetary albedo, the erosion and weathering of mountains, volcanic CO2 release and subduction recycling of carbon.

Prerequisites: course in solid earth geology or geophysics; one year of general physics

Methods and underpinnings of seismology including seismogram analysis, elastic wave propagation theory, earthquake source characterization, instrumentation, inversion of seismic data to infer Earth structure.

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