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SUS 7300B Climate and Climate Change

Sustainability in the Urban Environment

SUS 7300B Climate and Climate Change

Spring 2017. Subject to refinement/updating.


Instructor: Johnny Luo
Schedule: Monday, Wednesday 2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Location: Marshak MR044
3 credits 3 hours/week


Professor Johnny Luo

Office hours: MR-927 after class or by appointment

Class website:


This class is intended to introduce to students the modern study of the Earth’s climate system – Climate Science. Climate Science has evolved rapidly in the past decades and has become a “melting pot” of a number of disciplines including meteorology, climatology, oceanography, hydrology, etc. New observation and analysis tools have also been developed, the most notable of which are Earth-orbiting satellites and global climate models. In this class, students will learn the fundamentals of the Earth’s climate system and will then move on to study how climate changes. Students will also learn to use a programming language (e.g., Matlab) to analyze climate data.


  1. Describe different components of the climate system
  2. Describe factors affecting global energy balance; be able to use Matlab to calculate and plot solar insolation as a function of time and latitude.
  3. Understand solar and IR radiation transfer through the atmosphere; Apply the radiative transfer knowledge to calculate surface temperature under radiative-convective equilibrium (using, for example, a 2-layer model)
  4. Describe various circulations of the atmosphere (e.g., Hadley Cell) and the Ocean (e.g., Thermohaline circulation)
  5. Understand climate sensitivity and climate feedback; be able to analyze different feedback mechanisms (e.g., water vapor feedback, ice albedo feedback, etc.)
  6. Describe various natural (e.g., orbital variations) and anthropogenic climate forcing mechanisms (e.g., increasing greenhouse gasses); assess their importance in determining climate change.

Prerequisites: Math 203, Physics 207-208, or by permission of instructor. Programming experience (e.g., Matlab) is highly desirable. (Note: this class needs quite some quantitative skills in math/physics and computer programming).

Required Reading


(Required) Global Physical Climatology, by Dennis L. Hartmann, Academic Press 1994. 

(Suggested) Physics of Climate, by Jose Peixoto and Abraham Oort, Springer, 1992.

(Suggested for Matlab) Matlab Recipes for Earth Sciences, M. H. Trauth, Springer, 2010


Homework 20%
In-class tests 30%
Final project 20%
Final exam 30%
Total 100%

Course Outline

Note: weekly plan may be subject to small changes, including dates.


EAS488 Topics


Feb 1



Feb 3

The Earth’s energy balance I


Feb 8

The Earth’s energy balance II


Feb 10

The Earth’s energy balance III


Feb 15

No class (President’s Day)


Feb 17

Atmospheric radiation & climate I

Homework 1 posted

Feb 22

Atmospheric radiation & climate II


Feb 24

Atmospheric radiation & climate III


Feb 29

Test 1


Mar 2

In-class lab 1


Mar 7

Surface energy balance I


Mar 9

Surface energy balance II


Mar 14

Atmospheric general circulation I

Homework 2 posted

Mar 16

Atmospheric general circulation II


Mar 21

Atmospheric general circulation III


Mar 23

No class (Friday schedule)


Mar 28

Test 2


Mar 30

Ocean general circulation & climate


Apr 4

Climate sensitivity & climate feedback I


Apr 6

No class


Apr 11

Climate sensitivity & climate feedback II

Homework 3 posted

Apr 13

Natural climate change


Apr 18

In-class lab 2


Apr 20

Test 3


Apr 25, 27

No class (Spring Break)


May 2

Anthropogenic climate change I


May 4

Anthropogenic climate change II


May 9

Preparation for class project (In-class lab 3)


May 11

Student presentations I


May 16

Student presentations II


May 18

Student presentations III



Final Exam