Section 004: The Science of Climate and the History of Climate Change

EMSC 100S: EMS First-year Seminar

Section 004: The Science of Climate and the History of Climate Change

Fall 2020 

Instructor: Sukyoung Lee 
Phone: 863-1587
Email: sxl31@psu.edu
Office: 519 Walker Building
Class: T Th, 10:35-11:50, via Zoom 
Office hours: Wed 11:30 am – 1:30 pm; or by appointment

Description: For anyone who is tuned to the mainstream media, it is difficult to get by one day without reading or hearing about news or editorials on climate change.  This publicity, in large part, reflects concern over the potentially dire socio-economic and political consequences of climate change, which has either been observed or predicted by climate researchers.  Although much of the research findings are based on non-disputable scientific facts such as F = ma, the observational evidence and projections are not free of controversies.  One important reason for the controversies arises from the fact that the climate is influenced by complex interactions amongst the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, plants, and animals.  In this class, we will first explore the science of climate change to appreciate both the beauty of the science itself and also the challenges.  For this part of the class activity, we will use pedagogical, fun, hands-on laboratory experimental tools.  In the second part of the semester, we will study past socioeconomical impacts caused by climate change and discuss the directions for the future.    

Course Objectives 

  • Promote critical reading and thinking, and help students develop effective written and oral arguments.
  • Encourage individual and group learning, and provide students the experience of being part of a cohort of scholars with similar interests and a common focus.
  • Expose students to EMS interests and activities through early involvement in the College, and provide at least one friend on the faculty in EMS to whom they can go for advice outside of the normal academic advising channels.
  • Foster some of the practical skills necessary for academic life.
  • Challenge students to think about some of the major issues facing the world today, and the role that science and technology play in defining and addressing these issues. 

Attending Events 

 World in Conversation (WinC You will receive an email to your PSU account with directions on how to register for a dialogue.  Contact WinC staff with any questions about registration by going to http://worldinconversation.org/help

WinC will take attendance at each session, and will send me an attendance list at the end of the period. World in Conversation (WinC) is a Center for Public Diplomacy that facilitates dialogues for Penn State students by Penn State students. These dialogues are meant to initiate collaborative critical thinking across borders on topics that are relevant, complex and often contentious. No one will tell you what you should think; instead they will ask you to express what you actually think. You will have the opportunity to participate in a facilitated dialogue as a part of this class. Each session is 95 minutes in duration and will occur outside of your regular class meeting times. One week before the sessions for this class begin, you will receive an email explaining how to register.  This email will be sent to your PSU account.  In order to receive credit, your attendance will be recorded.  But keep in mind:  You will not be able to attend the program (or receive credit) if you are more than 5 minutes late. Attendance to WinC:  Attendance to this event 3 points toward the final grade. 

Grading Policy 

  1. Attendance: 12 points (0.5 point off for each un-excused absence)
  2. Class Participation (15 points. See pdf in Canvas)
  3. Open-book exam (Sept 29, 10 points)
  4. Six Reports (40 points, 6 points each for Reports 1, 2, 4, 5, 6; and 10 points for Report 3. Description of Reports 1-6 can be found under “Detailed Fall 2020 Schedule” table below. See pdf for Reports 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. Report 3 will be graded based on accuracy. 
  5. Term/Class Project: 20 points: In our term project, we will explore regionally varying temperature and precipitation patterns associated with various climate indices including global average temperature. From this exercise, I hope that you will gain some understanding of why the cold-season North American temperatures have been low in spite of the greenhouse gas-induced warming. The final outcome of the project is comprised of a written report and an oral presentation (the time duration is TBD). See : Class_Project_oral_presentation_Rubric.pdf  and lass_Project_written_report_Rubric.pdf in Canvas.  
  6. Submit signed pdf to Canvas by 8/28/2020. 

Detailed Fall 2020 schedule  Canvas materials are highlighted in red 

The in-class activities that require your presentation is highlighted in yellow
All assignments should be submitted through Canvas 
This plan is subject to change during the course of the semester

Week Day Date Activity/Topic Readings/Activities Assignments

  1. T Aug 25 Introduction, Syllabus & Overview Overview.pdf
  2. Th Aug 27 NASA web page introduction Concept of greenhouse effect
    Black-Body-Radiation-andgreenhouse effect.pdf
    Report 1: Read the NASA web site describing Evidence of Global Climate Change
    (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/). From your perspective, what evidence do you find most compelling? Why? Is there any additional evidence that you’re aware of that is not mentioned in that web site? If your answer to the previous question is yes, explain why it is evidence of climate change. 300-400 words. Due on 9/3 and prepare to share the content of the assignment in class on 9/8 through a 1-2 minute presentation followed by 1-2 minute Q&A.
  3. T Sept 1 EMS Library Visit (Elise Gowen, EMS librarian)
    Report 2: Write the key ideas that you learned from the EMS Library presentation by Elise Gowen. 300-400 words.
    Due on 9/3
  4. Th Sept 3 greenhouse effect  Breakout room activity I
    Lecture: Black-Body-Radiation-and-greenhouse effect.pdf
    Breakout room activity I: Greenhouse_gas_effect.pdf
    Report 3: Submit the worksheet “Greenhouse_Gas_effect.pdf” with your answers on pages 1-5 Due on 9/10
  5. T Sep 8 Discussion of  Reports 1 & 2 10:35-11:00
    Breakout room activity II 11:00-11:30
    Class project preliminary Discussion (11:30-11:50) 
    Breakout room activity II Perform internet search to find a world map of the following fields: (Use the search tips that you learned from the library lecture.)
    1. sea surface height (SSH) trend
    2. surface air temperature (SAT) trend over the past few decades.
    Examine these maps. Have the SSHs been increasing uniformly across all of the world oceans? How about SAT? Can you hypothesize as to why the increases have not been uniform? To help yourself develop a plausible hypothesis, let’s take a closer look at the SSH trend pattern in the tropical Pacific. Which part of the tropical Pacific Ocean have undergone a greater amount of SSH increase? Western or eastern part? Now, a map of wind stress which is the frictional force that wind exerts on ocean surface water. By comparing the wind stress map and the SSH trend map, can you come up with an explanation for the SSH trend? 
    After the breakout room activities, each team presents the SSH trend, SAT trend, and the wind maps that they found (screenshare), and discuss the hypotheses. 
  6. Th Sep 10 Teresa Burkhart (10:35-10:50) on Penn State Learning Service
    Class project preliminary (sea surface height & the concept of Coliolis effect):
    Follow-up of the 9/8 breakroom activity II
    3_Appreciation of geographical variations in sea surface height .pdf
  7. T Sep 15 Stevie Rocco A hands-on introduction to Report 4: Read the NASA web site describing Causes of Global Climate Change the wide array of information technology resources at PSU.
    https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/ Summarize in your own words, the causes of climate change that you learned by reading it, and possibly from other resources (in that case, please indicate your source). 300-400 words. Due on 9/24 and prepare to share the content of the assignment in class on 9/24 through a 1-2 minute presentation followed by 1-2 minute Q&A 
  8. Th Sep 17 Climate Change, Ethics, and Policy by Peter Buckland (Academic Program Manager, Penn State’s Sustainability Institute)
  9. T Sep 22 Breakout room activity III
    Class project preliminary (pressure gradient force and geostrophic wind)
    4_Breakout room activity III.pdf
    5_Geostrophic Flow.pdf
  10. Th Sep 24 Discussion of Report 3
    6_Temperature Advection.pdf
    7_What changes the circulation.pdf
  11. T Sept 29 Discussion of Report 4
    Open-Book Test (11:0011:50)
    Topics covered: greenhouse gas effects, geostrophic flow, temperature advection, plus TBD 
  12. Th Oct. 1 The Celebration of  Undergraduate Engagement (CUE) by Karen Marosi
    Report 5: Read the NASA web site describing Effects of Global Climate Change. https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/ Summarize what you read in your own words, and add discussion which may includes the effect(s) that you think is (are) important but is (are) not mentioned in the web site. 300-400 words.
    Due on 10/8 and prepare to share the content of the assignment in class on 10/15 through a 1-2 minute presentation followed by 1-2 minute Q&A. 
  13. T Oct 6 Final Project  Class_Project.pdf 
  14. Th Oct 8 Final Project (continue) Class_Project.pdf 
  15. T Oct 13 Final Project (continue) Class_Project.pdf
  16. Th Oct 15 Discussion of  Report 5
    Final Project (continue)
  17. T Oct 20 Writing Principles on Resumes by Kimberly Del Bright 
  18. Th Oct 22 Sustainable
    Communities by Dr. Michele Halsell (Assistant Director of the Penn State’s Sustainability Institute)
  19. Oct 27 Advising Information by Hilleary Himes (Director of Academic Advising, EMS)
  20. Th Oct 29 Final Project (continue)
  21. T Nov. 3 Final Project (continue) Class_Project.pdf
    Start to prepare Report 6: Reflect what you have learned so far in this class, and how you will utilize the knowledge to succeed at Penn State and beyond. Due 12/3
  22. Th Nov 5 Why and How of Science Stories by Kimberly Del Bright
  23. T Nov 10 Final Project checkup
  24. Th Nov 12 No class
    No class in lieu of attending World in Conversation (Detailed information is provided under “Attending Events” in this syllabus.)
    Submit a working copy of your final project to Canvas (5 points). In order to receive the full credit, your working copy must include answers to at least half of the all questions. The questions are indicated in Class_Project.pdf 
  25. T Nov 17 Current Events in Climate Science
  26. Th Nov 19 Financial Literacy
  28. T Dec. 1 Gaia Hypothesis & Daisy World: an illustration of the complexity of the climate system
    Submit the final copy of your final project to Canvas (10 points)
  29. Th Dec. 3 In-class presentations of the final project (5 points)
  30. T Dec 8 In-class presentation of the final project (5 points)
  31. Th Dec 10 Wrap-up: discussion of Report 6


Two Sample statements are given below; please edit to fit your class. 

Academic Integrity statement option 1

Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy: http://www.ems.psu.edu/undergraduate/academicadvising/forms-and-procedures/academic-integrity, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

Academic Integrity statement option 2

This course follows the http://www.ems.psu.edu/undergraduate/academic-advising/forms-andprocedures/academic-integrity. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. 

For      example,         uploading       completed      labs,    homework,     or        other   assignments   to            any      study   site      constitutes     a          violation         of         this      policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus:

(http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/disability-coordinator). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website (http://equity.psu.edu/studentdisability-resources).


In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: http://equity.psu.edu/student-disabilityresources/applying-for-services. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations. 


Regular attendance is critical for building on the skills and knowledge developed throughout the class. Students who participate have a more complete understanding of the material presented and are more likely to succeed in the class. This is true whether your attendance is face-to-face or remote.  This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-

11: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/E-11-class-attendance.html, and Conflict Exam Policy 4435: http://senate.psu.edu/policies-and-rules-for-undergraduate-students/44-00-examinations/#44-

  1. Please also see Illness Verification Policy: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/healthwellness/medical-services/policies-patient-resources, and Religious Observance

Policy: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/R-4-religious-observances.html. Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  In all cases, you should inform me in advance, when possible. Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean there is work that cannot be made up, hurting your grade in this class..   In addition to illness, legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews).  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help:

http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/studentcare .  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/classabs.pdf, at least one week prior to the activity. 

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (https://policy.psu.edu/policies/ad29) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage

Counseling and Psychological Services 

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.  Services include the following: 

  • Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
  • Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
  • Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
  • Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741 


This course may require you to have a webcam for class assessments. Classes and assessments may be conducted using Zoom or other technology selected by your instructor which may use your computer’s webcam or other technologies to communicate, monitor, and/or record classes, class activities, and assessments. Assessments may also be conducted using proctoring software, which may listen to you, monitor your computer screen, view you and your surroundings, and record (including visual and audio recordings) all activity during the proctoring process. Please contact your instructor if you are unable to comply or have any questions or concerns.  

Syllabus and Paper Acknowledgement Forms

It is the recommendation of the college that all students sign and return the Syllabus Acknowledgement Form (http://facdev.e-education.psu.edu/sites/default/files/files/Syllabus acknowledgement form.doc) during the first week of the semester. In addition, The College also recommends the Paper Submission Form (http://facdev.e-

education.psu.edu/sites/default/files/files/Paper submission form.docx) as a way to have students take responsibility for papers/labs/homework done as part of group work.

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail (see https://pennstate.servicenow.com/sp?id=kb_article_view&sys_kb_id=90160f4ddb9ed0949cde83aa1396199b) to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40

(http://senate.psu.edu/policies-and-rules-for-undergraduate-students/47-00-48-00-and-49-00grades/#48-40). To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion.  If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript. 

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made. 

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page (https://www.e-education.psu.edu/techspecs), including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the ITS Help Desk (http://itservicedesk.psu.edu).


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as email and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course. 

Disruptive Behavior

Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility. 

For additional information, see:

  • Penn State Affirmative Action non-discrimination statement
  • Policy AD 85 Sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct, Title IX
  • Policy AD91 Discrimination and Harassment, and Related inappropriate Conduct
  • Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence
  • Penn State Values
  • Penn State Principles
  • All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion 

Accessible Syllabus

Notes: Any syllabus posted online (e.g. a Word/PDF file or an online syllabus) should make destinations clickable links such as is done throughout this page. Also, in order to comply with Penn State Policy AD69 (Accessibility of Penn State Web

Pages, http://policy.psu.edu/policies/ad69), PDF documents cannot be the sole source of presenting online information. Such documents include syllabi, homework assignments, and scanned notes.  

Disclaimer Statement

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.