Almost 3000 non-science major undergraduates at the University of Chicago have taken PHSC13400, Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast, since Ray Pierrehumbert and I (David Archer) first developed it back in 1995. Since the publication of the textbook for the class in 2005 (and a much-cleaned-up 2nd edition now shipping), enrollment has gone through the roof, it’s all I’ve been able to teach the last few years, trying to keep up with demand. I hear it is the largest class on campus, with 4-500 students a year out of an annual class of only around 1400. Now the content of this class is being served to the internet world at large: Open Climate 101.
I’ve put together an easy-to-play-with online model of methane in the atmosphere. I’m going to use it for teaching along with the rest of the Understanding the Forecast webmodels, but it was designed to be relevant to the issue of abrupt new methane burps as we’ve been ruminating about lately on Realclimate. [Read more…] about An online model of methane in the atmosphere
Let’s suppose that the Arctic started to degas methane 100 times faster than it is today. I just made that number up trying to come up with a blow-the-doors-off surprise, something like the ozone hole. We ran the numbers to get an idea of how the climate impact of an Arctic Methane Nasty Surprise would stack up to that from Business-as-Usual rising CO2
That’s the rate that people are releasing carbon to the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation today. I know, it’s apples and oranges; carbon in the form of oil is more immediately toxic to the environment than it is as CO2 (although CO2 may be more damaging on geologic time scales). But think of it — five thousand spills like in the Gulf of Mexico, all going at once, each releasing 40,000 barrels a day, every day for decades and centuries on end. We are burning a lot of carbon!
After weeks and months of press coverage seemingly Through the Looking Glass, Paul Krugman has sent us a breath of fresh air this morning in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Building a Green Economy“. Krugman now joins fellow NYT columnist Tom Friedman as required reading in my Global Warming for English Majors class at the University of Chicago.
Methane is like the radical wing of the carbon cycle, in today’s atmosphere a stronger greenhouse gas per molecule than CO2, and an atmospheric concentration that can change more quickly than CO2 can. There has been a lot of press coverage of a new paper in Science this week called “Extensive methane venting to the atmosphere from sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf”, which comes on the heels of a handful of interrelated methane papers in the last year or so. Is now the time to get frightened?
I video-taped and posted all the lectures from my Global Warming class this quarter. The class is part of our core science curriculum for non-science majors at the University of Chicago, and interest has been strong enough that the class has kind of taken over my teaching life. The lectures are based on my textbook, Understanding the Forecast, written for the class a few years ago. The students found it useful, I think, to be able to skip lectures and watch them later, but mostly I taped them for y’all, thinking someone might them useful. cheers, David.