Climate: Past, Present and Future

The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Geological Sciences
Geology 302C

Syllabus for Spring 2011


This is an introductory-level course intended for non-science majors.  Lecture times are MWF 9-10am, room 2.216 in Geology Building, plus one 1.5-hour discussion section in room 2.308 Geology Building. 

Course contents:  Climate history of the Earth and the reasons behind Earth's climate change, including the physical concepts and  climate processes that control heat and mass transfers in the atmosphere; the role of oceans; scales of climate change including  tectonic-scale, orbital-scale, glacial and millennial-scale, historical and future climate change; global warming; human effects on climate;  health impacts of climate change; ecosystem impacts of climate change; observing and modeling the climate; predicting climate change.

Instructor Dr. Timothy Shanaahn
  Office: Schoch (EPS) 3.126
  Office Hours: Tuesday 200-330pm or by appointment
  Office Phone: (512) 232-7059
Teaching Assistants Office Office Hours E-mail
Mary Hingst JGB 2.334 TW 2-3pm or by e-mail

Kelly Hereid JGB 5.118 M 1-2pm or by email
Chris Maupin JGB 5.118JGB 5.118 M 1-2pm or by email
Course Web Site Homepage:
Lectures: JGB 2.216, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9:00-10:00am
Labs: JGB 2.308; see catalog; your lab schedule is listed by the unique number of the section in which you are registered. Each unique number corresponds to a unique combination of lecture and lab meeting times. Laboratory sessions are conducted by Teaching Assistants (TAs), who are students pursuing Ph.D. degrees in climate science.  Weekly lab sections are a required part of the course. The labs provide an opportunity to address assignments and review course materials, as well as a forum for group discussion of issues raised in the course. Lab assignments are due at the beginning of lab. Late labs receive 0 credit.  If you have to miss a lab section, email the TA of your section BEFOREHAND to let them know.  Go to another lab section that week, but email the TA of that section before you go to make sure there is room in the class.


Your success in this course depends on your class and lab attendance. "Be aware of the fact that attendance will be taken and this information will be used in the computation of your final class grade. Excessive absences will work against you, while perfect attendance can help you to the next highest letter grade in borderline situations at the end of the semester."

Study Materials:

Required Textbook.

  • Earth's Climate: Past and Future (2nd edition) W.F. Ruddiman, W.H. Freeman and Company, 2008 ISBN-13: 978-0-7167-8490-6    ISBN-10: 0-7167-8490-4

  • Other assigned reading (if any) will be announced in class or posted here.

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. The arrangement for such a special accommodation should be made at least ONE WEEK before the exams, For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, or 471-4641, or open the web site SSD.

Policy on Grades:

1) Final Grades: Your final letter grade will be based on your total score from exams and labs.  Grades are assigned using a standard curve that reflects the accomplishment of the class as a whole.  The curve mean represents a 'C'. However, if the mean score of each test is close to 75, the percentage-letter grade relationship will usually be: >90 A, 80-89 B, 70-79 C, 60-69 D, and < 60 Ouch. Your attendance will affect your final grades.


2) Exam (75%):  three midterms and one final exam will be given.  All three midterm exams and the final exam must be taken.  Your best two midterm scores plus the final exam score will be counted as 75% of your final grade - i.e., you may drop you one lowest midterm score, but not the final exam score.  The Exam Schedule is on the web.  Exams are given only once.  There are NO make-up exams, NO extra-credit in lectures and labs, and NO specially scheduled exams.  Exceptions may be made for handicapped students, but they must request any special arrangements early in the semester.  All exams are cumulative in their coverage.  They will cover material from lectures and reading assignments. You will be asked questions about general concepts as well as specific points of information.


3) Lab Assignments (25%):  Lab assignments must be turned in on time, at the beginning of your assigned lab section.  Lab assignments turned in late will receive 0 credit.  Your cumulative score from lab assignments will be counted as 25% of your final grade.


4) Statute of Limitations:  If you wish to appeal a grade received on an exam, or lab, your appeal must be made within 7 days from the time it is handed back.  No appeals will be considered after that deadline.


5) Scholastic dishonesty will not be tolerated.  Work submitted for a grade under your name must be exclusively your own.  Evidence of dishonesty on even one exam, or assignment will result in an 'F' for the course and a report to the Dean of Students; if you were failing the course anyway, a recommendation of disciplinary probation will also be forwarded to the Dean of Students.

Last updated on 01/18/11 01:59 PM by Shanahan