Penn State NASA

Goals and Learning Outcomes


Goals and Learning Outcomes


On completing this module, students are expected to be able to:

  • explain the different components of the marine and terrestrial carbon cycle;
  • recognize that atmospheric CO2 has changed through time and how that variation has impacted climate;
  • interpret how the carbon cycle impacts Earth's climate;
  • project through modeling how the amount and rate of future carbon emission impact climate and the chemistry of the oceans.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, students should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Why is the global carbon cycle important to climate change?
  • How have humans perturbed the global carbon cycle?
  • What are the changes in values of pCO2 since (1) 1900 and (2) the late 1950s?
  • What is the current pCO2 value?
  • What is the significance of the annual cycle in atmospheric CO2 concentrations?
  • What is the correlation of CO2 concentrations with glacial cycles?
  • Generally speaking, what are the volumes of the different carbon reservoirs?
  • What is the role of photosynthesis and CO2 fertilization?
  • What is the role of respiration and permafrost?
  • How does the air sea exchange work?
  • What is marine carbonate chemistry?
  • What are the biologic pump, upwelling, downwelling and sedimentation; explain their role in the marine carbon cycle.
  • What are the main types of fossil fuels and their relative contribution to recent CO2 increases?
  • What are the big polluters (countries) in total amount and per capita?
  • What are the volumes of carbon and their trajectories for the different emissions scenarios?
  • What is the role of deforestation and soil erosion in pCO2 changes?