From Meteorology to Mitigation: Understanding Global Warming



About Lesson 2

How do we know that climate change is taking place? Or that the factors we believe to be driving climate change, such as greenhouse gas concentrations, are themselves changing?

To address these questions, we turn first to instrumental measurements documenting changes in the properties of our atmosphere over time. These measurements are not without their uncertainties, particularly in earlier times. But they can help us to assess whether there appear to be trends in measures of climate and the factors governing climate, and whether the trends are consistent with our expectations of what the response of the climate system to human impacts ought to look like.

What will we learn in Lesson 2?

By the end of Lesson 2, you should be able to:

  • Discuss the various modern observational data characterizing changes in surface and atmospheric temperature over the historical period;
  • Discuss the nature of the uncertainties in the observational record of past climate; and
  • Perform simple statistical analyses to characterize trends in, and relationships between, data series.

What will be due for Lesson 2?

Please refer to the Syllabus for the specific time frames and due dates.

The following is an overview of the required activities for Lesson 2. Detailed directions and submission instructions are located within this lesson.

  • Read:
    • IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group 1 --  Summary for Policy Makers (link is external)
      • The Current State of the Climate: p. 4-11 (same as Lesson 1, but review information about the atmosphere)
    • Dire Predictions, v.2: p. 34-35, 38-39, 80-81
  • Problem Set #1: Perform basic statistical analyses of climate data.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions?  discussion forum (not e-mail), located under the Home tab in Canvas. The instructor will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you can help with any of the posted questions.