Paleoclimatology - GEOL 437/637

Dr. Matthew S. Lachniet

UNLV Department of Geosciences


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Course Background:

GEOL 437/637 is a 3 credit, upper-level undergraduate/graduate course in Paleoclimatology, the interdisciplinary study of the climatic history of the Earth, from its origin to the modern. Although we will discuss climate changes back to the pre Cambrian, the emphasis will be on the Quaternary Period (last 1.6 ma), and Holocene Epoch (last 10 ka). We will investigate numerous paleoclimate proxies and mechanisms of climate change at time scales from millions to <1 yr will be considered. An introduction to time series analysis and statistical treatment of paleoclimatic data will also be presented. The class will meet two days per week and consist of combined lectures and discussions of assigned readings. Students will lead the discussions. I assume knowledge of basic geological concepts like rocks and minerals, some structural geology, geomorphology, sedimentology, and common data analysis techniques such as graphing, units, conversion, basic algebra, and basic geologic terminology.


Learning outcomes and objectives:

The objectives of this class are to familiarize students with current, cutting-edge research in paleoclimatology, and to provide a knowledge base for the student to either understand or to conduct their own research in paleoclimatology. These objectives will be met by a thorough reading of the textbook and selected research articles. Graduate students will be expected to demonstrate a detailed and comprehensive understanding of paleoclimatic concepts. Students will lead at least one class discussion of a paper from the literature by giving a short presentation. By the end of the course, students should demonstrate understanding of the main concepts relating to Earth’s climate history, including but not limited to: 1) Earth’s modern climate and processes; 2) the broad details of Earth’s climate history for the past 65 Ma; 3) the main proxies used to reconstruct past climate; 4) the Greenhouse effect and role of the carbon cycle in Earth’s climate; 5) the role of ice sheets, ocean circulation, and orbital insolation on Earth’s climate; 6) changes in sea level related to climate change; 7) main characteristics of climate of the common era (last 2 ka), 8) evidence for anthropogenic global warming; 9) concept of time series and time series analysis.