This course tells the history of global warming through the people and discoveries that shaped the subject. The focus is mainly on the science but with forays into the worlds of news, politics and energy. Our story begins over 200 years ago with Fourier and continues through several long periods of disbelief. Historical events, current news items, and discoveries will be used as springboards for learning about related issues like greenhouse effect, paleoclimate and ice ages, the oceans, clouds and aerosols, carbon cycle, climate skepticism, geo-engineering, and fossil fuels.
(1) Why real climate problems are so difficult -- especially teasing out the human contribution -- with wildfires and hurricanes as prime examples. Global warming research in the 1800s. Fourier, Tyndall and the greenhouse effect. Langley and the Sun. Rayleigh and the blue sky. Arrhenius and the first climate model to calculate the effect of changing CO2. Water vapor feedback. Chamberlin and the carbon cycle.
(2) Global warming research from 1900 to 1950. Planck and blackbody laws. Schuster and radiative transfer. Angstrom, the first global warming skeptic. Mie, and scattering by clouds and aerosols. Dines, and energy balance. Reasons for disbelief in the “CO2 theory of climate change”. Callendar, its lonely defender.
(3) Research from 1950 to 1968. Plass takes on Callendar’s mantle and refutes old objections to CO2 theory. Suess, discoverer of the fossil-fuel-burning signature in atmospheric CO2. Revelle, and the oceans ability to take up CO2. Keeling, and the first useful measurements of CO2 trend. CO2 from ice core bubbles. Twomey and cloud-aerosol interaction. Manabe, and radiative-convective climate modeling. Budyko, Sellers, and “winter is coming”.
(4) Climate as a simple system of forcings and feedbacks. Global warming research from 1967 to 1990. SMIC report. Manabe, coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models, and 4xCO2. Steve Schneider, the aerosol-beats-CO2 confusion, and “The Genesis Strategy”. Warren Washington and sea ice modeling. Kutzbach and paleoclimate modeling. Bryson and aerosols (“the human volcano”). Mitchell and climate “noise”. Ramanathan, and the recognition of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Cess, and the role of clouds. Imbrie, and proof of Milankovitch theory of ice ages. US national climate research begins in earnest. Hansen, and his congressional testimony that “global warming is here”.
(5) Global warming research from 1990 to 2000. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) begins. Pinatubo eruption confirms climate modeling. CO2 from “land use change”. Cess, and climate model intercomparison protocols. Aerosols come back from obscurity. SHEBA, and the beginning of rapid Arctic sea ice decline. El Nino, and natural variability. Fossil fuels and the carbon cycle. Oreskes, and the roots of the climate denial campaign.
(6) Global warming research from 2000 to the present. Global fingerprints of warming. Ruddiman and early anthropogenic warming. Paleoclimate analogues for a warmer climate. Abrupt climate changes of the past. Causes of mass extinctions, and the current human-caused extinction. Geo-engineering. Ocean acidification. The next 100 years. The next 2000 years. How long till next ice age? How long before Earth becomes a hothouse like Venus? The bigger picture, beyond global warming.
Dr. Warren Wiscombe has done research in the climate science field since the early 1970s, specializing in the interaction of solar and infrared radiation with clouds and aerosols. He worked in climate science from the early 1970s until his retirement in 2013 from NASA Goddard. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society.