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Earth's Changing Climate

Investigate the "fingerprints" of global climate change, ranging from borehole temperatures to melting glaciers to the altered behavior of plant and animal species.
Earth's Changing Climate is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 116.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from very good information my views are that the changes are here and will continue. no reason for alarm .the climate is very powerfull and at the end of the day will carry on living.
Date published: 2023-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Earth's Changing Climate. Specific and and apropo This is a first class set of lectures for an important current issue for all. The lecturer speaks well, concisely and engages interest immediately. The subject matter is well organised and presented. People of all ages with concerns about our world will benefit from the meticulous presentation of the facts and their interpretation in this set of lectures. First class!
Date published: 2023-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Tale of Two Courses INTRO: Bill Gates recently stated that climate worries may be overblown. In Lecture 12 [L12], Wolfson admits: “I don’t think it’s a civilization destroying event. It's something we can adapt to." The #1 pro and con course reviewers feel that while Wolfson (as always) works hard to make complex topics easily understood, he neglects anything opposing accepted dogma. We don’t have to look far to find data that oppose his view. The Great Course "Physics of History by Helfand, Lecture 12 [L12] suggests rapid “climate change" can be about more than CO2. CONS #1) The Obama era adoption of the term “climate change” was nonsensical: the climate has ALWAYS changed. The idea that we can keep the climate from changing may be the ultimate academic arrogance. Wolfson’s lectures mainly discuss only the last 150 years, neglecting the massive and continuous climate changes of the last 66 million years (see below). Are abrupt temperature changes new? Helfand’s (L11) 800K years of ice core data show “abrupt fluctuations in climate on time scales as short as decades”. In L12 he notes: the 11-year sunspot cycle is a significant source of energy perturbations with the Little Ice Age a result of minimal activity. He lists a flurry of other short-term “climate change" causations. #2) Wolfson’s “Ice melting faster now": Given that the previous surface area/volume ratio of Great Lake ice (once 7x the height of the Empire State building) was tiny (compared today’s huge SA/V ratio), we EXPECT faster melt even without temperature changes. Break one large ice cube into bits and leave another intact on a warm sidewalk and see what happens. #3.) CO2: L5 contains interesting graphs that contradict Wolfson. One slide is his “Temperature and CO2" 160,0000-year correlation graph. Wolfson states that it implies CO2’s role in leading climate change. Yet a cursive look shows that a temperature rise PRECEDES CO2 elevations. And the cause of subsequent rapid cooling/CO2 declines is not explained. Though many academics feel volcanic CO2 expulsions to be too transient to be important, Wolfson blames volcanic activity for prior CO2 rises. Neither group mentions any climatic effects of the largest volcanic eruption of the modern era: the Alaskan 1912 Mount Katmai explosion - heard in Jamaica! Oh, how easily inconvenient history is removed! Recently Canadian and Californian forest fires threw massive CO2 into the air while removing huge CO2 sinks without doom and gloom. #4) 66 million years of data ignored: the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) created an ocean floor drilling 66-million-year dataset. It can be found by looking up CENOGRID. This non-rescaled version shows 4 nearly identical transient peaks (to our own 5th peak) in the last 450,000 years. Wolfson’s ICE CORE graph in L5 “Climate of the Past 420,000 years” shows EXACTLY the same thing. Why the other 4 identical peaks? Wolfson never explains. A “CENOGRID-Cartoon-withProjection-alternate.png looks more threatening because of its rescale and academic climate projections. Its bizarre triple scaling shows the most recent peaking starts 15,000 years ago and becomes FLATTENED 9000 years ago. COMMENTS: 1.) Wolfson DOES cover Milankovich cycles in L5 (without using the term). 2.) Helfand’s L11 discusses the enormous CO2, NO, and methane accumulations occurring in Antarctic ice bubbles that 500,000 years of data says are related to Earth’s orbital Milankovich cycles. Wolfson ignores methane (trapping 100x as much heat though it degrades rather than recycles). Since ice is melting faster, is it ice or cars? According to MIT’s "Climate Portal" methane is also rising. SUMMARY: Great Courses has a marvelous opportunity for another course. Such a course might also defend why climate predictions in the mid-60's were “irrevocable climate cooling”. We NEED Great Courses since our “one SIDE fits all” universities prohibit discussion.
Date published: 2023-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course Very well-explained, thorough scientific reasoning. I really liked how the Professor gave us all the facts and presented a nuanced picture of climate change.
Date published: 2023-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information and illustrations f There are two sides to the Climate Change saga and I wanted to get more information on the situation and another person's view that may or may not be opposite to mine. That way I can understand and offer a viable view without being blindly focused like so many are - particularly the Greens.
Date published: 2022-04-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Addresses a Serious World Problem Good review of a critical and developing problem but is several years old and should be updated. Nevertheless the technology is valid and a good primer.
Date published: 2022-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Fair Start Took this this course because I as intrigued by the chatter surrounding Climate Change and after listening to a lot of comments from supposed Journalists providing what they term to be "guidance" for us about what to do about it. In my humble true journalism is dead as all major sources, available to the public at large, is biased in one direction or another. I wanted a grounding on Climate Change! The professor did a fine job of exposing us to the basics with plenty of science to back him up. I did learn a lot. But I am concerned that the information provided is a bit one sided in that it is old and not necessarily up to date. To give this topic a fair perspective more needs to be presented regarding the ecological effects to earth, the impact of natural events and their effect on a developing earth and vegetation and both its developing human population and agriculture. In short time for an update. I have seen reviews over my many years of taking Great Courses why people want to spend theirs and our time reading about what they thought of the professor and his/hers style of population. I wonder if some of these reviews ever had a teacher who taught them a lot but disagreeable to them in manner of presentation. That sort of thing is not worthy of Wondrium. I would recommend this course to those with an open mind and needing a beginning.
Date published: 2021-11-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK Fair compared to other courses we have taken. Seems somewhat dated
Date published: 2021-09-29
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This course is your chance to get some of the most up-to-date research on climate change. Earth's Changing Climate explains the concepts, tools, data, and analysis that have led an overwhelming number of climate scientists to conclude that Earth is warming-and the ways in which we humans might be responsible. Whatever your views on climate change, it's important to understand how the current scientific consensus on global warming evolved out of basic physical principles and a broad range of observations. A lucid presentation designed for non-scientists, this course is an invaluable tool for understanding one of the 21st century's most hotly debated issues.


Richard Wolfson

Physics explains the workings of the universe at the deepest level, the everyday natural phenomena that are all around us, and the technologies that enable modern society. It's an essential liberal art.


Middlebury College

Dr. Richard Wolfson is the Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics at Middlebury College, where he also teaches Climate Change in Middlebury's Environmental Studies Program. He completed his undergraduate work at MIT and Swarthmore College, graduating from Swarthmore with a double major in Physics and Philosophy. He holds a master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Physics from Dartmouth.

Professor Wolfson's published work encompasses diverse fields such as medical physics, plasma physics, solar energy engineering, electronic circuit design, observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, nuclear issues, and climate change. His current research involves the eruptive behavior of the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, as well as terrestrial climate change and the sun-Earth connection.

Professor Wolfson is the author of several books, including the college textbooks Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Essential University Physics,and Energy, Environment, and Climate. He is also an interpreter of science for the nonspecialist, a contributor to Scientific American, and author of the books Nuclear Choices: A Citizen's Guide to Nuclear Technology and Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified.

By This Professor

Physics and Our Universe
Understanding Modern Electronics
Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition
Is Earth Warming?

01: Is Earth Warming?

The course begins with a look at Earth's average temperature over the past century and a half, which shows an overall warming trend. How do scientists take Earth's temperature, and how do they interpret the pattern of variation?

32 min
Butterflies, Glaciers, and Hurricanes

02: Butterflies, Glaciers, and Hurricanes

This lecture looks at more subtle indicators of climate change and shows how statistical analysis reveals clear "fingerprints" of change on a host of natural systems.

30 min
Ice Ages and Beyond

03: Ice Ages and Beyond

Thermometer-based temperature rec­ords go back only 150 years. This lecture explores techniques that scientists use to push the global temperature record back millions, even billions of years.

30 min
In the Greenhouse

04: In the Greenhouse

Stable climate entails a balance between incoming sunlight and outgoing infrared radiation. Infrared-absorbing greenhouse gases in a planet's atmosphere alter the details of this balance, causing the planet's surface to warm.

30 min
A Tale of Three Planets

05: A Tale of Three Planets

How do we know that greenhouse gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide are associated with the warming of Earth's surface? Nature provides a climate "experiment" on neighbor planets Venus and Mars.

30 min
Global Recycling

06: Global Recycling

Cycling of materials plays a role in climate, with the most important cycles being those of water and carbon. Carbon added to the system stays for centuries to millennia and adds to the atmospheric carbon content, enhancing the greenhouse effect.

30 min
The Human Factor

07: The Human Factor

Fossil fuel burning by humans has in­creased the concentration of carbon di­ox­ide in the atmosphere by nearly 40 per­cent since the start of the Industrial Revolution—to levels the planet has not seen in at least a million years.

30 min
Computing the Future

08: Computing the Future

Climate models are mathematical descriptions, exploring how climate be­haves in response to human-induced changes and natural factors. Most models pro­ject a global temperature rise of several de­grees Celsius over the next century.

30 min
Impacts of Climate Change

09: Impacts of Climate Change

A temperature rise of only a few degrees will have significant effects. The rise will be more substantial particularly in the polar regions and over almost all land.

31 min
Energy and Climate

10: Energy and Climate

Energy use is the dominant reason for our increasing influence on Earth's climate. Per capita energy consumption in the United States is more than 100 times our own bodies' energy output, meaning that we have the equivalent of about 100 "energy servants" each.

30 min
Energy—Resources and Alternatives

11: Energy—Resources and Alternatives

The fossil fuels that supply most of the world's energy have many deleterious environmental impacts, one of which is the emission of climate-changing greenhouse gases. This lecture surveys alternative energy resources.

31 min
Sustainable Futures?

12: Sustainable Futures?

Avoiding disruptive climate change in the future probably means keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide to at most a doubling of its preindustrial level. This final lecture discusses several possible paths to a stable climate.

33 min