E-learning Course/ Reading: ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’

This E-learning course is a website of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, created to supplement the book titled, ‘The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart. The original book provides a history of scientific discovery into climate change as a single story. The website provides each chapter as a separate essay which is downloadable and is updated annually. 

It consists of the following chapters that detail each topic under climate change:

  1. Introduction and Summary 
  2. Influences on Climate
    1. The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect 
      1. Roger Revelle’s Discovery 
    2. Other Greenhouse Gases 
    3. Aerosols: Volcanoes, Dust, Clouds
    4. Biosphere: How Life Alters Climate
    5. Changing Sun, Changing Climate?
    6. Ocean Currents and Climate
  3. Climates Observed
    1. The Modern Temperature Trend 
    2. Rapid Climate Change Abrupt climate change
      1. Uses of Radiocarbon Dating
    3. Past Climate Cycles and Ice Ages 
      1. Temperatures from Fossil Shells 
  4. Theory
    1. Simple Models of Climate Change 
      1. Chaos in the Atmosphere 
      2. Venus & Mars 
    2. General Circulation Models of Climate
      1. Basic Radiation Calculations
      2.  Arakawa’s Computation Device 
  5. Climate and Society
    1. Impacts of Climate Change
      1. Ice Sheets, Rising Seas, Floods
    2. The Public and Climate Change
      1. Wintry Doom
    3. Government: The View from Washington
      1. Climate Modification Schemes
      2. Money for Keeling: Monitoring CO2 Levels 
    4. International Cooperation 
      1. Climatology as a Profession
  6. Conclusions: A Personal Note 

Students will learn about climate change sciences and history from the time of Ancient Greeks to the modern period. They will be introduced to scientific methodologies used to prove how modern climate change is due to anthropogenic activities. Additionally, students will also be able to access all resources used to study about the scientific experiments for themselves. 

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. What is anthropogenic climate change?
  2. Name some prominent climate change theories and how they were proven/disproven?
  3. What are some of the simple climate change models that draw the connection between Earth’s Climate System and human activities?

About the Tool

Tool NameThe Discovery of Global Warming
DisciplinePhysics, Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geography
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Change, Global Warming, Climate Physics, Earth System, Climate System
Climate TopicIntroduction to Climate Change; Greenhouse Effect; Planetary Climate
Type of toolE-learning Course; Reading
Grade LevelMiddle School, High School
Developed bySpencer Weart
Hosted atCenter for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics
AccessOnline/ Offline
Computer SkillsBasic

Reading: The climate in our hands – Ocean and Cryosphere

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