I know you intend to become a working climate scientist. But I’m curious: do you have any specialty in mind?
I know it’s early to make such decisions, but are you keenly interested in ice sheets? Climate modeling? Radiative properties of greenhouse (and other) gases? Paleoclimate reconstructions? Climate on other planets (and moons)? Of course “all of the above” and “none of the above” are valid answers.
I am particularly interested in climate modeling, as I find mathematical models of any kind to be fascinating. I also like radiative forcing and the energy budget, chapter 2 of AR4 is my favourite (is it weird to have a favourite IPCC chapter?). Pre-quaternary climates are neat as well, especially catastrophic changes, like the Permian extinction or Snowball Earth. I’m not as interested in paleoclimate of the past millennium, as it was relatively boring compared to other periods of history – apologies to any tree-ring enthusiasts who may be reading this!
I’ve just started Principles of Planetary Climate by Dr. Pierrehumbert. Quite a steep learning curve for me (I’ve downloaded Python and am going through tutorials, plus will have to review my calculus).
Returning to school for another grad science degree is not an option anymore (been there, done that–3 times now and my wife might leave me if I try it again). I want to have an undergraduate level of knowledge on climate science so I can build on parts that interest me and take my understanding further.
So my big question is, Is there a prescribed outline of things people should be learning if they want a good understanding of the science of climate change? I’m a biologist, and want to tie that knowledge-base into climate science.
I’m trying to fill in gaps (canyons actually) in my knowledge but I often don’t know those gaps are there until I stumble into one when I realize I’ve completely misunderstood what I thought I understood, and I have to go back and not just relearn basics but learn the fundamentals behind the basics.
So any suggestions on a prescribed course of study and things I should know would be appreciated, or if anyone does know of a good online climate course, I’d like to check that too (have done Dr. Archer’s videos and worked through the accompanying book. Also have Dr. Bradley’s book on Paleoclimatology and am 5 chapters into that. And I read numerous reputable science blogs (RealClimate, Open Mind–hi tamino, SkepticalScience, etc) and do my best to work my way carefully through anything I don’t understand). Guess I’m trying to avoid Dunning-Kruger syndrome as exemplified by D. Rapp).
I have similar feelings to Ken – I’m compiling a list of sources to teach myself climate physics. I have two textbooks on loan dedicated to the subject, am planning to go through Archer’s video lectures and the corresponding book, and am hoping to get my hands on a copy of Principles of Planetary Climate (sounds like I should learn some Python while I’m at it). Before all that, however, I think I will read and study some useful chapters of my physics textbook that we’re not covering in the course – fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, mostly. I probably won’t get much done before the summer, although I’m planning to try to do some over Reading Week. Any other sources would be very much appreciated! -Kate
Have you ever worked your way through any energy balance models demonstrating the Snowball Earth bistability? They should be accessible at your level. Roe and Baker (2010) is a good introduction to the mathematics. Some more references are here.
Thanks, Nathan, that’s a great idea. I am enjoying working through the simpler derivation you sent me, so a Snowball Earth model will be a great way to continue. It looks like you tried to link to Roe and Baker, but it got stripped out – I just see empty link tags – want to try again or email the link? -Kate
For those who haven’t seen this, the journal Nature will be starting a new journal, Nature Climate Change, in May.
On that page (right-hand side) you can see if you qualify for a free personal subscription to Climate Change. I applied a month or so back but still haven’t heard so don’t expect an immediate response.
Still, I imagine it might be affordable. E.g. Nature subscription is $199 US a year, but discounts are available (mine was 40% off). Students can get it for $99. I’m hoping Climate Change will offer something similar if I don’t qualify for a free subscription.
Regarding Python, here’s the Tutorial. There’s a link to Python download on there too.
Last time I played around with programming we were using cards and the fill in the circle with pencil approach (1978, 79). For me, Python is a learning curve so steep it is like a vertical brick wall, but I’m slowly gaining purchase (it was like an oil-coated teflon wall when I first started). :)
Also, some lecture notes by Richard McGehee of U. Minnesota. It offers a condensed discussion of a Budyko type model very similar to the one in Roe and Baker. (Maybe identical, although I seem to recall some minor differences.)
The wonderful science communicator Neil DeGrasse Tyson was interviewed on the last Point of Inquiry podcast by Chris Mooney. While I’ve taken issue with both of them before (usually on religious concerns, although with Mooney on this very topic!), Tyson has a section for young science communicators that I think you’d find very encouraging.
Kaitlin Alexander is a PhD student in climate science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She became interested in climate science as a teenager on the Canadian Prairies, and increasingly began to notice the discrepancies between scientific and public knowledge on climate change. She started writing this blog at age sixteen to help address this gap in public understanding, and it slowly evolved into a record of her research as a young climate scientist. Read more