Skip to main content

Global Warming Science

Access on edX

This course is currently archived on edX. Certificate enrollment is closed.

About this course

12.340x introduces the basic science underpinning our knowledge of the climate system, how climate has changed in the past, and how it may change in the future. The course focuses on the fundamental energy balance in the climate system, between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation, and how this balance is affected by greenhouse gases. We will also discuss physical processes that shape the climate, such as atmospheric and oceanic convection and large-scale circulation, solar variability, orbital mechanics, and aerosols, as well as the evidence for past and present climate change. We will discuss climate models of varying degrees of complexity, and you will be able to run a model of a single column of the Earth's atmosphere, which includes many of the important elements of simulating climate change. Together, this range of topics forms the scientific basis for our understanding of anthropogenic (human-influenced) climate change.

We will not cover issues regarding policy responses to climate change. Rather, Global Warming Science is designed to be a strictly scientific introduction to this important topic.

12.340x is geared toward students with some mathematical and scientific background, but does not require any prior knowledge of climate or atmospheric science. See the prerequisites section for more details.

Course Structure
The course will be divided into weekly sections which will be released sequentially. Each section will include a set of lecture videos and practice exercises that students will be expected to work through. Additional background readings may be assigned, all of which will be sourced from material freely available online. The course will be graded based on weekly online problem sets, as well as an online final exam. 

Course staff

Kerry Emanuel
Kerry Emanuel

Kerry Emanuel is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT. He obtained his PhD from MIT in 1978, and returned as faculty in 1981. His research investigates fundamental aspects of the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere, in particular tropical cyclones (a.k.a. Hurricanes or Typhoons) and tropical circulations in general. 

Dan Cziczo
Dan Cziczo

Dan Cziczo obtained his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1999. He is currently Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT. Dan is interested in the interrelationship of particulate matter and cloud formation. His research utilizes laboratory and field studies to elucidate how small particles interact with water vapor to form droplets and ice crystals which are important players in the Earth's climate system.

David McGee

David McGee has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT since 2012. He obtained his PhD from Columbia University in 2009. David's research builds records of past climate changes using geochemical tools, with an aim to improve our understanding of the response of the atmospheric circulation and hydrological cycle to different climate changes. 

  1. Course Number:

  2. Classes Start:

  3. Classes End:

  4. Estimated Effort:

    8 hours/week
  5. Length:

    14 weeks
  6. Year Created: