Introduction to the Mathematics of Climate at UMN - Lecture 2

By Richard McGehee

University of Minnesota

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This is lecture 2 in the series "Introduction to the Mathematics of Climate" offered at the University of Minnesota in 2014 with the support of MCRN and The Institute for Mathematics and its Applications.

It continues to address the questions

  1. Is the globe warming?
  2. What determines the Earth's temperature?
  3. What is the role of human activity?
  4. How big is the problem?

Towards (1), temperature data on various timescales are presented.  The concept of energy balance is introduced to answer (2), with an emphasis on conservation of energy and the role of greenhouse gases. Mathematical theory is supported with data from the Vostok ice core, which provides a correlation of CO2 levels and temperature on geologic timescales. Towards (3), the long-term carbon cycle and short-term human modifications to it are presented, as well as evidence that humans are responsible for increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and surface temperature. For (4), Sea-level rise and IPCC scenarios are considered.

Lecture 2 concludes with the beginning of a more detailed exploration of energy balance models, to be continued in Lecture 3.


Colin James Grudzien

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Mathematics