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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 113.
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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
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course This was a great course on our changing climate and I was not aware of many of the things that was associated with climate change. The only fault I could see was the material was a little dated, this was a 2007 copywright and things are changing so rapidly I felt a more recent review of how the things are today would have been very interesting. But the information covered was outstanding and well worth the price.
Date published: 2021-09-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Outdated , biased and a waste of money. Professor has very poor teaching skills....constantlty looks at notes and lots of pauses in speech. He says he is not political but says we need to stop CO2 now which does not consider economics and other scientist views that an ice age is coming.
Date published: 2021-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Summary of Climate Change causes This is an excellent course on Climate Change. It is dated since it was developed in 2007 but the overall course is good available data accurate and conclusions valid. I would hope sometime the course would be updated to address our current situation. Updated projections and impacts of the various senerios. The CO2 levels were 380 in 2007 and now ara 404 ppm. Data models have improved. China has exceeed the US in carbon emmisions. The world has made some progress although (insufficient to address the impact of climate change. In the last decade we are starting to see some of the the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels: 1. more severve and variable weather patterns. 2. Drought, 3. More instense forest fires 4 population mIgration due to enviromental changes. Although some steps are being taken to address the situation much more is neededto mitigate or minimize climate change impact.
Date published: 2021-04-22
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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
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