Graduate seminar, Fall 2012
GEOG8280: The impact of decadal climate variability on terrestrial ecosystems
Instructor: Scott St. George
Wed, 2 to 5PM
The field of decadal prediction has emerged as a priority area for climate research, largely because the upcoming ten to thirty years are often a critical period for planning, resource management and public policy. The oceans are the main source of low-frequency behavior in the global climate system, and a growing body of evidence suggests that such long-memory behavior has a discernible influence on the hydroclimate of North America and the frequency and spatial pattern of drought across the continent. Several recent studies have further argued that low-frequency behavior in the climate system, through its influence on drought, acts to synchronize the behavior of wildfire, insect outbreaks and other aspects of terrestrial ecology on timescales that range from one to several decades. Despite the potential utility of this behavior to long-term planning and management, the specific physical mechanisms that allow decadal signals produced by the surface oceans to be transmitted remotely through the atmosphere to influence landscape-scale processes are often poorly understood.
This course will examine decadal and multidecadal variability in the global climate system and investigate how this behavior might plausibly influence the dynamics of terrestrial ecology and landscape-scale disturbances. Weekly readings and discussions will review the physical processes believed to give rise to decadal climate variability, the empirical evidence for interconnections between low-frequency aspects of the surface ocean and terrestrial systems, and potential solutions to the 'decadal problem' that afflicts observational, paleoclimate and modeling studies alike. Students will be challenged to conduct their own analysis of decadal variability in climate or ecology through the semester, either working on their own or as part of a small team.
This course may appeal to students interested in climate dynamics, disturbance ecology, statistical climatology, paleoclimatology/paleoecology, or hydrology. Prior coursework in one or more of these topics at the graduate or senior undergraduate level would be very helpful. For more information, please contact Scott St. George at email@example.com.
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