GPS Courses (2020-21)

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Earth's Climate

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
An introduction to the coupling between atmospheric composition and climate on Earth. How Earth's climate has changed in the past and its evolving response to the rapid increase in carbon dioxide and methane happening today. Model projections of future climate and associated risks. Development of climate policies in face of uncertainty in these projections and risks. Enrollment is limited. Satisfies the menu requirement of the Caltech core curriculum. Juniors and Seniors who have satisfied their menu course requirement should enroll in ESE 101.
Instructor: Wennberg

Earth's Atmosphere

9 units (3-0-6)  |  first term
Introduction to the fundamental processes governing atmospheric circulations and climate. Starting from an overview of the observed state of the atmosphere and its variation over the past, the course discusses Earth's radiative energy balance including the greenhouse effect, Earth's orbit around the Sun and climatic effects of its variations, and the role of atmospheric circulations in maintaining the energy, angular momentum, and water balances, which determine the distributions of temperatures, winds, and precipitation. The focus throughout is on order-of-magnitude physics that is applicable to climates generally, including those of Earth's past and future and of other planets.
Instructor: Schneider
Hours: TTH 1:00 - 2:30 PM

Earth's Oceans

9 units (3-0-6)  |  first term
This course will provide a basic introduction to physical, chemical and biological properties of Earth's ocean. Topics to be covered include: oceanographic observational and numerical methods as well as the phenomenology and distribution of temperature, salinity, and tracers. Fundamentals of ocean dynamics, such as Ekman layers, wind-driven gyres, and overturning circulations. Ocean biology and chemistry: simple plankton population models, Redfield ratios, air-sea gas exchange, productivity and respiration, carbon cycle basics. Changes in ocean circulation over Earth's history and its impact on past climate changes.
Instructor: Thompson
Hours: MWF 11:00 - 12:00 PM

Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles

9 units (3-0-6)  |  second term
Global cycles of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. Photosynthesis, respiration and net primary production. Soil formation, erosion, and carbon storage. Ecosystem processes, metrics, and function. Nutrient supply and limitation. Microbial processes underlying weathering, decomposition, and carbon remineralization. Stable isotope tracers in the carbon and hydrologic cycles. The human footprint on the Earth.
Instructor: Frankenberg

Current Problems in Environmental Science and Engineering

1 unit  |  first term
Discussion of current research by ESE graduate students, faculty, and staff.
Instructor: Thompson
Hours: TH 12:00 - 1:00 PM

Introduction to Atmosphere and Ocean Dynamics

9 units (3-0-6)  |  second term
Prerequisites: ESE 101/102 or instructor's permission.
Introduction to geophysical fluid dynamics of large-scale flows in the atmosphere. Governing equations and approximations that describe these rotation and stratification dominated flows. Topics include: conservation laws, equations of state, geostrophic and thermal wind balance, vorticity and potential vorticity dynamics, shallow water dynamics, atmospheric waves.
Instructor: Callies

Ocean Dynamics

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
Prerequisites: ESE 130 or instructor's permission.
This course gives an in-depth discussion of the fluid dynamics of the world ocean. Building on the concepts developed in ESE 130, this course explores the vertical structure of the wind-driven gyre circulation, thermocline theory, eddies and eddy parameterizations, the circulation of the deep ocean, ocean energetics, surface gravity waves, tides, internal waves, and turbulent mixing.
Instructors: Callies, Thompson

Cloud and Boundary Layer Dynamics

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
Prerequisites: ESE 130 or instructor's permission.
Introduction to the dynamics controlling boundary layers and clouds and how they may change with climate, from a phenomenological overview of cloud and boundary layer morphologies to closure theories for turbulence and convection. Topics include similarity theories for boundary layers; mixed-layer models; moist thermodynamics and stability; stratocumulus and trade-cumulus boundary layers; shallow cumulus convection and deep convection. Offered 2019-20.
Instructor: Schneider

Cloud and Boundary Layer Dynamics

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
Prerequisites: ESE 130 or instructor's permission.
Introduction to the dynamics controlling boundary layers and clouds and how they may change with climate, from a phenomenological overview of cloud and boundary layer morphologies to closure theories for turbulence and convection. Topics include similarity theories for boundary layers; mixed-layer models; moist thermodynamics and stability; stratocumulus and trade-cumulus boundary layers; shallow cumulus convection and deep convection. Not offered 2020-21.
Instructor: Schneider

Polar Oceanography

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
Prerequisites: ESE 131 or instructor's permission.
This course focuses on high latitude processes related to the the Earth's oceans and their interaction with the cryosphere, including glaciers, ice shelves and sea ice. The course starts with introductory lectures related to regional circulation features, water mass modification and ice dynamics. A single topic will be selected to explore in detail through the scientific literature and through individual projects. Given in alternate years; Offered 2019-20.
Instructor: Thompson

Polar Oceanography

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
Prerequisites: ESE 131 or instructor's permission.
This course focuses on high latitude processes related to the the Earth's oceans and their interaction with the cryosphere, including glaciers, ice shelves and sea ice. The course starts with introductory lectures related to regional circulation features, water mass modification and ice dynamics. A single topic will be selected to explore in detail through the scientific literature and through individual projects. Given in alternate years; not offered 2020-21.
Instructor: Thompson

Climate from Space

9 units (3-0-6)  |  second term
Introduction to satellite remote sensing. Earth's energy balance. Atmospherics physics and composition. Ocean dynamics and ice physics from space. The water, energy and carbon cycles. The Earth's biosphere from space. The climate system.
Instructors: Teixeira, Thompson

Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Biosphere

9 units (3-0-6)  |  first term
An introduction into methods to quantify trace gases as well as vegetation properties remotely (from space, air-borne or ground-based). This course will provide the basic concepts of remote sensing, using hands-on examples to be solved in class and as problem-sets. Topics covered include: Absorption spectroscopy, measurement and modeling techniques, optimal estimation theory and error characterization, applications in global studies of biogeochemical cycles and air pollution/quality. This course is complementary to EE/Ae 157ab and Ge/EE/ESE 157c with stronger emphasis on applications for the atmosphere and biosphere. Students will work with real and synthetic remote sensing data (basic knowledge of Python advantageous, will make use of Jupyter notebooks extensively).
Instructor: Frankenberg
Hours: TTH 3:00 - 4:30 PM

Microbial Physiology

9 units (3-1-5)  |  first term
Prerequisites: Recommended prerequisite: one year of general biology.
A course on growth and functions in the prokaryotic cell. Topics covered: growth, transport of small molecules, protein excretion, membrane bioenergetics, energy metabolism, motility, chemotaxis, global regulators, and metabolic integration.
Instructor: Leadbetter
Hours: MWF 9:00 - 10:00 AM

Physical Chemistry of Engineered Waters

9 units (3-0-6)  |  second term
Prerequisites: Ch 1 or instructor's permission.
This course will cover selected aspects of the chemistry of engineered water systems and related water treatment processes. Lectures cover basic principles of physical-organic and physical-inorganic chemistry relevant to the aquatic environment under realistic conditions. Specific topics include acid-base chemistry, metal-ligand chemistry, redox reactions, photochemical transformations, biochemical transformations, heterogeneous surface reactions, catalysis, and gas-transfer dynamics. The primary emphasis during the winter term course will be on the physical chemistry of engineered waters.
Instructor: Hoffmann

Physical Organic Chemistry of Natural Waters

9 units (3-0-6)  |  third term
This course will cover selected aspects of the chemistry of natural and engineered aquatic systems. Lectures cover basic principles of physical-organic and physical-inorganic chemistry relevant to the aquatic environment under realistic conditions. Specific topics that are covered include the principles of equilibrium chemistry in natural water, acid-base chemistry of inorganic and organic acids including aquated carbon dioxide, metal-ligand chemistry, ligand substitution kinetics, kinetics and mechanisms of organic and inorganic redox reactions, photochemical transformations of chemical compounds, biochemical transformations of chemical compounds in water and sediments, heterogeneous surface reactions and catalysis. Thermodynamic, transport, kinetics and reaction mechanisms are emphasized. The primary emphasis during the spring term course will be on the organic chemistry of natural waters emphasizing the fate and behavior of organic compounds and persistent organic pollutants in the global environment.
Instructor: Hoffmann

Environmental Physical Organic Chemistry Part I

9 units (3-0-6)  |  second term
Prerequisites: Ch 41 a,b or instructor's permission.
This course will cover selected aspects of the chemistry of aquatic systems. Lectures cover basic principles of physical-organic chemistry relevant to the aquatic environment under realistic conditions. Specific topics covered in Part I include the basic principles of equilibrium chemical and physical processes important natural waters. Topics include: chemical potential, fugacity, phase transfer, acid-base chemistry, metal-ligand substitution chemistry, surface chemistry, octanol-water partitioning, air-water partitioning, partitioning to solid organic matter and biomedia, sorption processes, air-water exchange dynamics, and the kinetics and mechanisms of coupled organic and inorganic redox reactions. Thermodynamics, transport, phase transfer and kinetics are emphasized.
Instructor: Hoffmann

Please Note

The online version of the Caltech Catalog is provided as a convenience; however, the printed version is the only authoritative source of information about course offerings, option requirements, graduation requirements, and other important topics.