Fall 2020 - GEOG 314 D100

The Climate System (4)

Class Number: 4092

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM

  • Instructor:

    Kirsten Zickfeld
    1 778 782-9047
    Office: RCB 6238
  • Prerequisites:

    GEOG 214. Recommended: MATH 151 and 152 or MATH 154 and 155 or MATH 157 and 158.



A survey of the climate system, with emphasis on the interactions among its components; radiation, energy and water balances; climate sensitivity and feedbacks; natural and anthropogenic climate change; climate models. Quantitative.


Course Details: This course examines the basic principles and processes governing the Earth’s climate. It emphasizes the notion of climate as a “system”, i.e. an entity regulated by the physical and biogeochemical interactions between its components – the atmosphere, ocean and land surface. Topics examined in the course include:

  • The “system’s approach” to climate
  • Global energy balance, greenhouse effect
  • Atmospheric circulation, hydrologic cycle
  • Climate variability
  • Ocean circulation and climate
  • Land surface and climate
  • Carbon cycle
  • Climate feedbacks
  • History and evolution of Earth’s climate
  • Global warming

Course organization: The lecture component will be organized around a 30-50 minute live lecture each week, supplemented by lecture recordings and a discussion channel for Q&A. Labs will also consist of a combination of live sessions and recordings. Live lecture and lab sessions will be recorded and made available to students who are unable to attend (the expectation being that students will attend the live sessions if they can). All course materials will be made available through Canvas.

There will be no laboratory sessions in the first week of classes.


After completing the course students will be able to:

  • Recall and explain key processes in the atmosphere, ocean and on the land surface that govern Earth’s climate
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of simple models to interpret the dynamics of the climate system
  • Effectively communicate scientific information in written and visual form


  • Laboratory Assignments 40%
  • Canvas quiz and Q&A participation 5%
  • Midterm Exam (Synchronous) 25%
  • Final Exam (Synchronous) 30%



Technical requirements: Electronic device (ideally laptop or desktop computer) with internet connection. Required software: Microsoft Office 365 (available through SFU), PDF reader (e.g. Adobe Reader, freely available).


L.R. Kump, J.F. Kasting and R.G. Crane, The Earth System, 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall, 2010. The textbook is only available in print. It will be supplemented with additional materials (notes, articles, online resources).

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).