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    Climate Applications Toolbox

Geog 696C (Physical Geography, 3 units)
Spring 2012, Wednesdays, 4:00-6:30 p.m., Harvill 452
Instructor: Dr. Andrew Comrie ( 621-3512
Office Hours: by appointment

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Schedule, Readings & Assignments (restricted)

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      Climate science intersects many disciplines from Anthropology to Zoology, and many students find themselves needing to perform analysis of climate data without a range of tools to do so. This course solves that need and introduces many of the commonly used methods in climate applications. It will provide students with a toolbox of techniques with which to explore their own data and to extend their expertise with an in-depth project.

This graduate seminar examines the nature and methods of analysis for climate and health studies. Coverage will include temporal and spatial tools deployed for a range of example applications and climate settings. We will cover major authors and methods papers via targeted readings and hands-on examples from a range of applications such as air quality, health, ecology, urban heat island, hydrology and more.

Tentative outline of topics:
  Introduction to Climate Analysis & Data Sources
  Basic Statistics
  Compositing & Superposed Epoch Analysis
  Numerical Simulation Modeling
  Multivariate Regression
  Model Evaluation & Cross-Validation
  Artificial Neural Networks
  Eigenvector Techniques
  Clustering & Self-Organizing Maps
  Oscillations & Trends
  Spatial Interpolation & Modeling
  Student Research Paper Presentations

We will use a range of software during the course, including spreadsheets, statistical packages, mapping and display software, and online web tools. Each class meeting will involve active participation by students, including summaries of readings, discussion, and weekly analysis exercises. There may be one or more visits by experts on particular topical areas. Students should have completed prerequisite coursework in basic introductory statistics and in applicable environmental disciplines, with climatology background a plus.

Each week one or two students will, in consultation with the instructor, select and present a key reading on the topic and lead the ensuing discussion. Presenters will summarize the topic and provide a review of the paper. Students in this class will learn the main methodological approaches to applied analysis of climate data at a level of understanding sufficient to articulate and apply each method, and they will each develop specialized expertise in one or more methods via an analytical term paper.

Student assignments for class include readings, presentations and critical discussion, plus a term paper. Graduate students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to join the course.

This class webpage is at

Topic Outline and Schedule
The outline for the class will be provided in the weekly schedule link provided above-left. Specific details, weekly announcements, updates, etc. beyond those listed will be distributed in class or via email.

Grades & Policies
Participation: True participation during each class meeting, as well as diligence on assignments and readings before and after each class, are essential. Simply attending class and/or attempting to participate by making ad-hoc comments will result in a low participation grade, as will poor or incomplete weekly assignments.

Weekly Readings & Review:Students are expected to pay detailed, close and critical attention to readings and assignments. For each class meeting, all students will read the assigned material and bring to class a brief summary with critique notes and discussion questions in response to the readings (up to about one page). These exercises will be turned in each week as part of the participation grade, and they will enable informed in-class discussion.
For most weekly topics, I will supply several key references that the whole class will read. Each student is expected to obtain and read additional articles where appropriate and synthesize all the relevant information into the their own weekly review and in the class discussion.

Term Papers: Students are required to submit a term paper on a topic pertinent to the class. A range of formats are permissible, but all will involve some kind of climate data analysis; possible examples include a single large research paper, several smaller analyses 'sandwiched' together, or another approved format. Instructor approval of topic, content, format etc. is required. Term papers should be approximately 20 pages, typed, double-spaced, in 11 or 12 pt font, due on or before the last class meeting. Students will present their term paper projects in class near the end of semester.

Grades: 30% on participation, weekly reading responses and assignments; 
70% on the term paper.

Policies: Work submitted late may be subject to penalties. Absence/attendance, withdrawal, honesty and other policies as per the UA General Catalog.

Presenting and Leading Discussion
Come prepared to present material for ~20 minutes. Discussion will easily fill out an hour. Slides with summary bullet points and graphics are strongly suggested. Your talk will comprise 2 parts, a background to the topic and presentation of the paper itself. Edit your presentation ruthlessly: 20 minutes means no more than 20 slides, preferably 10!

Presentation Format*:
1. Background Section
      a. Use this first section of your talk to introduce the broader topic, quickly getting into the key background material and shaping the context for the research to be presented in section 2.
      b. Employ figures, text bullet points, a brief "board talk" or other approaches to make sure the class has a good foundation for the paper(s) to follow. Assume broad familiarity with the topic, consistent with textbook knowledge.
      c. Focus on moving the class from this fundamental level to an appreciation of the key science questions/debates and the particular question examined in the paper(s).

2. Paper Review Section
      a. In general, summarize information and emphasize the most important details. Do not simply reproduce text; do the work for the audience and include enough information to adequately explain all that was done and why.
      b. Introduction
            i. Discuss background rationale for study – why was the study done?
            ii. Review significance of research question
            iii. State hypotheses and/or aims
      c. Methods
            i. General description
            ii. Help explain anything that is particularly complicated or not explained well in the text
            iii. Do background reading of extra papers as appropriate to summarize the methods
      d. Results
            i. Synthesize and describe important results (often this will include key figures or tables)
      e. Discussion
            i. Summarize most important findings
            ii. Did the authors address the aims/hypotheses?
            iii. State limitations of the paper
            iv. State anticipated impact
      f. Discussion Questions
            i. Is this work significant?
            ii. Is this work new?
            iii. Is the science well-designed and technically adequate?
            iv. Are the conclusions justified?
            v. Are there other papers out there that have reached different conclusions?  Why are they different?
            vi. What would be some interesting follow-up research?
            vii. Any other relevant question(s) specific to the work

* Adapted from PNIJC Guidelines and Guidelines for Journal Club Presenters.

Students with Disabilities
If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, please meet with me so that we can discuss ways to ensure your full participation in the course. If you determine that disability-related accommodations are necessary, please register with Disability Resources (621-3268; and notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. We can then plan how best to coordinate your accommodations.