Earth’s Past Climate

August 21, 2017
T R 9:00-10:15
METR 4533.001


Sarkeys Energy Center Room 1446, Norman, OK 73072   View map


Fall 2017



Prof. Shannon Dulin ( Geology

742 SEC

Office Hours: By appointment

Prof. Lynn Soreghan ( Geology & Geophysics

868 SEC

Office Hours: By appointment


Optional Text: Ruddiman,W.F., 2001, Earth’s Climate: Past and Future, 1st edition: W.H. Freeman and Co, NY, 465 p.

Prerequisite: Introductory geology and meteorology or equivalent (or permission of instructor); senior undergraduate or graduate standing. Intended for students in both the geosciences and science education.

Course Philosophy and Objectives: Climate is interdisciplinary. Our goal is to provide you with a fundamental understanding of how Earth’s climate system works, how climate has changed through geologic time, how to decipher climate archives from the geologic record, and practice in communication.

Readings: Required readings are journal articles, although we have also listed corresponding chapters in the textbook if you decide to purchase it. You are responsible for material covered in all required readings. Journal readings will be uploaded as pdfs on Canvas. Reading primary literature is an important component of advanced education because it requires you to absorb, synthesize and analyze research papers. An online exercise will accompany each non-text reading assignment, due 24 hours prior to the relevant lecture. Further details will be discussed in class.

Term Paper: For your term paper, you should focus on, and research extensively, a paleoclimatic topic selected by you and approved by us. Use existing literature. Project requirements for those enrolled in the graduate levels differ significantly from those enrolled in the undergraduate levels; also, undergraduates may work in teams of two, whereas graduates are expected to work independently. This is a semester-long project with components due throughout the semester; see syllabus for due dates. Our goal is to help you learn to write. For additional help (outside of class), please remember OU’s writing center; for more information visit Know the definition of plagiarism, and don’t plagiarize. More instructions will follow soon.Writing is hard; don’t get discouraged.

A Note on Research: Your research on course projects should be extensive, given the level of this course. Go well beyond the web—i.e., to the professional literature (real books and journals). ALL sources, including web sources, must be cited—using uncited material is a form of plagiarism. Good starting points for literature searches are Georef,Web of Science, Geoscience World, and Google Scholar. Access articles free through the OU library.

Exams and Exercises: There will be two exams; do not miss either (no make-up exams). Exercises will be linked to lectures. All homework must be uploaded to Canvas dropbox by due date. Students who plan to observe a religious holiday that falls on an exam or due date should notify the professor as soon as possible to make appropriate arrangements. Contact us at least one week prior to an exam if you plan to take exam in the DRC.

Grading: Readings (20%), Homework (15%), In-class Exercises (15%), Exams (30%),Term Project (20%).




  • Any student who has a disability that may prevent full demonstration of abilities should contact us as soon as possible to discuss accommodations necessary to ensure full participation and facilitate your education. Students must be registered with

the Office of Disability Services (Goddard, Suite 166, 325-3852; prior to receiving accommodations. • It is the policy of the University to excuse the absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of exams and required class work that may fall on religious holidays. • Title IX Resources and Reporting— for any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking, OU offers a variety of resources.To learn more or report an incident, please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office at 325-2215 (8-5 M-F), or, or confidentially reported 24/7 at 615-0013. A professor/ TA/GA is required to report instances of sexual harassment/assault or discrimination to the SMO. For inquiries re non- discrimination policies contact B.J. Mason (Equal Opportunity and Title IX Office, 325-3546, • Adjustments for pregnancy/childbirth issues— contact professor or DRC (325-3852); visit

Resources: College is stressful. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, stress, or related issues, seek help. All enrolled students are eligible for inexpensive counseling at Goddard. Call 325-2911 or 325-2700. Check out OU’s Compass Network for help overcoming personal challenges to achieve success (


Week 1Tu 22 AugLogistics, Philosophy, Research Methods [Both]                   (Reading assignments throughout
Th 24Why Study Past Climate? [Lynn]
Week 2Tu 29Plate Tectonics [Lynn]
Th 31Earth as a System; Geologic Time/Dating [Lynn]
Week 3Tu  5 SepSed Rocks, Lithologic Climate Proxies I [Lynn]
Th 7Lithologic Climate Proxies II [Lynn]                                                   Leaf Analysis HW
Week 4Tu 12In-Class Practicum: Lithologic Proxies [Lynn]
Th 14Isotopic Practicum [Lynn]                                                              Isotope Practicum HW
Week 5Tu 19Isotopic Climate Proxies [Lynn]
Th 21Intro to Climate System I [Shannon]
Week 6Tu 26Intro to Climate System II (Recent, Future) [Shannon]
Th 28Evolution of Atm, Faint Young Sun Paradox [Shannon]
Week 7Tu  3 OctOrbital Controls on Climate [Shannon]                                                Orbital HW
Th 5Plate Tectonics and Climate [Shannon]
Week 8Tu 10Plate Tectonics and Climate II [Shannon]
Th 12The Carbon Cycle [Shannon]                                                           Carbon Cycle HW
PART II:  Case Studies of Past Climates
Week 9Tu 17EXAM I
Th 19The Snowball Earth (Proterozoic) I [Shannon]
Week 10Tu 24The Snowball Earth II [Lynn]                                                          • Term Paper Title DUE
Th 26Pangaean Climate I— The Icehouse [Lynn]                                 (5% of total Project grade)
Week 11Tu 31Pangaean Climate II— The Monsoon [Lynn]                       • Term Paper Annotated Biblio DUE
Th 2 NovThe Cretaceous Greenhouse (Mesozoic) [Lynn]                                       2 Nov
Week 12Tu 7Back into the Icehouse (Cenozoic) [Shannon]
Th 9Hothouse Earth (Paleocene-Eocene) [Shannon]

• Term Paper Draft DUE –bring

Week 13Tu 14

Th 16

Quaternary Icehouse & Last Glacial Max [Lynn]                              hardcopy to class– (15% of total Project grade)

Peer Review of Paper Drafts [Lynn & Shannon]                                        16 Nov

Week 14Tu 21No class (Exam prep)
Th 23THANKSGIVING—no class
Week 15Tu 28EXAM II
Th 30Project Presentations                                                                Grad Student Project grade)
Week 16Tu  5 DecProject Presentations                                                         Final Term Paper (65% of total grade).

DUE Dec 7

Th 7Project Presentations