15 August 2008

Basic Sciences in Climatology

Last Friday I mentioned some math that you'd probably run in to when trying to study climate. You'll also encounter some of the basic sciences (as opposed to messy sciences like climate).

Extremely common as requirements are:
College Chemistry (year long sequence)
Physics (year long calculus-based sequence)
Thermodynamics (from one or another of Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering departments)
Plus, though I've never seen it required, it seems quite common for people to take it:
Astronomy. I think this is more a matter of personality than requirement.

Many people arrive in climate by way of physics, so they'll also have a year of modern physics, intermediate mechanics, intermediate electricity and magnetism, and some physics lab courses.

If they go to climate through geology, they'll have the above extremely common basic science courses, but then a batch of different messy science (geology) courses.


Philip H. said...

I would add a few ecology courses as well. They both describe the impacts of climte on things around us, and offer good methodologies for studying linkages - which is important in any understanding of climate science.

Anonymous said...

I echo the ecology courses, and would add that there are other areas students could consider pursuing and still be involved in climate science, if not exactly climatology. I studied ecology in college, and went on to study public policy, a smattering of law and economics, and environmental policy, and now work in government on climate change policy, where I need to have a broad understanding of the atmospheric science, range of impacts, statistics, mitigation and adaptation policy, and a lot of other topics.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Geology is "messy science"? I'll bet some geologists will rankle at that.

As for me ... one of the great things about being a mathematician is that you never have to get messy. But you can still work in an old coffee-stained sweater. And, I can carry my "lab" in my pocket!

Robert Grumbine said...

See the trouble I create by using a private definition?

Geologists take pride in it being a messy science -- for the definition I use, at least. I'm not referring to the condition of their labs or their persons. Along with geology, I include ecology, meteorology, oceanography, glaciology, climatology, and probably several others.

Working in these fields is intellectually messy, meaning that you seldom can idealize your systems much and still retain the system you care about. Nor can you do terribly much in a lab for them. We do use labs in all such areas. But much of the work requires getting out to the field (or building a rather hairy model that tries to represent all that mess) and trying to tease the important processes out of whatever it is you can observe from uncontrolled nature.

For this note, on 'basic' sciences (the ones where you can idealize substantially and where you can do much of the work in controlled labs), I was just trying to list off some of what actually is taken, rather than a list of what would be a good idea (even within the 'basic' sciences).

Later (next Friday probably), I'll go some in to what it is that people tend to take from among the messy sciences.