Each of you are working towards writing a short report (10-pages, double spaced, not including references, tables or figures) on one aspect of decadal variability. Before submitting your final report on December 11, each of you will have the opportunity to report your progress to your peers during class. As part of this exercise, you also have the responsibility to provide constructive feedback that will help other students improve their final research project.

I don't expect each of you to write extensive and exhaustive comments for each person (that's my job). I do ask that, for each person, you send me one or two targeted questions related to their individual research report.

  • These questions should be relatively brief ( a few sentences or, at most, a short paragraph).
  • It should be possible to address your question by reviewing the appropriate literature or conducting a limited set of new analysis (don't ask to see results from an entirely different project).
  • Ask questions that will challenge the researcher to consider new and interesting questions, but try to avoid posing questions that could be perceived as rude or hurtful (asking tough questions while remaining respectful can be difficult, but it's a skill that can be practiced and improved).

Please send me your comments on each individual progress report no later than 5PM on Friday, November 29. I will remove the identity of each questioner, collate the results and send peer feedback (along with my own comments) before I leave for AGU.

Manabe and Delworth, 1990

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Hi folks,

I just noticed that one of the readings for tomorrow's class may not be included in the package I circulated at the beginning of the course. In case you've had trouble tracking down the Manabe and Delworth paper, the direct link to the paper is right here.

Sorry about my oversight.

IRI Data Library

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As an additional example for our work with the IRI Data Library, here is Will's code that maps the correlation between precipitation in the Sahel region of Africa with sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.


SOURCES .UEA .CRU .TS3p1 .monthly .pre
T (Jan 1950) (Dec 2009) RANGEEDGES
[X Y]average
SOURCES .NOAA .NCDC .ERSST .version3b .anom
X 220.0 384.0 RANGEEDGES

As a reminder, this week, our class meeting will be held on Tuesday (Oct 23) between 1 and 3:30PM.

Because of the alternative meeting time, we'll convene two floors down in Room 414A in Social Sciences Tower. Access to this room is available through the Geography Main Office.

See you then, Scott

Hi everyone,

As you know, each research team needs to submit a one-page summary of their proposal collaborative research project next week. I've prepared a short description of what needs to be included in that summary. I'll pass this out next class (and its contents will guide the discussions within your research team), but if you want a sneak peak, here you go.

Guidelines for collaborative proposals [PDF]

See you tomorrow.


Hi everyone,

Like I mentioned last class, this Thursday we will take our first step towards developing collaborative research projects on particular aspects of decadal climate variability and its impacts on terrestrial systems. To help get us there, I've prepared three questions that I'd like you to use as way to prepare for our next meeting.

What aspect of the global biosphere are you most keenly interested (ocean-atmosphere-land surface)? If possible, identify particularly sub-systems or processes that you find most engaging (wildfire? coastal fisheries? large-scale atmospheric circulation? minimum streamflow?).

Identify two or three geographic regions that could be a target for your potential research. Choose a spatial scale that makes sense for your particular interests (for example, the southwestern US, the west coast of North America, Andean South America, or the upper Missouri basin).

Finally, identify two or three themes or issues we've discussed in class that could be used as motivating questions for your research. For example, you might address whether or not decadal-scale shifts in wildfire frequency in the southwestern United States coincide with similarly-timed changes in regional precipitation. Or you might look at whether or not climate models can simulate observed decadal-scale variability in precipitation. Think big!

Please think about these questions before we meet on Thursday morning. I'd also like you to bring in short (1 or 2 sentences only!) responses to these questions. Your answers will help all of us identify potential areas of mutual interest or collaboration. But please prepare written responses (don't just improvise in class).

See you Thursday!

Link to Gray et al., 2003

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Hi everyone,

Emily let me know that I forgot to include one of this week's readings in the Dropbox download package. If you're still looking for Gray et al., 2003, the direct link to the paper on GRL's website is here.

As part of our discussion, I showed a brief segment from a NASA animation of the thermohaline circulation. The full clip showing the complete circuit is available right here.

The map of global CO2 flux was provided by NOAA's PMEL carbon program. The direct link to their flux maps is here.

Charge to discussion leaders

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To a significant degree, our success in GEOG8280 will depend on our ability to work together to summarize, evaluate and synthesize concepts and results from a diverse set of scientific articles. As discussion leaders, you are responsible for preparing a brief 'high-level' introduction to each of the assigned readings. This introduction (which will not take more than 5 minutes) should outline the most important aspects of the article. What was the motivation for the study? What data or tools did it use (observations, proxies or models)? What were its main findings (especially those that relate to decadal variability)?

You are not required to present the group with a detailed summary of each article (and if you try, I'll stop you).

I would generally prefer that you do not prepare extensive sets of slides in PowerPoint or Keynote. The only exception might be cases where you would like to show one or two results from another study not included in our weekly readings.

Questions are often the best way to get discussion started. I suggest that you prepare 2 or 3 questions for each article in advance of our class meeting. Your questions could either be 'big' or 'small', either addressing a specific or technical aspect of the study or connecting its findings to broader issues. To get you started, here are three examples of questions related to our first reading:

Garreaud, R.D. and Battisti, D.S. (1999), Interannual (ENSO) and interdecadal (ENSO- like) variability in the Southern Hemisphere tropospheric circulation. Journal of Climate 12, 2113-2123.
If the goal of this analysis is to study decadal and interdecadal variability, why is it necessary to deal with ENSO? How is decadal ENSO-like variability similar to ENSO? In what ways is it dissimilar? What impacts do the authors expect that decadal ENSO-like variability would have on the climate of North America?

You may need to look beyond our assigned readings. it may be helpful to examine the articles' supplementary information (if it has any) or to consult other articles on related topics.

Remember, you're only responsible for guiding discussion. You 're not required to create content to fill our entire 3-hour session.


The discussion leaders are responsible for getting things started. The rest of us are responsible to keep the discussion active and interesting. Read each paper closely so you understand its goals, approaches and main conclusions. If there are terms, concepts or data sources that you haven't been able to figure out on your own, present the problem to the group and we'll work through it together. None of us are experts on all aspects of the research we'll review through the semester but together we should be able to fill in gaps in our individual knowledge.

Be sure to always bring copies of the readings for each week. In my experience, having printed copies (with annotations) makes for better discussions, but I understand if you'd prefer to save paper (and money) by viewing the articles electronically.

Link to readings

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Hello everyone,

I've included all the readings listed on the syllabus (plus a few extra) in a single zip file, which I've uploaded to DropBox. You should be able to download the entire set through the following link, but if you run into any problems, please let me know.


Reminder - please post your definition of decadal variability to the course blog prior to to Thursday's class.

Best, Scott

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