Syllabus, Spring 2022

Essential information

Name: A ENV 415 / A ATM 415 Climate Laboratory, Spring 2022

Course number: 10034 or 9666 (3 credits)

Instructor: Brian Rose

Time and place: Monday, Wednesday 1:10 - 2:30 PM 1:20 - 2:40 PM in ETEC 482

Course website:

Includes the online version of this syllabus with hyperlinks, lecture and reading schedule and more.

Description from the Undergraduate Bulletin:

A hands-on course in climate modeling; students will gain an appreciation for what climate models are, their limitations, and how they can be used to study natural phenomena. Topics include the physical laws governing climate and climate change, the hierarchy of model complexity, parameterization versus simulation, using models for prediction versus understanding, application of simple climate models to past and future climates on Earth (including radically different climates of the past such as Snowball Earth), accessing and analyzing results from IPCC models. Students will gain significant computer experience making calculations, analyzing results, and interpreting their significance. Prerequisite(s): A ATM 210, A ATM 315 or A ENV 315 or permission of instructor for students with computer programming experience; A MAT 111 or 112 or T MAT 118.


Instructor: Brian Rose

Grading and requirements

Grading: A-E, 3 credit

Grades will be determined based on the following breakdown:

  • Assignments: 60%

  • Quizzes: 5%

  • Final project: 20% (written report and code = 15%, oral presentation = 5%)

  • Participation: 15%

Course requirements

  • Attendance and participation during in-class exercises

  • Proper preparation for in-class exercises through completion of assigned reading

  • Completion regular homework assignments

  • Completion of occasional in-class quizzes

  • Completion of final project

  • A computer with internet access

  • Final project: electronic reports due Wednesday May 5 2022 (last day of class)

  • Oral presentations will occur during the last two class periods.

Electronic textbook (required)

Lectures and assigned reading will be drawn from the online textbook The Climate Laboratory by Brian Rose, supplemented with occasional other readings and handouts.

The online book can be found here:

The instructor will provide ample guidance on the use of the interactive content in The Climate Laboratory book.

Other useful books

We may draw some extra readings from this book:

Kendal McGuffie and Ann Henderson-Sellers (2014): The Climate Modelling Primer (4th edition), Wiley-Blackwell.

One copy of the book will be on reserve at the Science Library. Two accompanying websites may be useful:

Course policies you need to know

Reading and quizzes

Reading assignments from The Climate Laboratory will be clearly given on the schedule page on the course website. The reading is required, and must be completed before class on the day indicated. It is important for every student to keep up with this schedule.

To encourage this, a pop quiz based on the assigned reading will occasionally be given in class. Dates will not be announced in advance. Quizzes will be given in the first 5 minutes of class.

Attendance and participation policy

A significant portion of the course grade is given for class participation. You are expected to attend all lectures and participate fully in our in-class exercises and discussions. Any absence should be discussed with Professor Rose in advance whenever possible (email preferred). UAlbany policies for Medical Excuses can be found here:


Much of the course will consist of hands-on computing exercises, including both in-class exercises and homework. We will use the Python language for all our computing. The assignments will often extend a working example demonstrated in The Climate Laboratory.

The goal of the exercises is to carry out scientifically meaningful calculations. We will therefore view our efforts in learning to work with Python code as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Homework grades will be based more on scientific content and understanding than on programming skill. The TA is available for computing assistance.

There will be regular homework assignments throughout the semester (about 8 total, subject to change). Homework will be due electronically before the beginning of class on the stated due date, usually 1 week after it is handed out. LATE HOMEWORK will incur a penalty of 15% per day. Exception: each student is granted ONE freebee late day to be used on one assignment of their choice. For these purposes “days” are defined as 24 hour periods after the due date and time, which is 1:15 pm. Late assignments will not be accepted after solutions have been discussed in class.

Final project

There are no exams for this course. Each student will complete a small independent project, submit a written report, and give a brief oral presentation to the class. You will choose your own topic (in consultation with the instructor and TA), exploring an issue in climate science and climate modeling. The project must include some original calculations described and carried out by you. These may be extensions of homework exercises or something entirely different than we covered in the course, subject to approval by the instructor.

You will submit your written report electronically as a Jupyter notebook. The notebook is a document combining formatted text with executable computer code for self-describing calculations, and is a widely-used format for scientific computing. We will use these notebooks frequently throughout the course so all students will become well acquainted with them.

Your final report will:

  • Describe the scientific problem you are studying

  • Provide necessary details for the methods you are using

  • Include all the code necessary to generate your results

  • Clearly communicate results as well-labeled graphs and tables as appropriate

  • Conclude with a brief summary of what you learned.

  • Be completely reproducible (i.e. the instructor must be able to run your notebook cleanly from start to finish).

The instructor and TA will assist you meeting all these goals.

The grade for the written papers will be determined by both scientific content and clarity of presentation. Notebooks are due Wednesday May 4 (last day of classes) by 5 pm (by email). Late papers will be subject to a grade penalty of 5/15 per day.

The purpose of the oral presentations is to share your work with your classmates and practice your presentation skills. Each student will give a brief presentation (about 8 minutes), followed by a brief class discussion. Grades for the oral presentation will be based primarily on clarity. Oral presentations will be scheduled for Monday May 2 and Wednesday May 4 (the last two class days).

You will work independently on your own project. However we strongly encourage you to discuss with your classmates and give each other feedback along the way. You will be asked to submit a one-paragraph project proposal at some point in the second half of the semester.

Health and safety

All students need to be familiar with the UAlbany campus health and safety policies at We will continue to follow current University guidance regarding masking and physical distancing. As of the start of Spring 2022 semester, face masks are required for all students at all times in the classroom.

Contingency plans for remote lectures

In the event that we cannot meet in person for any reason (including another campus shutdown), we will meet at our regularly scheduled time over Zoom instead. Detailed instructions, including Zoom links, will be shared over email. Monitoring your email is essential!

Academic integrity

In this class we will strive to be interactive, learning by doing and by discussion. Some collaboration on exercises is therefore encouraged. However you are ultimately expected to submit your own work and your own thoughts, and to give proper credit to others for previous work and ideas.

This is very important when writing computer code! There is nothing wrong with borrowing useful pieces of code from classmates or online sources – that is in fact the central principle of open-source software. However, you must always acknowledge the original author(s). You must also, wherever practical, understand the code you are borrowing and be able to explain what it does.

It is every student’s responsibility to become familiar with the standards of academic integrity at UAlbany. Claims of ignorance, of unintentional error, or of academic or personal pressures are not sufficient reasons for violations of academic integrity. Please review these policies in the Undergraduate Bulletin at

Mental Health

As a student there may be times when personal stressors interfere with your academic performance and/or negatively impact your daily life. The University at Albany Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free, confidential services including individual and group psychological counseling and evaluation for emotional, social and academic concerns. Given the COVID pandemic, students may consult with CAPS staff remotely by telephone, email or Zoom appointments regarding issues that impact them or someone they care about. For questions or to make an appointment, call (518) 442-5800 or email Visit for hours of operation and additional information.

If your life or someone else’s life is in danger, please call 911. If you are in a crisis and need help right away, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Students dealing with heightened feelings of sadness or hopelessness, increased anxiety, or thoughts of suicide may also text “GOT5” to 741741 (Crisis Text Line).