Earth and Environmental Sciences

Course Listing

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers courses in climate study, earth science, oceanography, geology, chemical geology, atmospheric science, plate techtonics, and dinosaurs and paleontology.​

Web: http://eesc.columbia.edu

Please note: Some courses are held at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, NY.

EESC BC1002 Environmental Science II. 4.5 points.

Lab Required

Prerequisites: Enrollment limited. Laboratory fee $30. Students must enroll in the corresponding lab course, EESC BC1012y, to receive credit.

Interdisciplinary, integrated study of groundwater, radionuclides, toxics, and human health in the context of a semester-long, detailed exploration of a brownfield, a contaminated aquifer, and its impact on a local community using the award-winning Brownfield Action simulation. Includes a reading of Jonathan Harr's A Civil Action and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

EESC BC3025 Hydrology. 3 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

Prerequisites: EESC V2100, physics, or permission of instructor. Includes a weekend field trip. Alternate years.

Hands-on study and discussion of the basic physical principles of the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, and subsurface flow), as well as environmentally relevant applications based on case studies. Special focus on the New York City area, the arid Southwest, and the developing world. Coverage of contemporary global water resources issues, including pollution control, sustainable development, and climate change. General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA).

EESC BC3032 Agricultural and Urban Land Use: Human-Environment Interactions. 4 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Cultures in Comparison (CUL).
Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: One year of college science or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

Human transformation of the terrestrial environment since Paleolithic times. Biophysical processes involved in human-environment interactions. Guidelines for sustainable agricultural and urban development using present and past examples of environmental use and abuse. General Education Requirement: Cultures in Comparison (CUL).

EESC BC3200 Ecotoxicology. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: CHEM BC1601, BIOL BC2002, or permission of instructor. Alternate years.

The study of anthropogenic contaminants within our natural environment and their subsequent effects on biological organisms. Effects to be examined: the molecular scale (biochemical pathways of metabolism and detoxification), the organismal scale (target organs, behavioral effects), and the ecosystem scale (species viability). Lectures and hands-on activities are used to teach the material.

EESC G6300 Geophysical Inverse Theory. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Basic techniques of linear and non-linear inverse theory, and the validation of numerical models with sparse and noisy data. Includes discussion of genetic algorithms and evolutionary programming, theories of optimization, parameter tradeoffs, and hypothesis testing.

EESC G6700 Magmatism and Volcanism. 3 points.

Prerequisites: One year each of Chemistry, Physics, Calculus and Earth Sciences

  Overview This course explores the origin of magmas and their subsequent movements; their ascent, stalling and eruption; their transport of heat and mass through the earth; their formation of crust and creation of volcanoes. The course will explore magmatism itself - its chemical and physical underpinnings – and also develop magmatic tools used to understand other earth processes. Topics will be focused around Grand Questions. Example questions include: What do magmas tell us about the thermal structure of the earth? Why do magmas store and stall where they do? What drives the largest eruptions on Earth? Does continental extension drive melting or melting drive extension? Questions will evolve to reflect the state of the field and student interest. The course is designed to serve as an accessible breadth course for Earth Science graduate students in any discipline.

EESC G6810 The Carbon Cycle. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Four aspects of the Earth's carbon cycle are considered: how it operated just prior to the Industrial Revolution; the fossil fuel CO2 perturbation; changes during glacial time; and the long-term planetary control system. Emphasis on information obtained from measurements of 13C and 14C.

EESC G6908 Quantitative Methods of Data Analysis. 4 points.

Prerequisites: calculus. Recommended preparation: linear algebra, statistics, or the instructor's permission.

Introduction to the fundamentals of data analysis. Topics: review of relevant statistics and linear algebra; methods of interpolation (different interpolants, advantages/disadvantages); methods of least squares (linear, weighted, constrained, error analysis); linear and nonlinear correlation; spectral analysis (Fourier analysis, convolution, deconvolution, distribution theory, Fourier theorems, smoothing, error analysis, power and phase spectral estimation, different approaches); filtering time series; forecast models (AR, MA, ARMA, ARIMA), empirical orthogonal functions (EOF), and related techniques.

EESC G6920 Dynamics of Climate. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008, and advanced calculus, or the instructor's permission.

The current climate and its variations over Earth history are interpreted as consequences of fundamental physical processes, including radiative transfer, the atmosphere and ocean circulation, and the carbon cycle. Perturbations to climate, resulting from changing atmospheric composition or insolation, are examined using a combination of simple interpretative models and full Earth System Models.

EESC G6921 Atmospheric Dynamics. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008, APPH E4210, and advanced calculus, or the instructor's permission.

This course is a continuation of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (APPH E4210) which is a prerequisite for this course. Exploration of atmospheric circulation based upon oabservations and interpretive models. Topics include wave/mean-flow interaction (the equilibration of instabilities and the wave-driven contribution to meridional transport), zonally symmetric circulations (Hadley and Ferrel Cells), maintenance of the mid-latitude circulation through extratropical cyclones, the zonally asymmetric circulation (stationary waves and storm tracks), and the stratospheric circulation (the quasi-biennial oscillation and meridional transport).

EESC G6928 Tropical Meteorology. 3 points.

Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: EESC W4008,EESC W4210/APPH4210 and EESC G6927, or some prior exposure to linear equatorial wave theory.

An introduction to the physics governing the large-scale behavior of the tropical atmosphere. Topics covered include the Hadley and Walker circulations, monsoons, atmospheric equatorial waves, the Madden-Julian oscillation, tropical cyclones, and El Nino. Principles of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics will be introduced as needed.

EESC G6930 Ocean Dynamics. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, vector algebra, fluid mechanics.

Hydrodynamical equations, vorticity dynamics, ocean circulation theories.

EESC G6949 Advanced Seismology. 3 points.

Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: a solid background in geophysics, and a knowledge of complex variables.

Seismic waves in layered media, matrix methods, free vibrations of the Earth, dislocation theory, source mechanics.

EESC G8010 Field Geology. 1 point.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

May be repeated for up to 9 points of credit, if taken in different areas. Estimated expenses: depends on locality visited. Field study in various geologic settings. Plans for the course are announced at the beginning of each term.

EESC G8884 Advanced Geochemistry. 3 points.

Usually given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

Advanced topics in radiogenic isotope and trace-element geochemistry. Origin and composition of the Earth, evolution of the continents and mantle, and applications to igneous and surficial processes.

EESC GU4050 Global Assessment and Monitoring Using Remote Sensing. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, Lab Required
Enrollment limited to 24. Priority given to graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering.

Prerequisites: Course Cap 20 students. Priority given to graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering. Advanced level undergraduates may be admitted with the instructor's permission. Calculus I and Physics I & II are required for undergraduates who wish to take this course.

General introduction to fundamentals of remote sensing; electromagnetic radiation, sensors, interpretation, quantitative image analysis and modeling. Example applications in the Earth and environmental sciences are explored through the analysis of remote sensing imagery in a state-or-the-art visualization laboratory.

Fall 2020: EESC GU4050
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 4050 001/12448 Th 5:40pm - 6:55pm
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Christopher Small 3 9/20
EESC 4050 001/12448 F 9:00am - 11:00am
Room TBA
Christopher Small 3 9/20

EESC GU4925 Principles of Physical Oceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Physical properties of seawater, water masses and their distribution, sea-air interaction influence on the ocean structure, basic ocean circulation pattern, relation of diffusion and advection with respect to distribution of ocean properties, ocean tides and waves, turbulence, and introduction to ocean dynamics.

Fall 2020: EESC GU4925
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 4925 001/12456 T Th 8:40am - 9:55am
417 Schermerhorn Hall
Arnold Gordon, Andreas Thurnherr 3 12/25

EESC UN2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Climate System. 4.5 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA)., Lab Required
Priority given to Columbia and Barnard earth science, environmental science, and environmental biology majors should enrollment limits be reinstated.

Prerequisites: high school algebra. Recommended preparation: high school chemistry and physics; and one semester of college science.

  Origin and development of the atmosphere and oceans, formation of winds, storms and ocean currents, reasons for changes through geologic time. Recent influence of human activity: the ozone hole, global warming, water pollution. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling. Students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences should plan to take EESC W2100 before their senior year to avoid conflicts with Senior Seminar.

Spring 2020: EESC UN2100
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2100 001/12430 T Th 10:10am - 11:25am
603 Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 39/50
EESC 2100 001/12430 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
555 Ext Schermerhorn Hall
Mingfang Ting, Gisela Winckler 4.5 39/50
Fall 2020: EESC UN2100
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
EESC 2100 001/12442 T Th 10:10am - 11:25am
Online Only
Suzana De Camargo, Galen McKinley 4.5 50/50
EESC 2100 001/12442 T 4:10pm - 7:00pm
Room TBA
Suzana De Camargo, Galen McKinley 4.5 50/50

EESC V2100 Earth's Environmental Systems: Climate. 4.5 points.

BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning (QUA)., Lab Required

Prerequisites: High school algebra. Recommended preparation: High school chemistry/physics, and one semester college science. Enrollment limited.

Studies formation of winds, storms, and ocean currents. Recent influence of human activity: global warming, and climate change. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling.

EESC V2200 Earth's Environmental Systems: Solid Earth. 4.5 points.

BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., Lab Required

Studies plate tectonics: Origin and development of continents, ocean basins, mountain systems on land and sea. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes, diamonds, oil. Land-use planning for resource development and conservation. Laboratory exploration of topics through demonstrations, experimentation, computer data analysis, and modeling.

EESC W1030 Oceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Enrollment limited to 160.

Explore the geology of the sea floor, understand what drives ocean currents and how ocean ecosystems operate. Case studies and discussions centered on ocean-related issues facing society.

EESC W1053 Planet Earth. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Enrollment limited to 50. Primarily for juniors and seniors.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: high school science and mathematics.

How the Earth works. The unifying concept of plate tectonics is used to examine surface and internal processes in the Earth, including earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building, ridge-axis hot springs, formation of continents, renewable and non-renewable energy.

EESC W2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Life System. 4.5 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, BC: Partial Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Laboratory Science (SCI)., Lab Required
Priority given to Columbia and Barnard earth science, environmental science, and environmental biology majors should enrollment limits be reinstated.

Prerequisites: high school algebra. Recommended preparation: high school chemistry and physics.

Role of life in biogeochemical cycles, relationship of biodiversity and evolution to the physical Earth, vulnerability of ecosystems to environmental change; causes and effects of extinctions through geologic time (dinosaurs and mammoths) and today. Exploration of topics through laboratories, demonstrations, computer data analysis and modeling. REQUIRED LAB: EESC W2310. Students should see the Directory of Classes for lab sessions being offered and select one.

EESC W2310 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Life System Required Lab: Sections 001, 002, 003, 004,005. 0 points.

Lab Required

This three hour lab is required of all students who enroll in EESC W2300. There are currently five lab sections.

EESC W3015 The Earth's Carbon Cycle. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: introductory chemistry and environmental science or their equivalents, or the instructor's permission.

Three problems are considered: the identity of the missing sink for fossil fuel CO2, the cause of the low atmospheric CO2 content during glacial time, and the possibility of a tie between tectonics and atmospheric CO2 content.

EESC W4085 Geodynamics. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: calculus, differential equations, introductory physics.

An introduction to how the Earth and planets work. The focus is on physical processes that control plate tectonics and the evolution of planetary interiors and surfaces; analytical descriptions of these processes; weekly physical model demonstrations.

EESC W4113 Introduction to Mineralogy. 4 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, Lab Required
Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: introductory geology or the equivalent, elementary college physics and chemistry, or the instructor's permission.

Elementary crystallography and crystal structures, optical properties of minerals, mineral associations, and economic minerals. Laboratory: identification of minerals in hand specimens and use of the petrographic microscope. 

EESC W4223 Sedimentary Geology. 4 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement, Lab Required
Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: EESC W2200 or equivalent introductory geology course approved by the instructor.

Two required weekend field trips in September. An overview of sedimentology and stratigraphy for majors and concentrators in Earth and environmental sciences, and for graduate students from other disciplines. Lectures, class discussions, labs, and field exercises are integrated, with emphasis on processes, the characteristics of sediments and sedimentary rocks, interpretation of the geological record, and practical applications. Details at http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/w4223/

EESC W4230 Crustal Deformation. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: introductory geology and one year of calculus. Recommended preparation: higher levels of mathematics.

Introduction to the deformation processes in the Earth's crust. Fundamental theories of stress and strain; rock behavior in both brittle and ductile fields; earthquake processes; ductile deformation; large-scale crustal contractional and extensional events.

EESC W4550 Plant Ecophysiology. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: General biology or the instructor's permission.

Given in alternate years. Plant organismal responses to external environmental conditions and the physiological mechanisms of plants that enable these responses. An evolutionary approach is taken to analyze the potential fitness of plants and plant survival based on adaptation to external environmental factors.  One weekend field trip will be required.

EESC W4835 Wetlands and Climate Change. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years. Enrollment limited to 20. Priority given to juniors and seniors.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: introductory biology or chemistry, or the instructor's permission.

Analysis of modern wetland dynamics and the important ecological, biogeochemical, and hydrological functions taking place in marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps, with a field emphasis. Wetlands as fossil repositories, the paleoenvironmental history they provide, and their role in the carbon cycle. Current wetland destruction, remediation attempts, and valuation. Laboratory analysis and field trips.

EESC W4888 Isoptope Geology II. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: introductory chemistry and earth science coursework.

This class will be an introduction to the field of stable isotope geochemistry and its application to environmental processes and problems. The utility of stable isotopes as tacers of environmental processes will be examined with respect to the disciplines of paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, hydrology and hydrogeology. We will focus on the light elements and stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen in water, carbonates and organic compounds and why they fractionate in the environment.  Radiocarbon as a tracer and dating tool will alos be presented. The theoretical background for isotope fractionation will be discussed in class. The mechanics of how mass spectrometers analyze different isotope ratios will be explored during experiments in the laboratory at Lamont-Doherty. Additional key parts of the class will be a review of paper and student-lead reviews of published papers on relevant topics and a reveiw paper.

EESC W4926 Principles of Chemical Oceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission for students without one year of chemistry. Course open to undergraduates with one year of chemistry. Recommended preparation: a solid background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Factors controlling the concentration and distribution of dissolved chemical species within the sea. Application of tracer and natural radioisotope methods to large-scale mixing of the ocean, the geological record preserved in marine sediments, the role of ocean processes in the global carbon cycle, and biogeochemical processes influencing the distribution and fate of elements in the ocean.

EESC W4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years. Enrollment limited to 20 students EESC (DEES) graduate students have priority..

Prerequisites: college-level geology helpful but not required.

Introduces the physical, chemical and biological processes that govern how and where ocean sediments accumulate. Major topics addressed are: modes of biogenic, terrigenous and authigenic sedimentation, depositional environments, pore fluids and sediment geochemistry, diagenesis, as well as biostratigraphy and sediment stratigraphic principles and methods. Second half of the semester focuses on major events in Cenozoic paleoceanogrpahy and paleoclimatology including orbital control of climate, long-term carbon cycle, extreme climate regimes, causes of ice ages in Earth's history, human evolution, El Niño evolution, and long-term sea level history.

EESC W4947 Plate Tectonics. 3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement
Given in alternate years.Not offered during 2020-21 academic year.

Prerequisites: course in solid earth geology or geophysics.

Prepares students for research and oral exams with cross-discliplinary analysis of the plate-tectonic cycle. Driving forces and mantle convection, plate kinematics, magmatism, structure, thermal and chemical evolutions of mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones, continental rifts and collisions, and hot spots. Includes literature readings of great debates, and emphasizes integration of geophysical, geological and geochemical observations and processes.

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