METEO 597 Davis FA14

The Global Carbon Cycle Tu/Th 2:30-3:45, 110 Mateer Instructor: Ken Davis

The Global Carbon Cycle

Class meetings:  Tu/Th 2:30-3:45, 110 Mateer
Class web page is on Angel:

Course goals:  By the end of the course, you should:

  • Recognize and understand many of the physical, societal and biological processes governing the earth's contemporary carbon cycle.  Terrestrial, oceanic, atmospheric and anthropogenic processes will all be considered;
  • Understand quantitatively how these processes interact to create the contemporary, global carbon balance.
  • Have an introductory understanding of how the earth's carbon cycle has differed in the past, and how it may change in the future;
  • Be able to understand, navigate and evaluate current carbon cycle research literature;
  • Be familiar with a broad core of current literature concerning the carbon cycle, and have investigated a subset of this literature in more detail;
  • Have gained hands-on experience with two or more current methods of studying the carbon cycle;
  • Have improved your professional skills including critical reviewing of literature.


Kenneth Davis, Professor, Department of Meteorology
512 Walker Building, 814-863-8601,
Office hours:  9-10am Tuesday and 9-10am Friday.  You are welcome to stop by my office outside of office hours, but to be sure that I will be available, email in advance.


There are no formal prerequisites.  A foundation in science and mathematics including comfort with calculus-based descriptions of environmental processes, and ability to perform numerical analyses with carbon cycle data and models is recommended.  The course is intended primarily for graduate students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences or related fields.  We also welcome advanced undergraduates from science or engineering majors.


Classes will be a mixture of lectures, discussion, and student-led presentation of literature and research projects.  Students should participate actively in class, complete assignments promptly, and ask questions when they have them.  Students will be asked to lead discussions concerning current literature and take an active role in creating some of the experiments and exercises they pursue for the class.

Academic honesty is required. This course adopts the academic integrity policy of the College of EMS, which is described at
Students are expected to do their own work.  Class members may work on the problem sets and research reports in groups, but each student must turn in his or her own work.  Students may not copy another person's work and present it as their own.  Any students who presents other people's work as their own and any students knowingly providing such work to others will receive no credit for the assignment and may fail the course

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) Web site provides contact information for every Penn State campus: For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site:
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter.


Readings will be taken from a variety of sources.  Our primary means of supplying these readings will be the class web site. Experiments will be conducted using resources from around the university, depending on student interests.


Assignments will include traditional problem sets, reading, literature reviews and independent projects or experiments.  Proposal writing is also an option.  Some instruction on professional reviewing and proposal writing will be included.


  • Grades will be based on the class assignments roughly as follows:
    Problem sets (5) - 50% - active learning of the fundamentals
  • Three of the following, totaling 50% of the grade:
    Experiment/project (1 required) research experience in the field.
    Literature review (1 required) deeper exploration of current literature.
    Proposal hypothesis formulation, persuasive writing, literature review.

One of the above will require in-class presentation, which will be integrated into the assessment.  The assignment with a presentation will be worth 20% of the total grade.  The other two will be worth 15% each.

This may be modified as the semester progresses, but any modification will be done in consultation with the class.