Community Climate Change Course Brings Faculty Expertise to Public
The multidisciplinary, six-week "Climate Change: Earth, Sea, and Sky" class kicks off March 17.

By Eric Swedlund, College of Humanities
Feb. 10, 2020

The University of Arizona College of Humanities and College of Science are teaming up to offer a community course on climate change, with professors from three different disciplines providing a comprehensive overview of climate change over the course of six lectures.

Beginning on March 17, "Climate Change: Earth, Sea, and Sky" will focus on climate change from multiple perspectives, offering more than 500 community members a chance to learn from top University of Arizona professors in geosciences, hydrology and atmospheric sciences during evening classes. It is a special course offering from the Humanities Seminars Program in the College of Humanities, in collaboration with the College of Science. While Humanities Seminar Program courses usually enroll 100 people, the climate change course will accommodate more than 500.

"The Humanities Seminars Program has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and our students have expressed interest in courses that take a broader look at major topics, like climate change," said Micah Lunsford, senior coordinator for the Humanities Seminars Program. "The University of Arizona has a wealth of world-class professors in this area, so we developed a partnership with the College of Science to be able to offer this one-of-a-kind class."

The course is scheduled for Tuesdays, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., March 17 to April 28 — with the exception of April 7 — in the Environment and Natural Resources 2 building. Registration is open to the public, and tuition is $200. 

Lectures will cover the following topics:

  • Evolution of earth systems that produced the climate of today, taught by Jessica E. Tierney, associate professor of geosciences
  • The role of the ocean in modulating the climate of today and shaping the climate of the future, taught by Joellen Russell, professor of biogeochemical dynamics and Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrative Science
  • What changes will mean for Southern Arizona's people, desert climate and weather, taught by Christopher L. Castro, professor in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences

"This course is about climate change, which is the biggest challenge of the 21st century," Tierney said. "The only way that we can understand where we're headed in the future, this warm climate, is to study warm climates into the past. My role in this course will be to give us some perspective on climate change by going back into the Earth's geological past."

Castro said his portion of the course will explore how the Southern Arizona sky is changing in relation to a changing world.

"We live in a very beautiful place with an awe-inspiring sky," he said. "When we think about how monsoon thunderstorms are changing in relation to larger changes in global climate, this is affecting the amount of water in the atmosphere and making storms more intense."

Russell brings the oceanography perspective, noting that even on a desert campus, the University of Arizona teaches more oceanography than any other university in the world.

"I'm going to tell you about how the ocean and today's climate is changing really quickly, how we monitor that and Earth system predictions about what is going to happen next," Russell said. "We're building for the future, as Arizonans have always done."

Founded in 1984, the Humanities Seminars Program offers the community a wide range of classes, on topics ranging from astronomy to archaeology to Shakespeare to film noir, taught by top UArizona professors. The brainchild of philanthropist Dorothy Rubel, the program is now housed in the room named in her memory at the Poetry Center's Helen S. Schaefer Building. During the Humanities Seminars Program's 36-year history, more than 25,000 community members have enrolled in more than 375 classes.

Extra info


Climate Change: Earth, Sea, and Sky




Tuesdays, March 17, 24, 31 and April 14, 21, 28, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Tuition is $200. 

To register or get more information, visit the course website.


Resources for the media

Course contact:

Media contact:

Eric Swedlund

College of Humanities