During the past decade a new realm of Earth surface and environmental science has evolved, Critical Zone (CZ) science. The CZ is the outermost layer of the continents spanning from the top of the vegetation canopy down to the bottom of the fresh groundwater zone. CZ science integrates across many disciplines and cross cutting concepts, including climate science, and much progress has been made by the CZ community to develop educational curricula - descriptions of the climate science aspects of two of those follows.
An interdisciplinary team of CZ scientists developed an undergraduate course entitled “Introduction to CZ science”. The semester-long course is modular, has been tested in multiple university settings, and the content is available online. A primary tenet of the course is that to achieve environmental sustainability, society must understand the CZ system, the natural processes and services of the CZ that are of value to society, and how those processes operate with and without the presence of humanity. A fundamental concept in the course is that the fluxes of water, C, energy, reactive gases, particulates and nutrients throughout the CZ are directly and indirectly related to climatic phenomenon and processes. Units on land-atmosphere interactions, weathering, and water budgets highlight the connection between CZ science and climate science, and are augmented by learning activities that consider climate links to soil development and landscape evolution.
An online open-source course entitled “Earth 530: Earth Surface Processes in the Critical Zone'” is offered as part of The Pennsylvania State University's Masters of Education in Earth Sciences program. The course is designed to educate teachers interested in incorporating CZ science into their classrooms, though it is usable by anyone with a basic understanding of Earth surface and environmental science. Earth 530 introduces students to knowledge needed to understand the CZ through integration of transdisciplinary science. The course structure is organized into seven units; those covering the atmosphere and climate, water, and landforms, are of particular interest to this session. Earth 530 is unique from the introductory course discussed previously in that students also consider paleoclimate and future climate predictions as part of this curriculum.
White, T.S., Wymore, A., Dere, A.L.D., Washburne, J.C., Hoffman, A., Conklin, M. (2017): Teaching climate science within the transdisciplinary framework of Critical Zone science (Invited). 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 11-15 Dec .
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.