ATS 295 - Observing Climate Field Course (3 credits)

  • Dates: September 13 to 17, 2021
    One 2-hour planning meeting: September 8, 2021 from 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Based at Hatfield Marine Science Center and the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest
  • Course prerequisite: ATS 201, Intro to Climate Science – departmental override also required (email to request this when you are ready to register)
  • Fee: $390
  • Contact for questions:


The changing climate is often considered from a global perspective, or in terms of local impacts. The connections between the two are not always obvious. Similarly, the basic concepts used to describe climate and climate change can appear somewhat abstract at a global scale, especially when treated from only a theoretical classroom perspective.

The purpose of our field experiment is to provide an experiential understanding of the interconnected nature of the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, cryosphere and societies that together form the climate system. The course introduces the scope of climate science, underlying conservation laws, and the robustness of climate information. Students make observations and collect data that allow evaluation of energy balance, water and carbon cycles and atmospheric circulation. Students participate in both lectures and field exercises at different sites in Oregon that span the climatic regimes and enable discovery of critical processes that influence regional and global climate.

Class Activities

Class activities include:

  • Deploying weather stations to measure of energy fluxes over different types of surfaces
  • Collecting proxy climate records in evaluating past climate variations and methods for obtaining ancient climate information
  • Cruising the coastal waterways to determine estuarine carbon balance
  • Discovering the properties of the upper atmosphere
  • Monitoring baseline composition the atmosphere to judge emission impacts
  • Evaluating different strategies for representing and analyzing different types of data
  • Exploring ethical obligations associated with research and describing uncertainty
  • Developing effective communication of climate data, analyses and relationship between climate information of societies

Students will utilize a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods for identifying impacts of climate change on the local environment and their experiments provide insight into issues associated with monitoring climate. Students will carry out field exercises both in groups and individually.

Individual reports will be composed of a series of worksheets, graphs and outcomes from each experiment. Group reports will be in the form of a group presentation, and a power point (or similar) document that synthesizes data, findings and results from the class as a whole. Group projects are intended to span the weeks’ worth of data and be inclusive.


We stay in the accommodation at the Hatfield Marine Science Center for the first part of the week, and relocate to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest for the second part. During planning meetings, meals and any special eating requirements will be organized.

HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

Hatfield Marine Science Center

What to pack

  • Clothes
  • Sleeping bag
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Rain coat

We work outside and inside, and rain is a feature of the Oregon climate.