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Environmental Science and Engineering Courses
This course will provide students with an introduction to current topics in environmental science and engineering by providing: an overview of current environmental issues, critically evaluating their underlying science and knowledge limitations, and exploring the best-available engineering solutions to some of our most pressing environmental problems. The course will emphasize the interconnected biological, geological, and chemical cycles of the earth system (biogeochemical cycles) and how human activity affects these natural cycles within each of the major environmental compartments (atmospheric, aquatic, and terrestrial).
An overview of the Earth's energy and material resources, including conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, nuclear fuels, alternative/renewable energy resources, metals, and other industrial materials. The course emphasizes the geologic and environmental factors that dictate the availability of these resources, the methods used to identify and exploit them, and the environmental impacts of these operations. Topics include: coal and acid rain; petroleum exploration, drilling, and production, shale gas/oil, photochemical smog, and oil spills; nuclear power and radioactive hazards; alternative energies (solar, hydroelectric, tidal, geothermal power), metals and mining.
Physical concepts necessary to understand atmospheric structure and motion. Phenomena studied include the formation of clouds and precipitation, solar and terrestrial radiation, dynamical balance of the large-scale wind, and the origin of cyclones. Concepts developed for understanding today's atmosphere are applied to understanding the record of past climate change and the prospects for climate change in the future.
Physical and chemical processes determining the composition of the atmosphere and its implications for climate, ecosystems, and human welfare. Construction of atmospheric composition models. Atmospheric transport. Nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon cycles. Climate forcing by greenhouse gases and aerosols. Stratospheric ozone. Oxidizing power of the atmosphere. Surface air pollution: aerosols and ozone. Deposition to ecosystems: acid rain, nitrogen, mercury.
An introduction to the physics that determine our planet’s climate motivated by concerns about human-driven climate change. From highly-simplified models of radiation and convection in a column to state-of-the art models of the general circulation, the course provides a hands-on introduction to modeling tools as a basis for understanding predictions of climate change and assessing their uncertainty. Solar geoengineering, the possibility of deliberate large-scale intervention in the climate, is covered as a potentially important new application of atmospheric science and as a tool to motivate analysis of aerosol radiative forcing, feedbacks, and uncertainty.
This course is an introduction to the challenges involved in designing spacecraft for observation of Earth and exploration of other planets. Topics covered include basic atmospheric and planetary science, key principles of remote sensing, telemetry, orbital transfer theory, propulsion and launch system design, and thermal and power management.
This course provides an introduction to the global hydrologic cycle and relevant terrestrial and atmospheric processes. It covers the concepts of water and energy balance; atmospheric radiation, composition and circulation; precipitation formation; evaporation; vegetation transpiration; infiltration, storm runoff, and flood processes; groundwater flow and unsaturated zone processes; and snow processes.
This course is focused on aspects of environmental engineering related to the fate, transport, and control of pollution in surface water ecosystems. Course modules will cover ecological impacts of environmental contaminants; surface water aspects of engineering hydrology, including rainfall-runoff relationships; quantitative models of pollutant fate and transport in rivers, lakes, and wetlands; best management practices for the prevention and control of aquatic pollution; and sustainable natural treatment systems for water quality improvement.
This course will showcase how novel technologies have allowed fascinating new insights into key aspects of our environment that are of high societal importance. Students will gain both an understanding of topics such as climate change and air pollution as well as detailed knowledge of the design and underlying principles of environmental instrumentation, especially via the hands-on laboratory sessions.
The development of novel instrumentation, driven by technological advances, is transforming observations and revolutionizing the environmental sciences. For example, they introduce new observables and extend the spatial and temporal coverage and resolution of (Earth) observations. This course will highlight how state-of-the-art instrument design has enabled these fascinating advances by focusing on the engineering as well as physics and chemistry principles that are central to this success. A central component of the course consists of laboratory sessions that provide hands-on experience on important aspects of analytical instrumentation, ranging from data acquisition, instrument control software, basic electronic filtering all the way to learning design concepts and operation of spectroscopic and mass-spectrometric instrumentation. There will also be a tour of some of the laboratories using state-of-the-art environmental instrumentation at Harvard. The course and especially the laboratory experiments contain aspects from various engineering disciplines including environmental, electronic and mechanical engineering.