University of Minnesota
School of Mathematics

Math 5490
Fall 2014

Topics in Applied Mathematics:
Introduction to the Mathematics of Climate

Richard McGehee, Instructor


Archived Lectures



This course will investigate the following questions from a mathematical perspective. What determines the Earth's surface temperature? Why does the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affect the climate? How do changes in the Earth's orbital parameters change the climate? Why has the Earth cycled through ice ages for the last million years?

Mathematical topics will include: basic energy balance models, the Earth's orbital dynamics, an introduction to paleoclimate models, and basics of radiative transfer in the atmosphere.

Prerequisites are two years of calculus, including differential equations and linear algebra, and consent of the instructor. This course will count as an upper-division MATH course toward the undergraduate mathematics major programs. No background in climate science will be assumed, but some knowledge of basic classical physics (e.g., conservation of energy) will be helpful.

Although the course is aimed at undergraduate mathematics majors, other majors are welcome. The course also carries graduate credit both for mathematics students and for students from other departments.


Online Access

This course is available online. You may be able to take it for credit at your home institution. Please contact the instructor ( for details.

The lectures will be streamed live and will be archived for later viewing. Go to
and click on the link: "Live Streaming from 305 Lind Hall".
(This only works at the scheduled time of the lecture, which is 2:30 pm in the Central Time Zone.)

The archived videos of the lectures and the slides from the lectures will be posted here.

If you want to participate in the discussions or ask questions during class, you will have also to log onto,
type your name, and click "Enter Room".
The slides will show there in higher resolution, and you will be able to type questions and comments into the chat box.

If you encounter technical issues, please contact Julie at



This course is offered by the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. Video support is provided by the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. Paritial support is also provided by the Mathematics and Climate Research Network. Both the Institute and the Network are supported by the National Science Foundation.


Please check periodically for updates.
Last update: December 9, 2014
©2014 Richard McGehee