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AlaskaX: Climate Change in Arctic Environments

Learn about climate change in this self-paced online course about the Arctic from America’s Arctic University. This MOOC covers modern climate science and the impacts of climate change across atmospheric, marine, terrestrial and human systems.

4 weeks
3–5 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Feb 23
Ends Aug 13

About this course

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  • You will learn from researchers and staff from a variety of disciplines at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center and its collaborators.
  • An introduction to a variety of areas of expertise, from atmospheric science to traditional knowledge on subsistence calendars, will equip you to understand these complex systems and the knowledge-holders who examine them in detail.
  • You will develop a basic understanding of climate change in the circumpolar arctic through an in-depth examination of four primary systems: atmospheric systems, marine systems, terrestrial systems, and human systems.
  • Key concepts will be explained with practical Arctic-focused examples including Arctic climate modelling, climate policy, physical properties of the ocean, and more.
  • You will learn to trace impacts through those complex systems from physical science, through the biodiversity of flora and fauna, and on to the societies that depend on those resources.
  • Key texts to understanding environmental change will be made available to participants with guidance and quizzes to check understanding, giving you the skills to understand reports and policies impacting the region.

Title image credit - Steffen M. Olsen, Climate researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute

At a glance

  • Institution: AlaskaX
  • Subject: Environmental Studies
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    High school science and math skills are necessary for learners to understand the concepts contained within this course.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcripts: English, Español, Français, 日本語, Русский, 中文
  • Associated skills:Climatology, Climate Variability And Change, Climate Modeling, Atmospheric Sciences, Research, Physical Science, Climate Policy

What you'll learn

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  • Develop an understanding of climate and Arctic terminology
  • Compare the four featured systems in the Arctic: atmospheric, terrestrial, marine, and human
  • Demonstrate the connected nature of Arctic systems
  • Analyze how those systems interact and affect one another
  • Interpret climate science reports such as the US Arctic Report Card, Alaska’s Changing Environment, and others

Week 1: Change in our Arctic Atmosphere

  • Emissions, atmospheric systems and the effects of climate change on the Arctic atmosphere.
  • Temperature and precipitation
  • Snow, storms, extreme events, and air quality
  • Modeling and climate model projections, downscaled projections

Week 2: Change On and Under the Waves

  • Ocean temperature & salinity
  • Changes in Arctic sea ice concentration, formation, and thickness
  • Ocean currents
  • Ocean acidification and ocean change
  • The marine food web: algal blooms, fish, marine mammals
  • How changes in physical properties impact the entire marine ecosystem

Week 3: Our Changing Terrestrial Environment

  • Permafrost and terrestrial snow cover
  • Glacial ice
  • Vegetation
  • Wildfire impacts
  • Terrestrial animals and ecosystems
  • Birds
  • Future changes

Week 4: The Human Element

  • History of human activity in the Arctic
  • Food security
  • Governance: local and global policymakers
  • Risk and vulnerability assessments
  • Infrastructure
  • Adaptation actions and multiple stressors

Learner testimonials

Skip Learner testimonials

I really appreciated the attention to including the voices of indigenous peoples of the arctic in this course, and how they were integrated throughout, rather than as an afterthought. Not only did I learn about arctic environments, but the people who have called the arctic home for thousands of years were fully present throughout the course.

-Alma, verified track learner

The way that the modules are planned is amazing, they are engaging. I really enjoyed the way that the team explained such complex problems and topics. I also found fascinating all the images shown in the videos. It is really helpful that the videos and transcripts can be downloaded. It makes it easier to take notes and study. I would love to take other courses offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

-Natalia, verified track learner

This course lays out the many components to the science of climate change in a way that helps one feel more informed as well as appreciative of the complex and beautiful planet we share.

-Sarah, verified track learner

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