CEG8505 : Climate Change: Earth System, Future Scenarios and Threats

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aim of the module is to introduce and describe the Earth's climate system with respect to past, present and future change. To describe climate modelling techniques and scenario outputs (and associated uncertainties), with emphasis on understanding their application in relation to threats to infrastructure and society and scenarios for engineering applications.

This module covers the fundamentals of climate science, the earth system and the causes and evidence of climate change. This knowledge will explain how the earth system (natural and human) is affected by climate change. Past and present observed changes will be considered, and the student will learn how climate models work and the nature (and limits of our knowledge) of the future climate. The student will also be introduced to relevant tools for examining climate change as well as downscaling methods used for local-scale impact studies.

The student will then be well equipped to apply this and subsequent knowledge of their work. Crucially, they will have the ability to rebuff common myths and resolve confusion put forward by climate change deniers and the genuinely uninformed, so as to confidently pursue the sustainable engineering agenda.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline of syllabus
1. An introduction to climate change, examining its importance, history and context: headline changes, political and legal context, module aims.
2. Principles of climate: natural cycles and processes. An introduction to core climate processes: the climate system and forcing, climate system response and feedbacks, biogeochemical cycles.
3. Practical 1: research and review common climate change myths and controversies (includes tutorial).
4. Principles of climate change: variability, change and scenarios. A summary of key teleconnections, human forcing of the climate (in context of natural forcing) and the use of scenarios.
5. Detection and attribution of climate change: detection of change as a problem of determining signal from noise. Attribution of global scale change and extreme events to human disturbance of the climate system.
6. Practical 2: Climate change negotiations game.
7. Climate modelling (1) – GCMs and RCMs – climate model fundamentals - how they work and are validated and their limitations.
8. Practical 3: Climate modelling and decision-making uncertainty.
9. Climate modelling (2) – model uncertainty – examining the sources of uncertainty in climate model simulations and the use of ensembles.
10. Climate modelling (3) – Overview of statistical downscaling, use of UKCP09 and the weather generator.
11. Practical 4: What is the purpose of regional climate downscaling? Making sense of UKCP09 to generate projections for a specific location and impact assessment.
12. Practical 5: Climate change impact assessments – an industry perspective, considering how data and tools examined during the course may be applied in practice.
13. Climate tipping points and uncertain processes.
14. Practical 6: Using climate information/data in impact studies.
15. Climate change threats and society.
16. Practical 7: “Playing for Predictions” game.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion120:306:00Revision for exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30Exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical141:0014:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00Tutorials
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study163:3063:30Includes background reading and reading lecture notes for a full understanding of material.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lecture series and directed reading provides background and detailed information for outcomes 1-4.
Outcomes 3, 5-7 are primarily achieved through practical sessions assessing observed data and using climate model data and software to generate future scenarios. Additional practicals consider how to apply data analysis techniques and downscaling tools in impacts analyses.

Tutorial sessions will be used to bring all students together to discuss learning from practical sessions. A significant tutorial will feature student presentations and discussion on “climate myths” which addresses outcomes 2, 4 and 5. An end of week tutorial will undertake an holistic discussion of the module and the inter-connectedness of the various topics covered, addressing outcomes 5 and 7.

A practical session on “climate myths” together with supporting material particularly addresses outcomes 2 and 4.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Case study1M50Max - 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam addresses intended knowledge outcomes of:-

* Fundamentals of the earth system and its climate : the grand cycles and feedbacks;
* Past and present evidence and nature of change and human impacts;
* Principles and limits of climate modelling and specific engineering scenario techniques;
* Broad knowledge of future changes and threats;
* The ability to select and apply suitable methods to develop future climate scenarios for engineering

Reading Lists