Study Abroad and Exchanges



GEO2107 : Climate and Environmental Change: Present, Future and Past (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module is designed to provide an introduction to the Earth’s climate system, its evolution over the past two million years, and how these changes are reflected in records of more localized environmental change. The module will attempt to provide a balanced perspective on recent climate change by considering these trends within their historical and geological context. The module will discuss how knowledge of how our climate system has operated in the past can help inform and test modern theory and contribute vital information, central to our efforts to estimate how the climate system may behave in the future.

The student will learn the basic concepts of how our current climate system operates, how it is monitored and how it has evolved over the historical (past 1000 years) period, including an understanding of the possible influences of human activity on recently measured change. These changes will be compared and contrasted with past climate and environmental change interpreted from proxy records.

The student will learn to appreciate the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of climate science methodologies, with particular attention paid to the errors associated with climate quantification for modern climate classification and how these errors are manifest in the likelihood estimations for different prediction scenarios. An assessment of errors and pitfalls will also be pivotal in discussions of the equally challenging ‘art’ of retrodiction of past climate and environmental changes.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will be delivered in four parts as follows:

Semester I

1.       Present Climate System: lectures will include address the current spatial distribution of climate regimes; the Earth’s energy balance; an introduction to natural climate forcing; and a discussion of human impacts on the climate system.

2.       Climate of the Recent Past and Near Future: lectures will consider the documentary records of the Last Millennium; Proxy climate records of the Last Millennium; The future impacts of anthropogenic and natural forcing; and an introduction to climate modelling and future climate prediction.

Semester II

3.       Late Pleistocene Climate and Environmental Change: lectures will consider evidence for abrupt climate changes in the geological record; Spatial and Temporal variations in climate response to natural forcing; the characteristics of natural climate change, transitions or catastrophe?; and Millennial scale changes over the last glacial-interglacial cycle.

4.       Quaternary Climate and Environmental Change: lectures will include an introduction to the study of the Quaternary; Stable isotope records from the Ocean as a global framework for change; Stable isotope records from the ice sheets; Biological Archives of Change; and Sedimentary Archives of Change.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical11:001:00Class test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1160:00160:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

•       Lectures provide an introduction to the theory which underpins modern climate science, climate prediction and the interpretation of palaeoclimate and environmental archives.
•       The Surgery hours, which will involve smaller student groupings, will be used to underpin the lecture material and ensure more informal interaction which allows feedback of problems, allowing any issues to be resolved.
•       The Presentations will be used to examine and discuss different techniques used to reconstruct Quaternary Environmental Change. They will also develop study skills through feedback on student performance in summarising complex scientific literature.
•       The Practical will allow the student to (i) interpret real data sets used in recent (1000year) climate reconstruction; (ii) interpret these data sets by demonstrating their understanding of the key concepts introduced in the lectures; (iii) practise the critical evaluation and presentation of complex arguments; (iv) take part in informal discussion within the practical session, encouraging an expansion of ideas introduced in the lectures.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster2M30Poster and presentation
Essay2M35Essay 1400 words
Essay2M35Essay 1400 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The Essays will test some of the knowledge outcomes, specifically those which relate to modern climate science and climate prediction, Furthermore this method of assessment helps the development of writing skills. Additionally the presentations are designed to assess knowledge of basic Quaternary Science and will help to develop oral skills. In both cases the student will need to synthesise multiple information sources and learn how to build convincing argument.

Reading Lists