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GEO3147 : Palaeoclimates

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Andrew Henderson
  • Lecturer: Dr Christine Batchelor, Dr Louise Callard
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected a future, warmer climate, which has the potential to affect everybody on Earth. From extreme weather events, rising sea level, glacier ice loss, land degradation to migrating ecosystems, the impact of climate change on our socio-economic well being will be profound. Still, the most dangerous aspect of our changing climate is the uncertainty in the exact nature and rate of projected climate change. We know from the recent instrumental record, climate has the ability to have a large impact on humans, but records of past climate rarely extend beyond the last 150 years. The problem with this is these records are too short to critically examine the full range of climate behaviour and variability. As a result, there is great uncertainty in how future climate may respond in a warming world.

Palaeoclimatology is the study of climate prior to the widespread availability of records of temperature, precipitation and other instrumental data. It has been key in showing us how Earth's climate system can shift dramatically between different climate states. Understanding the drivers and mechanisms of these switches in climate state over different timescales is critical to anticipating potential human-driven climate change.

The aim of this module is to introduce students to Earth’s extraordinarily broad range of climate variability, and to provide them with an understanding of the mechanisms of climate change. In addition, the module also discusses how we can reconstruct past climate using a range of proxy indicators, the chronological constraints on palaeoclimate records, and how these are integrated to understand climate change and climate sensitivity.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will be delivered along the following themes:

1. Orbital climate variability
2. Quaternary environmental change
a. Glacial millennial climate change
b. Interglacial millennial climate change
3. Millennial climate events during the deglaciation
4. Abrupt climate events and tipping points
5. Role of internal modes of climate variability

Within these themes we will explore the palaeoclimatologist’s toolbox to examine strengths/weaknesses of different proxy methods, chronological approaches, and sensitivity of climate to different forcing factors. Delivery of this module will be via a mix of lectures, workshops and inquiry-based learning.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:003 scheduled online 7 scheduled pip
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical32:006:001 scheduled online 2 scheduled pip
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1134:00134:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities31:003:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Poster Presentations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00pip
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures, workshops and inquiry-based learning will complement each other in providing both a theoretical background and practical training in the analysis of palaeoclimatological data, as well as providing breadth of subject area. Lectures are planned to deliver the background to palaeoclimate concepts, with dedicated technique lectures reinforcing the concepts of a palaeoclimatologists “toolbox” i.e. how we use proxies and their limitations, and the inquiry-based learning provides opportunities to handle real palaeoclimate data and to interrogate it.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster2M25Group work that presents a poster
Essay2M753000-word essay set for submission after poster presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay will test theoretical knowledge of the subject and breadth of understanding of palaeoclimate data. The poster presentation will test practical skills and ability to analyse, interpret and report palaeoclimate data.

Reading Lists