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Climate Change Past and Future


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Phil Hopley
  • Prerequisites: Introduction to Geology is advised, but not essential
  • Assessment: a three-hour examination (70%), a laboratory practical (10%) and a 2000-word essay (20%)

Module description

Palaeoclimatology is a relatively new geological discipline, which has been the recent focus of intense research due to societal concerns about anthropogenic climate change.

This module aims to give you a solid understanding of the principles of palaeoclimatology, natural climate change in deep time and an appreciation of the role of palaeoclimatology in the prediction of future climate change.

Content will be covered with an Earth System approach, covering climate forcing and climate responses across the full range of spatial and temporal scales, from the Precambrian to the Holocene. You will be introduced to the wide range of geochemical proxies and climate modelling approaches used in palaeoclimatology.

Indicative module content

  • Earth's climate system
  • Climate models
  • Climate archives
  • Tectonics and climate change
  • The Mesozoic Greenhouse
  • The Cenozoic Icehouse
  • Orbitally forced climate change
  • Pleistocene glaciations
  • Millennial scale oscillations in climate
  • The Holocene and Anthropocene
  • Global warming - present and future
  • Methods used in palaeoclimatology: such as energy balance models, stable isotope datasets and time-series analysis

Learning objectives

By the end of the module, you will be able to evaluate future climate change scenarios and formulate your own opinions on the issue of anthropogenic climate change.