• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Jimin Yu
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2014
    See Future Offerings

There has been a revolution in our understanding of changes in  Earth's climate and their impacts on the evolution of life.  This course  examines how geoscientists study the climatic responses of Earths major  systems (the oceans, atmosphere, ice sheets, land surfaces, and  vegetation) and how they evolved (sometimes rapidly) over the course of  geologic time. 

A thorough understanding of past climate change is essential to  inform us about changes that will undoubtedly occur in the future, so  the course covers key themes in the last several hundred million years  of Earth's history, including: the relationship between plate tectonics,  atmospheric CO2, the biosphere and greenhouse climates on billion-year  to annual time scales; the causes of extreme climate change, including  the so-called Snowball Earth events; the transition from greenhouse to  ice-age climates over the last 50 million years; the causes of ice ages  and abrupt climate change; and the factors that have influenced global  warming over the last 125 years. 

Students will learn how the geochemistry of natural palaeoclimate  archives and numerical models are used to reconstruct the history of the  climate system and identify the causes of climate change.  The  geochronological tools used to track climatic change through Earth's  history will also be explained.  A key outcome of this course will be a  firm understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological processes  that control Earth's climate and how they may interact to modulate  climate change in the future.  In addition to textbooks, and  research-based lectures and practicals, journal articles of greater  conceptual difficulty will be made available for students who wish to  explore their personal interests in climate change.

 Honours pathway option (HPO)

Additional readings of greater conceptual difficulty requiring an  advanced scientific understanding will be made available for students  enrolled in the Honours pathway option (HPO). 20 per cent of the marks  available on the exam will be answers to alternate questions for HPO  students. Integration of this material in the essay will be expected.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Explain how the components of Earths climate system (and carbon cycle) have evolved through geologic time.

2. Explain how palaeoclimate science has developed over the past century

3. Describe in detail the positive and negative feedbacks in the earth’s land-ocean-atmosphere system that control climate change on timescales ranging from millions to hundreds of years.

4.  Quantitatively analyse past climate change using elemental and isotopic tracers, palaeoclimate archives, and state-of-the art geochronology.

5.  Have a firm scientific basis for evaluating the likely causes and potential impacts of future climate change.

6.  Inform peer students and the wider public how understanding past climate systems is important in the current debates about climate change.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:

  • 3 exams at ~20% each (60%) LO 1-4
  • Practicals (20%) LO 1-4
  • Presentations (20%) LO 1, 2, 5, 6

Students in the graduate level course (EMSC6027) will be given additional assessment which will be agreed upon in the first week of semester.

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


A maximum of 39 hours of lectures/tutorials and 26 hours of practicals.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed EMSC2014 and EMSC2019.

Prescribed Texts

1.  W.F. Ruddiman, Earth’s Climate: Past and Future (2008), Freeman and Company, New York.

2.  E.T. Sundquist and K. Visser (2004), The Geologic History of the Carbon Cycle in Treatise on Geochemistry Vol. 8, Biogeochemistry (ed. W.H. Schlesinger), pp. 425-461, Elsevier – Pergamon, Oxford.

3  R.A. Houghton (2004), The Contemporary Carbon Cycle in Treatise on Geochemistry Vol. 8, Biogeochemistry (ed. W.H. Schlesinger), pp. 473-508, Elsevier – Pergamon, Oxford.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1650
2014 $2946
2013 $2946
2012 $2946
2011 $2946
2010 $2916
2009 $2916
2008 $2916
2007 $2520
2006 $2520
2005 $2298
2004 $1926
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3390
2014 $3762
2013 $3756
2012 $3756
2011 $3756
2010 $3750
2009 $3618
2008 $3618
2007 $3618
2006 $3618
2005 $3450
2004 $3450
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8176 21 Jul 2014 01 Aug 2014 31 Aug 2014 30 Oct 2014 In Person N/A

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