• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Jimin Yu
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • 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 Earth's 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.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates (EMSC3027)  but will be assessed separately.

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 Earth's climate system (and carbon cycle) have evolved through geologic time.

2. Explain how palaeoclimate science has developed over the past century and how this has influenced climate science today

3. Analyse 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.  Evaluate 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

Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates (EMSC3027) but  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 6 units of 1000 level CHEM and EMSC courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed EMSC3027.

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.

Assumed Knowledge

Bachelor degree including Chemistry and Earth Science/Geology content.


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 $2520
2004 $2160
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3606
2014 $3762
2013 $3756
2012 $3756
2011 $3756
2010 $3750
2009 $3618
2008 $3618
2007 $3618
2006 $3618
2005 $3618
2004 $3618
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
8179 21 Jul 2014 08 Aug 2014 31 Aug 2014 30 Oct 2014 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions