• Class Number 7941
  • Term Code 2960
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Eelco Rohling
    • Dr Fiona Hibbert
    • Dr Jimin Yu
    • Dr Katharine Grant
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/07/2019
  • Class End Date 25/10/2019
  • Census Date 31/08/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 29/07/2019
SELT Survey Results

There are considerable concerns about how rising atmospheric CO2 will affect Earth's climate and marine biogeochemistry in the future. Computer simulations are used to predict future climate changes, but these projections remain very uncertain and the capacity of climate models to reproduce long-term change needs to be thoroughly tested. The only way to do this is by testing model performance against geological archives of past climate changes.

This course examines how geoscientists reconstruct climate changes in the past combining data from the oceans, atmosphere, ice sheets, land surfaces, and vegetation, and how these relate to reconstructed changes in energy supply from the sun. One important topic that we will cover, for example, concerns the reasons for past atmospheric CO2 changes, and how these influenced the global climate.

The course covers the essential aspects needed for understanding the Earth's climate system such as Earth's energy balance; climate sensitivity; sea level and ice sheet changes; ocean circulation changes; nutrient cycling and atmospheric CO2 variations. 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.  Geochemical tools and proxies used to reconstruct climate changes through Earth's history will be explained. You will learn how to use box models to understand nutrient cycling and atmospheric CO2 changes. We will look in more detail at: the nature of, and relationships between, high-resolution ice-core records from Greenland and Antarctica; abrupt climate changes; the factors that affect short-term climate variability in Australia and how these are currently changing; and the science related to common misconceptions in climate change discussions. 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 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. The teaching material is focused around areas of active palaeoclimate research and presents students with an overview of the latest international scientific understanding of past climate changes and their relevance to the future.

NOTE: Postgraduate students will attend classes with undergraduate students but will be assessed differently.


Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Explain how the components of Earth’s climate system and carbon cycle have evolved through time.
  2. Describe in depth the positive and negative feedbacks in the Earth’s land-ocean-atmosphere system that control climate change on various timescales.
  3. Quantitatively analyse past climate change using elemental and isotopic tracers, palaeoclimate archives, and state-of-the-art geochronology.
  4. Critically evaluate the likely causes of future climate change and assess potential impacts on feedback mechanisms.
  5. Inform peers on how understanding past climate systems is important to the current debates about climate change.

Examination Material or equipment

Bring a calculator to be sure.

Required Resources

The Library has copies (ebook) of the following texts that are mandatory reading for this course:

= Rohling, E.J., The oceans: a deep history. Princeton University Press, 272 pp., 2017. EBOOK AT: https://www-jstor-org.virtual.anu.edu.au/stable/j.ctvc77hkh {or find via Library}.

= Rohling, E.J., The climate question: natural cycles, human impact, future outlook. Oxford University Press, 162 pp., 2019. EBOOK AT: https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.virtual.anu.edu.au/lib/anu/detail.action?docID=5738717 {or find via Library}.

= Ruddiman, W.F., Earth's climate: past and future; 3rd edition. W.H. Freeman, New York, 2014. {call number QC981 .R76 2014} <=== hardcopy

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 L1: Housekeeping (incl. setting of essay topics) +start of Intro L2: Completion of Intro P: Reading time L3 hyperthermals and ocean acidification
2 L1: Carbon Cycle 1 L2: Carbon Cycle 2 P: Carbon Cycle L3: Carbon Cycle 3
3 L1: E/O boundary, AA glaciation, and d18O systematics part 1 L2: d18O systematics part 2 P: d18O systematics L3: Sea level and isostacy for E/O boundary
4 L1: For the glaciated world: orbital climate change theory L2: Mio-Pliocene sapropels, Green Sahara , African Monsoon (1) P: Orbital tuning, chronology & sedimentation rates L3: Mio-Pliocene sapropels, Green Sahara , African Monsoon (2)
5 L1: Messinian Salinity Crisis and evaporites L2: LR04, mPWP, iNHG, MPT, MBT P: d18Oc deconvolution using T(Mg/Ca) L3: iNHG specific case
6 L1: Theories of glaciation incl. MPT (Milankovitch, modelling) L2: Energy Balance of climate, C cycle, albedo, insolation, ECS, ESS P: Polar amplification L3 [spill-over slot] Q&A session
7 L1: Sea-level intro. + corals, speleothems, coastal morphology, with GIA L2: Benthic d18O. d18O systematics, MIS6-2 contrast, EGC d18Osw P: Sea level L3: Red-Med Seas with GIA
8 L1: Millennial variability, H events, D/O cycles, bipolar see-saw intro L2: Bipolar see-saw (1): EPICA, NGRIP, Marino paper, sea level, AMOC P: See-saw calculations (Stocker and Johnson) L3: Bipolar see-saw (2): EPICA, NGRIP, Marino paper, sea level, AMOC
9 L1: C cycle over glacials, millennial variability, and relation with AMOC (1) L2: C cycle over glacials, millennial variability, and relation with AMOC (2) P: C cycle over glacials, millennial variability, and relation with AMOC L3: C cycle over glacials, millennial variability, and relation with AMOC (3)
10 L1: Last glacial cycle: Asian summer monsoon (Hulu etc., Lugu Lake, Tierney ppr) L2: Last glacial cycle: Asian winter monsoon (dust, Loess plateau context) P: hr 1: Lecture Chronology: U/Th, 14Ccompletion Practical 14C calibration P: hr 2: start Practical 14C calibration L3: completion Practical 14C calibration
11 L1: Holocene L2: Holocene Levant archaeology and climate P: Q&A and revision session + hand in literature review essay L3: Modern climate trend within palaeo context
12 L1: off for revision L2: off for revision P: off for revision L3: off for revision

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Essay 35 % 16/10/2019 06/11/2019 1,2,3,4,5
pop-quizzes 15 % 22/07/2019 31/10/2019 1,2,3,4
Exam 50 % 31/10/2019 28/11/2019 1,2,3,4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


One final written (essay-style questions) exam at the allocated time slot, which will count for 50% of total. Bring a calculator to be sure.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 16/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 06/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5


This is an essay, set in wk1.

= critical reading

= relevant literature collation and assessment

= scientific writing

= data extraction from Web, where relevant

= making a scientific illustration/graph

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 22/07/2019
Return of Assessment: 31/10/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4


pop-quiz to gauge progress

There are 2 pop-quizzes due over the semester. It is intended that the marked quizzes will be returned within 1 week after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site. The date range for these tasks indicates the start and the end of semester as the quizzes will be given at random times.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 31/10/2019
Return of Assessment: 28/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4


The date range in the Assessment Summary indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location exam.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded. This policy applies to assessment task 2 - pop-quizzes.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Marked up versions will be handed back as usual - information will be given in due time.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

One submission only.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Eelco Rohling
6125 3857

Research Interests

Prof Eelco Rohling

Tuesday 14:00 16:00
Thursday 14:00 16:00
Dr Fiona Hibbert
612 53406

Research Interests

Dr Fiona Hibbert

Dr Jimin Yu
612 53406

Research Interests

Dr Jimin Yu

Dr Katharine Grant

Research Interests

Dr Katharine Grant

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