• 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, Climate
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Paul Tregoning
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2020
    See Future Offerings

Changes in Earth's temperature cause changes in the size of the polar ice caps, with corresponding changes in global sea levels as water moves between the oceans and the continental ice sheets. Sea levels are currently rising as a result of present-day increases in global mean temperature and some claim that West Antarctica and Greenland glaciers are melting rapidly. But how are changes in ice and ocean volumes estimated?

Observations of the motions of close-earth satellites and measurements from these satellites to the surface of the Earth enable these changes to be measured and they provide important constraints on the physical properties of the planet and on the physical processes occurring on and within it. Students will learn about several Earth-observing satellite missions and how to derive and interpret results in terms of physical changes on Earth. 

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Understand the Earth's gravity field and the geophysical interpretation of temporal gravity changes;
  2. Explain the measurement of sea level variations from tide gauges and satellite altimetry;
  3. Compute mass balance estimates of polar regions;
  4. Relate the theory and observation of the motion of satellites to the determination of positions on the Earth from satellite tracking data; and
  5. Communicate efficiently to a general and expert audience about the science of sea level change

Indicative Assessment

  1. Computer programming assignments (4) (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Written critique of a scientific paper (10) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. Oral critique of a journal paper (10) [LO 1,2,3,5]
  4. Final exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 2 x 1 hour lectures, 1 x 2 hour computer lab plus 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self-study which will include preparation for lectures, practicals and other assessment tasks.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed MATH1013 or MATH1115 or PHYS1101. You are unable to enrol in this course if you have completed EMSC6032.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading




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. Tuition fees are indexed annually. 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
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3957 24 Feb 2020 02 Mar 2020 08 May 2020 05 Jun 2020 In Person View

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