• Class Number 9225
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Joelle Gergis
    • Prof Nerilie Abram
    • Sarah Jackson
    • Zak Baillie
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

Climate change is the largest scientific challenge facing humanity. In this course we will provide a multidisciplinary foundation for understanding climate variability and change from regional to global scales. Interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and land in the Earth’s climate system are explored to understand past, present and future climate variability and change. Course material covers ice age cycles, abrupt change, global and regional climate variability of the past 1000 years, and anthropogenic factors contributing to contemporary and future climate change.

Students will work with data from proxy records (e.g. ice cores, tree rings, corals, sedimentary records and historical documents), observational records, and climate model output. The course also provides opportunities to develop skills in interpreting and communicating climate science for a range of audiences. The scientific basis for climate change is also applied to understanding observed impacts and its relevance for global policy contexts.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but have separate seminars and are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Interpret, describe and explain the interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and land in the Earth’s climate system.
  2. Analyse and interpret climate data to evaluate past, present and future climate variability and change.
  3. Interpret, describe and explain the relationships between large-scale ocean-atmosphere processes and regional and global climates, using simple statistical techniques.
  4. Synthesise and explain their understanding of processes that influence climate variability and change, and their application to research and policy contexts.
  5. Apply critical thinking to develop a scientific understanding for evaluating the likely causes and potential impacts of climate variability and change, and demonstrate an ability to communicate this in a range of formats suitable for diverse audiences.

Field Trips

Not applicable.

Additional Course Costs

Not applicable.

Examination Material or equipment

A laptop is required for each Practical class. Please contact the course convenors before Week 1 if this will be an issue.

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.

Other Information


  • Attend each lecture or catch up on missed lectures via Wattle
  • Submit all assessable work via PDF on Wattle by the deadline
  • Comply with ANU and Fenner School requirements regarding referencing, academic honesty and other standards for academic work
  • Complete the required reading for each lecture
  • Attend the practicals and complete each assessment
  • Study for and complete course tests/exams
  •  This level of participation will amount to approximately 11 hours of work per week in total

Your Feedback

  • Your thoughts and opinions matter. Here’s how you can provide feedback on the course:
  • Send email to joelle.gergis@anu.edu.au or nerilie.abram@anu.edu.au
  • Contact your class representatives, who will pass on any feedback from members of the class. There will be a meeting of all class reps with the Fenner School Associate Director (Education) in Week 4 of semester.
  • The Convener will be in continual informal discussions with course reps throughout the semester
  • Use the Comments & Suggestions tool on Wattle to submit anonymous feedback
  • Complete the SELT surveys at the end of the course; we do value your feedback and try and respond to your suggestions.


Stuck? Confused? Falling behind? Don’t wait! Contact us ASAP. We are here to help.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lectures Week 1: Course overview and introduction: climate variability and change in the Earth’s past, present and future Causes of natural climate variability. Ice Ages over the past 2 million years (Quaternary period) Practical 1: Understanding Ice Ages
2 Lectures Week 2: Tools for reconstructing Quaternary climates: Use of foraminifera, oxygen isotopes in sedimentary records, ice cores etc Global climate during Last Glacial Maximum. Regional impacts e.g. sea level fluctuations Practical 2: Glacial–Inter-glacial cycles in ice cores
3 Lectures Week 3: Holocene climate variability of the last 10,000 years: Warming following Last Ice Age. Establishment of modern climate. Introduction of human activities Abrupt climate change: Younger Dryas, Dansgaard Oeschger events, Antarctic Cold Reversal, mass extinction events, recent trends Practical 3: Abrupt climate change
4 Lectures Week 4: Tools of high-resolution palaeoclimatology: How annually banded records like tree rings, corals, ice cores can extend instrumental climate records Australian climate history: pre-20th century documentary and early instrumental weather records climate records Practical 4: Introduction to tree ring analysis
5 Lectures Week 5: Observed climate variability and change: temperature Observed climate variability and change: oceans Practical 5: Australian modern climate data and review of BoM state of the climate report
6 Lectures Week 6: ENSO: past, present and future I ENSO: past, present and future II Practical 6: Correlation maps and critical reading exercise Assessment: Wattle quiz I (multiple choice)
7 Mid semester break
8 Mid semester break
9 Lectures Week 7: IOD: past, present and future SAM: past, present and future Practical 7: Coral palaeoclimatology
10 Lectures Week 8: Climate change in Antarctica Basics of climate modelling (complexity of models, model ensembles, intercomparisons, detection and attribution) Practical 8: Feedback session for assessment piece
11 Lectures Week 9: Climate modelling I (basics of climate modelling, model parametrisations, limitations) ocean modelling Climate modelling II (basics of climate modelling, model parametrisations, limitations) land modelling Practical 9: Elements of climate system modelling
12 Lectures Week 10: Climate forcings across scales, including last millennium Future scenarios of climate change Practical 10: Transient climate model experiments Assessment: Article for The Conversation and creative piece
13 Lectures Week 11: Climate change in Australia, including uncertainties, regional/seasonal patterns and sea level rise scenarios Why 1.5°C? (Context for the Paris Agreement) Practical 11: Modelling future climates Assessment: Wattle quiz (multiple choice)
14 Lectures Week 12: Graduate student talks Graduate student talks Practical 12: Review and revision session Graduate student talks

Tutorial Registration

Not applicable.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Wattle Quiz I 15 % 04/09/2020 11/09/2020 1,2,3,4
The Conversation article and creative piece 40 % 16/10/2020 30/10/2020 1,2,3,4,5
Wattle Quiz II 15 % 23/10/2020 30/10/2020 1,2,3,4,5
Graduate student oral presentation 30 % 30/10/2020 06/11/2020 1,2,3,4,5

* 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 Academic Integrity . 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.


As a student enrolled in this course you are expected to:

·     Keep up to date with the Course Guide

·     Attend each lecture and practical class

·     Submit all assessable work via PDF on Wattle by the deadline

·     Comply with ANU and Fenner School requirements regarding referencing, academic honesty and other standards for academic work

·     Complete the required reading for each lecture

·     Complete all practical exercises and every assessment task

·     Study for and complete course tests and exams

Please note that ALL assessment tasks are required to be submitted to pass this course



Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 04/09/2020
Return of Assessment: 11/09/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Wattle Quiz I

Wattle quiz (covering Weeks 1–6), Multiple choice

Practical quiz will formally assess content covered in practical classes in Weeks 1-6.

Value: 15%

Estimated return date: 2020-09-11

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 16/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 30/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

The Conversation article and creative piece

Article for The Conversation (1000 words) and accompanying creative piece (e.g. video, podcast, poster etc)

Value: 40%

Estimated return date: 2020-10-30

Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 23/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 30/10/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Wattle Quiz II

Wattle quiz (covering Weeks 7–11), Multiple choice

Practical quiz will formally assess content covered in practical classes in Weeks 7-11.

Value: 15%

Estimated return date: 2020-10-30

Assessment Task 4

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 30/10/2020
Return of Assessment: 06/11/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Graduate student oral presentation

Students are required to develop a Powerpoint presentation to be delivered during the practical class in Week 12. If this poses an issue for any reason, please see lecturers to discuss at the start of the semester.

The aim of this assignment is to help students develop the professional skill of clearly distilling complex scientific information into a format suitable for scientific conferences, graduate research milestones, stakeholder meetings, and public talks.

Graduate students will select a topic related to any topic covering during the course and develop and deliver a 7-8 minute oral presentation using Powerpoint software in Week 12. The talk must include:

  • Brief justification for the selection of the topic to provide context for a broad audience
  • Scientific explanation of the selected topic
  • Discussion of past, present and future aspects of the selected topic
  • Summary of the diverse impacts associated with the selected topic e.g. physical, economic, ecological and human
  • Identification of the key scientific and management challenges associated with the topic e.g. climate change adaptation, future climate risks etc

Student talks will be assessed based on:

  • Accuracy of scientific explanation of the topic
  • Discussion of past, present and future aspects of the selected topic
  • Quality and readability of slides
  • Appropriate use of technical graphs and other imagery to explain key concepts
  • Suitable speaking pace and clarity of delivery suitable for a professional scientific presentation

Oral presentations will be marked as the student delivers their talk, with feedback returned at the end of the practical class (or no later than 6 November 2020).

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

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

Assessments will be returned via Wattle and/or during workshop classes.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted 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

Resubmission of assignment tasks is not permitted.

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).

Dr Joelle Gergis

Research Interests

Climate variability and extremes, climate change, historical climatology, palaeoclimatology

Dr Joelle Gergis

By Appointment
Prof Nerilie Abram
+61 2 6125 4882

Research Interests

Prof Nerilie Abram

By Appointment
Sarah Jackson
+61 2 6125 4882

Research Interests

Sarah Jackson

By Appointment
Zak Baillie

Research Interests

Zak Baillie

By Appointment

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