- Code EMSC6027
- Unit Value 6 units
- 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
This course includes an on campus activity. Check timetable for details. Contact course convener if you are unable to travel to Canberra.
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.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Explain how the components of Earth’s climate system and carbon cycle have evolved through time.
- Describe in depth the positive and negative feedbacks in the Earth’s land-ocean-atmosphere system that control climate change on various timescales.
- Quantitatively analyse past climate change using elemental and isotopic tracers, palaeoclimate archives, and state-of-the-art geochronology.
- Critically evaluate the likely causes of future climate change and assess potential impacts on feedback mechanisms.
- Inform peers on how understanding past climate systems is important to the current debates about climate change.
- - 3 exams - 25% each (75%) LO 1-4 (75) [LO 1,2,3,4]
- - 3 assignments - 5% each (15%) LO 1-4 (15) [LO 1,2,3,4]
- - 1 class presentation - 10% LO 5 (10) [LO 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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A maximum of 39 hours of lectures/tutorials and 26 hours of practicals.
Not yet determined
Requisite and Incompatibility
Recommended but not essential:
W.F. Ruddiman, Earth’s Climate: Past and Future (2008), Freeman and Company, New York.
Rohling, E.J., The oceans: a deep history. Princeton University Press, 272 pp., 2017.
Rohling, E.J., The climate question: natural cycles, human impact, future outlook. Oxford University Press, 162 pp., 2019.
Bachelor degree including Chemistry and Earth Science/Geology content.
Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.
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- Student Contribution Band:
- Unit value:
- 6 units
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