• Offered by Research School of Earth Sciences
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Earth and Marine Science
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Climate
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Paul Tregoning
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2024
    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. 

Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but will be assessed separately.


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;
  5. Communicate efficiently to a general and expert audience about the science of sea level change; and
  6. Evaluate gravimetric datasets systematically and interpret results in the context of trends related to regional and global climate change.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Computer programming assignments (4) (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Written critique of a scientific paper (10) [LO 5]
  3. Oral critique of a journal paper (10) [LO 5]
  4. Final exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  5. Additional/different tasks will be included in graduate assignments and examinations, thus distinguishing the undergraduate and graduate assessment. (null) [LO null]

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.


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.

Current statement: A maximum of 39 hours of lectures and 26 hours of laboratory classes including tutorials

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have completed EMSC3032

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading


Assumed Knowledge

Bachelor degree, including mathematics and/or physics.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2024 $4440
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6360
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.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
2821 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View

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