Skip to main content

Unit information: The Earth System in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name The Earth System
Unit code GEOG20003
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Dan Lunt
Open unit status Not open

All units in Single Honours Geography Year 1



School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit is concerned with understanding the components of the large-scale climate system: atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere, and the feedbacks and interactions between the systems. Through a series of lectures and practicals, the students will investigate the processes that influence the structure of each sphere of the climate system, and how they interact. The course will also provide an introduction to how and why we use climate models to inform our understanding of the climate system.

Aims: To introduce students to study of the mechanisms of natural climate and environmental variability, through an 'Earth System Science' approach, which stresses the complex interactions between the oceans atmosphere, ice sheets; biosphere, and how and why scientists model the climate system

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. outline the major inter-connectivity and feedbacks between the major components of the global Earth System as they relate to global climate change
  2. develop a critical understanding of methods used to model the climate system

Teaching details

Twelve 1 hour lectures; Fourteen hours of practicals; Two 1 hour tutorials; Mock exam and feedback sessions (2 hours); Revision Q&A session (1 hour).

Assessment Details

Practical assessment: design a climate model (50% of total).

Unseen 2-hour examination at the end of the unit (50% of total)

Both assessments test all of the ILOs.

Reading and References

Essential reading:

  1. McGuffie K. and Henderson-Sellers A. (2005). A Climate Modelling Primer. 3rd Ed. Wiley.
  2. Kump L.R., Kasting J.F., Crane R.G. (2013). The Earth system: an introduction to Earth systems science. 2nd Ed.Prentice Hall.
  3. Ruddiman W.F (2013). Earth’s climate : past and future. W.H. Freeman and Company (3rd edition).