Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module GEOL4197: Earth System and Climate I - IV

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL4197: Earth System and Climate I - IV

Type Open Level 4 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • GEOL3231 Earth System and Climate


  • To enhance understanding of the interconnectivity between different components of the Earth System and their relevance to climate, with a focus on modern and Pleistocene climate change and its causes.


  • Cycles of climate change: evidence and explanations.
  • Understanding present and past climates: moving heat around, forcing functions and feedback, the evidence.
  • Atmospheric circulation and hurricanes.
  • Understanding the cryosphere - how ice sheets work.
  • Milankovitch/Croll pacemaker.
  • Evidence for rapid climate change.
  • Climate change on geological timescales.
  • Radiometric dating of last glacial materials.
  • Human/climate interactions.
  • Climate archives and proxies.
  • The rock record and ancient glaciations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To describe with reference to boundary and threshold conditions the processes governing present and past climates.
  • To describe how cryosphere and carbon dynamics influence global climate.
  • To critically evaluate the geological proxies for climate change.
  • To critically evaluate current hypotheses for rapid climate change.
  • To critically evaluate the value of solid Earth and general circulation models in climate simulation, hypothesis generation and testing.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding in geological principles, terms, definitions and classifications.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding in the Earth systems science.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to synthesise information/data from a variety of sources.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to analyse, evaluate/interpret geological data.
Key Skills:
  • Evaluate performance.
  • Receive, respond to and critically evaluate a variety of information and data sources.
  • Communicate effectively in written and graphical form.
  • Scientific writing.
  • Prepare, process and interpret data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques.
  • Use the internet critically in communication and an information source.
  • Identify individual and collective goals.
  • Recognise and respect the views of other team members.
  • Time series analysis.
  • Acquire skills necessary for self-managed lifelong learning including independent research, critical analysis, and time management.
  • Identify and work towards targets for personal and academic development

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is delivered through a series of flexible 2-hour class meetings which will be supported by asynchronous lectures, discussions, and practical exercises, supported by, directed reading and web and computer-based assignments.
  • The discussions and exercises form an important component of the module encouraging learning and experience of tackling and solving problems individually in class, on-line and in groups.
  • Guidance on preparation, key skills and essay skills is provided.
  • Two timetabled meetings during term designed specifically to promote advanced critical reasoning, scientific research, and scientific writing skills, and writing skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Asynchronous Lectures 10 Weekly 1 Hour 10
Practicals 10 Weekly 2 Hours 20
Advanced skills practical sessions 2 Twice per term 2 Hours 4
Reading and study of class hand-outs, preparation for and execution of formative and summative assessments, background reading both directed and independent. 66
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 40%
Report 60%

Formative Assessment:

Formative exercises will be conducted and feedback delivered as part of in-person sessions.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University