Geology

CSM3060 - Dynamic Climates of the Past (2019)

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MODULE TITLEDynamic Climates of the Past CREDIT VALUE15
MODULE CODECSM3060 MODULE CONVENERDr Kate Littler (Coordinator)
DURATION: TERM 1 2 3
DURATION: WEEKS 0 11 0
Number of Students Taking Module (anticipated) 15
DESCRIPTION - summary of the module content

This module will provide a broad introduction to Earth’s climate system, past and present, and will equip you with the tools used to study the geologic record for evidence of past environmental and climatic change. You will learn to interpret and critically evaluate the evidence for a varied range of important past changes in Earth’s climate over the last 66 million years, guided by current internationally important research. You will learn about the importance of oceans in the Earth system, and about how climate and the carbon-cycle interact on a variety of time and spatial scales. You will learn how the Earth’s climate has changed both very slowly over million-year timescales, and occasionally shifted very dramatically over much shorter hundred to thousand year timescales. You will examine the influence of external orbital forcing on the climate and carbon-cycle throughout the Cenozoic. You will learn about the impact of recent human activities on Earth’s climate and about the implications of anthropogenic activities for future climate.

AIMS - intentions of the module

- To provide an introduction to the workings of Earth’s modern climate system (ocean-atmosphere-biosphere-cryosphere) with a particular emphasis on the role of the carbon cycle in regulating climatic change;

- To equip you with knowledge of the tools used by geologists to reconstruct past changes in Earth’s climate;

- To explore important transitions in Earth’s climate over the past 66 million years on millennial, orbital (10 to 100 thousand year) and tectonic (million year) timescales, as recorded in marine, terrestrial, and ice core records;

- To explore how palaeoclimate research can inform our understanding of the evolution of future climate in response to human activity;

- In meeting aims 1 to 4, you will be exposed to current internationally important research, including areas actively being researched at the University of Exeter, and will explore topics of scientific controversy in these areas.

INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES (ILOs) (see assessment section below for how ILOs will be assessed)

On successful completion of this module, you should be able to:

Module Specific Skills and Knowledge:

1 Understand and explain how geologists reconstruct past changes in Earth’s climate using the concept of ‘climate proxies’ and relevant case studies from the scientific literature;

2 Quantify and evaluate the relationship between past changes in key aspects of Earth’s climate system (e.g., temperature, ocean circulation, continental ice-sheets, atmospheric carbon dioxide) during the past 66 million years, using a variety of published climate proxy records made available to you in this module;

3 Critically evaluate key published models developed to explain patterns of climate change on millennial, orbital and tectonic timescales over the past 66 million years, by reference to evidence from case studies from the research literature;

Discipline Specific Skills and Knowledge:

4 Appreciate how different aspects of the Earth-climate system interact with, and impact, one another;

5 Make scientific observations, recognise similarities between these and conceptual models and use these observations to determine or support geological interpretations;

Personal and Key Transferable / Employment Skills and Knowledge:

6 Collect and integrate several lines of evidence (including using numerical problem-solving skills) to formulate and test hypotheses;

7 Demonstrate independent (time management) study skills.

SYLLABUS PLAN - summary of the structure and academic content of the module

Key topics and themes to be covered include:

- What controls Earth’s modern climate at a global scale?;

- What is the importance of the oceans to global climate, past and present?;

- The endogenic and exogenic carbon cycle and the interaction with the Earth-climate system;

- What are ‘climate proxies’? Including sedimentological, palaeontological, and geochemical techniques as applied to marine, terrestrial and cryospheric archives;

- Exploring the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction and climatic upheaval. What killed the dinosaurs and why?;

- Exploring the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Where did all that carbon come from?;

- Exploring the transition from “Greenhouse” to “Icehouse” conditions during the Cenozoic. Why did the Antarctic ice sheet suddenly appear at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary?;

- Exploring the Middle Miocene Climatic Transition. What was the role of mass volcanism?;

- Exploring the mid Pliocene warm period and the Initiation of Northern Hemisphere glaciation. Why did the Northern Hemisphere (finally) glaciate on a large scale?;

- Exploring the origin and orbital pacemakers of Pliocene/Quaternary glaciation, and the history of the Greenland Ice Sheet. What happened during the mid Pleistocene transition?;

- Exploring the last deglaciation. What can this most recent warming event tell us about the sensitivity of ice sheets to rising CO2?;

- Exploring Holocene climate change. Why was the Sahara once green?;

- Modern and future climate change and the IPC. How can a robust understanding of palaeoclimate inform our understanding of future climate change?

LEARNING AND TEACHING
LEARNING ACTIVITIES AND TEACHING METHODS (given in hours of study time)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities 40.00 Guided Independent Study 110.00 Placement / Study Abroad 0.00
DETAILS OF LEARNING ACTIVITIES AND TEACHING METHODS
Category Hours of study time Description
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 14 Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 26 Practical Sessions
Guided Independent Study 110 Independent Study, guided by Reading List
     

 

ASSESSMENT
FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT - for feedback and development purposes; does not count towards module grade
Form of Assessment Size of Assessment (e.g. duration/length) ILOs Assessed Feedback Method
Practicals Provided for all practical sessions 1-6 Group Discussions, at end of sessions

 

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT (% of credit)
Coursework 0 Written Exams 60 Practical Exams 40
DETAILS OF SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT
Form of Assessment % of Credit Size of Assessment (e.g. duration/length) ILOs Assessed Feedback Method
Individual Presentation 30 15 minutes per student + 3 for questions (week 10) 1-7 Verbal feedback to whole group; individual feedback via attainment against proforma marking scheme
Online Quiz 10 30 minutes (week 2) 1-7 Verbal feedback to whole group; individual verbal feedback upon request
Theory Examination 60 1.5 hours 1-7 Feedback upon request

 

DETAILS OF RE-ASSESSMENT (where required by referral or deferral)
Original Form of Assessment Form of Re-assessment ILOs Re-assessed Time Scale for Re-assessment
Individual Presentation Essay 5 pages 1-7 August Ref/Def Period
Theory Examination Theory Examination 1.5 hr 1-7 August Ref/Def Period
Online Quiz 30 Minutes 1-7 During the year

 

RE-ASSESSMENT NOTES

Essay (30%), and/or Theory Exam (60%).

RESOURCES
INDICATIVE LEARNING RESOURCES - The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of
information that you are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Convener

Basic Reading:

ELE: http://vle.exeter.ac.uk/

Other Resources:

- IPCC 5th Assessment Report (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/)

- A selection of academic papers specific to each weekly topic.

Reading list for this module:

Type Author Title Edition Publisher Year ISBN Search
Set Bender, M.L. Paleoclimate Princeton University 2013 978-0691145549 [Library]
Set Cronin, T.M. Paleoclimates: Understanding Climate Change Past and Present Columbia University Press, USA 2009 978-0231144940 [Library]
CREDIT VALUE 15 ECTS VALUE 7.5
PRE-REQUISITE MODULES CSM2183
CO-REQUISITE MODULES
NQF LEVEL (FHEQ) 6 AVAILABLE AS DISTANCE LEARNING No
ORIGIN DATE Thursday 06 July 2017 LAST REVISION DATE Friday 17 January 2020
KEY WORDS SEARCH Climate; Climate Change; Palaeoclimate; Carbon Cycle; Oceans; Marine; Sediments; Geochemistry; Palaeontology