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Study information

Climate Change and its Impacts

Module titleClimate Change and its Impacts
Module codeGEO3225
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Stephen Sitch (Convenor)

Professor Lina Mercado (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is designed to give you an overview of climate change research. The module comprises a combination of lectures, supplemented by practical exercises (computer, data analysis, experimental lab), guest lecture(s), written exercises, all to develop a range of skills in order to augment learning, and to give you an exciting first-hand experience at running models used in climate change research. Although this module will require you to have good analytical and numerical skills (mathematics and statistics), it is designed to be suitable for both specialist and non-specialist students.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Climate change is likely to have a profound effect on human societies around the world. Over the past decades much effort has concentrated on the physical science behind climate change. With the general acceptance of anthropogenic climate change, emphasis has recently shifted towards climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. In this module we first review the physical science basis of climate change, including a review of evidence for anthropogenic climate change, and discuss future climate change predictions. We will then focus on the impacts of climate change from both sectoral (water, ecosystems, food, coast, health, singular events) and regional perspectives. We will briefly summarise some climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. We will use examples from staff research on climate, aerosol and air quality impacts on vegetation and carbon cycling.

Module aims are to:

  • provide an introduction to the physical science basis of climate change
  • discuss how a changing climate translates into impacts
  • highlight most vulnerable regions and sectors to climate change
  • appreciate uncertainties in climate change science
  • use the above knowledge to discuss climate change adaptation and mitigation options.

The module involves class debates that seek to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • interpersonal skills through small group discussions and formalised debates in small teams carried out over multiple weeks of preparation
  • confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence and in generating and delivering verbal presentations
  • team management in the assessed debate topics.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Explain the physical basis of climate change, and climate change impacts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 2. Access, analyse, synthesise and summarise information from a range of sources
  • 3. Interpret, process and present data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and tools

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Communicate ideas and information, effectively and fluently
  • 5. Undertake independent and group learning

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction to climate and atmospheric processes
  • Analysis of atmospheric composition, and linkage with climate (analytical/statistical skills)
  • Historical climate change
  • Future climate changes
  • Application of models (e.g. a General Climate Model), analysis of model output in the context of climate change impacts
  • Lectures on the impacts of climate change: sectoral (ecosystems, food, oceans) and regional
  • Debates on climate change and climate impacts issues
  • Visit to Met Office

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Debates
Scheduled Learning and Teaching9Computer practicals
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Demonstration (ocean circulation)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Climate change quiz
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Met Office field trip
Guided Independent Study52Reading linked to supplement lectures
Guided Independent Study40Reading and preparation for debates and essay writing
Guided Independent Study28Carry out analysis of model output and background reading on models and modelling

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Climate change quiz, CO2 and climate model practicals1 hour quiz AllOral and written feedback/answers placed on ELE
Scientific debates (group)2 hoursAllOral and written feedback/answers placed on ELE

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination602 hoursAll Written
Essay402,000 wordsAll Written and oral

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAll August Ref/Def
EssayEssayAll August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S et al (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. (available online)
  • IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry et al., Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 976pp. (available online)
  • Global Warming, the complete briefing, 4th Ed, J. Houghton, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 438pp.
  • The Climate Crisis, An Introductory Guide to Climate Change, D. Archer, S. Rahmstorf, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, 249pp.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

A list of research articles will be distributed via Web-CT during the course from leading academic journals including Nature and Science

Key words search

Climate change, climate impacts, climate models, global warming

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date