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Study information

Atmospheric and Oceanic Systems, Their Interactions and Importance

Module titleAtmospheric and Oceanic Systems, Their Interactions and Importance
Module codeGEO1420
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jamie Shutler (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

How are atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns formed, how are these systems interlinked and how do they interact, what drives the weather systems, why is carbon important, and how do we know what our climate and weather was like in the past and what it may look like in the future? This module takes the first steps in answering all of these questions by giving you a solid understanding of the Earth's two major dynamic systems; the oceans and atmosphere. Weekly lectures are supported by seminar sessions where we discuss relevant case studies and group tasks to support the weekly lecture content. Two practical classes involve using interactive iPython/Jupyter notebooks to study the water carbonate system and  atmosphere-ocean gas exchange in the North Atlantic and the Fal river. The module teaching includes the use of videos by invited speakers, Technology, Education and Design (TED) talks, journal papers, music, additional online resources, and examples of recent research advances made by staff  at the Exeter Penryn and Streatham campuses.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module examines the physical processes operating in Earth’s linked atmospheric and oceanic systems. It provides you with an introduction to the circulation of the oceans and atmosphere and how they interact, and to the cyclical behaviour of ocean-atmosphere systems on different temporal and spatial scales. Past changes in ocean-atmosphere circulation and environments are also examined. The module addresses some of the causes and effects of present-day (anthropogenic) climate changes and their impacts on the ocean-atmosphere system, and provides a valuable background in both knowledge and skills for a wide range of possible employment types.

All of the content within this module is guided by the aims of Research, Enquiry and Applications Led Learning (REAL). For example, the invited speakers will present and discuss their latest research, all case studies used within the course focus on recent journal publications, examples from current university of Exeter research activities (e.g. from the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science) will be used to demonstrate different theories and methods, and information from relevant international workshops, activities and/or news will be given and discussed. Examples from the module leader’s own research group will be used to highlight recent developments.

Through attending the weekly lectures and seminars and by completing the assessments, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills to improve your employability for your future career:

  • Problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems)
  • Managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities)
  • Time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • Collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose)
  • Audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions) and effective open discussion

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Review, with direction, the physical processes operating in the linked ocean-atmosphere system on different spatial and temporal scales
  • 2. Discuss the reasons why relationships between these physical processes change over time and space, and what implications they have in terms of global- to regional-scale climate
  • 3. Understand the processes involved in present-day climate changes, including those associated with human activity, and the implications that these have for future climates
  • 4. Describe the inter-linkages between the operation of different physical processes associated with global climate on different time and space scales
  • 5. Describe the role of human activity in changing the operation of the climate system

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the geography
  • 7. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within geography
  • 9. Describe approaches used to further our understanding of geography with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will be based on (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • Introduction to thermodynamics
  • Global radiation balance
  • Atmospheric structure, movement and circulation
  • Oceanic structure, and surface and circulation
  • The importance of the atmospheric and oceanic carbon cycles
  • Introduction to atmosphere-ocean interactions
  • Observing the oceans from space and in situ
  • Observing the atmosphere from space and in situ
  • Past oceanic and atmospheric climate
  • Introduction to climate, Earth system models and prediction

All of the above linked the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.

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 teaching44Lectures focussing on the presentation and understanding of key concepts, supported by case studies drawn from real-world situations and supported by selected readings. Weekly discussion seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching4Practical classes – using interactive iPython Jupyter notebooks
Guided independent study102Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and seminar sessions Ongoing throughout the module1-14Oral or written
Student led seminar discussions10 sessions1-14Oral

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
Written report (practical write up and investigation)1001500 words1-12Written and oral

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written report (practical write up and investigation) (100%)Written report (100%)1-12August assessment period

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 (ie a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Books that are used to support this module (in conjunction with journal papers) are:

  • Essentials of atmospheric and Oceanic dynamics by Geoffrey K. Vallis
  • Atmosphere, weather, and climate by Roger G. Barry; Richard J. Chorley
  • The global carbon cycle, by David Archer

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Climate Change, Atmosphere, Ocean, Circulation and Movement, IPCC, Earth System.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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