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Study information

Arctic Frontiers: Can We Preserve the Arctic Environment?

Module titleArctic Frontiers: Can We Preserve the Arctic Environment?
Module codeGEO3461
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jo Browse (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The Arctic is currently experiencing environmental change at an unprecedented rate with models projecting rapid temperature increases over the next century (known as ‘Arctic amplification’). Is Arctic climate change a symptom of rising global temperatures or a trigger? Is it too late to reverse sea-ice retreat? In this module, you will study the interlinked atmospheric, ocean, terrestrial and political systems controlling the unique Arctic environment and the connection between Arctic and global climate and weather. Additionally, you will explore the challenges of predicting and preserving the evolving Arctic environment over the next century.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your understanding of the evolving Arctic environment through seminars and practical classes which will: 

  • Provide an introduction to the strongly coupled Arctic atmospheric, ocean, cryospheric and terrestrial systems and how they interact on different spatial and temporal scales
  • Discuss the historical Arctic environment and examine the evidence of unprecedented environmental change
  • Introduce core modelling concepts for complex environments
  • Explore the role of the Arctic in the global climate (and weather) system
  • Examine the consequences of present-day anthropogenic climate change on the Arctic and the World
  • Explore how the evolving Arctic environment will impact significant stakeholders in the region
  • Introduce different approaches to governance in the Arctic region

Through the seminars and assessments, you will develop skills relevant to future employment. You will be encouraged to use the coursework to develop your own interests in an area of Arctic science, consider real-world observations, and apply theory to practical situations, which will develop your skills in problem-solving and linking theory to practice. You will develop your ability to prioritise tasks, manage your time effectively and articulate your ideas.

The module content is updated every year to include cutting-edge research in Arctic science, some of which is being carried out in the department. You will learn about the tools required to study such problems, and explore how such processes are measured in the field.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Discuss the physical inter-linked processes controlling the Arctic environment
  • 2. Review and evaluate the evidence of accelerated climate and environmental change in the Arctic
  • 3. Design and run experiments with simple models to address questions relating to the interaction of the Arctic ocean and atmosphere
  • 4. Describe and evaluate the link between the Arctic environment and the global earth system
  • 5. Review, with direction, the coupled impact of anthropogenic climate change on the Arctic, and Arctic environmental change on the global earth system

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Describe in detail essential facts and analyse theories relating to a sub-discipline of Geography and the natural sciences
  • 7. Identify and implement with limited guidance appropriate methodologies to answer complex questions in geography and the natural sciences
  • 8. Identify key questions arising from the literature and incorporate research-informed examples into written work
  • 9. Deploy with limited guidance established techniques of analysis and practical investigation within geography and the natural sciences
  • 10. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of geography and the natural sciences with appropriate reference to the research literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 11. Communicate complex ideas articulately using multiple formats at an appropriate level for the intended audience
  • 12. Complete research tasks, collecting and interpreting data with limited guidance
  • 13. Develop with some guidance informed, logical arguments with valid conclusions to answer key questions
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to practical skills to produce efficient work plans
  • 15. Reflect on the learning experience and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

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

  • The history of Arctic observation
  • Fundamental components of the  Arctic energy balance
  • Sea-ice formation and melt in the Arctic ocean
  • Dynamics of the Greenland ice-sheet
  • Arctic meteorology and global linkages
  • Arctic atmospheric composition and air quality
  • Polar climate feedbacks
  • Past polar climates
  • The fundamentals of Arctic climate modelling
  • Future of the Arctic and the implications of sea-ice retreat

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 teaching10Seminars focused on the presentation and understanding of key concepts, supported by selected readings and real-world case studies
Scheduled learning and teaching10Practical classes using simple models and observations to examine key concepts (including polar climate feedbacks) discussed in lectures
Guided independent study130Additional research, reading and technical preparation for practical classes and module assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lecturesOngoing through moduleAllOral
Completion and review of practical modelling experiments and observational analysis Throughout practical sessionsAllOral

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 502000 words1-2, 4-15Written
Written report 502000 words1, 3, 5-15Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Writtten report 1Written report1-2, 4-15Referral/Deferral period
Writtten report 2Written report1, 3, 5-15Referral/Deferral 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for 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

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources


Key words search

Climate Change, Arctic, Climate Models, Atmosphere, Ocean, Sea-Ice, Polar.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date