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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2022-2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Earth Sciences


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • GEOL4101 Geological Evolution and Petroleum Systems of The British Isles IV, GEOL4111 Environmental Geochemistry IV, GEOL4121 Deformation Processes in the Lithosphere, GEOL4161 Earth Structure and Dynamics IV, GEOL4131 Hazardous Geophysical Flows IV, GEOL3231 Earth System and Climate.


  • To enhance an advanced understanding of the interconnectivity between different components of the Earth System and their relevance to climate.


  • Cycles of climate change: evidence, explanations, and critical analysis.
  • Understanding present and past climates: moving heat around, forcing functions and feedback, the evidence.
  • Understanding the cryosphere - how ice sheets work.
  • Critiquing the Milankovitch pacemaker of climate.
  • Advanced analysis of the evidence for rapid climate change.
  • Climate change on geological timescales.
  • The rock record and ancient glaciations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To describe with reference to boundary and threshold conditions the detailed processes governing present and past climates.
  • To describe the details of how cryosphere and carbon dynamics influence global climate.
  • To critically interpret geological proxies in terms of 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 advanced subject knowledge and understanding in geological principles, terms, definitions and classifications.
  • Will have acquired high-level subject knowledge and understanding in the Earth systems science.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will have acquired advanced intellectual and practical skills to efficiently and accurately synthesise information/data from a variety of sources.
  • Will have acquired high-level intellectual and practical skills to analyse, evaluate/interpret geological data.
Key Skills:
  • Evaluate performance.
  • Communicate effectively in written and graphical form.
  • Advanced scientific and critical 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.
  • Receive and respond to a variety of information sources.
  • Consider received information critically, even that received from a perceived reliable source.
  • Analyse conventionally accepted information based on independent thought.
  • Communicate effectively to a variety of audiences in written and verbal forms.
  • Put together a short but effective written review of an Earth System & Climate topic of the students choosing.
  • Use internet and library resources effectively.
  • 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 3-hour class meetings which will include lecture, discussion and practical exercises, supported by handouts, 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 DUO and in groups.
  • Guidance on preparation, key and exam skills are provided.
  • Two timetabled meetings during Michaelmas and Epiphany terms (four total) 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
Lecturers 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Practicals 20 Weekly 2 hours 40
Advanced skills practical sessions 4 Twice per term 2 hours 8
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Continual Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Continual assessment 1 30%
Continual assessment 2 30%
2000-word essay 40%

Formative Assessment:

Tutorial. DUO quizzes. Formative writing assignments.

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

If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please contact the appropriate department.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpage. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Faculty Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.