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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student of environmental monitoring and modelling at The University of Manchester
MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction
Develop your environmental fieldwork skills, data handling and analysis at master's level.

MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Global Environmental Change

Unit code EART60492
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module discusses the records and mechanisms of climate change on a global scale, at timescales ranging from the Precambrian Snowball Earth, through late Cenozoic cooling and the onset of the Ice Ages, to evidence for current global warming.


To become familiar with:

  • the complexity of the global environmental system
  • the geological records of climate change
  • the magnitudes and timescales of climate change, and
  • the natural and anthropogenic processes that can cause this change.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to discuss the main components of the global environmental system and their sensitivities to different feedback or forcing mechanisms;
  • Have developed numerical skills to critically assess the veracity of different geological records of global system change;
  • Have developed a quantitative understanding of the relative importance of natural and anthropogenic control on global change.


10 3-hour sessions combining lectures, practical work and seminar-style paper discussions

Week 1:

Introduction: The global environmental system and its records

Week 2:

How climate works I: Atmospheric circulation, temperature and precipitation

Week 3:

How climate works II: Ice sheets, sea level history and seawater chemistry

Week 4:

How climate works II: Tectonics, orbital forcing and other feedback mechanisms

Week 5:

Dating geological material

Week 6:

Ice Core Records

Week 7:

Marine Sediments and Corals, Non-marine Records

Week 8:

Palaeoclimate models

Week 9:

Natural hazards, natural environmental change and human evolution

Week 10:

Anthropogenic change and global warming – fact or fiction?

Assessment methods

Assessment: Project report (25%), Debate (25%), 1.5 hour exam (50%)


Feedback on the project report will be given during lecture 9 and on the debate via Blackboard.

Answers will be provided for practical exercises, and practicals and seminars will allow for discussion with the lecturers.

Recommended reading

Bradley 1999, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing climates of the Quaternary, Academic Press

Williams et al. 1993, Quaternary Environments, Edward Arnold

Alley 2000, The two-mile time machine: Ice cores, abrupt climate change and our future, Princeton University Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

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