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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:
Climate Change and Carbon Cycling

Unit code GEOG60182
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 Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Week 1
Key concepts: weather, climate and climate change
Using climate data

Week 2
Drivers of change: Past and Present
Skepticism and science communication

Week 3
Impact of climate change on carbon in: Atmosphere
Atmospheric practical

Week 4
Impact of climate change on carbon in: Oceans
Ocean chemistry practical
Briefing note due in (33%)

Week 5
Study week - self-directed work on project

Week 6
Impact of climate change on carbon in: Terrestrial biosphere and soils
Terrestrial carbon practical

Week 7
Interactions and feedbacks: increasing the complexity
Global carbon budgets

Week 8
Future climate scenarios
Catastrophic climate events

Week 9
Mitigation strategies
Carbon trading
Essay due in (67%)

Study week

Week 11
Adaption to climate change
Feedback surgery

Week 12
Revision class and mock exam
Remaining challenges in climate change


' To understand the concepts of weather, climate and climate change
- To provide a sound understanding of the role of key components of the climate system, and how climate has changed through time
- To introduce students to the use of advanced models in understanding environmental change
- To investigate the role of carbon in a range of climate change issues such as mitigation strategies

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should have gained:
- The ability to critically evaluate current hypotheses for modern climate change
- Have a critical understanding of the complexity of the carbon-climate system
- An appreciation for some of the advanced elements of carbon-climate system processes.
- A knowledge of the latest climate change information available at global, regional and local levels
- An understanding of policy aspects of climate change including mitigation and adaptation methods and reflect on their relative merits.

Skills and Employability:
During this unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills you have gained in the first three years of the programme:
- Advance skills in data collation, evaluation and synthesis from multiple sources
- Ability to communicate technical information to a range of audiences
- Use the internet critically as an information source
- Solve numerical problems
- Develop your presentation skills to a high level

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through a series of 2-hour flexible sessions and 1-hour practical sessions. Across all the teaching a range of methods will be used including lecture-style sessions with student interaction, seminars, practical sessions and discussion exercises. The sessions will be supported by online material, directed reading, and practical assignments.

Students are expected to read widely to support these classes and undertake the support activities indicated for each class. Learning will be supported via the course Blackboard site. There is a strong element of working with MS Excel as part of the practical sessions and for the coursework.

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed on the basis of:
- Mid-course formative revision quizzes
- An individual coursework project (33%) in the form of a Parliamentary style briefing note on the topic of UK CO2 emissions for submission in Week 8.
- A 3000 word essay (67%) from a selection of 3 essay titles

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:
- Verbal feedback through Q&A and activities during lecture sessions
- Verbal feedback on an course unit issue through consultation hours
- Detailed written feedback on coursework assignment

Recommended reading

Key Journals:
Nature; Science; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Nature Climate Change; Global Biogeochemical Cycles; Biogeochemistry; Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics; Climatic Change; Climate Research; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences; Geophysical Research Letters

The course also draws on the IPCC (2007) Working Group 1, 2 & 3 Reports (available at

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Additional notes

Climate change is often quoted as the major challenge facing the world's population in the 21st Century. Climate change has the potential to affect us all in a variety of ways and current projections suggest that by 2100 there is likely to be a global average surface warming of up to 4°C, depending on current and future carbon emissions. The cycling of carbon between the atmosphere, biosphere and oceans is a key concept in climate change and is a dynamic area of ongoing, and sometimes debated, research.

The coupling between climate change and carbon cycling is explored in this unit and will begin with an overview of the topic by introducing the concepts of weather, climate and climate change. It will then explore the mechanisms of climate change before assessing the role of climate change and carbon in various carbon stores. Finally, the module will conclude with an assessment of future climate change scenarios and role carbon plays. This unit will emphasise the value of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches to tackling the problems of climate change.

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