651-4057-00L  Climate History and Palaeoclimatology

SemesterAutumn Semester 2019
LecturersH. Stoll, I. Hernández Almeida, L. M. Mejía Ramírez
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


651-4057-00 GClimate History and Palaeoclimatology2 hrs
Fri10:15-12:00HG G 26.1 »
H. Stoll, I. Hernández Almeida, L. M. Mejía Ramírez

Catalogue data

AbstractClimate history and paleoclimatology explores how the major features of the earth's climate system have varied in the past, and the driving forces and feedbacks for these changes. The major topics include the earth's CO2 concentration and mean temperature, the size and stability of ice sheets and sea level, the amount and distribution of precipitation, and the ocean heat transport.
ObjectiveThe student will be able to describe the factors that regulate the earth's mean temperature and the distribution of different climates over the earth. Students will be able to use and understand the construction of simple quantitative models of the Earth's carbon cycle and temperature in Excel, to solve problems from the long term balancing of sinks and sources of carbon, to the Anthropogenic carbon cycle changes of the Anthropocene. Students will be able to interpret evidence of past climate changes from the main climate indicators or proxies recovered in geological records. Students will be able to use data from climate proxies to test if a given hypothesized mechanism for the climate change is supported or refuted. Students will be able to compare the magnitudes and rates of past changes in the carbon cycle, ice sheets, hydrological cycle, and ocean circulation, with predictions for climate changes over the next century to millennia.
Content1. Overview of elements of the climate system and earth energy balance
2. The Carbon cycle - long and short term regulation and feedbacks of atmospheric CO2. What regulates atmospheric CO2 over long tectonic timescales of millions to tens of millions of years? What are the drivers and feedbacks of transient perturbations like at the latest Palocene? What drives CO2 variations over glacial cycles and what drives it in the Anthropocene?
3. Ice sheets and sea level - What do expansionist glaciers want? What is the natural range of variation in the earth's ice sheets and the consequent effect on sea level? How do cyclic variations in the earth's orbit affect the size of ice sheets under modern climate and under past warmer climates? What conditions the mean size and stability or fragility of the large polar ice caps and is their evidence that they have dynamic behavior? What rates and magnitudes of sea level change have accompanied past ice sheet variations? When is the most recent time of sea level higher than modern, and by how much? What lessons do these have for the future?
4. Atmospheric circulation and variations in the earth's hydrological cycle - How variable are the earth's precipitation regimes? How large are the orbital scale variations in global monsoon systems? Will mean climate change El Nino frequency and intensity? What factors drive change in mid and high-latitude precipitation systems? Is there evidence that changes in water availability have played a role in the rise, demise, or dispersion of past civilizations?
5. The Ocean heat transport - How stable or fragile is the ocean heat conveyor, past and present? When did modern deepwater circulation develop? Will Greenland melting and shifts in precipitation bands, cause the North Atlantic Overturning Circulation to collapse? When and why has this happened before?

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersH. Stoll, I. Hernández Almeida, L. M. Mejía Ramírez
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationThe semester assessment will be based on team and individual assignments. These include a laboratory project producing original paleoclimate data from study of a stalagmite and presentation of results (team project), participation in and summary of a debate on a recent paleoclimate publication (team project), summaries of several problems solved in-class (team effort), and finally two individual exercises of paleoclimate data interpretation and synthesis completed during class time.

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Offered in

Atmospheric and Climate Science MasterClimate Processes and FeedbacksWInformation
Atmospheric and Climate Science MasterClimate History and PaleoclimatologyWInformation
Earth Sciences MasterPalaeoclimatology: Compulsory CoursesW+Information
Earth Sciences MasterGeochemistry: Courses of ChoiceWInformation
Earth Sciences MasterBiogeochemistry: Courses of ChoiceWInformation
Science, Technology, and Policy MasterRessources and EnvironmentWInformation
Environmental Sciences MasterClimate Processes and FeedbacksWInformation
Environmental Sciences MasterClimate History and PaleoclimatologyWInformation