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Arctic Climate Change

Module titleArctic Climate Change
Module codeGEO3456
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Jo Browse (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

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 ‘polar 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, and terrestrial systems controlling the unique Arctic environment and the connection between polar and global climate. Lectures will be supported by practical classes using simple models to understand the processes controlling the Arctic climate and explore some of the challenges of predicting the evolving Arctic environment over the next century.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your understanding of the Arctic climate system through lectures and practical classes which will:

  • Provide an introduction to Arctic atmospheric, ocean 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 including feedback mechanisms
  • Explore the role of the Arctic environment in controlling the global climate
  • Examine the consequences of present-day anthropogenic climate change on the Arctic

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 interest 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 explore topical research areas of global relevance related to Arctic science, some of which are being carried out in the department. We will explore cutting-edge research, for example by investigating the mechanisms controlling Arctic sea-ice and the complex coupling of the Arctic cryosphere to the ocean, atmosphere and biosphere. 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 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 climate system
  • 5. Review, with direction, the dual impact of anthropogenic climate change on the Arctic, and Arctic environmental change on the global climate 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
  • 7. Identify and implement with limited guidance appropriate methodologies to answer complex questions in geography
  • 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
  • 10. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of geography 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

Syllabus plan

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

  • The history of Arctic climate and observation
  • The Arctic radiation balance
  • Sea-ice dynamics
  • Arctic meteorology
  • Arctic atmospheric composition
  • Arctic biogeochemical cycles
  • Polar climate feedbacks
  • Global climate linkages
  • Introduction to polar climate modelling
  • Future of the Arctic and the implications of sea-ice retreat

Learning and teaching

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 Teaching10Lectures 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 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 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
Examination602 hours1-2, 4-15Written
Written report401800 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
ExaminationExamination1-2, 4-15August assessment period
Written reportWritten report1, 3, 5-15August assessment 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

Module has an active ELE page

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