ENV-MA51 - Climate Change: Physical Science Basis

Course materials | Description | Convenor | Coursework | Schedule | Learning Objectives / Course Content | Recommended texts

The information provided here is still being updated for 2015-2016.
Check back at the start of the semester for the final schedule.

Course Materials

Items such as lecture slides, lecture notes and copies of published scientific papers that some lecturers may make available are placed on the UEA Blackboard website for access restricted to current students only. The UEA Blackboard website is accessible through the UEA Portal using your UEA username and password. If you are enrolled on this module, you will automatically have access to it under the "Blackboard Learn" button on the Portal.

You are expected to regularly check this webpage and your UEA email for information, including notification of changes in room location, lecture times, etc.


Climate change and variability have played major roles in shaping human history and the prospect of a warming world as a result of human activities (global warming) presents society with an increasing challenge over the coming decades.

This module covers the science of climate change and our current understanding of natural and anthropogenic effects on climate. It provides details about the approaches, methods and techniques for understanding the history of climate change and for developing climate projections for the next 100 years, supporting further study of the scientific or policy aspects of the subject in either an academic or applied context.

The module consists mostly of lectures, together with some seminars presented by staff and students. Practical classes will introduce the use of computer-based models of the climate system.

There are no formal pre-requisites for this module, though students are expected to have the general mathematical and scientific backgrounds needed for university-level study.

This 20-credit module takes place during all twelve weeks of Semester I.

Module Organiser

Tim Osborn


There are two pieces of coursework. There is no exam for this module.

Feedback will be given for the class debate for CW#1 (the debate is formative coursework) and the written submission for CW#1 will be graded (summative assessment), accounting for 50% of the module assessment. CW#2 will also be graded (summative assessment), accounting for the remaining 50% of the module assessment.

The marking criteria for all coursework assignments are the ENV marking criteria for essay-type answers. These are available in the overall ENV Marking Guidelines. Note that these are not the same as the UEA marking criteria.

Further details of the coursework will available as the work is set, so you must attend those classes when it is set, or contact the person setting it (see schedule below) if you are unable to attend those classes.

All coursework, including formative coursework, is compulsory. Additional small items of formative coursework, consisting of short answer questions about the content of some lectures or reading, may be set via Blackboard.

Schedule for 2015

(subject to change; last updated 21 September 2015)

This module is in timetable slots CL and DL throughout Semester I (Autumn), Weeks 1-12.

A small amount of preparatory reading will be set each week and should be read prior to the lectures for that week. This reading material will be given to you electronically via the UEA Portal/Blackboard.

Week Date Time Room Topic Lecturer
1 Tue Sep 22 9-11 TEC 1.06 Introduction to the module & the climate system TO
Wed Sep 23 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Natural causes of climate change TO
2 Tue Sep 29 9-11 TEC 1.06 Anthropogenic causes of climate change TO
Wed Sep 30 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Setting & discussion of Coursework 1 TO
3 Tue Oct 6 9-11 TEC 1.06 The instrumental climate record #1 PJ
Wed Oct 7 9-11 ARTS 2.02 The instrumental climate record #2 PJ
4 Tue Oct 13 9-11 TEC 1.06 Palaeoclimate reconstructions #1 PJ
Wed Oct 14 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Palaeoclimate reconstructions #2 PJ
5 Tue Oct 20 9-11 TEC 1.06 The oceans in the climate system & future changes to the thermohaline circulation TO
Wed Oct 21 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Applied presentation:Climate change and weather extremes: entering an age of disaster or an age of resilience?
Also: Setting of Coursework 2
Fri Oct 23 1-2 CRU library Lunch time discussion (MSc Climate Change students only) with MSc Climate Change course leaders PJ, TO
6 Tue Oct 27 9-11 TEC 1.06 Seminars: Presentation & discussion of Coursework 1
(statements 1 & 2)
Wed Oct 28 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Seminars: Presentation & discussion of Coursework 1
(statements 4 & 5)
7 Mon Nov 2 Coursework 1 to be submitted electronically
Tue Nov 3 9-11 TEC 1.06 Climate modelling #1 MJ
Wed Nov 4 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Climate modelling #2 MJ
8 Tue Nov 10 9-11 TEC 1.06 Detection & attribution of climate change MJ
Wed Nov 11 9-11 ITCS 01.26 Practical class: Climate modelling and detection/attribution MJ, TO
9 Tue Nov 17 9-11 TEC 1.06 ENSO, NAO and modes of climate variability MJ
Wed Nov 18 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Research presentation: Past & future changes in weather/climate extremes CG
10 Tue Nov 24 9-11 TEC 1.06 Constructing policy-relevant projections of climate change #1 TO
Wed Nov 25 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Constructing policy-relevant projections of climate change #2 TO
11 Tue Dec 1 9-11 ARTS 1.01 Practical class: Kaya Identity and climate scenarios MJ, TO
Wed Dec 2 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Development of UK climate scenarios PJ
12 Tue Dec 8 9-11 TEC 1.06 The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: the assessment process and latest findings TO
Wed Dec 9 9-11 ARTS 2.02 Applied presentation: Applications of climate scenarios: the water industry GD
13 Mon Dec 14 Coursework 2 to be submitted electronically (note this is the first Monday of the Christmas vacation)

Rooms Lecturers
  • ARTS = Arts Building
  • ITCS = IT & Computer Services Building
  • TEC = The Enterprise Centre
  • TO: Tim Osborn
  • PJ: Phil Jones
  • MJ: Manoj Joshi
  • CG: Clare Goodess (Guest lecturer from CRU)
  • GD: Geoff Darch (Guest lecturer from Atkins consultancy)
  • DV: David Viner (Guest lecturer from Mott MacDonald consultancy)

Learning Objectives and Course Content

After completing this module, ENV-MA51 students should be able to:

Starting with an introduction to the changing climate, techniques and approaches, and the main themes in current climate research, the module is structured around three topics:

Recommended texts

There is no single book that covers all aspects of the module and you will be directed to specific sources for further reading by lecturers for each major topic. Most recommended reading is available in the Climatic Research Unit library, the main UEA library or online. Guidance will also be given by the module convenor at the start of the module. In addition, a small amount of preparatory reading will be set (and provided to you electronically) each week and should be read prior to the lectures for that week.

The Open University / Warr (2006) book listed below is an excellent introduction to almost all of the topics covered in this module, though you will undoubtedly want to go beyond the level of this book (which was developed primarily for early-year undergraduates rather than final-year undergraduates or MSc students) in certain topics that particularly interest you. For reading and learning at a higher level, with more quantitative detail, you should refer to the reading given by individual lecturers and to either the Dessler (2012) or Harvey (2000) books listed below.

Many lectures will also use material from reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), particularly the Working Group I contributions to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4, 2007) and the newly released Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013). Copies of AR4 and AR5 are available for reference in the Climatic Research Unit library, the main UEA library, and can be freely downloaded from http://www.ipcc.ch.

Other good text books include: