ENV-MA51 - Climate Change: Physical Science Basis

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

The information provided here is being updated for 2013-2014.
Check back at the start of term for final schedule.

ENV-MA51 is co-taught with ENV-3A51. Most of the information provided here applies to both modules, though there are some differences in the coursework section.

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 "Academic" tab of 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 has played a major role 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 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. It is co-taught with ENV-3A51, which can only be taken by 3rd-year students of the Integrated Masters in Climate Science.

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.

For ENV-MA51, both pieces of coursework will be graded, each accounting for 50% of the module assessment.

For ENV-3A51, the first piece of coursework (CW#1) will not be graded but feedback will be provided. The second piece of coursework (CW#2) will be graded, accounting for 100% of the module assessment.

The marking criteria for both pieces of coursework 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.

Schedule for 2013

(subject to change; last updated 18 September 2013)

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 site for this module.

Week Date Time Room Topic Lecturer
1 Tue Sep 24 9-11 SCI 3.05 The instrumental climate record #1 PJ
Wed Sep 25 9-11 SCI 3.05 The instrumental climate record #2 PJ
2 Tue Oct 1 9-11 SCI 3.05 Introduction to the module & the climate system TO
Wed Oct 2 9-11 SCI 3.05 Setting & discussion of Coursework 1 and 2 TO
3 Tue Oct 8 9-11 SCI 3.05 Natural causes of climate change TO
Wed Oct 9 9-11 SCI 3.05 Anthropogenic causes of climate change TO
4 Tue Oct 15 9-11 SCI 3.05 Palaeoclimate reconstructions #1 PJ
Wed Oct 16 9-11 SCI 3.05 Palaeoclimate reconstructions #2 PJ
5 Tue Oct 22 9-11 SCI 3.05 The oceans in the climate system & future changes to the thermohaline circulation TO
Wed Oct 23 9-11 SCI 3.05 New findings from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
Recap, questions & discussion
6 Tue Oct 29 9-11 SCI 3.05 Presentation & discussion of Coursework 1
(statements 4 & 6)
Wed Oct 30 9-11 SCI 3.05 Presentation & discussion of Coursework 1
(statements 1 & 2)
Thu Oct 31 Coursework 1 to be handed in
7 Tue Nov 5 9-11 SCI 3.05 Constructing policy-relevant projections of climate change #1 TO
Wed Nov 6 9-11 SCI 3.05 Constructing policy-relevant projections of climate change #2 TO
8 Tue Nov 12 9-11 SCI 3.05 The El Nino Southern Oscillation & tropical variability MJ
Wed Nov 13 9-11 SCI 3.05 Climate modelling #1 MJ
9 Tue Nov 19 9-11 SCI 3.05 Climate modelling #2 MJ
Wed Nov 20 9-11 SCI 3.05 The North Atlantic Oscillation & extra-tropical variability MJ
10 Tue Nov 26 9-11 SCI 3.05 Past & future changes in weather/climate extremes CG
Wed Nov 27 9-11 SCI 3.05 Development of UK climate scenarios PJ
11 Tue Dec 3 9-11 SCI 3.05 Detection & attribution of climate change #1 MJ
Wed Dec 4 9-11 SCI 3.05 Detection & attribution of climate change #2 MJ
12 Tue Dec 10 9-11 SCI 3.05 Free time for essay preparation
Wed Dec 11 9-11 SCI 3.05 Applications of scenarios: the water industry GD
Mon Dec 16 Coursework 2 to be handed in (note this is the first Monday of the Christmas vacation)

  • TO: Tim Osborn
  • PJ: Phil Jones
  • MJ: Manoj Joshi
  • CG: Clare Goodess
  • GD: Geoff Darch
  • SCI = Science building

Learning Objectives and Course Content

After completing this module, ENV-MA51 and ENV-3A51 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 or the main UEA library. 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 the best single purchase if students wish to buy a text book for this course. It is up-to-date and clearly written. It 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 undergraduates rather than MSc students) in certain topics that particularly interest you. For reading and learning at a higher level (e.g., with more quantitative detail than given by the OU / Warr (2006) book) you should refer to the reading given by individual lecturers, or to the Harvey (2000) book also 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 are available for reference in the Climatic Research Unit library and can be freely downloaded from http://www.ipcc.ch. For Working Group I contribution to AR5, the approved Summary for Policy Makers and the final (uncorrected) draft of the main report will be available from www.climatechange2013.org.

Other good text books include: