NIGB15037U Paleoclimate

Volume 2021/2022

BSc Programme in Geology-Geoscience


The course deals with Earth’s deep time climate history through the study of climate proxies (sedimentary and geochemical) and dynamics of forcing mechanisms at an introductory level. The course uses a qualitative principle oriented approach with a few simple quantitative treatments and exercises. The course introduces the global energy balance, greenhouse effect, the coupled climate system (atmosphere-ocean circulation and heat transport), the carbon cycle and cycling of elements in the ocean, role of the biota in climate change, long-term climate regulation, and Milankovitch cycles.

The presentation of climate-sensitive proxies and stratigraphic archives will be discussed together with the relations to sea-level variation and geo- and oceanographic chemical principles. Presentation of Earth’s paleoclimate may include examples from Greenhouse and Icehouse paleoclimates, Snowball Earth, mass extinction and Cenozoic climate deterioration.

The course begins with an optional 5 day fieldtrip. Field observations are used in lectures and exercises. It is possible to complete the course without particpating in the field trip but it is of course not recommended.

In the exercises and on the field trip we will primarily work with one time period/event as a case illustrating the application of different methods, proxies and their interpretation. In the exercises we introduce and use a numerical computing programming environment (such as MatLab) for graphic presentation of climate proxies, statistic correlations, and perform simple calculations of element cycles including stable isotopes.

The course couples a dynamic process understanding of the climate system (ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere) with the geobiochemical feedbacks that amplify climate change. Importantly the concept of coupled systems, systems analysis, and feedback loops are used throughout the course. Finally, examples of past climate change are related to present and future climate change.

Learning Outcome


• climate-sensitive proxies and archives
• deep time climate history
• greenhouse effect, energy balance, the coupled climate system (atmosphere-ocean circulation and heat transport), storminess, Milankovitch cycles, carbon cycle
• coupled climate system and geobiochemical feedbacks
• coupled systems and feedback analysis 
• correlation tools and dating methods
• future environmental conditions and climate change


• sedimentological, geochemical, geobiological working methods
• deduce the paleoclimate evolution from paleoclimate proxies and successions
• graphic presentation of geochemical and sedimentological proxies.
• quantitative correlation analysis
• qualitative feedback analyses

• Perform basic mathematical operations in a numerical computing programming environment
• Make figures, graphs and correlation analysis in a numerical computing programming environment


• qualitatively explain the first order processes controlling climate, the large scale atmospheric-ocean circulation, sea-level changes and ice sheet development
• explain and use feedback mechanisms between the climate system and geobiochemical cycles
• use sedimentological, geochemical, biological and dating methods in a paleoclimates context and evaluate the usefulness of these methods and tools in different contexts
• deduce the paleoclimate evolution from paleoclimate proxies and successions
• explain how orbital changes may influence the climate development, ocean and atmospheric circulation and how these changes may be amplified by feedbacks

• can use numerical computing programming environment to make professional figures of stratigraphic geochemical changes

Please see Absalon course page.

Corresponding to the compulsory courses of the 1st year of the BSc Geology-Geoscience programme.
The form of teaching is lectures, theory exercises, and a 5-days optional excursion. For the teaching plan, please see Absalon. The student writes a data-report based on data obtained from the fieldtrip. Each week students in groups write a summary of the exercise and give another group anonymous peer feedback. The exercise material is part of the curriculum.
The optional fieldtrip will take place in the first week of the blok. Students shall for the travel to and from the field destination and pay 125,- DKK per field day for food and lodging. Detailed information about payment can be found on the Absalon course page. If the destination of the excursion is abroad, students are required to take out a private travel insurance covering illness and repatriation.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 27
  • Preparation
  • 104
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Excursions
  • 60
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
The student draws an exam topic, a few figures from the textbook, and a geochemical data set. The student then has 20 minutes to prepare a figure using MatLab of the data set and prepare a interpretation of the dataset. The student is then examined for 20 min. in the drawn exam topic, figures from the textbook, and the figure created in MatLab.
All aids allowed

The students are expsected to bring their own computer with MatLab installed.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Identical to the ordinary examination form.

Criteria for exam assesment

Please see learning outcomes