The University of Southampton

SOES6047 Global Climate Cycles

Module Overview

This module is designed to give a detailed understanding of cutting edge climate system and palaeoceanographic research, emphasizing a hands-on approach so that you can apply your newly learned skills to real-world problems quickly.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To provide a hands-on approach to understand the key concepts, numerical methods, and interpretation of climate related research across the geological past (focussing on the Cenozoic). • To convey an in-depth understanding of proxy data that is used to estimate past climatic and palaeoceanographic conditions, and the limitations of those data sets. • To acquire key numerical and computational skills that form the basis for current palaeo-climatic research, including spectral (time-series) analysis and astronomical time-scale calibrations. • To provide training in the process of writing critical, concise research publications, and their review. • To develop communication, analytical and team skills.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Have developed a detailed understanding of what geological archives (ice cores, marine sediments etc.s) tell us about past climate change and processes that are involved.
  • Understanding the importance and limitations of data set collections in terms of accuracy, precision, and inherent limitations.
  • Be able to interpret short, often noisy climate-proxy data sets in terms of past climate change
  • Be able to apply numerical analysis methods (time series analysis etc.) to climate time series data.
  • Be able to critically assess data, conclusions and interpretations in climate related publications and critically evaluate the hypotheses posed.
  • Be informed and competent in discussions about future climate change and natural climate variability.
  • Integrating complex and sometimes competing lines of evidence to develop and test hypotheses.
  • Critical evaluation of complex, scattered and cross-disciplinary literature.
  • Research paper writing AND critically evaluating/reviewing.
  • Computer aided numerical analysis of noisy palaeocliamte data sets.


The module consists of four main strands: A. palaeoceanographic proxies (what type of measurements tell us about what particular climate aspect of the past, what are the main uncertainties?), B. Orbital forcing and cyclicity (how do solar variations over thousands of years influence our past, present and future climate system), including an introduction to time series analysis of geological data (how do we document the presence of regular climate cycles?) C. Modelling of past climate change (how do we gain a quantitative and mechanistic understanding of the past and what can this tell us about the future?) D. Research Themes (a broad overview of hot research topics in the field of Cenozoic palaeoclimate). Hands on experience of data manipulation, analysis, interpretation and modelling will be achieved through a a series of practicals and computing exercises.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures (x24): The content of each lecture will be disseminated prior to each session. Lecture notes are extensively illustrated and additional references and materials are made available on Blackboard. Lectures are designed to be research led and are updated each year to reflect cutting edge developments in the field. Each year a small number of lectures are typically delivered by external guest lectures, who are leading experts in their field. Six practical/numerical exercises: will apply, train and extend the concepts and methods learned in the lectures, stressing a “hands on” approach (four hours each). Practicals include: working with key palaeoclimate datasets, generating records of astronomical forcing through time, working with simple climate models to investigate ocean circulation in the past, and analysing data with research level time series analysis software. Practicals are supported by the course coordinator and a demonstrator throughout. Feedback is provided at the end of the practical classes, with some model answers where appropriate. Practicals are designed to be integrated with the lectures. Students are given the opportunity to use their own data, for example arising from project work. Talks and Seminars: Attending relevant talks and seminars, typically the POETS corner and NOCS Friday seminars, where appropriate. Tutorial Support: Support will be available from staff operating an open door policy. A fundamental part of this course is INDEPENDENT READING. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study94
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Practical paper exercises (50%): This paper based practical exam will apply the techniques learned during previous practicals and lectures in a research context. A University approved calculator is required. Tests Learning Outcomes 1-3. Science-style research paper (45% + 5%): peer-reviewed by fellow students prior to assessment. Tests Learning Outcomes 4-5. Formative assessment is provided during practical classes.


Class practicals


MethodPercentage contribution
Practical exercise 50%
Research paper 50%
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