Climates of the Past


This module develops knowledge and understanding of past climates experienced on Earth, primarily by learning about how to interpret climate archives.

There will also be coverage of modern climatology and a distinct focus on periods in the past which may serve as analogues for a warmer future.

The examples are drawn across the Cenozoic (65 Ma to present), but there is also a distinct focus on Pleistocene and Holocene climates and the coursework is focused around such Quaternary examples.


  • 2 hours lectures
  • 2 hours quizzes
  • 1 hour coursework introduction
  • 4 hours debates on controversial issues


Coursework is a 3000-word essay. Each student researches a topic in consultation with the module leader leading to a unique essay title related to the module.

The examination is 1.5 hours and consists of two sections:

  • Section A is a choice of one from 3 questions which has to be answered in 30 minutes. The three questions are drawn from a list of 12 or 13 questions provided in the lectures
  • Section B is a choice of one from two seen essay topics that are announced at the end of the lectures

Coursework and examination are weighted 50% each.

Key skills

The key skills are engagement with literature at the research frontier and developing both technical knowledge and critical appreciation of data quality and appropriate hypothesis building and testing.