Global Change


Examines the nature, causes and extent of natural climate change through geological time, with a particular emphasis on how natural and human environments have responded to such change over the last several hundred thousand years. It focuses on the methods used to obtain proxy climate histories and the sources (archives) of these climate records, including ice cores, marine sediments, corals, tree rings, cave deposits, and landforms. The various techniques used to determine the age of the archives are also covered. The course provides a wide spectrum of evidence of climate changes and the responses of the environments to such changes from Australasian region, as well as Antarctica, the Americas and Europe. The course also explores how past climate change has affected ancient human civilizations.



  • Semester 1 - 2015

Learning Outcomes

1. An understanding of the nature, extent and likely causes of climate change through Earth history.

2. A knowledge of the types of earth and biological materials (such as rocks, sediments, ice, corals) that host information on past climate, and the relative potential of those materials to preserve useful climate change information.

3. A knowledge of the scientific techniques used to extract climate and environmental information, including radiometric dating, stable and radiogenic isotope analyses, microscopy.

4. Skills in plotting proxy data and interpreting their variability through time in terms of changes in climate and environmental parameters.

5. Field skills in the identification, description and sampling of palaeodata archives.

6. An understanding of Quaternary Geology.


The major topics covered are:

  • Overview of Climate change throughout Earth history
  • Long term climate change - Tectonic scale
  • Greenhouse climate
  • Icehouse climate: nature, magnitude and causes of climate change during the Quaternary.
  • Climate and environments during the Quaternary
  • Our quest: "Cracking palaeoclimate causes"
  • Records of climate and environmental change archived in:
  • ice-cores, tree rings, boreholes
  • cave deposits (speleothems)
  • marine sediments and organisms, including corals
  • field and laboratory methods in the sampling and processing of palaeodata archives
  • critical evaluation and processing of climate change data

Assumed Knowledge

GEOS1040 or GEOS1050.

Assessment Items

Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Laboratory Exercises

Quiz: Quizzes

Report: Field Trip Report

Essay: Essay/Abstract

Compulsory Requirements

In order to pass this course, each student must complete ALL of the following compulsory requirements:

General Course Requirements:

  • Field Study: Induction Requirement - Students must attend and pass the induction requirements before attending these sessions. - In order to participate in this course, students must complete a compulsory safety and/or fieldwork induction.

Contact Hours


Field Study

Face to Face Off Campus 28 hour(s) per Week for 1 Weeks

Field study for 28 hours (over 8 days).


Face to Face On Campus 36 hour(s) per Term

Face to face on the field and on campus (proportion 50%).


Face to Face On Campus 20 hour(s) per Term

Lectures face to face on campus and in the field. Up to 12 hours of lectures may be held in the field.