Skip to main content

Unit information: Oceans and Climates in 2021/22

Unit name Oceans and Climates
Unit code EASC30071
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Robinson
Open unit status Not open

EASC10002 Environmental Geoscience 1

EASC20038 Analytical Geochemistry

EASC20043 Geochemistry 1

Students who wish to choose this unit as an option but have not taken the pre-requisite units, in particular Environmental Geoscience 1 and Geochemistry 1, will be expected to undertake some preparatory work before the unit commences. You should speak to the unit director for guidance before being registered on the unit.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

An overview of the physical, chemical and biological aspects of oceanography, and the role played by oceans in climate change in the past, modern and future Earth system with a focus on current issues and debates.

The unit aims to:

  • provide a qualitative analysis of the dynamics of wind-driven surface current systems, and of density-driven circulation in the deep oceans;
  • investigate the biogeochemical cycling of elements in the ocean;
  • explore methods for quantifying the rates of processes operating in the ocean system including sedimentation, ocean circulation and chemical perturbations;
  • introduce the aspects of the ocean-atmosphere system that are relevant to climate change on the Earth on timescales of 100 years to 100 million years;
  • learn to interpret proxy data and the strength and weaknesses of these methods;
  • assess the role of oceans in controlling levels of atmospheric CO2;
  • apply statistical methods and appreciate the difficulty in interpreting large scale and incomplete datasets and the impact of data resolution and quality in space and time.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion you should have:

  • describe and explain the reasons for the temperature, salinity and density structure of the oceans
  • explain how deep water masses form and describe the global conveyor system
  • discuss the distribution of elements in seawater and identify their sources and sinks
  • debate the abiotic factors affecting biological productivity in the oceans
  • discuss the carbon and oxygen cycles in the ocean-atmosphere system
  • analyse palaeoclimate data and draw inferences from such data regarding the past climate of the Earth
  • assessed data using a wide range of statistical techniques
  • learned about a wide range of climate proxies, their strength and limitations
  • reiterated data formatting, interpretation, and discussion
  • debated the nature and causes of climate change impacts on ecosystems
  • discuss why oceans are important in the atmospheric CO2 cycle and critically analyse the different hypotheses as to how the oceans respond to, or cause, variations in atmospheric CO2 on a variety of timescales
  • synthesise information from the scientific literature to inform knowledge of the ocean-climate system

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials and, if subsequently possible, synchronous face-to-face lectures
  • synchronous office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative activities and exercises
  • guided, structured reading
  • practical work in the laboratory

Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete laboratory work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Information

Coursework (100%) - a 3,000 word written report


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. EASC30071).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.