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Part III Options: Climate and low temperature geochemistry

IDP2: Climate dynamics and critical transitions in the climate system: from past to future

Luke Skinner and Eric Wolff

This course looks at climate change through the lens of the geological past, with a particular focus on non-linear climate dynamics, arising from ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions and their impacts on the global biogeochemical cycles.  The goal is to unravel the fundamental controls on Earth’s climate and its dynamics over a range of timescales, including its capacity for abrupt and irreversible change, as exemplified by case studies in Earth’s history.  We will consider the implications of this geological perspective for the framing of uncertainties associated with the prediction of future climate change. In addition to the 8 lectures, the course will include 4 practical sessions that will be dedicated to the development and use of simple numerical models for global energy balance, carbon cycling, ice dynamics and the ocean circulation.

Examinations: A 90 minute theory paper which will consist of compulsory short (mainly numerical) questions (30 minutes) and one hour essay question (from a choice of 3 topics).


CA: Linking the continents to oceans and climate: chemical weathering

Ed Tipper

Maintaining an equable climate over most of the Earth’s history implies a negative feedback which regulates atmospheric CO2, the dominant greenhouse gas. Silicate weathering and carbonate formation (temperature and precipitation dependent) and coupled burial of organic carbon have been cited as the major negative climate feedbacks. Simultaneous increases in the Cenozoic marine records of strontium, osmium  and lithium  isotopes, synchronous with major cooling of Earth’s climate, have been interpreted as increased CO2 consumption  through the uplift and weathering of the Himalaya implying that tectonics has a major control on controlling weathering, and hence climate. This course will examine the controls on weathering and hence the key negative climate feedbacks which have prevented a runaway greenhouse throughout Earth’s history. This course is designed to bring you right up to date with how weathering works, and make you aware of the very latest debates and knowledge gaps, so that you can solve some of these problems for yourselves.

The course will be assessed by one 90 minute exam.  There will be two 45 minute questions.  One of these will be compulsory and will be a numerical based question of the type that will have been introduced in the "practical" sessions.  The other question will be essay based, and there will be a choice out of two questions.


CB: Stable Isotope Geochemisty

Sasha Turchyn and David Hodell

This course is designed to provide an in-depth introduction to the principles of stable isotope geochemistry and their application to geological, biological and biogeochemical cycles.  The course will consist of lectures and a parallel series of practical laboratory exercises to provide hands-on analytical experience in the measurement of oxygen, carbon,  nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes in a variety of natural materials (water, carbonates, organic matter, and sulphur minerals.).  These isotopic signals allow the interpretation of modern and past biogeochemical cycling of elements at the Earth surface. Lectures will be designed to focus on one element and the application of its isotopes to exploring its modern cycle and past variability in the geological record.

Theory paper: 90 minutes

Assessed practicals:  Marks split 70% to theory paper and 30% to practical paper


Climate and low temp. geochemistry options Lent Term 2017

IDP2 Climate dynamics and critical transitions in the climate system: from past to future Dr Luke Skinner and Prof. Eric Wolff Wks 1-8, Tu. Th. 10-11
Exam code: IDP2 Room: H1
CLIMATE A Linking the continents to oceans and climate: Chemical Weathering Dr Ed Tipper Wks 1-4, M. 11-13 F. 2-4
Exam code: CA Room: H1/Palaeo
CLIMATE B Stable Isotope Geochemistry Dr Sasha Turchyn and Prof. David Hodell Wks 5-8, M. 11-13 F. 2-4
Exam code: CB Room: H1/Palaeo


Past Tripos papers