Climate Science

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Climate Science

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Environmental Science, Environmental Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    The general aim of this course is to provide the student with a base level of knowledge of climate science. That is to understand the
    meteorological, climatological and biogeochemical concepts and processes that will enable you to study scientific literature and understand
    present and past climates and their spatial and temporal variation.

    More specifically, after following the course, you will be able to:

    • Describe the physical and biogeochemical processes and mechanisms acting in the atmosphere and Earth System
    • Explain how the present climate is related to ocean currents and heat transport.
    • Understand the complexity of the climate system as a component of the Earth System.
    • Understand the key interactions of biogeochemical cycles with climate
    • Know the important forcing mechanisms of climate over short (human) and longer (geological) time-scales.
    • Formulate and discuss key scientific climate problem in a two page essay for a wider (not scientific) audience

    The land, oceans and atmosphere form a coupled system that interacts to produce a certain climate and type of weather. This course focuses on the interactions between the land, atmosphere and the oceans and integrates knowledge from past, present and future climate.
    It provides:

    • an introduction to meteorology and current climate and weather systems,
    • a discussion of the thermodynamics, energy and momentum transport in the atmosphere atmospheric and oceanic processes and mechanisms that influence functioning of the current climate system (ENSO, Arctic oscillation), the interaction of the biogeochemical cycles and climate, Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorus, and Iron
    • insight into the variability of the climate system in the past and the use of natural archives (e.g. ice, marine and terrestrial sediments) to explore past variability,
    • forcing mechanisms of climate variation such as insolation changes, greenhouse gasses, and Milankovitch cycles
    • a description of (paleo-) climate modelling


    Lectures and workshops

    The course has a study value of 6 ECTS and has a study load of about 168 hours. The number of hours spent on the 12 lectures totals about 30 hours. The remainder of the time (138 hours) is available to the student to study the course documents, lecture notes and scientific papers and to make assignments. Lecture notes and scientific papers will be made available during the lectures and through the Canvas digital learning environment.

    The mode of assessment consists of a closed-book written exam – with open questions at the end of the course. As calculations may be part of the examination you should not forget to bring your calculator. The exam counts for 75%. The essay assignment counts for 15% and presence at the workshops for another 10%. 

    There are no required subjects for this course but we asssume that students are familiar with the physical, chemical and mathematical principles as taught in the first year courses ‘Physics for Earth Sciences (450064)’, ‘Geochemistry for Earth Sciences (450068)’, ‘Mathematics and Computing (450063)’ and ’Global Change (450007). Additionally, Isotopen Geochemistries (AB_450141) will provide background on the application of stable isotopes.

    3rd year BSc students Earth Science, Earth & Economy, Future Planet studies (UvA), or other upper level BSc students with a natural science background

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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