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 the meteorological and palaeoclimatic concepts and processes that enables her/him 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 processes and mechanisms acting in the atmosphere.
    • Explain how the present climate is related to ocean currents and heat transport.
    • Understand how we can use natural archives in ice and sediment to understand and describe past climate variations.
    • Formulate and discuss key scientific climate problem in a two page essay for a wider (not scientific) audience
    • Know the important forcing mechanisms of climate over longer time- scales (1-100 kyr).

    The land, oceans and atmosphere form a coupled system that interact to give a certain climate and type of weather. This course focuses on the interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans.

    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),
    • variability of the climate sytem 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 (Milankovitch cyclicities)
    • a description of (paleo-) climate modelling

    Lecture, Seminar

    Lecture notes and scientific papers will be made available during the lectures and through the Canvas digital learning environment. Presence at the two workshops is mandatory.

    Climate science is a scientific subject that receives a lot of attention in media, popular press. To understand this phenomenon more deeply you are requested to write a semi-popular essay on a key issue in climate science. The essay needs to be written in a language understandable for general (interested) public, while presenting the key scientific facts in a clear and consistent manner.

    The mode of assessment consists of a closed-book written exam – with multiple choice (50%) and open questions (50%)– 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 Computers (450063)’ and ’Global Change (450007). Additionally, Isotopen Geochemie (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

    A subdivision is made into amore physics oriented part, which deals mainly with physics of climate and discusses the current climate and weather systems, and a palaeoclimatic part. The two parts may be given by different professors.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.