Climate change in contextOrganization logo: Utrecht University

About this course

This course focuses on building a simple climate model. We start with a very simple model of a surface (e.g. the Earth) that is warmed up by solar radiation. Step by step we will extend this model to a simple climate model that includes various concepts from physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. We will explore how more complex scientific climate models work. Finally, the climate projections as presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be discussed.

General skills that are covered in the course:
-Apply a spreadsheet program (specifically Excel): eg. Translate model parameters into formulas, generate relative and absolute references
-Application of radiation transfer models
-Scientific writing (elements of a box-model and/or essay assignment)
-Create calculation tasks

Requirements and final grade
Attendance obliged
Obligatory assignments and/or presentation
Retake possible if final grade > 4
Final grade composition:
Periodic test with short exercises (30%, minimum grade 4)
Final exam (40%, minimum grade 5.5)
Assignments (20%)
Essay (10%)

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Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student is able to:

  • describe and apply basic principles from following disciplines in a simple climate model:
    physics (radiation, energy conservation, absorption of radiation),
    biology (photosynthesis, net primary production of ecosystems, biomass and degradation)
    chemistry ( Carbonate chemistry, carbon cycle, acidification) and
    mathematics (parameterization of processes, time integration, dynamic equilibrium)
    -generate a simple box-climate model based on meteorological, biological, chemical and oceanographic parameters arising from the various disciplines
    -based on the understanding of a simple box model, describe the operation of more complex climatic models
    -describe how changes in ice, and land surface and in biosphere, ocean, and atmosphere affect the climate system
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Prior knowledge

VWO profile N&T or N&G with mathematics B, specific: differentiating, integrating, logarithms, solving 2 equations with 2 unknowns, exponential functions. Recommended Knowledge: basic knowledge of Excel

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    5 februari 2024

    • Ends
      19 april 2024
    • Term *
      Period 3
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      30 Oct, 00:00 - 24 Nov 2023
    Enrolment starts in 41 days
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven