Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 22 Hours. 11 x 2 hour lectures
Seminars / Tutorials


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 1 hour mid-term short-answer test.  In-Course Assessment:  25%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Two essay questions to be answered from four set.  75%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Examination only.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of :-

  • The principal methods used to obtain Quaternary palaeoenvironmental data
  • How to interpret a range of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data
  • The importance of palaeoclimatic records and their importance for contemporary climatic issues


This module aims to give students an understanding of the timescales of climatic and environmental change during the last two million years. It explains and illustrates the collection, analysis and interpretation of physical and biological data from Quaternary oceanic and continental sediments, and shows how these data can be used to determine the causes of past and future global change. The module provides a background for understanding long-term processes in many subject areas, including climatology, oceanography, hydrology, geomorphology, glaciology, and biogeography.

1. To provide students with a critical view of the methods used to obtain Quaternary palaeoenvironmental data.

2. To equip students to interpret a range of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data.

3. To enable students to realise the importance of past records in relation to contemporary issues such as global warming.


The role of Quaternary palaeoclimatic data in understanding climatic change.

The chronological framework:
Terminology and timescales.
Palaeomagnetism. Potassium-argon dating.
Radiocarbon dating; calibrating the radiocarbon timescale.

Evidence from the oceans:
Oxygen isotopes, microfossil assemblages and terrigenous input
Quaternary sea-level records.

Evidence from the continents:
Lakes and lake sediments
Diatom records of surface water acidification.
Peat stratigraphy.

Ice core records of climatic change:
Stable isotopes; dissolved and particulate matter; gas bubble contents.

European and Chinese loess sequences.

Biological evidence:
Pollen analysis: principles, methods, and data presentation.
Interpreting past vegetation and climate from pollen data

Reading List

General Text
Bell, M. and Walker, M.J.C. (2003) Late Quaternary Environmental Change - Physical and Human Perspectives Prentice Hall Primo search Birks, H.J.B. & H.H. Birks (1980) Quaternary Palaeoecology Arnold Primo search Bradley, R.S. (1999) Paleoclimatology: reconstructing climates of the Quaternary 2nd Academic Press Primo search Mannion A M (1999) Natural Environmental Change Routledge Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5