Physical Climatology

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content


The course aims to provide an understanding of the Earths climate, and the factors that cause it to change.


The course covers present day climate, as well as climate variations in the past, present, and future. It focuses on the physical principles governing the global energy budget, the role of the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, and interactions between the different components of the climate system. The course investigates the physical mechanisms governing changes in climate related to land surface properties (ice, snow, vegetation, etc.), atmospheric composition (gas and particles), clouds and orbital parameters. It also introduces climate variability that results from interactions within the climate system (e.g., El Niño). In addition, the concepts of natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change are discussed.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student

  • will know the central concepts in climate physics
  • will know the main features of the atmospheric and ocean general circulation, and understand the energy transports associated with each
  • will know the fundamental physical mechanisms for large scale climate variability and change
  • will know the main feedback mechanisms in the climate system


The student

  • is able to compute and interpret global energy budgets
  • is able to perform calculations of the climate sensitivity to external factors, such as from the sun, volcanoes and changes in greenhouse gasses
  • is able to explain the nature of internal climate variability and anthropogenic climate change
  • is able to explain key elements of global climate models and sources of uncertainty
  • is able to analyze gridded global-scale climate data

 General competence 

The student

  • can explain the factors determining climate and its changes
  • can use scientific programming software to perform computations on global data sets
  • can prepare and give scientific presentations and discuss scientific results, following good scientific practice
  • can discuss anthropogenic climate change, including the uncertainties in model based predictions of future climate

ECTS Credits


Level of Study

Bachelor, master

Semester of Instruction


Enrolment to this course is based on application. Application deadline is Thursday in week 33 for the autumn semester. Please see this page for more information:

Required Previous Knowledge
Principles of meteorology and/or oceanogarphy (GEOF105 and GEOF110) in addition to basic knowledge in maths and physics (mechanics).
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Good knowledge in dynamics, meteorology and oceanography, in addition to basic knowledge in maths and physics, and programming skills
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap

AGF-213 5 ECTS, AGF-214 5 ECTS (at UNIS), both courses together will cover the contents of GEOF212. MNF344: 5 ECTS

SDG213: 5 ECTS

Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods

2 lecture of 2 hours per week including exercises with Teaching Assistant


Problems will be solved with active involvement of students; Term project will be presented to the class, and

this will be followed by discussion. Students will be asked to evaluate each others projects. Lecturer and assistant will perform the final evaluation and grading.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Presentation of term project is compulsory.
Forms of Assessment

The forms of assessment are:

- Presentation of Mid-term assignment; counts 30% of the final grade, valid for the semester it has been approved and the following semester

- Final exam, written, 4 hours; counts 70% of the final grade and must be passed.

We add up scores form the partial assessments to determine the final grade in the course. All partial assessments must be passed to pass the course.

Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and January 1st for the spring semester
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department
Examination Support Material
Non-programmable calculator, according to the faculty regulations.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.