Introduction to Earth surface processes and paleoclimate

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content


The course aims to give an introduction to Earth surface processes and paleoclimate, focusing on processes and climatic changes over the last few million years to present time (the Quaternary). This stage of earth history is characterized by great oceanic, climate and environmental changes, with changes between ice ages and interglacial periods. The course provides knowledge of geological, atmospheric and oceanic processes, and the driving forces that have influenced this stage of earth history in Norway and globally.


The course addresses topics such as the variation of oceanic circulation/water masses and wind systems during Quaternary, changes in ice dynamics and ice extent and associated sea level variations, landscape development and formation of land forms and deposits, development of the ocean basins and our continental margins, focusing on marine archives and sedimentary processes. A strong focus is put on interactions and feedbacks between different components of the climate system and how they have interacted with the Earth surface to shape the landscape we live in today. The course addresses basic approaches, equipment, and techniques typically used in exploration of both terrestrial and shallow marine areas. A focus will further be on how different Quaternary deposits are used to reconstruct the environment and climate of the past and to understand the process behind and the causes of the changes that have taken place. The students work on various assignments throughout the semester, using different tools to explore available and new data as well as information gained from literature.

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 can

  • explain principle terms, definitions and theories
  • be able to account for the main features of the development history (marine and terrestrial) through the Quaternary period and to understand the main processes and underlying relationships of the major climate changes during this period
  • explain basic principles of ocean and atmospheric circulation and describe and discuss the composition and distribution of seafloor sediments and the driving forces behind 
  • can describe glacial erosion and deposition forms and effects that glaciers and ice sheets have had on the development of the landscape, such as mountains, valleys, fjords and continental margins
  • explain the methods used to reconstruct and evaluate climate change (marine and terrestrial) and how it can be correlated/traced in geological archives
  • explain and justify the use of various marine and terrestrial archives and data for reconstruction of climate and environmental changes, and explain processes that work in the various depositional environments (marine and terrestrial)


The student can

  • choose and use simple methods used for geological and geophysical data collection both at sea and on land and reconstruct simple glacial and climate changes
  • find and work with publicly available data on land surface and ocean floor
  • classify and exemplify the most important types of terrestrial and marine glacial landforms and understand their palaeo-glacial implications
  • compare and combine different geological archives and interpret and summarize observations/data/principles with graphs and figures with earth system data (e.g. topographic data, seismic profiles, core data, isotope series, time series)
  • do simple searches for relevant Earth Science literature and data, as well as cite sources correctly

General competence 

The student can

  • use a precise geological language to describe and discuss geological processes and events
  • explain the regional and global climate developments over the last glacial-interglacial cycle and how it can be traced in geological archives
  • discuss and present findings in a clear, understandable and structured way 
  • demonstrate the ability to function individually, in collaboration and ethically with others
  • accomplish laboratory and field work/cruise in alignment with GEO's/UiB's health and safety regulations

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Bergen and surroundings (field)
Required Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
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
Teaching will be given in the form of student active seminars and exercises, combined with self study and portfolio work. In addition there are field activities (marine and terrestrial).
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Portfolio assignments

Field report with peer review

Group presentations


Approved compulsory assignments are valid only in teaching semester.

Forms of Assessment

Portfolio assessment (assignments, field report with peer review, group presentations, quizzes).

It is not possible to appeal the grade of this portfolio assessment. This is because a large part of the assessment in this course takes place orally in the classroom and would not be possible to reevaluate

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
Assessment takes place in the teaching semester
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 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.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Course Coordinator
The course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB, or you may contact
Course Administrator
The Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Earth Science has the administrative responsibility for the course and program