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    Character and definition of the Quaternary period, dating methods, a review of proxy data sources, geomorphology and climate change, Quaternary environments of the Southern Hemisphere; laboratories as required.

    Palaeoclimatology is the study of climate prior to the period of instrumental measurements. The focus of this course is on the Quaternary period which spans approximately 1.8 million years. This period is of critical importance in Earth's history because it is marked by oscillations in climate that had a dramatic impact on the geosphere and biosphere including changes in sea levels, vegetation distribution, soils and landforms. These changes and the legacy of these changes continue to have impacts on environments today. In the last 20,000 years alone the area of the Earth covered by glaciers has been reduced to one-third of what it was during the last glacial maximum; waters released by melting ice have resulted in sea level rise in excess of one hundred metres, land unburdened by ice has risen by several hundred metres, vegetation belts have swung through the equivalent of tens of degrees of latitude, rainforests have expanded, desert sands have advanced and retreated, lakes have flooded and shrunk and many species of mammals have become extinct.

    About this paper

    Paper title Climate Change: The Past
    Subject Geography
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,173.30
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    EAOS 111 or GEOG 101 and 36 further GEOG or GEOL points
    GEOG 283
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Science
    The content of the paper assumes that students have undertaken at least one introductory course in Physical Geography, Earth Science, Ecology or Geology.
    Teaching staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Sean Fitzsimons
    Teaching Staff: Dr Chris Moy
    Dr Christina Riesselman

    Paper Structure

    The lecture programme will be divided into two sections which will examine Quaternary stratigraphy and dating techniques and the principal data sources of palaeoclimatic information.

    Assessment is 60% internal (on-going during the semester) and 40% external (final examination).

    Teaching Arrangements

    2 lectures per week and 8 x 3 hour practicals scheduled over the 13 weeks of semester.

    Half-day field work (weather permitting).

    Bradley, R.S. (2015) Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing climates of the Quaternary Elsevier.
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Teamwork, communication skills.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete this paper will gain:

    • The ability to 'read' landscapes: to understand how they have formed and how they change over time
    • Understanding of the relationships between tectonic and surface processes
    • Understanding of earth surface processes associated with hillslopes, rivers, coasts and glaciers
    • Knowledge of the strength and behaviour of rock, soil and water
    • Knowledge and understanding of the erosion, transportation and deposition processes
    • Knowledge of a range of techniques used in the investigation of earth surface processes and landforms


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system
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