A Practical Introduction to Earth System Modelling

Course date: TBC

Course open to: All years

Location : University of Bristol

Course Organiser: Prof. Andy Ridgwell &  Dr. Sarah Greene

Course fee for students not funded through the DTP: £50

Registration deadline: TBC

Objective: The course aims to foster a critical appreciation of the nature and limitations of climate and Earth system modelling in understanding and predicting global change.  It will provide a chance to explore some of the primary dynamics of the Earth’s climate system as well as of global carbon and biogeochemical cycles.

Specifically, students will experiment with and explore: climate ice-albedo feedbacks and ‘tipping points’, ocean circulation and heat transport, fossil fuel CO2 emissions and ocean acidification, and key controls on ocean carbon cycling and hence atmospheric pCO2. Students will also learn new computer skills and gain experience with data analysis and visualization software and techniques.

Composition : A two day practical course.

Day 1– Earth system modelling for ‘newbies’ Day 2 –  Getting your hands dirty with carbon


Course and methodology overview

Getting started

Accessing the computing cluster; installing and compiling cGENIE; directory structure (‘where everything is’).
Command-line operation; how to submit jobs to a cluster queue. Use of ‘restart’ experiments and modelling methodologies. Visualization of model output: time-series and time-slice (2D and 3D) output.

A ‘real’(!) experiment

Setting up experiments: configuration files and setting parameter values.

Exploring Earth system dynamics

‘Snowball Earth’ and climate feedback.

Poking the climate beast’ [Broecker, 1998]:

Applying perturbations and tracing ocean circulation.
Exploring the stability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (‘AMOC’).


Poking the carbon cycle
CO2 emissions and the spatial patterns of ocean acidification. Carbon-climate feedbacks. Ocean circulation and carbon cycle response to CO2 emissions and climate change.

Engineering the heck out of the Planet
Global nutrient cycling and controls on biological productivity in the ocean. Sensitivity of atmospheric pCO2 and ocean acidification to changes in the ocean’s biological pump. Ocean carbon cycle geoengineering.


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