Abrupt, Past and Future Climate Changes

Lecturers: Stefan Mulitza, André Paul, Michael Schulz


This course introduces to the reconstruction and modeling of abrupt climate changes, provides an overview of paleo and historical climate changes (from the role of oceanic gateways in the Cenozoic through Pleistocene climate cycles to natural climate variability during the Holocene) and presents an outlook on future climate changes in response to projected anthropogenic climate forcings. Available evidence for past climate changes (from ice and marine sediment cores) as well as current climate change (from historical and instrumental data) is discussed. Computer lab exercises with conceptual climate models and results of comprehensive climate models are used throughout to investigate the processes that cause those climate changes.


- to become familiar with the reconstructed climate variations for selected time intervals of the Cenozoic
- to gain an understanding of the dynamics of abrupt climate changes
- to become able to assess the respective roles of natural and anthropogenic climate variations in past and future climate changes


oral exam

Exam Form:

mündliche Prüfung


Alley et al.: Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 238 pp., 2002.
Ruddiman, W.F.: Earth’s climate: past and future. W.H. Freeman, 3rd revised edition, 464 p., 2013.


1st SWS: Introduction to abrupt, past and future climate changes
2nd SWS: Greenhouse-gas and tectonic forcing of climate change: examples from the Cenozoic
3rd SWS: Pleistocene climate changes and glacial cycles
4th SWS: The climate of the last glacial maximum/Glacial cooling and climate sensitivity
5th SWS: The last deglaciation: megafaunal extinctions and neolithic revolution
6th SWS: Holocene climate variability/The climate of the last two millennia
7th SWS: Processes that cause abrupt climate change
8th SWS: Abrupt climate change and thermohaline circulation
9th SWS: Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events
10th SWS: Natural Climate Variability at interannual timescales (NAO/ENSO)
11th SWS: Abrupt climate change during the Anthropocene
12th SWS: Current global climate change/Attribution/Projections of future climate change
13th SWS: Past and future sea-level changes/Avoiding dangerous climate change
14th SWS: Communicating climate change/The economics of abrupt climate change

Teaching Aids: