Earth System Modelling

Lecturers: André Paul, Michael Schulz


It consists of two parts that are taught in parallel:

The first part of the course will contain an overview of the basic components of the Earth system (the atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere). Further topics are coastal upwelling in the ocean and nonlinear processes and feedbacks in the climate system. Eventually, the course proceeds from simple or conceptual to complex or comprehensive numerical models of the atmosphere, ocean, ice-sheets and the interactive Earth system.

In the second part, computer lab exercises will provide a thorough introduction to programming using MATLAB/Octave and apply the method of numerical modeling to fundamental problems such as one-dimensional advection, zero- and one-dimensional energy balance-climate models and a model of the wind-driven ocean circulation. We will follow the route from observations to numerical models of the Earth system using the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic subtropical gyre as a prominent example. In passing, the students are introduced to the equations of motion, their discretization in space and time using finite differences and finally their implementation in computer models.

The MATLAB/Octave exercises are assigned as homework to be solved in small groups. As they are an integral part of the course, they are equivalent to 2 ECTS.


The students gain a mechanistic understanding of the workings of the Earth system. Furthermore, they acquire essential skills in scientific data analysis and programming. Finally, they are enabled to assess the opportunities and limitations of numerical climate models.


As part of module exam "Climate Change I: Fundamentals"


oral exam


Hartmann, Dennis L. (1994) Global Physical Climatology. Academic Press, San Diego, 411 pp.
McGuffie, K., and A. Henderson-Sellers (2005) A climate modelling primer. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 3rd ed., 296 pp. - see also
Ruddiman, W.F. (2008) Earth’s climate: past and future. W.H. Freeman and C., 2nd revised edition, 388 p.
Open University (2004) Ocean Circulation. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2nd revised edition, 286 pp.


Login erforderlich

Stocker, Thomas: Introduction to Climate Modelling (lecture notes, 174 pp.). University of Bern, 2016.