Climate Models and Observations

Course content

The course will comprise the following elements:

  • What is a climate model?
  • Observations of climate variations in the recent and deeper past
  • Observations of present day climate change (Satellite data as well as ground/ocean based observations).
  • Sea level rise (gauge + laser altimetry), measurements /estimates of mass balance of ice sheets.
  • Observed and “hind casted” climate of the 20th century. Attribution of climate change.
  • Climate projections for coming centuries.
  • Future sea level change and its impacts on coasts

MSc Programme in Climate Change
MSc Programme in Physics



Learning outcome

The aim of the course is (1) to introduce to the structure and functionality of climate models, (2) to provide an overview of observations of past (proxy) and recent instrumental climate variations, and (3) to give an overview of future climate changes as projected with state of the art climate models, and related changes in sea-level and their impacts. After completing the course the student should be able to


  • Know how a typical climate simulation is performed, basic understanding of which methodologies are used to observe climate in the past and at present


  • Understand the design, functionality, and purpose of different climate models
  • Be able to describe, in general terms, the observed changes in the climate in the past and at present and be able to attribute these to different climate drivers and through which methods these results are obtained.
  • Be able to describe how ocean and ocean heat content and sea level have risen over the recent past and what methods have been applied to obtain these measures

  • Be able to describe the general future climate changes, globally as well as at regional scale (including sea level rise) as simulated with state of the art climate models


  • Identify the potentials and limitations of climate models
  • Be able to apply the relevant scientific terminologies correctly
  • Present the results of an analysis or exercise in a well-structured, logical, coherent and scientifically correct form
  • Bring together information from observations and models to provide a coherent picture of climate and climate change
  • Provide qualified contributions to discussions on climate change mechanisms.

Lectures and theoretical exercises

Will be annouced in Absalon

Awareness of computational languages. The course introduces programs coded in “R” and Matlab (or similar) to be run on your own laptop

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 minutes
Type of assessment details
25 minutes oral examination in unknown question with 25 minutes preparation time.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examinators.

25 minutes oral examination in unknown question with 25 minutes preparation time.

Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 35
  • Preparation
  • 128
  • Theory exercises
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
No limitations
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Geosciences and Management
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen   (11-716e7c7c6e756b736e7b7049776b7237747e376d74)

Jens Hesselberg Christensen
Martin Drews, DTU,

Saved on the 07-08-2023

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Courseinformation of students