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Module Reading List

Climate Systems, 2021/22, Semester 1, 2
Dr Roel Brienen
Tutor information is taken from the Module Catalogue

Semester One: Nature of the Climate System

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Key reading:

1. William F. Ruddiman. Earths Climate, Past and Future. W. H. Freeman and Company.  

 A nice introductory text - good to read.

2. F. W. Taylor. Elementary climate physics. Oxford University Press.  

 More formal (mathematical) than the other texts but well explained and concise.

Taylor, F. W., (2005) Chapter 3. Atmosphere and climate. FROM: Taylor, F. W., Elementary climate physics. pp.40-51. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Taylor, F. W., (2005) Chapter 4. Clouds and aerosols. FROM: Taylor, F. W., Elementary climate physics. pp.52-67. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva

3. D. L. Hartmann. Global physical climatology. Academic Press.

 Very clear explanations.

4. The Open University. Ocean Circulation. Pergamon Press.

 A didactic and interesting book about the oceans and climate.

5. Barry R. G. and E.A. Hall-McKim.  (2014) Essentials of the earth's climate system. Cambridge University Press  

Specific chapters / research papers for the various lectures

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Lecture 1

Book 1 Ch. 2, Sections 2.1-2.9

Book 2 Ch. 1

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Lecture 2

Book 1 first sections of Ch. 2

Book 3 Ch. 2

Book 2 Ch. 2

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Lecture 3

Book 2 Ch. 3 - covers first half of lecture

Book 3  Ch. 1 - covers first half of lecture

Book 1 sec 2.5, 2.6,2.7  Pressure gradient force, Coriolis force, Frictional force and Ekman layer

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Lecture 4

Separate reading list provided.

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Lecture 5

A mechanistic and nice summary can be found online is  


Book 3, chapter 6

Book 5, chapter 3

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Lectures 6 and 7

Book 5, Chapter 5

Book 4, Sections 3.1 to 3.4

Book 4, Sections 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 

Book 2 Chapter 5

Atmospheric circulation

Bigg, G.R. 1997: Light in the atmosphere: Part 1 - Why the sky is blue, Weather., 52, 72-77.

Green, J.S.A. 2002: Reflections on the earth’s albedo: a collection of scattered thoughts, Weather., 57, 431-439.

Madden, RA 2007: Large-scale, free Rossby waves in the atmosphere - an update, Tellus A : Dynamic meteorology and oceanography., 59 (5), 571-590.

Palmén, E. 1948: On the distribution of temperature and wind in the upper westerlies, Journal of Meteorology., 5, 20-27. 

Persson, A. 2001: The Coriolis force and the geostrophic wind (Coriolis Part 5), Weather, 56, 267-272.

Metcalfe, S. and Derwent, D. 2005: Atmospheric pollution and environmental change, London: Hodder Arnold, Chapter 3.

Original papers about the Ocean overturning circulation:

J. R. Toggweiler & B. Samuels (1995) Effect of Drake Passage on the global thermohaline circlation, Deep sea research. Part I, Oceanographic research papers., 42, 477-500.

A. Watson & A. C. Naveira Garabato (2006) The role of Southern Ocean mixing and upwelling in glacial-interglacial atmospheric CO2 change, Tellus B : Chemical and physical meteorology., 58B, 73-87.

W. Munk & C. Wunsch (1998) Abyssal recipes II: energetics of tidal and wind mixing, Deep sea research. Part I, Oceanographic research papers., 45, 1977-2010.

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Lecture 8 and Make a Model seminar

Forster et al. (2007). Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Climate change 2007 : the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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Lecture 9 

Capstick, S.B., Demski, C.C., Sposato, R.G., Pidgeon, N.F., Spence, A. and Corner, A. (2015). Public perceptions of climate change in Britain following the winter 2013/2014 flooding. Understanding Risk Research Group Working Paper 15-01, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. Available online:  

Capstick, S., Whitmarsh, L., Poortinga, W., Pidgeon, N.F. & Upham, P. (2015). International trends in public perceptions of climate change over the past quarter century. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Climate change., 6(1), 35-61

Forster et al. (2007). Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Climate change 2007 : the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Lewis, S. L. (2014). Scientist-versus-activist debates mislead the public. Nature., 506(7489), 409-409.

Reser, J. P., Bradley, G. L., & Ellul, M. C. (2014). Encountering climate change:‘seeing’is more than ‘believing’. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Climate change., 5(4), 521-537.

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Rintoul, S.R., Chown, S.L., DeConto, R.M. et al. Choosing the future of Antarctica. Nature 558, 233–241 (2018).

Book 2 Chapter 7 

Some excellent research papers – although they use some math:

R. T. Pierrehumbert, Infrared radiation and planetary temperature, Physics today., Jan, 2011, 33-38

I. M. Held and B. J. Soden, Water vapor feedback and global warming, Annual review of energy and the environment., 2000, 25:441-475

K. E. Trenberth and D. P. Stepaniak, The flow of energy through the earth’s climate system, Quarterly journal of the Royal Meteorological Society., 2004, 130, 2677-2701

General Reading (You may find some of these useful for certain aspects of the course)

Bigg, G.R. 2003: The Oceans and Climate  2nd edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press – good introductory text

Harvey, L.D.D. 2000: Global warming : the hard science, Harlow: Pearson – excellent introduction to climate change.

IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report. Fifth Assessment Report

Peixoto, J.P. and A.H. Oort 1992: Physics of climate, New York: American Institute of Physics – more advanced mathematical text.

Robinson, P.J. and A. Henderson-Sellers 1999: Contemporary Climatology, 2nd Edition Harlow: Longman.

Thompson, R.D. 1998: Atmospheric processes and systems London: Routledge. 


Allan, R. P. 2012: The role of water vapour in Earth’s energy flows, Surveys in geophysics., 33, 557-564. Available from  [Accessed 9 July 2012]

&Brugge, R. 1996: Atmospheric stability: Part 1 – basic concepts, Weather., 51, 134-140.

Jonas, P.R. 1994: Why do clouds form? Weather., 49, 176-180.

Schneider, T., O'Gorman, P. A. & Levine, X. J. 2010: Water Vapor And The Dynamics Of Climate Changes. Reviews of geophysics., 48. Article Number: RG3001  DOI: 10.1029/2009RG000302

Earth’s contemporary climate

Brummer, B. B. Busack, H. Hoeber, and G. Kruspe 1994: Boundary layer observations over water and arctic sea-ice during on-ice air-flow, Boundary-layer meteorology., 68(1-2), 75-108

Cohen, J. 1994: Snow cover and climate, Weather, 49, 150-156.

Guo Y. and P.H. Schuepp 1994: On surface-energy balance over the northern wetlands.2: The variability of the bowen-ratio, Journal of geophysical research., 99, 1613-1621.

McBean, G.A. 1989: Global energy and water fluxes, Weather, 44, 285-291.

&Trenberth, K.E. and Caron, J. M. 2001: Estimates of Meridional Atmosphere and Ocean Heat Transports, Journal of climate., 14, 3433-3443

Radiative transfer

Haigh, J.D. 2002: Radiative forcing of climate, Weather., 57(8), 278-283.

Karol T.L. and E.V. Rozanov 1982: Radiative‑convective models of the climate, Izvestiya 18, 910-918.

Langen, P. L., Graversen, R. G. & Mauritsen, T. 2012: Separation of Contributions from Radiative Feedbacks to Polar Amplification on an Aquaplanet. Journal of climate., 25, 3010-3024.

Strangeways, I. 2011: The Greenhouse Effect: a closer look, Weather., 66(2), 44-48.

Climate Modelling

Text Books

Introductory books

1. Climate General: Elementary climate physics, F. W. Taylor, Oxford University Press

Very good introductory text; - good introductory chapter on oceans (chapter 5)

2. Ocean Circulation, Open University Course Team, Pergamon Press, Oxford, New York, Seoul, Tokyo. Very good introductory text

More advanced books

3. Global physical climatology, D. L.Hartmann, Academic Press

excellent but more mathematical

chapter 8, 10, 11, 12 - on climate change and climate modelling - specially recommended

4. T. Stocker, Introduction to climate modelling, Springer, 2011

A good introduction into climate modelling; needs mathematical skills

Recommended for particularly interested students

Journal Articles on expected climate change and consequences of CO2 uptake by the oceans

Discovery of role of CO2 and Greenhouses for Climate Change and first attempts to quantify the effect

Arrhenius, S. (1896) On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin philosophical magazine and journal of science. Series 5, 41, 237–276.London: Taylor. [40] | UNJLOND10 |

Callendar, G. S. (1938) The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature, Quarterly journal of the Royal Meteorological Society., 223-239.

Callendar, G. S. (1958) On the Amount of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, Tellus., 243-248.

Manabe S and R. T. Wetherald (1975) The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the Climate of a General Circulation Model, Journal of the atmospheric sciences. ., 32, 3-15.

Observational basis for climate change

Levitus, S., Antonov, J. I., Boyer, T. P. & Stephens, C. (2000) Warming of the world ocean. Science., 287, 2225–2229.

Stocker, T. F. et al. in Climate change 2001 : the scientific basis : contribution of Working Group I to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Ch. 7 (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) 417–470 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001).

Basic principles what climate response to expect in a warming world

Allen, M. R. and W. J. Ingram (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle, Nature.419, 224-232. 

Held, I. M. and B. Soden (2006) Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming, Journal of climate., 19, 5686-5699. 

Consequences of CO2 invasion into oceans

Caldeira, K. and M. E. Wickett (2003) Oceanography: Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH, Nature.425, 365.


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Semester 2: Past climates

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General reading materials for Semester 2

Each lecture has its own reading list (see below), containing one or more key texts marked with an asterisk. You may be examined on this key reading material, as well as the content of the lectures.

The best available textbook for this course is, unfortunately, rather expensive, and goes considerably beyond the scope of the material we will discuss here, but there are several copies in the library:

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001). Earth’s climate past and future.  Freeman, New York.

Some other useful textbooks include:

Anderson, D.E., Goudie, A.S., and Parker, A.G. (2007). Global environments through the Quaternary : exploring environmental change. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Probably the best textbook to buy: it covers a wide range of material at a reasonable level of detail.

Bell, M., and Walker, M.J.C. (2004). Late Quaternary environmental change: physical and human perspectives (2 nd edition). Pearson Prentice Hall, Harlow. The first four chapters are relevant but this is quite a basic textbook.

Williams, M.A.J., Dunkerley, D.L., De Deckker, P., Kershaw, A.P., Stokes, T. (1998) Quaternary Environments  (2 nd edition). Arnold, London. Not too out of date and very comprehensive – a good alternative to Ruddiman, but very detailed.

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Lecture 11: Time

Key texts are marked with an asterisk.

The Quaternary correlation chart is worth studying; you’re not expected to be able to remember all the details, but you should be clear how this was put together. It is available online at:

* The website  has a host of useful background on the relevance and importance of stratigraphy.

General accounts of stratigraphy and dating

Anderson et al. (2007): Chapter 1.

Bell and Walker (2004): Chapters 1-3 include relevant material.

Lowe, J.J., and Walker, M.J.C. (1997). Reconstructing Quaternary Environments, 2nd edition. Longman, Harlow, Essex. Chapters 5 and 6.

Roberts, N. (1998) The Holocene.  Blackwell, Oxford. Interesting to dip into; chs 2, 3 and 7 might be of interest.

Ruddiman (2001): Chapter 3 especially.

Williams et al. (1998): appendix on dating, pp. 269-284.

For more detail

Bertler, N.A. and Barrett, P.J., 2010. Vanishing polar ice sheets. In Changing climates, earth systems and society (pp. 49-83). Springer, Dordrecht. General reading on changes in climate during last 65 mi years. 

Blunier, T., Chappellaz, J., Schwander, J., Dällenbach, A., Stauffer, B., Stocker, T.F., ... and Johnsen, S. J. (1998). Asynchrony of Antarctic and Greenland climate change during the last glacial period. Nature., 394, 739-743. A good example of careful correlation.

Blunier, T., and Brook, E.J. (2001). Timing of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica and Greenland during the last glacial period.  Science., 291, 109-112. Source of the example of correlation given in the lecture.

Gibbard, P.L., Head, M.J., and Walker, M.J. (2010). Formal ratification of the Quaternary System/Period and the Pleistocene Series/Epoch with a base at 2.58 Ma. Journal of quaternary science., 25, 96-102. Perhaps surprisingly, the Quaternary period was only defined formally in 2010, although researchers had been using the word since the mid-19th century.

Huggett, R.J. (1997). Environmental change: the evolving ecosphere.  Routledge, London. Chapter 4. The pattern of climate change on timescales of >100My is strictly speaking outside the scope of this module, but if you're interested, this is a good read.

Imbrie, J. (1985). A theoretical framework for the Ice Ages. Journal of the Geological Society.  142: 417-432.

Shackleton, N.J., and Opdyke, N.D. (1973) Oxygen isotope and palaeomagnetic stratigraphy of equatorial Pacific core V28-238: oxygen isotope temperatures and ice volumes on a 10 5 and 10 6 year scale. Quaternary research., 3, 39-55. A classic stratigraphic paper.

Walker, M., Johnsen, S., Rasmussen, S.O., Popp, T., Steffensen, J.P., Gibbard, P., ... and Schwander, J. (2009). Formal definition and dating of the GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point) for the base of the Holocene using the Greenland NGRIP ice core, and selected auxiliary records. Journal of quaternary science., 24, 3-17. Explains how one particular point in time, the start of the Holocene, has been defined.

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Lecture 12: Measuring past climates

Key texts are marked with an asterisk.

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001, 2008 or 2014). Earth’s climate past and future. Freeman, New York. - Chapter 3   

* Alley, R.B. (2000). Ice-core evidence of abrupt climate changes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.  97: 1331–1334. A fairly brief review of what ice cores can tell us. Available online at ijkey=JifxlJJnHUR2Q.   

Alley, R.B. (2000). The two-mile time machine: ice cores, abrupt climate change, and our future.  Princeton University Press, Princeton. A readable account of the GISP2 drilling programme.

Boulton, G.S. (1993). Two cores are better than one. Nature.  366: 507-508.

Chappell, J. (1998) Jive talking. Nature  394: 130-131.

* Cuffey, K.M. (2004). Into an ice age. Nature  431: 133-134. News and views article on the NGRIP core.

Diekmann, B. (2004). Message from the fish teeth. Nature  430: 26-27. An illustration of the wonderful variety of palaeoenvironmental techniques now in use.

Elderfield, H., and Gassen, G. (2000) Past temperature and ? 18 O of surface ocean waters inferred from foraminiferal Mg/Ca ratios. Nature  405: 442-445.

* EPICA community members (2004). Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature  429: 623-628.

McManus, J.F. (2004). A great grand-daddy of ice cores. Nature  429: 611-612. More on the EPICA core.

North Greenland Ice Core Project Members (2004). High-resolution record of Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period. Nature  431: 147-151.

* Walker, G. (2004). Frozen time. Nature  429: 596-597. News article about the EPICA core.


You should look at one or more of these; for full references see above, under 'Semester 2':

Bell and Walker (2004): chapter 2. A good, general account of the techniques used to reconstruct past environments.

Lowe, J.J. and Walker, M.J.C. (1997). Reconstructing Quaternary Environments  (2nd edition). Longman, Harlow. One of the more definitive general introductory texts for Quaternary science methods – useful to read (in part!) but definitely more detailed than this course requires.

Ruddiman (2001): chapters 3 and 15, esp. box 15-1, is another good general resource.

Williams et al. (1998): pp 43-49 and the whole of chapter 7 are useful.


The NGRIP website is at  - some great pictures here...!

The NEEM website is at  - more pictures and videos about ice-core drilling.

Concordia (Dome-C), where the EPICA project drilled in Antarctica:

A collection of ice core papers on the Nature web site:

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Lecture 13: Cenozoic climate change

Key texts are marked with an asterisk.

* Raymo, M.E. and Ruddiman, W.F. (1992). Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate. Nature  359: 117-122. Despite being fairly old, this is still probably the best easily available summary of the uplift-weathering hypothesis and its relationship to the BLAG model.

* Zachos, J., Pagani, M., Sloan, L., Thomas, E. and Billups, K. (2001). Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present. Science.  292: 686-693. A fairly recent, detailed review of our period – more detail here than you will need for the exam, but you should be aware of the issues it raises.

* Hansen, James, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, David Beerling, Robert Berner, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer, and James C. Zachos. "Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim? ." arXiv preprint arXiv:0804.1126  (2008). READ THE SECTION ABOUT CENOZOIC.

* Pagani, M., Caldeira, K., Berner, R. and Beerling, D.J., 2009. The role of terrestrial plants in limiting atmospheric CO 2 decline over the past 24 million years. Nature460(7251), pp.85-88. Describes the role of biological weathering feedback on controlling CO2 records

* Kent, D.V. and Muttoni, G., 2008. Equatorial convergence of India and early Cenozoic climate trends. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(42), pp.16065-16070.

This article describes the impact of the movement of India towards Asian continent and how it affects the carbon cycle during the Cenozoic. Good, easy to understand graphics in for example fIgure 3. 

You could also read one of the following in support of the lecture material:

Epihov DZ, Batterman SA, Hedin LO, Leake JR, Smith LM, Beerling DJ. 2017 N2-fixing tropical legume evolution:
a contributor to enhanced weathering through the Cenozoic? Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20170370.

 Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001, 2008 or 2014). Earth’s climate past and future. Freeman, New York. chapters 5 and 7.  Gives a very clear account of most of the material in this lecture in chapters 5 and 7.  

Van Andel, T.H. (1994). New Views on an old planet  (second edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Chapter 11 is particularly relevant and provides good background material to this lecture in conjunction with the starred papers. You may also find chapters 6-8 useful for brushing up your understanding of plate tectonics.

Williams, M.A.J., Dunkerley, D.L., De Deckker, P., Kershaw, A.P., Stokes, T. (1998) Quaternary Environments (2nd edition). Arnold, London. Also covers the Cenozoic in chapter 2, but their account is not so well organized as Ruddiman’s.

Wider reading

Berner RA, Kothavala Z. GEOCARB III: a revised model of atmospheric CO2 over Phanerozoic time. American Journal of Science. 2001 Feb 1;301(2):182-204. This is a very detailed and technical account of the full BLAG model predicting phanerozoic CO2 levels and feedbacks in the carbon cycle system over these times scales.

Berner, R.A. and Caldeira, K., 1997. The need for mass balance and feedback in the geochemical carbon cycle. Geology25(10), pp.955-956. This is a clear short account (2 pages) on the negative weathering feedback.

General reading on earth’s atmosphere and early earth climate:

Kasting, J.F., Toon, O.B. and Pollack, J.B., 1988. How climate evolved on the terrestrial planets. Scientific American258(2), pp.90-97. First sections up to and including the “role of biota” are very good. 

IF you are interested in Snowball earth & Phanerozoic temperature and glaciations :

Hoffman, P.F., Kaufman, A.J., Halverson, G.P. and Schrag, D.P., 1998. A Neoproterozoic snowball earth. science281(5381), pp.1342-1346.

Mills, B.J., Krause, A.J., Scotese, C.R., Hill, D.J., Shields, G.A. and Lenton, T.M., 2019. Modelling the long-term carbon cycle, atmospheric CO2, and Earth surface temperature from late Neoproterozoic to present day. Gondwana Research67, pp.172-186. Detailed account of relation between atmospheric CO2 and Earth surface temperature.

Barker, P.F., and Thomas, E. (2004). Origin, signature and palaeoclimatic influence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Earth-Science Reviews  66: 143-162. Everything you ever wanted to know about the ACC.

Barrett, P. (2003). Cooling a continent. Nature  421: 221-222. News and Views article on DeConto and Pollard – short and easy to read.

Billups, K. (2005). Snow maker for the ice ages. Nature  433: 809. Another short N+ V article.

DeConto, R.M., and Pollard, D. (2003). Rapid Cenozoic glaciation of Antarctica induced by declining atmospheric CO 2. Nature  421: 245-249. Start with the Barrett article before tackling this, which is quite technical.

Francis, J.E. and Poole, I. (2002). Cretaceous and early Tertiary climates of Antarctica: evidence from fossil wood. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology.  182: 47-64. Detailed, but interesting; gives an indication of the kind of palaeoclimatic detail that can be deduced about early Tertiary environments.

Haug, G.H., and Tiedemann, R. (1998). Effect of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama on Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation. Nature  393: 673-676.

Lourens, L.J., Sluijs, A., Kroon, D., Zachos, J.C., Thomas, E., Röhl, U., Bowles, J., and Raffi, I. (2005). Astronomical pacing of late Palaeocene to early Eocene global warming events. Nature  435: 1083-1087. Reports a newly discovered abrupt Cenozoic event and provides a link with the next lecture by discussing the role of Milankovitch cycles in pacing these events – this is quite technical though.

Schiermeier, Q. (2003). Gas leak! Nature  423: 681-682. Methane clathrates.

Ruddiman, W.F., Raymo, M.E., Prell, W.L., and Kutzbach, J.E. (1997). The uplift-climate connection: a synthesis. In Ruddiman, W.F. (ed.) Tectonic Uplift and Climate Change. Plenum Press, New York. A detailed treatment of the uplift-weathering hypothesis.

Wolfe, J.A. (1994). Tertiary climatic changes at middle latitudes of western North America. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology.  108: 195-205. Discusses the use of fossil leaf shape as an indicator of past temperatures.

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Lecture 14: Earth's orbit: pacemaker of the ice ages?

Milankovitch theory can be a very complex subject area – Huybers and Wunsch (2005) estimate that there are more than 30 competing hypotheses to explain the relationship between orbital variations and climate! Use the reading materials below to consolidate and broaden your understanding of the topic, but bear in mind that you will only be examined on the subjects discussed in the lecture – the trick here will be to avoid getting bogged down in the complexities of the arguments. The two papers marked with an asterisk are explicitly discussed in the lecture.

Baker, V.R. (2003). Icy martian mysteries. Nature  426: 779-780. News article about ice ages on other planets...

Bell, M., and Walker, M.J.C. (2005). Late Quaternary Environmental Change.  Pearson, Harlow. Pages 77-84 offer a gentle introduction to the topic.

Clark, P.U., Alley, R.B., and Pollard, D. (1999). Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet influences on global climate change. Science.  286: 1104-1111. A good review, advancing an alternative model to resolve the 100 kyr problem from those discussed in the lecture.

Crowley, T.J. (2002). Cycles, cycles everywhere. Science  295: 1473-1474. Brief news article that gives a good perspective on the current view of Milankovitch.

* Huybers, P., and Wunsch, C. (2005). Obliquity pacing of the late Pleistocene glacial terminations. Nature 2005: 491-494. The statistics are a bit advanced but the point of this paper is that the observed pattern of glacial-interglacial cycles over the last ~700 kyr can be produced using obliquity alone, with no need to invoke eccentricity – have we been wrong about this for the past 30 years?

Hays, J.D., Imbrie, J., and Shackleton, N.J. (1976). Variations in the earth’s orbit: pacemaker of the Ice Ages. Science  194: 1121-1132. The original paper on spectral analysis that first showed that Milankovitch was the “pacemaker of the ice ages”; a difficult read, but this represents one of the key turning points in the development of palaeoclimatology.

Imbrie, J. (1982). Astronomical theory of the Pleistocene ice ages: a brief historical review. Icarus.  50: 408-422. Written by one of the people who identified the Milankovitch frequencies in deep-ocean d18O records, a few years after that initial work was carried out: potentially interesting historical background.

Martínez-García, A., Sigman, D.M., Ren, H., Anderson, R.F., Straub, M., Hodell, D.A., Jaccard, S.L., Eglinton, T.I. and Haug, G.H., 2014. Iron fertilization of the Subantarctic Ocean during the last ice age. Science, 343(6177), pp.1347-1350.

Maslin, M.A. and Ridgwell, A.J., 2005. Mid-Pleistocene revolution and the ‘eccentricity myth’. Geological Society, London, Special Publications247(1), pp.19-34.

* Paillard, D. (2001). Glacial cycles: towards a new paradigm. Reviews of geophysics.  39: 325-346. Very well-written and comprehensive review of the Milankovitch theory. This is one of the key papers for this course – some of the material on e.g. Heinrich events will become clearer after later lectures. Paillard’s conceptual model of ice ages based on transitions across thresholds and hysteresis is a bit tricky to understand, but we’ll come back to these issues in a later lecture.

Paillard, D., 2017. Predictable ice ages on a chaotic planet. Nature, 542(7642), pp.419-420.

Parrenin, F., and Paillard, D. (2003). Amplitude and phase of glacial cycles from a conceptual model. Earth and Planetary Science Letters.  214: 243-250. A development of the ideas in Paillard 2001 – quite advanced reading.

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001, 2008 or 2014). Earth’s climate past and future. Freeman, New York. Chapter 10 is useful, but don’t get bogged down in all the detail.   

Ruddiman, W.F., 2003. Orbital insolation, ice volume, and greenhouse gases. Quaternary Science Reviews22(15-17), pp.1597-1629. For if you are interested in a very detailed report on relationships and feedback between orbital cycles, ice volumen and CO2. It is a complicate read though. 

Ruddiman, W.F., Raymo, M., and McIntyre, A. (1986). Matuyama 41,000 year cycles: North Atlantic Ocean and northern hemisphere ice sheets. Earth and Planetary Science Letters  80: 117-129. Rather old but discusses the 100 kyr problem in detail.

Tzedakis, P.C., Crucifix, M., Mitsui, T. and Wolff, E.W., 2017. A simple rule to determine which insolation cycles lead to interglacials. Nature542(7642), pp.427-432. Shown explicitly in the lecture. It is quite technical, and you do not need to understand all detail. This comment by Pallaird is a good alternative: Paillard, D., 2017. Predictable ice ages on a chaotic planet. Nature, 542(7642), pp.419-420. 

Van Andel, T.H. (1994). New views on an old planet  (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Chapters 4, 5 and 12 make an easy introduction to the subject.

Williams, M.A.J., Dunkerley, D.L., De Deckker, P., Kershaw, A.P., and Stokes, T. (1998) Quaternary Environments  (2 nd edition). Arnold, London. Chapters 4 and 5 give a very thorough grounding in Milankovitch theory – again, don’t get bogged down in the details.

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Lecture 15: Rapid climate change

The only textbook which really covers the lecture material well is:

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001). Earth’s climate past and future Freeman, New York. Chapters 14 and 15 – but as usual, there is more detail here than you need to know.

However, there are some excellent review papers in the following list – the best are marked with asterisks and you should attempt to read at least two of them, along with a good selection of the other material on this list!

* Alley, R.B., Marotzke, J., Nordhaus, W.D., Overpeck, J.T., Peteet, D.M., Pielke, R.A., Pierrehumbert, R.T., Rhines, P.B., Stocker, T.F., Talley, L.D., and Wallace, J.M. (2003) Abrupt climate change. Science  299: 2005-2009. Explains the relevance of studies of past climate change to our understanding of the risks associated with anthropogenic activity.

Adams, J., Maslin, M., and Thomas, E. (1999). Sudden climate transitions during the Quaternary. Progress in physical geography.  23: 1-36.

Alley, R.B., and Clark, P.U. (1999). The deglaciation of the northern hemisphere: a global perspective. Annual review of earth and planetary sciences.  27: 149-182.

* Bard, E. (2002). Climate shock: abrupt changes over millennial time scales. Physics today.  December 2002, 32-38. Excellent review.  

Broecker, W. S. (1997). Thermohaline circulation, the Achilles heel of our climate system: will man-made CO 2 upset the current balance?  Science  278: 1582-1588. A "popular" version is at

Clark, P.U., Pisias, N.G., Stocker, T.F., and Weaver, A.J. (2002). The role of the thermohaline circulation in abrupt climate change. Nature.  415: 863-869.

Coope, G.R. (1977) Fossil Coleopteran assemblages as sensitive indicators of climatic changes during the Devensian (last) cold stage. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing papers of a biological character.  280: 313-340. A classic paper on the rapidity of climate change during the Late Glacial in the British Isles.

Heinrich, H. (1988) Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the northeast Atlantic ocean during the past 130,000 years. Quaternary research.  29: 142-152. Another classic, though Heinrich’s proposed mechanism is not currently thought to be correct.

* Paillard, D. (2001). Glacial cycles: towards a new paradigm. Reviews of geophysics.  39: 325-346. This was in the reading list for the previous lecture but remains useful here and in the next lecture too.

* Rahmstorf, S. (2002) Ocean circulation and climate during the past 120,000 years. Nature  419: 207-213. A good review paper.

Schwartz, P., and Randall, D. (2003). An abrupt climate change scenario and its implications for United States national security. Online at  

* Stocker, T.F. (1999). Abrupt climate change: from the past to the future – a review. International Journal of Earth Sciences  88: 365-374. Fairly succinct; occasionally lapses into technical jargon.

Weart, S. (2004) Rapid climate change. A rare example of a decent web resource! Part of an online supplement to a recent (and fairly well-received) book on the history of the discovery of rapid climate change and global warming.  - hosted by the American Institute of Physics.

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Lecture 16: Instability in the climate system

Alley, R.B., Marotzke, J., Nordhaus, W.D., Overpeck, J.T., Peteet, D.M., Pielke, R.A., Pierrehumbert, R.T., Rhines, P.B., Stocker, T.F., Talley, L.D., and Wallace, J.M. (2003). Abrupt climate change. Science.  299: 2005-2009.

Bard, E. (2002). Climate shock: abrupt changes over millennial time scales. Physics today.  December 2002, 32-38. The best of the reviews on this list and the one that comes closest to matching the lecture content – a must-read. Online at  

Broecker, W. S. (1997). Thermohaline circulation, the Achilles heel of our climate system: will man-made CO 2 upset the current balance?  Science  278: 1582-1588.

Broecker, W. S. (2003). Does the Trigger for Abrupt Climate Change Reside in the Ocean or in the Atmosphere? Science  300: 1519-1522.

Dokken, T.M., and Nisiancioglu, K.H. (2004). Fresh angle on the polar seesaw. Nature  430: 842-843.

* Ganopolski, A., and Rahmstorf, S. (2001). Rapid changes of glacial climate simulated in a coupled climate model. Nature  409: 153-158. The focus of this lecture, but quite technical.

Lynch-Stieglitz, J. (2004). Hemispheric asynchrony of abrupt climate change. Science  304: 1919-1920.

* Paillard, D. (2001). Glacial hiccups. Nature  409: 147-148. A News and Views article on Ganopolski and Rahmstorf.

Paillard, D. (2001). Glacial cycles: towards a new paradigm. Reviews of geophysics.  39: 325-346.

Rahmstorf, S. (1995). Bifurcations of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation in response to changes in the hydrological cycle. Nature 378: 145-149.

Rahmstorf, S. (2002). Ocean circulation and climate during the past 120,000 years. Nature  419: 207-213.

Rial, J.A., Pielke, R.A., Beniston, M., Claussen, M., Canadell, J., Cox, P., Held, H., de Noblet-Ducoudré, N., Prinn, R., Reynolds, J.F., and Salas, J.D. (2004). Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system. Climatic Change  65: 11-38.

Ruddiman, W.F. (2001). Earth’s climate past and future.  Freeman, New York. Chapters 14 and 15.

Severinghaus, J.P. (2009). Southern see-saw seen. Nature 457, 1093-1094. 

Stocker, T.F. (1999). Abrupt climate change: from the past to the future – a review. International Journal of Earth Sciences  88: 365-374.

The Holocene


Bradley, R.S. and Jones, P.D. 1992. Climate since A.D. 1500. Routledge.

Grove, J. 1989. The little ice age. CUP

Ruddiman, W.F. 2001. Earth’s Climate Past and Future. Freeman.

Lowe, J.J. and Walker, M.J.C. 1997. Reconstructing Quaternary Environments. Longman.

Roberts, N. 1998. The Holocene: An Environmental History. Blackwell.

Journal articles:

Alley, R.B. et al. 1997. Holocene climatic instability; a prominent, widespread event 8,200 yr ago. Geology. 25, 483–486.

Bond, G., Showers, W., Cheseby, M., Lotti, R., Almasi, P., deMenocal, P., Priore, P., Cullen, H., Hajdas, I. and Bonani, G. 1997. A pervasive millennial-scale cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and glacial climates. Science. 278, 1257–1266.

Bond, G., Kromer, B., Beer, J., Muscheler, R., Evans, M. N., Showers, W., Hoffmann, S., Lotti-Bond, R., Hajdas, I. and Bonani, G. 2001. Persistent solar influence on north Atlantic climate during the Holocene’. Science. 294, 2130-2136.

Bradley, R.S. 2000. Past global changes and their significance for the future. Quaternary science reviews. 19, 391–402.

Hughes, M.K. and Diaz, H.F. 1994. Was there a 'Medieval Warm Period' and if so, when and where? . Climatic Change. 26, 109–142.

Jones, P.D., Briffa, K.R., Barnett, T.P. and Tett, S.F.B. 1998. High-resolution palaeoclimatic records for the last millennium: interpretation, integration and comparison with General Circulation Model control-run temperatures. The Holocene. 84, 455–471.

Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K. 1998. Global-scale temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over The Past Six Centuries. Nature. 392, 779–787.

Ruddiman, W.F., Vavrus, S.J., and Kutzbach, J.E. 2005. A test of the overdue-glaciation hypothesis. Quaternary science reviews. 24, 1-10.

Swindles, G.T., Plunkett, G. and Roe, H.M. 2007. A delayed climatic response to solar forcing at 2800 cal. BP: multi-proxy evidence from three Irish peatlands. The Holocene. 17, 177-182.

Verschuren, D., Laird, K.R. and Cumming, B.F. 2000. Rainfall and drought in equatorial east Africa during the past 1,100 years. Nature. 403, 410–414.

Wanner, H. et al. 2008. Mid- to Late Holocene climate change: an overview. Quaternary science reviews. 27, 1791–1828.

This list was last updated on 14/02/2022