KE7031 - Environmental Modelling

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn to simulate the behaviour of, and interactions between, a selection of Earth’s systems (for example, the cryosphere, atmosphere, ocean, solid Earth). As well as a thorough appreciation of state-of-the-art representation of these systems in the computational domain you will develop an objective understanding of the limitations of such computational models with respect to the processes they intend to capture.

As you learn to operate these Earth System Models (ESMs), you will gain transferable skills in programming languages widely used in both industry and academia. Using these cutting-edge computational models, our teaching staff produce internationally excellent research on the past and future evolution of the polar ice sheets and global climate change. In this module, you will follow on from introductory MATLAB material taught in KE7017: Frontiers in Geoscience in semester 1 and develop advanced programming skills in MATLAB to enable you to contribute the Department’s research activities. You will have the opportunity to explore other languages such as Unix and FORTRAN. You will also gain experience in using Northumbria University’s multi-core High Performance Computing Facility (HPC), “Oswald”, to perform modelling experiments.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a combination of lectures, workshops and IT practicals. Lectures and seminars will provide the necessary background knowledge on the conceptual models that underpin the physical processes captured in the computational models you encounter in the practical element of this module.

During the staff-supported IT practicals, you will learn to operate a range of Earth system models and in conjunction, quantitatively analyse large observational data sets in order to assess model performance.

In addition to directed study, you will learn independently through additional practical exercises to advance understanding and support experiential learning of models.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Formative feedback will be provided primarily through peer and staff feedback during IT practicals. We openly encourage the method of pair- programming and peer-support during practical sessions. Additionally, drop-in workshops will be offered during which formative feedback will be provided during project development as part of the summative assessment.

Teaching staff operate an ‘open door’ policy for students meaning you can approach them anytime during normal office hours, or via email, to answer questions, receive feedback and support your learning on the module.

This module will run in Semester 2 of the academic year and will enable students with no previous MATLAB programming experience to engage with introductory MATLAB workshops in scheduled practical time in KE7017: Frontiers in Geoscience and during their own independent study time during Semester 1.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding: * MLO 1: Expertise in operating state-of-the-art cryospheric, geophysical and atmospheric models and understanding their limitations and key areas for development Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities: * MLO 2: Evaluate the limitations of using computational models when they are utilised for predictive and retrodictive exercises and quantify the effect of the uncertainties * MLO 3: Advanced expertise in academia- and industry-standard computational languages Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA): * MLO 4. Develop a critical understanding of computational modelling in providing assessments of future past/behaviour of earth systems * MLO 5: Effective communication of the results of their modelling projects in scholarly written, verbal and visual form

How will I be assessed?

1. Individual Modelling Project (100%). You will produce a 3000-word report written in the style of a Geophysical Research Letters journal article on a modelling project using a specific model introduced during the practicals. Formative feedback will be provided verbally in scheduled workshops to develop the research questions, methodology and experiment planning for the summative modelling project. All MLOs are addressed in this assessment.





Module abstract

This module will deliver a thorough understanding of modelling methods applied to understand changes in, and between a selection of Earth systems including, the solid Earth, atmosphere and cryosphere. These subject areas are aligned to the scholarly interests of our internationally excellent research staff.

Skills gained in this module will enable you to pursue careers in the environmental consultancy sector, risk management and in further academic study. This will include advanced proficiency in programming languages such as MATLAB, and experience in a selection of other languages such as Python and Unix, enabling you to capably engage with environmental models outside of the range taught in this module.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year Full Time

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy