ESM Course Details


Your opportunity to learn more about climate science and to use a climate model!


The climate of the Earth is the result of several factors: astronomical, physical, geographical and biogeochemical. The latter refers to the chemical composition of living and non-living components and how they exchange the major chemical elements between each other.

To study the complexity of the Earth as a system of interacting elements, scientists cannot rely on the construction of a miniaturised model because many of these processes occur at the planetary scale. Furthermore, scientists cannot separate the various components into discreet entities because most components only function if considered as a whole. Numerical models of the Earth climate are therefore the only available instrument that allows us to combine together pieces of information such as physical laws, causal relationships and empirical observations in such a way as to reproduce the behaviour of the system and investigate how it may evolve in the future. These models start by describing the atmosphere, then introduce physical coupling with the ocean.

Earth System Models are not only complex, as the nature of the system that they describe would require, they are also complicated because they contain a combination of scientific knowledge, mathematical techniques and computer science aspects. Interpreting and using the results of climate and Earth System models requires some understanding of what their specific aims are, what their limitations are and the major underlying assumptions.

This one-day free crash course is organized by the Marine Research Institute at UCT, sponsored by the South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP), and hosted by the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) at NMMU. It aims to introduce climate models to students interested in various aspects of Earth Sciences, including students from applied mathematics, engineering, computer science and economics.

The course targets 3rd year undergraduates, honours and masters students and does not require any specific pre-requisite. The students will first be familiarised with the main underlying concepts of climate science and will then be introduced to what a climate model is and how it works. The second part of the course will consist of hands-on sessions with a personal computer version of a real climate model that was specifically created for educational purposes.


Marcello Vichi

Director: Ma-Re



Course Slides (.pdf):

ESM - Hands-On

ESM Part 1

ESM Part 2