Constructing and applying high resolution climate scenarios

Training Course
Oxford University
08 Oct 2012 - 04 Jan 2013


This course aims to build on the basics introduced in An Introduction to the Science of Climate and Climate Change , but its primary focus is on the use of regional climate models in particular, and how their output (or indeed that of global models and/or observations) can be analysed and prepared for use as inputs to impacts models of various kinds. All the reading material is embedded into the course, but students additionally have access to the University's electronic resources and online journals, which they are expected to use for some of the activities.

Constructing and applying high resolution climate scenarios is a 7-week tutored online course. A bursary scheme is available to help with tuition costs (please see course description for details).

Content will look in particular at three steps: the step from global climate change information to the regional detail ('downscaling'), the step from regional and global climate change information to producing climate scenarios appropriate for input to impacts models, and the step from climate scenarios to impacts models, giving the eventual climate impacts information that we seek.

Course objectives

  • Understand the cascade of uncertainties in the generation of regional climate information

  • Understand climate and regional climate models (RCMs)

  • Understand the potential and limitations of RCMs

  • Design effective RCM experiments

  • Validate and evaluate an RCM

  • Construct climate scenarios for an impacts assessment

Course content

This course is organized into 7 units, with an assignment to be completed upon completion of the course. Each unit should take around one week to cover, and up to five additional weeks is permitted for completion of the assignment, which is submitted online. Each unit is relatively free-standing.

Unit 1: Introduction Unit 2: Uncertainties in the development of climate scenarios Unit 3: Regionalisation techniques and regional climate modelling Unit 4: Regional climate models Unit 5: Validating & evaluating a regional climate model Unit 6: Designing regional climate model experiments Unit 7: Climate scenario construction for impacts assessments

Each unit consists will offer you (1) an introduction giving you an outline of the topic covered in the unit and its learning objectives (2) information about the topic you are studying, giving you the context within which your reading should make sense (3) a number of activities, some of which ask you to work alone, while others are group activities that give you the opportunity to work with your fellow students (4) recommended resources for further exploration.

Assessment methods

The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. Participants contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment will obtain 20 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.

Assessment will be based on submission of an assignment, not exceeding 4000 words. Students will be asked to demonstrate how they would design a regional climate model experiment for their region, and how they would assess the quality of their design.

Level and demands

Learning time will constitute 12 weeks (including assignment preparation). Notionally, up to 200 hours: 50-80 hours study of web-based course materials and participation in an online community; 40 hours additional reading and independent study; 60 hours preparation and drafting of coursework assignment

Teaching outcomes


  • an overview of the scientific formulation of climate models and regional climate models (RCMs)

  • experience of using climate scenarios for impacts assessment


  • the cascade of uncertainties inherent in the development and application of high resolution climate change scenarios

  • the uses of RCMs

  • the issues which need to be considered when setting up an RCM experiment

  • the need for validation of a regional climate model


  • the ability to design, evaluate and validate effective experiments using RCMs

  • methods to develop climate scenarios

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Event fee

£1,250 (bursaries available)

How to register

A computer and reliable internet connection are required for our climate science courses.

Candidates must hold a qualification equivalent to a first Honours Degree (BA, BSc), or be able to demonstrate significant experience in the field of climate science. If you hold non-British qualifications, you are advised to check with the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom how your qualifications match these requirements.

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University. Candidates who operate as professionals extensively in the medium of English may submit a waiver request (short letter), which should be submitted along with their application pack. This should clearly indicate the nature/extent of current use of and level of proficiency in the English language.

Your application must comprise of an application form (all sections completed), a full Curriculum Vitae, a Personal Statement and one reference. All documents must be presented in English. Candidates are encouraged to provide an academic transcript. Your reference must be secured and submitted in time to be considered alongside the rest of your application.

Should you have any specific queries about applying please email: or phone: +44 1865 286953.


Climate Change, Information Management
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