MSc Data Science (Earth and Environmental Analytics)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Measuring and Predicting 2

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART60071
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Following on from part 1, we emphasize the use of models to make predictions and to aid in the interpretation of measurements in the Environmental Sciences. We begin with an introduction on the use of models in the Environmental Sciences, drawing on examples from the current state-of-science literature and a discussion of the merits and limitations of various approaches.

We then run a series of lectures and practical sessions where the focus is on discussing and using a selection of different models and students are able to gain insight into relevant computational models by using a combination of baseline simulations and sensitivity tests. Each week a new modelling approach will be introduced in a lecture, and students will gain hands-on experience in using models and interpreting model output. The emphasis is on how the models relate to the real world, rather than computational details, in addition to developing the relevant vocabulary for describing and interpreting model output.


To further prepare students to carry out an independent research project by providing hands-on experience in the use of models to make predictions and to aid in the interpretation of measurements of pollutant mobility and transformation.


Learning outcomes


On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


To demonstrate knowledge of different modelling approaches.


Gain an appreciation of the kinds of problems that numerical models can help to solve and how they can augment measurements


Be able to describe the assumptions of different modelling approaches in environmental sciences. 


Analyse environmental model output, from different data formats, and describe and present results in a useful way.



Recognise model artefacts such as numerical diffusion and instabilities.


Evaluate whether arguments are logical in connecting objectives to aims.




2-hour lecture plus 3-hour practical on computer cluster each week.


  1. Use of ‘parcel models’ in Environmental Sciences

Lecture: the use of parcel models in atmospheric research

Practical: influence of aerosol particles in the atmosphere.

  1. Diffusion, mixing, and turbulence in Environmental Modelling (transport and mixing of pollutants).

Lecture: Air quality

Practical: Gaussian Plume Modelling practical (linked to traffic flow modelling)

  1. Broad overview: 1-D models in Environmental Science

Lecture: How aerosols affect precipitation

Practical: Modelling rainfall / precipitation

  1. Dynamics governing the movement of the ocean / atmosphere.

Lecture: Ocean and Atmospheric Circulations

Practical: Shallow Fluid Modelling

  1. 3D modelling and data

Lecture: determining the origin of polluted air

Practical: back-trajectory modelling

  1. Q+A session

Teaching and learning methods


  • 2-hour lecture per week covering a different modelling approach; the relevant theory; and usage cases for the model, with examples.
  • 3-hour computer practical each week, with guided learning where students download and use models to simulate environmental processes, and plot / interpret the results.
  • On-line JavaScript models for formative learning, which can be used away from the University.
  • Binder web-pages demonstrating python routines to plot and interpret model data.
  • Supplemented with on-line video to aid with technical tasks.
  • Formative assessment through on-line BB tests with immediate feedback is given each week.
  • Summative assessment is by a single on-line open book examination using questions in the same style as the formative tests and with immediate feedback.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods


Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

Formative tests




5 – 30mins

On-line immediate


Open book assessment



3 hours


1, 3, 5, 6


Recommended reading


Jacobson. 1999. ``Fundamentals of Atmospheric Modelling’’. ``Cambridge University Press’’.

Seinfeld et al. 2006. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change. 2nd ed. Wiley.

Practical Meteorology (Free e-book):

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 50
Independent study hours
Independent study 100

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Paul Connolly Unit coordinator

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