GEO4432 – The Surface Energy Balance in Cold Environments

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Changes in the course due to coronavirus

Autumn 2020 the exams of most courses at the MN Faculty will be conducted as digital home exams or oral exams, using the normal grading scale. The semester page for your course will be updated with any changes in the form of examination.

See general guidelines for examination at the MN Faculty autumn 2020.

Course content

The course introduces energy exchange processes at the Earth’s surface, connecting the coupled cycles of water, energy and greenhouse gases of the atmosphere and ground. Students will become familiar with this so-called "surface energy balance" in different environments, providing a common framework to understand a range of phenomena, like surface temperature regimes on Earth and other planets, evapotranspiration, plant wilting, lake ice formation and ground freezing, as well as snow melt and glacier mass balance. Ultimately, they will gain a better understanding of the Earth’s water cycle and key formulations in state-of-the-art land surface and climate models.

Learning outcome

After taking this course, you will have:

  • understood the different components of the surface energy balance, i.e. different radiation components, turbulent fluxes or the ground heat flux.
  • gotten hands-on experience with calculating the surface energy balance for a range of applications.
  • written computer models to simulate the surface energy balance.
  • applied the surface energy balance formalism to hydrology with focus on evapotranspiration.
  • understood and applied different methods to infer evapotranspiration and snow mass balance in the field.
  • quantified processes related to built-up and melt of snow cover, as well as the mass balance of a glacier.
  • understood how the surface energy formalism is implemented in climate models, driving both the atmospheric and ocean circulation.

Admission to the course

This course has a limited capacity of maximum of 16 students. If there are more applicants than avaliable these students will have priority.

  1. Master students in admitted at the master programme in Geosciences (UiO) in the programme option: "Glaciology and Hydrology" having the course as mandatory in their study plan.
  2. Other master students at the master programme in Geosciences (UiO).
  3. Incoming exchange students on Master's level
  4. MSc single course students.

Applicants will be ranked by credits within each group. Admission will be decided by drawing lots for applicants who are ranked equally.

Formal prerequisite knowledge

The course includes a compulsory field course and excursions. A health and safety course for safety in the field must be passed before you can go on these.

Overlapping courses


Lectures: 2 hours per week. Programming lab/seminar: 4hrs/week with discussions and presentations from the students. One project report based on a computer programming project and one student presentation count towards the final grade.

A 3 days compulsory field course to Finse. A field report from the field course has to be written and approved in order to sit the final written examination.

Attendance at the first lecture is compulsory. Students who fail to meet, are considered to have withdrawn from the course unless they have previously given notice to the Student administration (

As the teaching involves laboratory and/or field work, you should consider taking out a separate travel and personal risk insurance. Read about your insurance cover as a student.

General information about excursions at the Department of Geosciences.

We reserve the right to change the teaching form and examination of the course in semesters where 5 or fewer students have been admitted.


  • The field report has to be approved in order to sit the final examination.
  • One seminar presentation counts for 20%.
  • One project reports based on a computer programming project counts for 20%.
  • Final examination counts for 60%.

The form of final exam depends on the number of students. If there are less than ca 12 students, the final exam will be oral. If there are more than ca 12 students, the final exam can be written (3 hours).

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English. You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Resit an examination

Students who can document a valid reason for absence from the regular examination are offered a postponed examination at the beginning of the next semester.

Re-scheduled examinations are not offered to students who withdraw during, or did not pass the original examination.

Special examination arrangements, use of sources, explanations and appeals

See more about examinations at UiO

Last updated from FS (Common Student System) Nov. 24, 2020 7:13:19 PM

Facts about this course

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