GEO4432 – The Surface Energy Balance in Cold Environments

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Exams after the reopening

As a general rule, exams will be conducted without physical attendance in the autumn of 2021, even after the reopening. See the semester page for information about the form of examination in your course. See also more information about examination at the MN Faculty in 2021.

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

Students admitted at UiO must apply for courses in Studentweb. Students enrolled in other master's degree programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

Nordic citizens and applicants residing in the Nordic countries may apply to take this course as a single course student.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures for international applicants.

The courses GEO4432 – The Surface Energy Balance in Cold Environments and GEO9432 – The Surface Energy Balance in Cold Environments have a joint admission with a joint capacity of 16 students. If there are more than 16 applicants, the applicants will be ranked after the following categories:

  1. Students admitted to the following programme option:
  2. PhD candidates at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, UiO
  3. Other master students at one of the following programmes (prioritized order): 
  4. Visiting PhD candidates at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, UiO
  5. Incoming exchange students on master's level 
  6. Other students

Applicants will be ranked within each category: all applicants within category 1 are ranked before applicants in category 2. If there are space limitations in the course, available places will be given to students selected randomly.

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: 4 hours per week, with discussions and presentations from the students.

A 3-day 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 (

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

As the teaching involves laboratory and/or fieldwork, 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

Cost of taking the course

Participation in the excursion is mandatory. The excursion has a fee of NOK 150 per night.


  • The field report has to be approved in order to sit the final examination.
  • One seminar presentation counts 20% towards the final grade.
  • One project report based on a computer programming project counts 20% towards the final grade.
  • Final examination counts 60% towards the final grade.
  • The form of the 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 will be written.

When writing your exercises make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules for use of sources and citations. Breach of these rules may lead to suspicion of attempted cheating.

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

It will also be counted as 1 of the 3 attempts to sit the exam for this course if you sit the exam for the following course:

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) Dec. 5, 2021 1:15:18 PM

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