Liam Taylor

Liam Taylor

PhD student researching the impacts of climate change on our world

Course producer for University of Exeter Global Systems Institute


Location Exeter and Leeds, UK


  • Great summary :)

  • Absolutely right. The atmosphere is just the collection of gases that are within the gravitational pull of the Earth. Ones that aren't, are blown away into Space :)

  • Hi Emily - Great answers! Thanks for posting the links to your research :)

  • Let's imagine we've got 2 mugs of water. The first mug contains hot water from a tap, the second mug contains boiling water.

    If we hold our hands above both, we can feel heat energy coming off them. But the mug that contains boiling water is radiating more heat energy than the mug containing hot water.

    Hotter things radiate more heat energy, and thus...

  • Really nice summary! :-)

  • Water does get quite complicated. When we give albedo values, it's generally averaged out over a very very large area - so open ocean has an albedo of around 0.08-0.10 (reflecting 8-10% of solar radiation). Shallower water bodies can have a higher albedo, and yes, there are physical properties of that can affect it.

    Ocean though is ~10%. If you find the 30%...

  • Yes, absolutely, and different gases stay in the atmosphere for different amounts of times. What drives the mixing is atmospheric circulation patterns. These are driven by how different parts of the Earth warm up, the way the Earth spins, where the land on Earth is etc. This website should give a good overview :-)...

  • Yes, it does.

  • Welcome to all of our learners! And what a good day for this course to begin - Earth Day. On behalf of the team, we wish you all the very best for the course, please post your questions in the comment section :-)

  • Thanks for joining us Elisa! :-)

  • Hi Charlotte. The advice I've been given (I don't work for the University of Exeter) is to register your interest if you're keen on any of the postgraduate options. They are finalising the full details of the programme, but haven't yet said whether its online / on-campus. Sorry I can't be more help!...

  • Good question! I hadn't thought of this before! With a bit of googling, this has only posed more questions!

    The amount of water (ice) in permafrost massively depends on the ground material. Ice can make up anywhere between 10-90% of the volume of the material. But we only know what the content is by drilling into it... and that requires significant time and...

  • Hi Beatriz - Apologies but we cannot open this video for download because it does not belong to us (Swansea University very kindly let us show it on the course). You can also find the same video on YouTube -

  • Hi Anthony - Check out this video of a similar calving event. It goes on a bit, so skip to about 3 minutes 50 where they place Manhattan over the ice to show you the absolutely phenomenal amount of ice that's lost in these events.

  • Hi Mike,

    Fantastic question. The large tongue at the front of Jakobshavn Isbrae (the glacier we looked at in the video) retreated because of warm waters in the fjord, melting the glacier from beneath. The water temperature has increased by over 1°C since the 1980s.

    Jakobshavn Isbrae massively accelerated its retreat rate from 1998 due to a very warm...

  • Good question! Particularly as there are bits of 'East' Antarctica that are actually to the West of the pole!

    The convention comes from the mountain range that runs slightly to the west of the south pole (The Transantarctic Mountains). These mountains pretty nicely split Antarctica into two seperate ice sheets - the ice sheet that is to the East and the ice...

  • I can very strongly recommend Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral (for the later parts of this week). Both are on Netflix! I showed a clip from chasing coral to a class of 13-14 year olds and had quite a few in tears.

  • Yes, definitely! And there has been evidence that this is the case. This article (though written for 'entertainment', is scientifically accurate) covers quite nicely the issue.

  • @MargaretJohnson Yes, these are called ice stupas! They are created artificially during the winter and when water is plentiful, then they act as a store for water, melting during the summer when water is scarce again.

  • Very good points Angela!

    There are a few mountain glaciers in temperature regions that do calve - into lakes at the front of their terminus. These lakes are very popular for drinking water - particularly in places like Nepal and Peru. If large calving events occur, the lake can overspill and cause flooding downstream - in very very extreme circumstances.

  • Hi Paula,

    Great questions. Yes, regional pressure systems do cause an increase in melt. Arctic sea-ice melts more under high-pressure systems, for example. Current climate modelling isn't yet good enough to say whether we'll get more of these systems in the future though.

    It's likely we'll see something similar again. Remember, the 2012 event was a...

  • Hi Mikko,

    Apologies for missing these questions!

    Very difficult to quantify our mitigated carbon emissions! There are so many things we don't know - for example the strength of the terrestrial biosphere in absorbing carbon emissions. About half of the carbon emissions we release each year enter the atmosphere - which suggests that the other half is being...

  • Interesting questions! Yes, in the same way that we can use dead trees to reconstruct the past, because the tree rings don't degrade, dead corals can also be used. Just as long as they remain in a good condition after death.

    There's always more to learn. Just today, the British Antarctic Survey announced they'd drilled to the bed of the Antarctic ice sheet...

  • Sort of! They cause lower temperatures on the short-term, exactly as Trish has said. The dust and some aerosol particles (like sulfur dioxide) that they eject into the atmosphere reflects solar radiation, causing short-term cooling. But these drop out of the atmosphere in months or just a few years.

    However, the carbon dioxide they release stays in the...

  • Out of pure curiosity, I've found that the oldest living tree is currently about 5000 years old! Very ethically dubious if we start coring these ancient ancient trees though!

  • Hi Graeme - It's the sun that's expanding. The Earth more or less hasn't changed in size since it was formed.

  • Ah, very glad to hear it! :-)

  • Great question Nick. In short.... we're not quite sure. It's likely a combination of a number of things - including lower solar activity, the Earth being tilted away from the Sun or even a supervolcano eruption that blocked out solar radiation for a while.

    However, what is likely to have been the main reason, is that the continents were all bunched up...

  • Yes! One source I've found suggests that the Earth has grown by about 14% since Earth first formed. We're in a fairly stable phase at the moment (called the 'main sequence'), where it doesn't grow much or change in brightness too rapidly. The brightness of the Sun was about 70% of what it is now when Earth first formed. Early Earth was only warm because of a...

  • Hi Sue - Is there anything in particular you'd like some help with? Please do ask questions if ever your stuck - that's what I'm here for :-)

  • Yes! We've observed many more of these lakes on top of the ice, growing in number and extent. Using satellites, we can also watch these enormous lakes rapidly drain over a matter of days. All of that water either goes straight into the glacier, warming it from the inside out, or to the bed, lubricating flow.

  • My bad! I rewrote this article fresh for this run of the course - forgot to run it through a spell check... oops!

  • Hi Nick. Interesting questions.

    1) In short, we're still not sure. Likely that just the rest of the natural system 'caught up'. Ocean sediment cores show increased deposition, and more biological activity, which will have helped cause an abrupt end and recovery.

    2) Unfortunately, not quite. Venus is an extreme example, showing that there aren't maximum...

  • Hi Peter - You're right, these are likely Holocene peat bogs. This landscape is called 'thermokarst' and is a visual indication of permafrost thaw across a large area. (More in Week 3 on that!). Permafrost contains the methane hydrates that likely caused the PETM event. I agree though it looks a wee bit out of place here - I've added a caption to the image to...

  • Hi @ZulqarnainAlam - What a good idea! I have added this as an activity at the end of Week 4 (step 4.12) - I'm very interested too. Thanks for this idea :-)

  • Thanks for the links :)

  • Hi everyone. I've added the word cloud from the first activity to this article, where we asked you to write your three words about what climate change means to you. Do any of the words surprise you? Is it what you expected?

  • Thank-you to everyone for engaging in this activity! You can find the first word cloud of your thoughts in Step 12 at the end of Week 1 :-)

  • I've seen a few different ways this is described. Next week, we tend to describe 3 types of climate change. Anthropogenic climate change (that's the contribution of humans to changes), Natural climate change (no humans involved) and then use climate change as an umbrella to describe all changes that are observed.

  • Stick with us Angela! Next week is all about putting climate change in the context of geological time and natural climate changes, and in Week 4 we look at the future, including some of these hypothetical situations.

  • Thanks Areum! Please let me know if you have any questions that I can help you with :-)

  • Thanks for the feedback! :-)

  • Hi @MatthewShort - Thanks for all of your contributions this week, I've loved reading them all. I don't want to overwhelm you at all, but just wanted to point you in the direction of our second course which is beginning 18th February, which spends 4 weeks looking specifically at the solutions of climate change. We spend quite a bit of time on both the...

  • Hi Anthony - Thanks for the feedback! Stick around for Week 2 - we cover natural climate change there, and spend week 2 separating the natural from the man-made :-)

  • @MicheleSquarcia Yes! You could go round in circles for hours working out the physics of the atmosphere!

  • @NickGarland Very very very difficult to say. For example, we know that as the Arctic gets warmer, it also becomes a more effective carbon sink (you get shrubs and trees moving northwards, so more photosynthesis). But, does that offset the extra carbon that is being released from permafrost thaw? Honest truth is that nobody knows. I spent a year doing a...

  • Great to have you with us Matthew! :-)

  • Welcome Jake! If there is anything you seen in this course that you'd like to use in your own teaching, please let me know. In response to past teacher feedback, all of our videos are freely available on YouTube ( If there are any other resources you think might be helpful in your teaching, just leave a...

  • Welcome! Living in Leeds now, but growing up in Exeter, I very much miss being so close to the coast. Exmouth is a wonderful part of the country. Thanks for joining :-)

  • Hi Elisha! Thanks for joining. We've tried to make as much of the course teacher friendly as possible, so you can use the resources in your classroom - e.g. from teacher feedback, all of the videos from this course (and all our courses) are on our YouTube channel ( If there's anything else we can do to...

  • Great research Nick, so I'll only add something interesting. If we limit warming to 1.5˚C, rather than 2.0˚C, we'll save between 1.5 and 2.5 million km2 of permafrost thaw (there is ~55 million km2 of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere), as well as all of the carbon release that that would entail. It's not been published what the impacts would be in a...

  • I do wonder, if the ozone hole was over a populated area, whether there would be much more desire for international agreement to fix this disaster...

  • Hi Claire! Great questions!

    1) Yes, this is mostly correct, and we're emitting CO2 into the atmosphere at a much much much faster rate than any geomorphic process could take it out. With regards to the self-regulation system, take a look at the video in Step 1.8!

    2) Ooh interesting! Not to my knowledge. A snowball Earth is usually triggered when an ice age...

  • This was a fun question to research! Thanks!

    When Albedo 0.39 (the album) was released in 1976, the best estimate of Earth's albedo came from a 1936 study that compared the brightness of the earthlit and sunlit parts of the moon to determine how reflective Earth was.

    However, the era of Earth observation from satellite data began in the late 1970s - if...

  • Hi @DonaldSimon - I think the key thing to note is that this means all scientists, regardless of their specialism in climate science. A common figure that is used to represent the concensus of climate scientists is that 97% believe that global warming is man-made. You can find a very comprehensive view of this concensus at...

  • Thanks Debra - see you in Week 2! :-)

  • Yes, it was absolutely devestating. Approximately one half of all corals on the reef died, because there was a bleaching event (caused by warm water) in 2015, 2016 and 2018 - so there was no chance for the corals to recover. :(

  • I feel a bit foolish posting this, but I was a bit caught out by this myself! I moved to Leeds, UK last year and there was significant snowfall - which is unusual for me, so I was caught out by it, did not have the right clothing etc. So this year, I was ready and prepared - but no snow seems to be coming. Looks like that event last year was a weather event...

  • Very nice link - thanks for sharing!

  • Fantastic stuff Angela - exactly right! :-)

  • Good summary! Methane in the atmosphere does, sort of, turn into CO2 through a process called oxidation. This is very slow and takes about 9 years to happen. This is actually a big way that water vapour enters the atmosphere, through the reaction! This isn't the fate for all methane that enters the atmosphere. A fair chunk is taken up by microorganisms known...

  • Hi John - Social media will only ever be supplementary and optional additions to the course for people that enjoy using it. Non-users won't miss out at all, anything that's posted there I'll make sure is also repeated on these comment sections.

  • Hi Mohamed! Wow, thanks for joining us! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your work in Week 3 when we talk about the impacts of climate change to the oceans :-)

  • Hi Peter - Really looking forward to hearing more from you! Very wise to be skeptical of social media! Thanks for spotting the typo - I'll get this fixed ASAP :)

  • Hello and welcome to the course! I hope you enjoy the next 4 weeks, and I can't wait to meet everybody. Please let me know if you have any questions :-)

  • Welcome to the course! I hope you enjoy the next 4 weeks - and that we are able to inspire climate action across the world.

    Please do share the course online, or with friends and family anywhere in the world, to expand our global learning community :-)

  • Thanks for joining us Tim - I can't wait to hear more from you during the course.

  • Welcome! :-)

  • @KAJOLSHARMA - Annabelle is exactly right, go back through all of the steps in each week and make sure you've clicked the bottom 'Mark as Complete' on every single one. That is what indicates your progress percentage :-)

  • Liam Taylor made a comment

    "We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it." —President Obama

    This is what inspired me to devote my time to climate change (in particular, education). For me, the more people know about it, the more people will take action.

  • I think it depends on what you mean by positive and negative effects (which, in a way, is subjective). For example, it would be great for Russia and Canada if the Arctic became ice-free because it opens up oil exploration and a much faster shipping route.

  • Look forward to seeing you there! Thanks for your involvement in Science :)

  • It's *possible*, but that doesn't mean it is at all a good solution. The glacier that Damien showed in this video from Greenland is about 5km wide. And that's just one glacier. Antarctica has a coastline of 18,000km, much of which is dominated by ice runoff. And even if man made buttresses were put in place, it'd have to allow for natural calving events and it...

  • Absolutely, we'd see Greenland rising back up again if all of its ice was lost. Much of Greenland is actually below sea-level at the moment, so this may have an effect on its rebound.

    Barbara is absolutely right that Britain is on a bit of a see-saw at the moment!

  • Yes, deglaciation and glaciation has occurred in the past and is part of a bigger cycle. But think on the timescales that that happens - thousands and thousands of years for glaciers to recede. What's worrying is that the Earth is only getting warmer at the moment and we don't really see any prediction that temperatures will recover in the future (we'll do...

  • Great stuff!! :)

  • No problem - apologies for the delay. A flying buttress is what you'd find on cathedrals / churches the like ( The reason why we talk about them in glaciology, is because they are a brilliant picture of how buttressing in a glacier or ice shelf...

  • Great stuff - but watch out for the CO3, carbon dioxide is CO2! :-)

  • Barbara has hit the nail on the head, but I would like to emphasise her last point. This particular video was filmed in 2013, when the mass balance (net inputs against net outputs) of Antarctica did look like it might be fairly neutral. You'll know now from this new report, that that is not necessarily the case.

    It's a pain with keeping a course like this...

  • Barbara is right - the ocean is so immense that global impact will be negligible.

    However, there are some local spots where we can already observe this. Some research has been done on the coasts and fjords of Greenland, finding that glacier melt is impacting the salinity of the local coasts significantly. This impacts local circulation patterns, the...

  • Hi Kajol - I'm afraid the certificates are set by FutureLearn and not by us, so I don't know what their requirements are. Could you please contact them at, or click the 'Support' button in the bottom right hand corner of any page? Thanks, and thanks for joining us on the course!

  • Did this whet your appetite to talk more about Tipping Points?

    We wrote an entire 2-week course about Tipping Points: Climate Change and Society! Same team, so more of the same from us. The next run starts on the 30th July. Sign-up and I think you'll get email alerts nearer the time to let you know it's...

  • I am currently in the Arctic (Longyearbyen, Svalbard) and I have been absolutely blown away by the sheer amount of plastic pollution that lines the beach here. In all ranges of sizes too, from shipping waste to much smaller microplastics. I imagine much of it comes from the town of Longyearbyen, but it all enters the Arctic ocean and impacts on this very...

  • Kind of, yeah!

    Damien explained it really well in a lecture. Imagine two people cycling together. The first one gets to a hill, so slows down and the distance between the cyclists gets shorter. Once at the top of the hill, the first one then goes faster downhill, so the distance between the cyclists gets bigger. Exactly the same thing happening here :)

  • Omg, I could talk for days about peat! :D I'm currently a research student and I'm looking at how peatlands in permafrost regions may become either a carbon sink or source as they get warmer. Results still provisional, but they may start accumulating carbon much faster as they get warmer....

  • I should've asked earlier - if you have any feedback on anything, I'd love to hear it! :)

    Any definitions you want clearing up? Want links to any extra content? Let me know so I can improve the courses for all future learners too :-)

  • It's really cool isn't it! How something as simple as one atom being heavier than another has given us the perfect way to measure past climates. Always puts a smile on my face :)

  • Hi @paolasandrucci - Not to blow my own trumpet here, but I hope my blog post will help!

    When I wrote this course, I basically condensed this blog post down into the paragraph you see here. Give it a read and let me know if you still have any questions :)

  • Let me know if there's anything I can clear up! :-)

  • Fantastic question!

    The trouble is that calving events last seconds, and glaciers are some of the most remote locations on Earth. I'm currently in the Arctic and was able to watch a calving event yesterday - they are incredibly unpredictable (we were watching for over 2 hours) and I can't think of any way to be able to get the data that would be necessary to...

  • Nailed it :)

  • Great link Maureen, thanks for sharing!

    The key with volcanoes and climate change is to remember timescales. Short-term cooling, long-term warming.

    The aerosols released from a large volcanic eruption (think Mt Pinatubo in 1991) are able to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth. However these drop out of the atmosphere after just a few years, while the carbon...

  • Very well spotted Mike! Thanks for the clarification - I'll pass this on to the technical team to fix. Apologies for the typo!

  • Absolutely hit the nail on the head there Fergus!

  • Great question. Arctic sea-ice is frozen sea water. It doesn't contribute to sea-level rise because the water is already displaced as it floats on top.

    Glaciers are large rivers of ice formed from compressed snow that flow downhill under their own mass. All glaciers start off being land-based, but there are many that flow into the ocean and float at the end....

  • Thanks Richard! I'll put it on the Twitter page. It's worth saying that if anybody has things like this they'd like to share, put it as a new comment and I can pin it to the top of the step so anyone visiting the step will see it (I did a couple in week 1 you may have seen :) )

  • That's true! Ice cores capture little bubbles of the atmosphere in that place at that time, up to the moment they are sealed off and the snow turns to ice.

    Let's say we dump a load of gas in the atmosphere - like during a volcano. How long does it take for the atmosphere to homogenise and for the changes in this place to be observed everywhere, no matter...

  • Wow, I didn't realise the effects were so great in the South! I live in Leeds and it was almost business as usual (strong urban heat island effect I think), but a lot of the rural towns were cut off for up to a week.

  • The impacts to the Great Barrier Reef are truly heartbreaking. Next week we look at the impacts on the oceans in a lot more detail, so stay tuned :)

  • It's all to do with how energy is transported around the world via the atmosphere, as well as drastic changes in albedo at the poles. I was mid-way typing out a full answer - but this page from NASA just says it so well!