The Physical Climate System

Within the specialisation The Physical Climate System you can choose among several courses and different thesis tracks.

More about the specialisation

Are you wondering how you can assess the impact of past, present and future climate change? Not only on nature but also on society? And would you like to answer questions like, how long-term changes in oceanic circulation affect climate? Or, how much do anthropogenic emissions and deforestation contribute to climate change?

To answer these questions and find solutions we need to understand and quantify natural- versus human-induced climate change. In the specialisation The Physical Climate System, MCL students work on finding these solutions. They focus on the physical climate system and the use of different research methodologies in climate change research. These methodologies are:

  • Observation of past and present climate.
  • System analysis on process interactions and resulting feedback mechanisms at different temporal and spatial scales in explaining earth’s climate dynamics.
  • The use of simple- to complex earth system models to assess past, present and future climate change.

Current concerns about climate change are mainly due to observed fast changes in the Earth’s energy balance. As a consequence of an increase in anthropogenic activities, hydrological and biochemical cycles are altered resulting in a cascade of interactions and feedback mechanisms involving the earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere. These interactions explain the observed past and current climate state but also ultimately determine future climate change.

Students can learn more about the education and research related to this specialisation by visiting the website of the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group and the Meteorology and Air Quality Group.


The following subjects are part of the MSc programme Climate Studies when selecting the specialisation The Physical Climate System. Next to these thesis specific courses, you will follow courses from the common part and electives as summarized in the programme outline. For more information visit the study handbook or contact the study adviser.

Specialisation-related subjects
Subject Code
One e-learning is compulsory in order to work safely at Wageningen University (0 ECTS):
Laboratory safety ZSS06100
Biogeochemical Cycles and Climate Change Mitigation SOC36306
Restricted Optional: select (at least) two*
Geophysical Fluid Mechanics HWM23806
Atmospheric Dynamics MAQ32806
Atmospheric Composition and Air Quality MAQ34806
Water and Air Flow Numerical Techniques HWM33806
Meteorology and Climate MAQ21806
Urban Hydrometeorology MAQ35306
Earth System Modelling MAQ35806
Catchment and Climate Hydrology HWM40306
Atmospheric Modelling MAQ31806
Field Training Soil-Vegetation-Atmosphere Interactions SOC40806
Restricted optional: Select one
MSc thesis Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management HWM80436
MSc Thesis Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry MAQ81336
MSc Thesis Meteorology MAQ80836

*To be selected in consultation with your study adviser and in preparation for your thesis subject.

In order to prepare well for your thesis track, you can additionally choose supporting courses. These courses focus, for example on quantitative and data sciences. You can find the exact list in the study handbook at the section "Restricted Optionals (2) in Common part".

This course overview is based on the Wageningen University study handbook, where you can find a more detailed course and programme description. The study handbook is guiding in case of any discrepancy.

Below you can see how your schedule may look like for your whole study programme:

MSc Climate Studies - The Physical Climate System.jpg