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School of Environment, Education and Development

BSc Geography and Geology with a year abroad

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Tectonics, Climate and Landscape Evolution

Unit code EART30322
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course illustrates the importance of Earth surface processes in sculpting modern landscapes and in the longer-term development of mountain ranges. A number of recent exciting and controversial hypotheses regarding potential linkages between climate change and tectonics are considered. Students are introduced to the latest quantitative techniques and modelling approaches, and encouraged to evaluate hypotheses and develop their own ideas. Students will also develop practical skills including ArcGIS and numerical modelling.




To gain a detailed understanding of:

1. the processes operating at the Earth’s surface that control weathering, erosion, sediment transport and deposition,

2. the role that surface processes play in landscape evolution at a range of scales, including their importance on geological time- and length-scales through feedback relationships with tectonics and climate change.

3. the latest techniques and hypotheses in quantitative geomorphology.

Learning outcomes

On completing the course students will:

•       Understand the major processes that govern landscape evolution, and the landforms and deposits that they produce

•       Be able to evaluate hypotheses linking surface processes, tectonics, and climate change

•       Have exposure to the latest techniques in quantitative geomorphology

•       Be familiar with numerical models of landscape evolution

•       Be able to load and visualise digital topographic data in ArcGIS


10 x 1 hr lectures, 9 x 2 hr practicals. Lecture and practical are linked each week.


Week 1:

Introduction and motivation


Week 2:

Glacial processes


Week 3:

Fluvial processes


Week 4:

Hillslope and other processes


Week 5:

Quaternary dating methods (no practical)


Week 6:

Sediment transport


Week 7:

Planetary geomorphology


Week 8:

Landscape evolution modelling I


Week 9:

Landscape evolution modelling II


Week 10:

Environmental change and summary


Assessment methods

Assessed practical (Week 2) (10%)

Literature review exercise (10%)

Oral presentation (10%)


Theory Exam will be 2 hours long and will concentrate on fundamental principles and hypotheses through multiple choice (1/3) and essay (2/3) questions. (70%)

Feedback methods

Assessed practical:

Individual hand-written comments on the work submitted to be returned to students two weeks after submission.


Literature review:

Individual hand-written comments on printouts of the work submitted to be returned to students two weeks after submission.


Oral presentations:

Marks and general comments to be posted on Blackboard within two weeks of the presentations.



General feedback to be posted on Blackboard.

Recommended reading

Anderson, R.S. & Anderson, S.P. (2010) Geomorphology: The Mechanics and Chemistry of Landscapes. Cambridge University Press

Burbank, D.W. & Anderson, R.S. (2000) Tectonic Geomorphology (1st edition). Blackwell 

Burbank, D.W. & Anderson, R.S. (2011) Tectonic Geomorphology (2nd edition). Wiley-Blackwell

For reference:

Allen, P.A. (1997) Earth Surface Processes. Blackwell

Leeder, M.R. (1999) Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins: From Turbulence to Tectonics. Blackwells

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 72

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Simon Brocklehurst Unit coordinator

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