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GEOG1001 The Earth System

Module Overview

The module will look at the challenges posed to human societies living on a dynamic planet and how these societies adapt (or not) to a range of environmental and socio-economic hazards. Pre-requisite for GEOG2006 and GEOG3047 One of the pre-requisites for GEOG2032, GEOG2039 and GEOG3004

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To explore, analyse and understand environmental change on a variety of spatial and temporal scales and to assess its impact on human society. The unit examines the types of evidence used to reconstruct past environmental change, and explores how major climatic and biological changes have affected the Earth, and its people.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the terminology, nomenclature and classification systems commonly used in the study of environmental change
  • Abstract and synthesise environmental change information from a range of different sources
  • Structure conceptual and empirical material pertaining to environmental change into a reasoned argument
  • Understand the nature of change in bio-physical environments and the evidence for it;
  • Understand the relationships between physical and human agencies of environmental change;
  • Understand the past, present and future variability of changes in the global environment
  • Pursue knowledge in an in-depth, ordered and motivated way;
  • Marshal and retrieve data from library and internet resources;
  • Be aware of the role and importance of evidence-based research
  • Critically analyse literature in physical geography and environmental change;
  • Assess the merits of contrasting theories and explanations of environmental change;


There is now unprecedented popular and media interest in environmental change but the scientific underpinning of this interest is often sadly lacking. This unit examines how major climatic changes have affected the Earth and its people on a variety of time and spatial scales. The lectures firstly outline the key processes that underpin the Earth system, including atmospheric circulation, Earth’s energy balance, soil processes and ecosystem functioning. In subsequent lecturers we explore changes in Earth system processes over geological timescales. We cover the climatic changes of the Quaternary ice ages (last 2.6 million years) and the last 10,000 years - the Holocene - dealing with proxy records of environmental change, how they are dated and assessed and the consequences of climatic change on the biosphere. We also explore the driving mechanisms that underpin long-term climate change, including orbital causes of climatic variation, before discussing the interactions of the climate system with ice sheets, the wider terrestrial hydrological cycle and oceans

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study122
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Holden, J (2012). An introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 80%
Exercise 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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