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The University of Southampton

GEOG3004 Arctic and Alpine Geomorphology

Module Overview

This module will explore the periglacial environments of the arctic and alpine, and the unique landforms associated with the freezing and thawing of the ground, and formation of ground ice.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To generate an awareness of cold regions science as an example of scientific investigation under conditions of partial and imperfect information. The exciting and vulnerable nature of arctic and alpine environments are explored in a progressive manner looking at how freezing and thawing in non-glacial areas results in a number of unique geomorphological processes and landforms. Processes are carefully assessed using both classic and contemporary literature and students apply their understanding in the active collation of case studies. This knowledge culminates in the student’s own predictions of how these may change in the next 50 years or so due to climate change.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Synthesise information
  • Gain an expert knowledge in an emerging and critical geomorphological discipline
  • Critically analyse
  • Resolve controversy
  • Apply new technology for greater understanding
  • Demonstrate discussion and presentation skills
  • Produce creative visual presentations
  • Demonstrate succinct communication in writing
  • Apply process theory to real case-study examples
  • Develop an awareness of research and other career opportunities related to cold environments


The module is founded on a general consideration of the factors underlying the distinctive (nonglacial) geomorphological processes which characterise arctic and high altitude areas. These general principles are then applied to a detailed study of arctic periglacial geomorphology. Building on a sound theoretical foundation of the environmental drivers, the processes associated with ground freezing and the amazing behaviour of H2O, are applied to a range of unique landforms such as pingos, palsas, ice-wedges, thermokarst, patterned ground and slope activity The uniqueness of arctic coasts and periglacial rivers is explored and explained. Whilst the emphasis is remains very much geomorphological, the application of new technologies in understanding periglacial processes in challenging and remote environments forms an important part of the case-study application. The course-work is challenging but highly regarded by students and offers the opportunity for creativity and originality in this relatively young discipline and has normally results with many 1st class assignments.

Special Features

This unit is very popular and highly regarded because of the teaching and creative nature of the subject and its relevance today, and even more-so in the future. One of perhaps just a handful of periglacial geomorphology units in the UK, this allows students to have unique knowledge, further study and employability opportunities.

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study115
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Core textbook. There is a core text, plus several other related texts and students are expected to engage with both classic and contemporary journal and www materials.



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%

Linked modules

Prerequisites: GEOG1001 OR GEOG1002

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