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Unit information: Physical Geography in 2015/16

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Unit name Physical Geography
Unit code GEOG15010
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Michaelides
Open unit status Not open



All other units in Year 1 BSc/MSci Single Honours Geography

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to provide an introduction and foundation to the main elements of the physical environment prefaced by an introduction and background to the development of Physical Geography as a discipline. Through the individual elements (Atmosphere, Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Cryosphere, Biosphere and Oceans), the course will present the fundamental principles necessary for an understanding of the physical environment, both in terms of the separate elements and of the environment as a whole. Initials in brackets denote the lecturers.


  • To introduce students to fundamentals of the physical environment.
  • To provide students with core technical and scientific skills in aspects of physical geography.
  • To bring all students up to the same level of knowledge in physical environmental process as a prerequisite to physical geography courses in year 2.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. Identify and understand processes operating in different environments and over different time and space scales
  2. Identify and understand the stores and fluxes within different environments
  3. Describe the mechanisms by which different environmental/landscape processes take place
  4. Undertake simple calculations of fluxes, perform simple laboratory and computing experiments, write scientific reports, manipulate data and plot appropriate graphs.

Teaching Information

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Information

  • 2 hour online exam covering all six elements of the course (70%). All learning outcomes are assessed
  • 3 formative and 2 summative coursework practicals (30% total).

All 5 practicals are designed to provide core technical skills in physical geography (laboratory, experimental, computing, modelling, data analysis, calculations, report-writing). All practicals in each TB will be submitted as a portfolio at the end of each term and marks and feedback will be provided. Only 3 out of 5 practicals will be marked but feedback will be provided on all 5 practicals. Attendance at all practicals is compulsory and submission of all practical work in the porfolios is mandatory. Credit points will be withheld for non-attendance or non-submission without a valid EC.

Reading and References

  1. Ahrens, C.D. (1999) ‘Meteorology Today’ (6th ed), Brooks-Cole, Pacific Grove, California.
  2. Benn, D.I. and D.J.A. Evans (1998) ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’, Arnold, London. (Chapter 3: Glaciers and Meltwater).
  3. Holden, J. (ed.) (2008) An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment (2nd Ed.). Prentice Hall, London.
  4. Jones, J.A.A. (1997) Global Hydrology: Processes, resources and environmental management. Longman, Essex.
  5. Smithson, P., Addison, K. and Atkinson, K. (3rd ed.) (2002) Fundamentals of the Physical Environment. Routledge, London.
  6. Whittaker, R.J. (1998) ‘Island Biogeography: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation’, Oxford University Press, Oxford.