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Unit information: Floods, Flows and Erosion in River Basins in 2015/16

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Unit name Floods, Flows and Erosion in River Basins
Unit code GEOG20002
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Michaelides
Open unit status Not open

All units in Single Honours Geography Year 1


All units in Single Honours Geography Year 2 on B Syllabus

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit comprises two elements: ‘Hillslope Hydrology’ and ‘Flood Hazards’ . It will provide a comprehensive introduction to hydrological and erosional processes on hillslopes, and river hydraulic processes relevant to flooding and flood inundation.

Hillslope processes govern the way water is routed to river channels within basins and form the fundamental starting point in the hydrological analysis of a basin. Without understanding processes that govern flow quantities, pathways and timings through slopes we have limited ability to determine flooding processes, biogeochemical transport, and responses of drainage basins to climatic changes. Therefore, this module will focus on hillslope hydrological processes and their impact on basin-scale hydrology, as well as on erosional processes.

Flooding is the world's most frequent natural disaster and is expected to cost the world economy $1Tn by 2050. In the UK alone we spend over £1Bn per annum on flood prevention, and geographers play key roles in managing flood risk within central and local government, the insurance sector, the Environment Agency and in specialist consultancies. This module provides an introduction to flood risk science, and in particular focuses on how flood risk is estimated. The module will give an overview of recent fundamental scientific developments that are transforming our ability to manage floods.


  • To understand hillslope processes affecting the generation of surface and subsurface water flows and their impact on erosion and basin-wide hydrological response
  • To provide an introduction to flood risk, how it is calculated and how it is managed
  • To introduce the basic physical concepts and equations which represent these processes
  • To introduce come of the concepts and methods involved in developing and applying physically-based models of these processes

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  • Understand the basic hydrological processes at work on hillslopes and in catchments
  • Learn and understand the hydrologic and geomorphic theory on hillslopes
  • Understand the relevant driving forces and equations of motion in hillslope hydrology, slope stability and sediment transport / erosion
  • Learn the governing principles of flow hydraulics in rivers and the processes behind flooding
  • Understand the basic models used to simulate the above processes and the concepts of model selection, parameterization, calibration and verification

Teaching Information

20 x 1 hour Lectures

2 x 3 hour Practicals

1 x 2 hour Seminar

1 x 2 hour Revision

= 30 hours teaching in total, plus scheduled office hours.

Assessment Information

  • 25% practical report (Flood Hydraulic Modelling)
  • 25% practical report (Hillslope Processes)
  • 50% unseen 2 hour examination

Reading and References

Recommended Reading

Hornberger, G.M, J.P. Raffensperger, P.L. Wiberg and K.N. Eshleman (1998) ‘Elements of Physical Hydrology’. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (Geographical Sciences, E ELE)

Jones, J.A.A. (1997) ‘Global Hydrology: Processes, Resources and Environmental Management’. Longman, Harlow. (Geographical Sciences, E JON; Wills Memorial Buidling GB661.2 JON)

Pender, G and Faulkner, H. (eds), Flood risk science and management, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, UK, pp. 211-233. [ISBN: 978-1-4051-8657-5].

(All chapters available online through UoB,

Selby, M.J. (1993) ‘Hillslope Materials and Processes’, Oxford University Press, Oxford. (Geographical Sciences, F4 SEL)