KE5002 - Cold and Palaeoenvironments

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will examine the nature of past environmental change and develop an intimate understanding of the processes and landforms of glacial environments. You will be able to identify and utilise multiple techniques for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. By the end of the module you will be able to critically appreciate the role of evidence in reconstructing Quaternary environments, as well as developed your skills in data analysis and interpretation. Topics include:
• Glacial processes and landforms.
• Glacier meltwater processes.
• Glacier surface energy balance.
• Environments and climates of the Quaternary.
• Glacial – interglacial cycles.
• Proxies for palaeoclimate reconstruction, focussing on pollen and diatoms.
• Stratigraphical methods and dating techniques.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, computer practicals, laboratory practicals and independent learning. The lectures will cover the key definitions, theories, concepts, applications and processes that will give you the background knowledge to undertake the practical based studies and guided independent reading. You will use computer models to explore energy and mass balance on glaciers and you will use laboratory facilities to identify and analyse palaeoenvironmental proxies. Using the elp and a dedicated electronic reading list you will broaden your understanding of Cold and Palaeoenvironments that will enable you to confidently tackle this module’s assessments and provide you with skills that will prove invaluable for your independent dissertation.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

This module is led by the research active and enthusiastic staff of the Cold and Palaeoenvironments research group. You will be supported through the formal lectures on Cold and Palaeoenvironments and on an individual basis in the computer and laboratory practicals. Access to all learning materials is provided via eLP (lecture slides, practical materials, online resources, electronic reading lists). All teaching staff operate an ‘open door’ policy for students meaning you can approach them anytime during normal office hours, or via email, to answer questions, receive feedback and support your learning on the module.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Critically discuss the nature and spatial variation of processes operating in glacial environments.
• MLO 2: Evaluate the evidence for the reconstruction of Quaternary environments

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 3: Use numerical models to calculate energy and mass balance of glacial environments.
• MLO 4: Identify and interpret proxies for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MLO 5: Demonstrate a curiosity in a variety of scientific methods applied to contemporary and past environmental research.

How will I be assessed?

The module is assessed by a practical based report and an essay (each worth 50%). The first assessment focuses on glacier energy balance using a full energy balance model to investigate modelling differences and melt fluxes (MLO 3). The essay assignment requires you to synthesise your knowledge of cold and palaeoenvironments. You will choose from a range of topics covered throughout the module, including glacial landsystems, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and long-term climate change (MLO 1,2,5). The essay has a relatively short word limit (1500 words) to encourage concise writing and the synthesis of ideas.

You will receive formative feedback in practical classes associated with assessment 1. You will also receive formative feedback in laboratory practicals focussed on palaeoenvironmental proxy identification using microscopes (MLO 4).





Module abstract

In this module you will learn about Cold and Palaeoenvironments, focussing on contemporary processes in glacial landscapes and the environments and climate changes of the Quaternary. This research-led module is presented by the enthusiastic experts of the Cold and Palaeoenvironments research group who will share their knowledge and experience to help you achieve your potential. In this module you will learn about glacial and past environments in lectures, IT sessions and laboratory practicals. This will provide you with a broad set of analytical, laboratory and IT skills, which will prove invaluable for your studies and future employability.

Course info

UCAS Code F840

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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