KE6001 - Cold Landscapes

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about polar and non-polar cold landscapes. The module will provide you with an understanding of the distinctiveness of mountain and polar cold environments. Furthermore, it will provide you with the physical framework to investigate a wide range of processes which operate in these landscapes. You will learn how to interpret the interaction of physical processes in cold regions and anthropogenic drivers of change in mountainous and polar terrain. You will learn to appreciate the significance of linking diverse disciplines such as meteorology, oceanography, glaciology, hillslopes, rivers, and snow/glacier ice to understand the past, present and future of cold landscapes on earth. Your learning will additionally facilitate an understanding of human interaction with the physical environment.

Specific topics covered may include:
• Glaciology: how do glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets move, how do they interact and shape their environment?
• Mountain Environments: the distinctive nature of mountainous landscapes
• Paraglacial Geomorphology: landscape adjustment after the ice has gone
• Catastrophic Rock Avalanches: can hillslope processes control rivers and glaciers?
• Glacial Hazards: hazards posed by glacier recession and climatic change, and implications for development
• Mountain & polar Meteorology: geographical controls and climatic characteristics of meteorological elements
• Mountain Hydrology: rates, magnitude and routing of runoff from snow, ice and paraglacial areas
• History and politics of polar exploration
• Permafrost and periglacial processes
• Oceanography: Sea ice and the role of the polar oceans in the earth system
• Resources and ecosystems: exploitation, tourism, pollution and environmental sustainability
• Climate change in cold landscapes and it’s impacts on regional to global scales.

On completion of the module you will have developed an improved understanding and appreciation of the interaction between a range cold landscapes and and their connection to anthropogenic activities.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through two teaching ‘streams’. Stream 1 is primarily lecture-based (24h, including in-built seminars) and relates directly to assessed component 1. Stream 2 is more practical and comprises a combination of introductory lectures (8h) and IT practicals (16h) – this stream relates directly to assessment component 2.

Beyond timetabled sessions, your independent study will be guided and supported through your engagement with a range of learning resources such as academic journal articles and books. Links to key resources will be provided via module- and topic-specific interactive reading lists, which will be accessed via the module electronic learning portal (Blackboard).

Lectures will be used to introduce key topics and concepts across the full range of topics covered on the module. Lectures will provide the basic overview for each topic, and you will be encouraged to supplement this knowledge through your own reading and critical analysis of literature provided by the module teaching staff (as reading lists), and additional material that you will find and engage with. Independent learning (80 hours) will aid your understanding of module themes and will enhance your broader understanding of the topic, enabling you to produce suitable exam answers.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Support will include feedback from module teaching staff during small-group seminars (within scheduled lectures) and IT workshops. Module staff will respond to questions via the discussion board on the module Blackboard site to ensure that all students will benefit.

Lecture materials will be further supported by on-line resources available via the module Blackboard site. These resources will include an interactive reading list with on-line access to a number of key articles and which will be aligned with your weekly lecture programme.

You will be provided with individual feedback on module assessments in a timely manner. Staff will be available to go through this feedback with you in person if requested.

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:
• MLO1: You will examine the processes which operate within polar and mountainous environments and understand their roles and interactions.
• MLO2: You will critically assess the impact of human activities on polar and mountain environments and their regional as well as global consequences.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO3: You will learn to independently synthesise topic-specific information and critically analyse key arguments and findings.
• MLO4: You will develop your skills in a range of computational tools and models to demonstrate you can quantitatively explore environmental data and critically analyse their results.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MLO5: You will develop an increased awareness of the pressures of human activity (e.g. anthropogenic climate change, resource exploitation) on the natural environment.

How will I be assessed?

'Stream 1’ content will be assessed via an oral examination that will allow you to demonstrate the skills and knowledge you acquired during the lectures in a dialogue with staff members (MLO 1,2,3,5). Preparing and conducting an oral examination will be valuable for your professional life later on, e.g., job interviews.
‘Stream 2’ content will be assessed via a report that will allow you to demonstrate the skills and knowledge that you have acquired while using the two computer models presented in this stream (MLO 1,3,4).

There will be 2 assessments each contributing 50% of the total mark.

For Stream 1, you will have a maximally 20-minute dialogue with teaching staff on the module, in which you will demonstrate the knowledge, skills and personal values you acquired from the lectures and your own reading.
To ensure consistency and parity, this exam will be recorded, at least two staff members will be present and main questions will stem from a common pool with increasing levels of difficulty. Example questions to help you prepare will be discussed in the lectures.

For Stream 2
You will write one report on the use of the computer model that has been presented.
This report will be no more than 1000 words.

Timely feedback will be provided for both modes of assessment in written/electronic form. Module staff will be available to talk through this feedback with you one-on-one during scheduled drop-in sessions. This feedback will serve to reinforce your learning and improve your confidence.


No prerequisites, attendance of KE5002 Cold and Palaeo Environments is useful.



Module abstract

The module dives into cold landscapes. It explores the links and feedbacks between physical processes operating in glaciated and formerly glaciated areas, and other ‘cold’ land (and sea-)scapes.

The module is delivered through a combination of lectures and IT practicals. Additional content is provided via topic-specific electronic reading lists.

The module will be assessed by an oral dialogue (50%) and a report (50%) demonstrating what you have learnt from the computer models presented in the practical session.

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 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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