GEOG20150 Quaternary Environmental Change

Academic Year 2021/2022

This module deals with the climate and Earth system processes of the Quaternary Period (the last 2.6 million years), exploring the key sensitivities and feedbacks involved in Quaternary environmental change. Consideration will be given to the characteristics of ongoing environmental changes and their relationship to trends through the Quaternary. In this context, the development and evolution of the cryosphere in the Quaternary is central. Interactions between the cryosphere, atmosphere and oceans, and the role of mankind in the Anthropocene, are given particular emphasis. Attention will be also be focused on the impact of Quaternary environmental change on biogeography, especially the the role of glaciation and associated sea level change.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module students should be able to: (1) understand and explain the key ideas and techniques in Quaternary environmental reconstruction; (2) demonstrate a knowledge of the drivers, timing and characteristics of Quaternary environmental change; (3) understand the principles behind stratigraphy and its application in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, especially insights from ice and marine sediment cores; (4) explain our current understanding of how the different components of the Earth System interact to produce an environment characterised by different modes of stability (e.g. glacial or interglacial, stadial or interstadial) within a distinct temporal pattern of change; (5) demonstrate the application of critical thinking to reading, self-motivated exploration and lecture-based learning in assessing our current understanding of past and future environmental evolution.

Indicative Module Content:

You need to demonstrate that you know what the defining characteristics of the Earth are in the Quaternary Period. You should be able to explain the key sensitivities and feedbacks in Quaternary environmental change. You must consider if ongoing environmental change deviates from, or follows, long term trends of the Quaternary period. You should be able to make reference to: the development and evolution of the cryosphere; environmental thresholds; linear and non-linear modes of glaciation and deglaciation, and; interactions between the cryosphere, crust, atmosphere and oceans.

You must be able to explain why sea level has varied in the Quaternary Period. You must be able to explain how sea level has varied geographically since the end of the last glaciation. You must be able to explain how sea level change has influenced Quaternary biogeography.

You must be able to explain the role of glaciation (including climatic effects, atmospheric effects and sea level variation) in biogeography, especially regarding the varying location and extent of prime habitats; climatic and environmental zones; dispersal routes. You should be able to make reference to migration, adaptation and range reduction/extinction in the context of Quaternary environmental change.

You must be able to explain why d18O varies with respect to temperature but most strongly to continental ice-storage (the ice storage effect). You should be able to explain the significance of palaeomagnetic dating of ocean cores in discovering the periodicity of Quaternary glaciation and environmental change. You should be able to explain how the oxygen isotope curves are interpreted and how they contribute to our understanding of the causes of Quaternary environmental change.

You must be able to explain the Milankovitch Cycles (MCs). You must be able to explain the Dansgaard-Oeschger Events (DOEs). You must be able to explain the significance of the MCs and DOEs in understanding the timing, periodicity and characteristics of Quaternary environmental change, especially the environmental teleconnections operating between regions and across the equator, linking the northern and southern hemispheres.

You must be able to explain how the Thermohaline Circulation of the Atlantic Ocean operates. You must be able to explain how the Thermohaline Circulation of the Atlantic Ocean is linked to global environmental change in the Quaternary Period. You cannot pass this question without explaining the environmental roles of the thermohaline circulation within the Atlantic region and across the globe.

You must be able to describe and explain the nature and timing of environmental change from the Last Interglacial through the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the Holocene

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning

80

Lectures

20

Total

100

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures; reflective learning; enquiry & problem-based learning; case-study based learning 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Geog10080 Earth Systems


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: With reference to "IPCC, 2019: IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC)", explain what government, policy makers and citizens need to understand about the characterist Week 8 n/a Graded No

50

Essay: Essay on the relationships between glaciation and one of: biogeography; oxygen isotope stratigraphy; sea level; Milankovitch and Dansgaard-Oeschger events; ocean circulation; the Holocene transition. Week 12 n/a Graded No

50


Carry forward of passed components
No
 
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
 
Autumn
     
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 12:00 - 12:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 10:00 - 10:50
Autumn