Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This is a science-based module aimed at students wishing to develop postgraduate level knowledge about the spatial and temporal distributions and aspects of a variety of hazards. The aim of the module is to provide students with theoretical and practical training in how to understand and quantify the spatial and temporal dimensions of hazard.


  • Magnitude and frequency of natural hazards
  • Spatial patterns of natural hazards
  • Temporal scales, persistence, recurrence, and sequencing of natural hazards
  • Use of remote sensing techniques and large data sets in hazard analysis
  • Catastrophe modelling

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of the relevant spatial and temporal scales over which a variety of hazards act
  • Appreciation of how physical processes generate sudden-onset and slow-onset hazards
  • Appreciation of how the physical processes that generate hazards define their spatial and temporal characteristics
  • Appreciation of which tools are most appropriate to characterize sudden-onset and slow onset hazards
  • Understanding of catatrophe models - why we need them and how they work
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Frequency-magnitude analysis of natural
  • Pattern analysis in space and time
  • Analysis of remotely-sensed data
  • Manipulation of quantitative data
  • Catastrophe modelling
Key Skills:
  • Critical evaluation of published data and interpretations
  • Technical skills in numerical analysis of diverse data sets, and effective use of different software packages. Depending on the specific practical content, these may include spreadsheet, GIS, and statistics software
  • Development of research skills, including formulation of research objectives, logistical planning, and measuring outcomes against these objectives

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The first part of the module is concerned with understanding the spatial and temporal dimensions of hazards and hazardous events. Lectures and practicals will be used to discuss the various factors that set the scale of hazards, including their distribution in space, their duration in terms of primary and secondary effects, their recurrence, relationships between event magnitude, frequency, and location, and the importance of spatial heterogeneity and connectivity. This will be followed by an overview of effective techniques, approaches, and data sets. Throughout this first block, the emphasis will be on generic issues, challenges, and approaches to addressing research questions, rather than on the specific details of a single hazard, or the advantages or disadvantages of a particular method or data set. This part of the module will be assessed via the practical reports (two formative, two summative), which will give the students hands-on experience with the techniques and data sets discussed in the lecture sessions.
  • The second part of the module is centred around a self-guided project using one or more of the data sets and techniques discussed in part 1, supported by workshops for exchange of ideas, generic quantitative techniques, and individual assistance. Project topics will be chosen by the student with guidance from the teaching team, and will depend on the availability of appropriate data sets. Students will give a short (c. 5 minute) presentation on their chosen project topic in the final session of term 2, as a chance to provide an update on progress and to identify any questions or areas of concern. Written formative feedback on progress and suggestions for improvements will be provided after the presentation, and may be used to help prepare the final project report. Summative assessment of the project is provided via a written report.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 11 Varies 2 hours 22
Practicals 4 Varies 2 hours 8
Workshops 4 Varies 2 hours 8
Self-directed learning 262
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Report Component Weighting: 67%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Project Report 3000 words 100% Yes
Component: Practicals Component Weighting: 33%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical Report 1500 words max for each practical lab report 50% Yes by alternative report
Practical Report 1500 words max for each practical lab report 50% Yes by alternative report

Formative Assessment:

Comments and feedback are provided on practical reports 1 and 2, and a set of practical solutions is provided to all students with generic information on each question. Practical solutions are also provided for the summative practical reports 3 and 4. Verbal and written feedback is provided on the project presentation at the end of term 2.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University