Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This specialized module examines the nature of past environmental change (over the past ~2 million years) in low latitude areas not glaciated during the Quaternary. This area, which includes arid, tropical, semi-tropical and temperate environments, holds some exceptionally long palaeoclimate records which greatly inform our understanding of global climate variability. We will examine existing low latitude palaeoclimate reconstructions to build a comprehensive understanding of long-term natural climate variability and explore how these shifts are propagated globally through low to high latitude teleconnections.


  • The Intertropical Convergence Zone
  • Major modes of oceanic and atmospheric circulation
  • Marine and terrestrial palaeoclimate proxies and reconstructions
  • Deserts and arid environments
  • Humid tropical environments
  • Tropical oceans
  • Causes and effects of the El Nino Southern Oscillation
  • Rapid climate events in the Quaternary
  • Local/regional/global connectivity

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Describe the variety of proxy records that are available for reconstructing Quaternary climate change at low latitudes
  • Understand the processes involved in producing different proxy records and be aware of the complexities involved in interpreting those records
  • Describe the key drivers (natural and anthropogenic) of low-latitude climate variability
  • Understand how the low and high latitudes interact to drive global climate changes
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Synthesise the findings from different proxy records to form a coherent picture of past environmental change at low latitudes
  • Critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques and their usefulness in reconstructing past environments
  • To present critical evaluation of the academic literature on low-latitude environments and environmental change
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate analytical skills and present key findings supported by the academic literature clearly in a written form
  • Critically engage with complex scientific literature at the cutting edge of geographical research
  • Process, evaluate, and interpret climate and palaeoclimate proxy datasets

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

  • Lectures will focus on the subject knowledge learning outcomes, and will be supplemented by recommended reading of the academic literature. Lectures will also incorporate opportunities for students to discuss assigned reading material relevant to that week’s topic.
  • Data practicals will give students hands-on experience in climate and palaeoclimate data processing and interpretation. Students will demonstrate their understanding of low latitude climate variability, the key drivers, and global teleconnections through their responses to data practical questions. Verbal formative feedback will be provided during the practicals which will enable students to assess and improve their understanding of low latitude climate variability.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 6 Varies 1.5 hours 9
Data Practicals 3 Various 1.5 hours 4.5
Student Reading and Preparation Time 86.5
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assignment. Individual essay on a key aspect of low latitude climate variability during the Quaternary. The content of the essay will be informed by the data practicals and in-lecture discussions of the academic literature as well as independent literature research. Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Verbal feedback on the data practical sessions

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