Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module GEOL2251: Modelling Earth Processes

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL2251: Modelling Earth Processes

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOL1081 Further Mathematics for Geoscientists OR a comparable module taught in the Mathematics Department, and GEOL1131 Geoinformatics OR a comparable introductory programming module taught in another department


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To understand the importance and application of numerical and inverse modelling in geoscience, as tools for investigating Earth processes and for predicting the behaviour of Earth systems.


  • Key concepts of numerical and inverse modelling.
  • Physical and chemical processes relevant to geoscience, to include examples from: heat flow, chemical reactions, groundwater flow, wave propagation and tectonophysics.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Will understand the components of numerical and inverse models:
  • principles behind modelling of a physical/chemical system;
  • the mathematical descriptions of physical and chemical processes, and;
  • how these components are incorporated into the software of a numerical or inverse model.
  • Will be able to critically evaluate models in terms of fit to data, uncertainties, resolution, uniqueness, and model or inversion instability.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will be able to use high-level programming software effectively.
  • Will be able to plot and interpret model results in an organised and concise fashion.
Key Skills:
  • Communicate modelling approach, results and uncertainties effectively in written, verbal and graphical forms.
  • Evaluate the relationship between model predictions and observations.

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

  • Problem-based learning built around 20 x 3 hour weekly slots, most of them starting with a short introductory lecture. Each problem will build upon knowledge from a previous exercise, address a fundamental issue in modelling Earth processes and contain a mixture of guidance and feedback, practical IT-based activities and short lectures on specific technical details.
  • The students will be tested on their modeling skills with a mixture of short reports and in-class programming tests

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Practical 20 Weekly 3 hours 60
Preparation and reading 140
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Continuous Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical Assignment 1 30%
Practical Assignment 2 40%
Practical Assignment 3 30%

Formative Assessment:

Additional formative assessment from homework assignments and regular discussions and reviews with peers and demonstrators during the practicals.

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