Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module GEOL4227: Geophysical Flows - IV

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL4227: Geophysical Flows - IV

Type Open Level 4 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • GEOL2251 Modelling Earth Processes or GEOL2291 Geophysical Data Applications


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • GEOL3221 Hazardous Geophysical Flows


  • This course seeks to model, and thus understand, a wide range of geophysical flows. They include many of the most hazardous events on our planet, and these events play a key role in global sediment and geochemical cycles. The course aims to link quantitative theory with numerical modelling. It is relevant to future onshore and offshore geohazard-related careers.
  • To develop better understanding of coding skills for a range of geophysical flows.


  • Introduction to Basic Physics and Modelling of Flows using shallow water equations.
  • Numerical methods for shallow water equations including different techniques for temporal and spatial discretisation.
  • Physical processes in geophysical flows including different drag laws, the effects of turbulence such as drag, entrainment and resuspension, pore pressure and entrainment and deposition of material.
  • Hydraulic flows such as dam breaks and floods. Dense flows such as rock-slides, avalanches and block-and-ash flows. Suspension currents such as powder snow avalanches, pyroclastic flows and turbidity currents. Two phase flows such as debris flows, lahars and landslides. Multilayer models combining dense and dilute components. Slow flows such as glaciers and lava flows.
  • A research project based on modelling an actual flow event and comparing simulations with data.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To understand the physics behind geophysical flows, and the hazards they pose.
  • To develop quantitative skills in modelling geophysical flows, which are valuable for a wide range of future careers.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To understand the physics behind geophysical flows, and the hazards they pose.
  • To develop quantitative skills in modelling geophysical flows, which are valuable for a wide range of future careers.
Key Skills:
  • Critical Analysis
  • Research capability
  • Scholarship
  • Practical competency
  • Independent learning
  • Numeracy
  • Coding and modelling skills
  • Literacy
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Acquire skills necessary for self-managed lifelong learning including independent research, critical analysis, and time management.
  • Identify and work towards targets for personal and academic development.

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

  • The module is delivered through 3-hour sessions combining lectures and practicals.
  • Each week a new type of flow and modelling technique will be introduced in a lecture and then this will be followed by a coding-based practical.
  • Summative assessment will comprise a report on a research project. Project ideas will be introduced halfway through the term and there will be time to work on these in the practicals.
  • Two timetabled meetings during term designed specifically to promote advanced critical reasoning, scientific research, and scientific writing skills, and writing skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 Hour 10
Practicals 10 Weekly 2 Hours 20
Advanced skills practical sessions 2 Twice per term 2 Hours 4
Reading and study of class hand-outs, preparation for and execution of formative and summative assessments, background reading both directed and independent. 66
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 40%
Report 60%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be an initial report.

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