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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2212 Tectonophysics

10 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Tim Craig

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21


SOEE1150Fundamentals of Geophysics
SOEE1301Intermediate Mathematics for Environmental and Geophysical S
SOEE1311Advanced Mathematics for Environmental and Geophysical Scien

This module is not approved as a discovery module


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

i) Derive, understand and apply the key equations that govern the transport of heat in the earth system, specifically those that control the depth of the seafloor.
ii) Understand how satellite geodetic systems (InSAR and GNSS) work, critically assess their limitations, and use the data to solve problems in plate tectonics and continental deformation.
iii) Understand the different mechanisms that control how the earth deforms during the earthquake cycle and use observations of this deformation to derive properties of the earth system.
iv) Understand the physical processes that result in glacial isostatic adjustment and flexure of the lithosphere, and use simple equations governing these processes to derive Earth properties.
v) Understand what controls the distribution of seismic hazard in the continents.
vi) Write simple codes that model physical processes, including heat flow, plate motion, elastic dislocations and viscoelastic earthquake cycles.
vii) Critically compare model predictions to real geophysical data.
viii) Produce write-ups of lab-based modelling activities in the form of a short scientific paper, including a critical comparision of the results of the lab with key results from the academic literature.

Learning outcomes
The aim of this module is to allow students , to understand the mechanisms governing the dynamics of tectonic plates and how the continents deform, and a variety of related geophysical phenomena and interpret related observations in terms of the fundamental underlying physics of the system.


1. The Earth as a Heat Engine: Introduction to Thermodynamics; Conduction of Heat; Mantle convection and the geotherm; plate cooling model; McKenzie model for formation of sedimentary basins; Hot spots
2. Measuring Earth Deformation: Introduction to satellite geodesy; GPS; InSAR; Accuracies and sources of error
3. Rheology of Earth Materials: Definition of Rheology; Elasticity; Viscous Creep; Visco-elasticity; Stress and Strain; Glacial Isostatic Adjustment; Flexure of the lithosphere
4. The Earthquake Deformation Cycle: Observations and models of co-seismic; post-seismic and inter-seismic deformation; The deep structure of fault zones.
5. Continental Deformation and Seismic Hazard: How do continents differ from oceans; The thin viscous sheet model for continental deformation; Jelly Sandwich / Creme Brulee / Banana Split models for continental rheology; How do we map seismic hazard in the continents?

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Problem Based Learning21.002.00
Private study hours78.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

30 hours: 3 hours reading per lecture
20 hours: completion and writing up of practical labs (2 x 10 hours)
8 hours: 4 x 2 hour problem sets
20 hours: revision

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The laboratory sessions allow student progress to be monitored by in class monitoring. Detailed formative assessment and feedback will be given on one lab, and formal summative assessment of one lab report will take place. In addition, two problem sets will be given and the solutions discussed in problem classes.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Written WorkLab report: formal write up of one lab will be assessed40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)1 hr 30 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Resits for this module will be assessed by a single unseen examination.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 23/09/2020


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