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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GEOG3669 The Cryosphere

20 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Dr Duncan Quincey

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE3515Ice in the Earth System
SOEE5515MIce in the Earth System

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The cryosphere (comprising snow, sea ice and glaciers) plays an important role in the Earth System, by driving, as well as responding to, global changes. You will engage with current debates in the research literature to improve your understanding of contemporary distributions of snow cover, sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets, and place this within the longer-term context of the past and future evolution of the Earth system and climate. You will explore the primary controls of cryospheric change, and identify the feedbacks that are accelerating these changes in a warming climate. You will also develop skills in numerical modelling, remote sensing, GIS and statistics to assess changes in the cryosphere and forecast its future evolution. By critically examining these data you will also gain understanding of their limitations and how uncertainty in predictions is handled in practical terms.


The objectives of this module are:
1. To establish the past and current distribution of snow, sea ice and glaciers and the role they play within the Earth system
2. To identify the global controls of cryospheric change and the specific processes that will determine its evolution on a local scale
3. To identify a range of research methods for quantifying cryospheric change and their associated uncertainties

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, the student will gain an understanding of:
- The role of sea ice, snow and glaciers within the Earth system and how the cryosphere has evolved over long (tens of thousands of years) timescales.
- Current observations of the cryosphere and the specific processes that will drive their future evolution
- Techniques available to researchers for studying cryospheric change and the uncertainty inherent in derived data.


Indicative topics include:

The role of ice within the Earth system.
Fundamental principles of the cryosphere.
Sea ice.
Mountain glaciers.
Past ice sheets.
Observing the current health of the ice sheets.
Future changes in the cryosphere.
Modelling past and contemporary ice sheets
Observing and characterising surface water storage on the ice sheets
Mapping glacial geomorphology
Glacier surface elevation analysis
Glacier ice surface velocity
Surface Energy Balance modelling
Ice-marginal lake interactions

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours164.00
Total Contact hours36.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

84 hours (S1) to include: 3 hours reading per lecture, 14 hours preparation, analysis and write up of computer practical, 18 hours revision for assessment.
80 hours (S2) to include: 4 hours per practical for preparation, analysis and reflection, 4 hours per practical for wider reading in related subject matter, 20 hours of data analysis for assessment, 20 hours reading/writing for assessment.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

There will be four formal points during S1 where student progress will be monitored – with the submission of each of the three learning logs, and then the end-of-semester assignment. In Semester 2 students will have the opportunity to gain verbal feedback from staff on their ideas, analysis and results during computer practicals, prior to the submission of their report. Written feedback on each of the assignments will also be provided.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1200 essay25.00
Practical2000 word report with associated digital files50.00
Computer ExerciseComputer workshop, assessed report (1200 words) with written-up answers / graphs25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:56:06


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