We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2020-21

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL2171: Water and Climate

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Pass at Level 1 GEOL1061 Mathematical Methods in Geosciences, pass at AS Level in Mathematics, grade B or above or the equivalent at Scottish Highers.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To understand the behaviour and nature of water resources.
  • To use geochemical methods to reconstruct palaeoclimatic variations and to quantify modern controls on the climate change.


  • Hydrological Inputs
  • Surface Hydrology
  • Groundwater and Groundwater Flow
  • Unsaturated flow
  • Solute transport
  • Climate evolution through Phanerozoic
  • Evolution of climate theory
  • Geochemical controls on the modern climate system
  • Geochronology: applications in palaeoclimatology (U-Th, radiocarbon)
  • Geochemistry of climate proxies
  • Anthropogenic global warming: real or imagined?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To be able to describe the various components of the hydrological cycle.
  • Apply various empirical equations to estimate evaporation using appropriate meteorological data.
  • Apply a unit hydrograph to net rainfall data to forecast a stormflow event.
  • Apply a soil water accounting procedure to estimate actual evaporation from potential evaporation.
  • Predict groundwater flow rates using Darcy’s law.
  • Predict well production rates using the Theim equation.
  • Describe, compare and contrast various methods for measuring in situ moisture content and pressure head.
  • Estimate an advective travel time.
  • Describe and apply a simple steady state decay and sorption model.
  • Describe major events in the Earth's climate evolution and relate them to variations in the climatic feedbacks.
  • Describe how chronologies for geochemical proxy records of climate are developed.
  • Critically evaluate the precision and accuracy of a chronology around which a proxy record is developed.
  • Evaluate how variations in modern geochemical systems could result in climate change.
  • Critically evaluate modern, anthropogenic global warming.
  • Will have acquired the ability to judge the validity of various climate proxy records.
  • To describe the applications of various climate proxies.
  • To be able to apply the principles of geochemistry to quantitative problem solving.
  • To understand the uses of elemental and isotopic chemistry in Earth Sciences.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills in order to apply hydrological and geological principles and methodologies to the solution of familiar and unfamiliar problems.
Key Skills:
  • Prepare, process, interpret and present data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Solve numerical problems using computer or non-computer techniques.

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

  • The module is delivered through a mix of one-hour lectures and two-hour practical slots, supported by handouts and directed reading.
  • The practicals form an important component of the module allowing "hands on" learning and experience.
  • An unseen written exam will provide a test of the students understanding of supporting theory.
  • Summative assessment is made up of two practical assessments.
  • Guidance on preparation, key and exam skills are provided.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 19 Weekly 1 Hour 19
Practicals 38 Weekly 1 Hour 38
Preparation and Reading 143
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
two-hour unseen written examination 100%
Component: Continual Assessment Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Assessment 1 50%
Summative Assessment 2 50%

Formative Assessment:

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