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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2018-19. The current handbook year is 2019-20

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL2251: Modelling Earth Processes

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOL1081 Further Mathematics for Geoscientists OR a comparable module taught in the Mathematics Department.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


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


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

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Will understand the components of numerical 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 model.
  • Will be able to critically evaluate modelling uncertainties, e.g. the effects of changing parameters and boundary conditions (inputs) on the model predictions (outputs) and how to map these values to observations or measurements
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will be able to operate MATLAB software effectively.
  • Will be able to plot and interpret model results in an organised and concise fashion.
Key Skills:
  • Communicate modelling approach and results effectively in written, verbal and graphical forms.
  • Evaluate how the model predictions map to observations.

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

  • Problem-based learning built around 19 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 Contact 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 20%
Practical Assignment 2 40%
Practical Assignment 3 40%

Formative Assessment:

There will be a formative assessment of the students’ code and report in between summative assessments 1 and 2. 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