KE5002 - Cold and Palaeoenvironments

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will examine the nature of past environmental change and develop an intimate understanding of the processes and landforms of glacial environments. You will be able to identify and utilise multiple techniques for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. By the end of the module you will be able to critically appreciate the role of evidence in reconstructing Quaternary environments, as well as apply your skills in data analysis and interpretation. Topics include:
• Glacial processes and landforms.
• Glacier meltwater processes.
• Glacier surface energy balance.
• Environments and climates of the Quaternary.
• Glacial – interglacial cycles.
• Proxies for palaeoclimate reconstruction, focussing on pollen and diatoms.
• Stratigraphical methods and dating techniques.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, computer practicals, laboratory practicals, a seminar and independent learning. The lectures will cover the key definitions, theories, concepts, applications and processes that will give you the background knowledge to undertake the practical based studies and guided independent reading. You will use computer models to explore energy and mass balance on glaciers and you will use laboratory facilities to identify and analyse palaeoenvironmental proxies. Using the ELP and a dedicated electronic reading list you will broaden your understanding of Cold and Palaeoenvironments that will enable you to confidently tackle this module’s assessments and provide you with skills that will prove invaluable for your independent dissertation.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

This module is led by the research active and enthusiastic staff of the Cold Environments and Environmental Monitoring and Reconstruction research groups. You will be supported through the formal lectures on Cold and Palaeoenvironments and on an individual basis in the computer and laboratory practicals. Access to all learning materials is provided via the ELP (lecture slides and recordings, practical materials, online resources, electronic reading lists). All teaching staff operate an ‘open door’ policy for students meaning you can approach them anytime during normal office hours, or via email, to answer questions, receive feedback and support your learning on the module.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Critically discuss the nature and spatial variation of processes operating in glacial environments.
• MLO 2: Evaluate the evidence for the reconstruction of Quaternary environments

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 3: Use numerical models to calculate energy and mass balance of glacial environments.
• MLO 4: Identify and interpret proxies for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MLO 5: Demonstrate a curiosity in a variety of scientific methods applied to contemporary and past environmental research.

How will I be assessed?

The module is assessed by: (1) a practical based report and (2) an on campus mixed format exam (each worth 50%). The first assessment focuses on outputs from a glacier energy balance model and will enable you to demonstrate: (i) your ability to use, and graphically present outputs from, a numerical model of energy and mass balance of glacial environments; and (ii) your critical understanding of the controls on temporal and spatial variation in glacier surface melt rates (MLOs 1 and 3). The second assessment will enable you to: (i) demonstrate your broad knowledge and understanding of the key concepts and principles, and scientific methods applied to contemporary and past environmental research; and (ii) evaluate evidence for the reconstruction of Quaternary environments. (MLOs 2 and 5).
You will receive formative feedback in practical classes associated with assessment 1 and have the opportunity to participate in a mock examination to support your preparation for assessment 2. You will also receive formative feedback in laboratory practicals focussed on palaeoenvironmental proxy identification and interpretation using microscopes (MLO 4).





Module abstract

In this module you will learn about Cold and Palaeoenvironments, focussing on contemporary processes in glacial landscapes and the environments and climate changes of the Quaternary. This research-led module is presented by enthusiastic experts from the department’s Cold Environments and Environmental Monitoring and Reconstruction research groups who will share their knowledge and experience to help you achieve your potential. In this module you will learn about glacial and past environments in lectures, IT sessions and laboratory practicals. This will provide you with a broad set of analytical, laboratory and IT skills, which will prove invaluable for your studies and future employability.

Course info

UCAS Code F840

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy