Module Catalogue 2020/21

GEO3144 : Landslides from Pole to Pole

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Stuart Dunning
  • Technician: Dr Simon Drew, Miss Ana Contessa
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
GEO2137Key Methods for Physical Geographers
Pre Requisite Comment

GEO2137 Key Methods for Physical Geographers.

Any student without any of the above module must contact the module leader BEFORE signing up to the module to discuss suitability of modules taken.

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Rationale: Mountainous relief is generated by the interaction of tectonics and climate, with the balance responsible for the net change of a landscape’s relief and elevation. The potential of rivers and glaciers to erode (or protect) mountainous landscapes in response to tectonic and climatic forcing has been the focus of much work, with hillslope processes often assumed to respond to, and reflect, undercutting by either process. These hillslope processes undertake the geomorphic work above rivers and ice that lower mountain peaks and retreats valley sides, providing sediment to be mobilized from orogens, therefore playing a key role in controlling relief and elevation. The ability of landslides to transfer sufficient mass to keep pace with fluvial and glacial downcutting and tectonic uplift is not well constrained and is dependent upon characterising their long-term magnitude-frequency. This magnitude-frequency has direct implications for those living, or passing through steep terrain, and those tasked with minimising the threats to life and infrastructure though avoidance, or engineering. This module will explore the conceptual models of long-term slope evolution, our approaches to monitoring and modelling failure, and the varied approaches to landslide hazard and risk mitigation/management.

Aims: This module aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the principles, theory and practice of hillslope professionals and researchers, applied geomorphology, monitoring and modelling, and, varied approaches to engineering or societal mitigation.

Outline Of Syllabus

The Syllabus will cover some of:
•       Introduction to hillslope processes, landscape to slope scale
•       Magnitude-frequency and how to measure it over varied timescales
•       Quantifying landslide hazard and risk
•       The mechanics of failure
•       Failure modelling – how safe is your slope?
•       Landslide runout modelling – how far, how fast?
•       Microscale / analogue modelling of debris flows
•       Extraordinary landslides?
•       Landslides and society, willingness and abilities to intervene
•       Mitigation: techniques, challenges and societal risk
•       Landslides and climate change
•       Landslides and glaciers - I see no cirques or moraines, just landslides
•       Landslides and rivers – are landslide just a passive response to incising rivers?
•       Landslide dams, and their outburst floods
•       The landslide sediment cascade
•       Finding lost landslides in the sedimentary records

•       Microscale modelling of debris flows (desktop landslides).
•       Differencing 3D models to detect landslides.
•       Runout modelling of large rock avalanches/debris flows, rockfall runout, or, point-cloud differencing.

•       x2 day trips to ONE of the following locations: Lake District, Northumberland, Yorkshire Coast, or Howgill Fells. Trip location is dependent upon landslide and engineering activity in the teaching year.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

•       Knowledge of the importance of hillslopes as a discreet sub-discipline in Geography and how it relates to the wider subject areas of engineering, geosciences, risk, and tectonic geomorphology.
•       Describe, illustrate and explain with reference to specific examples the main characteristics of slope processes and the ways in which they create, or destroy, distinctive landscapes over a range of timescales.
•       Describe and evaluate a range of techniques for the collection, analysis and representation of hillslope processes and an ability to quantify their cumulative impacts
•       Describe and evaluate a range of professional practice reports related to slope stability, and mitigation techniques.
•       Summarise and evaluate a selection of key concepts, debates and research publications related to slope processes, and their implications for short-term and long-term landscape evolution.
•       An understanding of the use of physical and numerical models in furthering our knowledge of hazardous slope events.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1.       Reading – independent research
2.       Field note-taking and organisation
3.       Field measurement
4.       Design of research experiments to assess complex real-world risk scenario
5.       Analysis of primary and secondary data sets derived from physical and numerical modelling
6.       Written report presentation skills
7.       Team work during field and lab data collection

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion154:0054:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1100:00100:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical42:008:002 lab sessions will require running twice
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:004 way group split
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork28:0016:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity110:0010:00Culminating in project group meeting with academic of ~30 min, 5 hour period allowed
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce key concepts across a range of spatial and temporal time-scales, and will utilise research and professional practice case-study examples.

Fieldwork will enable students to be trained in the use of data collection techniques which will allow the interpretation these data, and their practical application in mitigating landslide hazard. Practical classes will allow students to implement microscale models to collect primary data, analyse secondary data, and recommend solutions – all based on real-world situations. Structured (learning materials provided) student led group activity will allow for project design, with feedback provided to groups via bookable slots in a 5 hr session of availability. Small group workshops will allow exploration of innovative model scenario, and how to analyse these data.

Attendance at practicals is compulsory. Attendance registers will be taken for all practical sessions. In the absence of mitigating circumstances non-attendance will result in zero for missed components.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination902A502 essays from choice of 6.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M502000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The synoptic exam will examine the lecture-based knowledge gained by students, incorporating the knowledge and skills learnt as during the practical exercises. Lectures, supplemented by student reading (partly directed), provide the essential knowledge base for this module.

The report (group) assesses the ability of students to design an appropriate study, collect, analyze and present a range of primary and secondary data, and set this within the theoretical and practice context. The practical work builds upon fieldwork experience, so fieldwork is not independently assessed.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.