Module Catalogue 2024/25

GEO3157 : Geohazards and Risk

GEO3157 : Geohazards and Risk

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Stuart Dunning
  • Lecturer: Dr Mark Kincey
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Code Title
GEO1020Introduction to Physical Geography
GEO2137Key Methods for Physical Geographers
Pre Requisite Comment

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


Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



Geohazards pose a significant and costly threat, and one that is likely to increase as climate warms. There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster, a disaster only occurs when natural processes intersect with things we value, and, when coping capacities are exceeded. Therefore, the aim of the module is to introduce students to the key concepts and methods involved in geohazard and risk research, and investigate how geographers are contributing. It will provide an overview of the natural, engineering, and interdisciplinary skills required, focusing on analysis of the impacts of natural hazards on individuals, society, and infrastructure. The module will draw on a number of real-world examples and disasters from across the globe, investigating how and why they occurred (root cause analyses), the impacts they had, and how they are researched by geographers. We will consider how geohazards/risks may be mitigated by human intervention, or adapted to through, for example, changes in behaviour and land-use practices. Finally, we will spend time looking at the emergent science of multi-risks and hazard cascades using recent deadly examples from around the world.
The module starts by building fundamental understanding around what key geohazards are, and the core concepts of risk, including hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. It will explore different ways to research risk for effective decision-making. Content is linked to a series of practicals aimed at reinforcing student understanding of key concepts and techniques, including overall risk quantification and modelling, through to specific geohazard examples and disasters.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists of 3 blocks:

1. Block 1 will focus on a basic understanding of risk concepts/definitions such as the difference between risk, hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. It will introduce students to key methods for identifying and measuring risk at local to global scales.

2. Block 2 will introduce specific key geohazards and how these processes can turn into potential disasters through their intersection with exposed and vulnerable populations. Students will explore the root causes of disasters using RCA (root cause analyses) which are often complex and cross disciplinary. Indicative geohazards to be covered include: landslides, earthquakes, landslide and glacial outburst floods, sediment slugs, cryospheric hazards, coastal hazards ,
Students will also be introduced to the concept of multi-hazard chains / cascading hazards, and the particular range of challenges these pose in terms of their prediction, mitigation and impacts.

3. Block 3 (which can run alongside the first two) focuses on the application of knowledge through a series of practicals. In any given year the practicals cover timely content which is drawn from:

1.       Risk assessment for specific geohazards or multihazards
2.       Hazard mapping and quantification
3.       Hazard and risk communication to varied key audiences
4.       Simple numerical modelling of geohazards
5.       Data for effective risk reduction decision making pre-, syn- and post disaster
6.       Root cause analyses for diverse geohazards

Practicals can be GIS, remote sensing, spreadsheet, online tool, Google Earth Engine based, and, may involve ‘micro’ / ‘pico’ group presentations to report back finding to the cohort.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

-Understand the concept of risk as a function of hazard, exposure and vulnerability and how it relates to the wider subject areas of engineering, geosciences, social sciences, and tectonic geomorphology..
-Evaluate the effectiveness of engineering and social science approaches to studying risk.
-Evaluate the different approaches used to mitigate risk and to evaluate the outcomes of these different approaches effectively (using a cost v benefit model).
-Evaluate good and bad examples of communicating risk to wider society.
-Appy the concept of root cause analyses to understand past disasters and suggest ways to mitigate against future ones

Intended Skill Outcomes

-Understand and apply the methods used to assess risk
-Evaluate cost-benefit of risk mitigation
-Communicate the impact of risk to wider society effectively
-Reading – independent research to crtically evaluate concepts, methods and outcomes of geohazard research.
-Design of research experiments to assess complex real-world risk scenario
-Crtical analysis of primary and secondary data sets derived from physical and numerical modelling
-Improved written report presentation skills synthesising complex plural science

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading211:0021:00Lecture/Prac associated reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical102:0020:00IT, and/or physical modelling
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study196:0096:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
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.

Practicals are an experential/learn by doing approach, teaching new skills linked to lecture concepts, and applying them to real-world use cases.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M70Report based on taking forward one of the practicals. 2500 word equivalent, to a set template. Higher level than GEO2141.
Oral Presentation1M30Group Root Cause Analysis poster, press release, and presentation of it orally.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The report assesses the ability of students to develop further a taught method/practical to collect, analyse and present a range of data, and, set this within the theoretical and applied practice context. Staff will provide a range of initial suggestions for how each practical content could be developed through independent analysis, and in-person support through the related drop-in surgery sessions.

The oral/poster presentation allows a group of students to work together to produce a ‘root cause analysis’ of a geohazard disaster, chosen with staff guidance. The RCA is presented as a group poster/talk in a mini ‘disaster forensic analyses’ event where they have been tasked by the insurance industry to establish cause, and, potential future mitigation/adaptation measures. It develops oral and presentation skills and allows engagement with a wide and up to date selection of literature and other non-academic evidence. The group will produce as part of the poster/oral a press release designed to effectively communicate the event chosen.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Welcome to Newcastle University Module Catalogue

This is where you will be able to find all key information about modules on your programme of study. It will help you make an informed decision on the options available to you within your programme.

You may have some queries about the modules available to you. Your school office will be able to signpost you to someone who will support you with any queries.


The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 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 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.