Our fragile Earth ADED11484

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: Short Courses
  • Credits: 0
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course offers a geological perspective on catastrophic events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, megafloods, asteroid impacts, mass extinctions, ice ages and climate change. We will study particular events in the geological record and examine associated rocks and fossils in selected case studies. The Earth has been fairly stable for 4,500 million years, so how fragile is it? Debate!


2 hours per week for 20 weeks

Block 1 & 2: Thursday, 2.00-4.00pm

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





No summative assessments will be undertaken.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to identify and critically analyse features associated with catastrophic events in the following categories:

■ Volcanoes and types of eruptions, rocks associated with particular types of eruption, selected case studies

■ The effects of earthquakes and their causes

■ Floods, megafloods associated with deglaciation, formation of the English Channel, tsunami modern and ancient

■ Bolide impacts and how they may have affected Earth history

■ Mass extinctions and their causes

■ Ice ages, climate, and causes, concentrating on the Pleistocene glaciation, but considering earlier glaciations in the geological record.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:   

■ To identify and describe catastrophic events through geological time

■ To recognise evidence for these events in the geological record

■ Describe the impact of the events on the planet and its life

■ Discuss what lessons can be learned concerning future events.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Not applicable to a non-credit bearing course