Coasts and Climate Change A: Science and Risk GEOG4119

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course covers the science of coastal processes, dynamics and landforms through examining three key landform types commonly occurring across the globe: erosional, depositional and biogenic landforms. We will explore current day processes shaping these landforms and the effects of past, present and future climate change on the rates and nature of erosion. The course will conclude by examining past and present engineering approaches to managing coastal flooding, erosion and accretion. Whilst scientific in focus, this course provides firm grounding in understanding the risks posed by climate change at the coast and how dynamic these landforms are - providing important context for evaluating how vulnerable society is to these risks and how we can adapt to coastal climate change (the focus of Coasts and Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation).


3 hours each week for 5 weeks (first half of semester).

For 4 of these weeks  the class will be 2 hours lecture and 1 hour seminar each week. 

Field class will run in one of weeks 1,2,3 or 4 depending on tides on the same day as the class is normally held. This will replace the lecture during this week, and you will need to be available for the afternoon into the early evening. As much advance notice as possible in Semester 1 will be provided and travel will be by train to minimise student costs for the trip

Requirements of Entry

Normally fulfilment of entry requirements to one of the following programmes at honours (including joint honours associated with them): Level 3 Geography, Level 3 Environmental Geoscience, Level 3 Engineering, or with appropriate background (eg engineering , zoology).

Excluded Courses





60 minute exam at the end of the course. (70%)


1250 word consultancy style Coastal Monitoring Report based on your fieldwork. (30%)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

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 course will provide an overview of the effects of current day processes, as well as past, present and future climate change risks (e.g. sea level rise, storminess) on the behaviour of three major landform types: erosional, depositional and biogenic coasts. During this course you will learn how different landforms respond dynamically to similar forcing factors (e.g. waves, sea level rise) and how we use coastal geomorphology and engineering science to manage coastal erosion and flood risks.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Explain, with limited direction, the physical processes operating in the coastal zone;

■ Evaluate similarities, differences and interconnections between three dominate landforms types in the coastal zone;

■ Describe (using written, visual or data-based means) the dynamic nature of these coastal landforms

■ Articulate the risks climate change poses to different coastal landform types.

■ Critically assess past and present geomorphology and engineering methods to manage coastal erosion and flood risks.

■ Recognise the diversity of specialised approaches to, and techniques of, collecting, analysing and presenting information on the natural coastal environment;

■ Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently. 

■ manage their own learning using a wide range of resources, and critical searching and reading/interpretation of data and literature with limited guidance

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.