Postgraduate taught 

Computational Geoscience MSc

Modelling of Landscape Evolution EARTH5015

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Earth's surface is the primary access point from which much of our accessible archive of natural processes in the Earth system originate. Understanding the mechanisms that drive landscape evolution through state-of-the-art computational tools enables us to better constrain future responses of our ecosystem to environmental change.


This course explores the links between tectonics and climate and their impact on topographic evolution over time, across a range of scales. To do this we will explore the thermophysical properties of the Earth near the surface, both deformational and erosional processes, and how these shape the geomorphology of a landscape.   


This course will apply modern thermal and surface processes numerical tools to simulate past and future landscape evolution in various tectonic and climatic environments on Earth within a computational laboratory.  


5 weeks. 2 hours of lecture per week and 2 hours or practical per week

Excluded Courses



EARTH50XX_ Numerical Foundations of Geodynamics course.


1. Give a group presentation of a project on simulating landscape evolution in a chosen environment on Earth as it is impacted by changing thermophysical parameters, tectonic and/or climatic conditions.  (30%)

2. Individual report based on the group modelling project. 2000 words.  (70%)

Course Aims

The aims of the course are twofold:

■ The course provides a more holistic understanding of surface and near-surface processes on Earth in the context of changing climatic and tectonic conditions across different spatio-temporal scales.

■ Such understanding will be achieved by exposing students to state-of-the-art thermal and landscape evolution numerical models within an appropriate mathematical framework.

Throughout the course emphasis will be placed on good coding practice, techniques on how to address various computer systems to initiate model runs, and the critical assessment of model in- and output including statistical analyses and visualisation within a geoscientific framework.  

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Use computational models to simulate surface and near-surface Earth system processes.

■ Evaluate statistically the performance of a numerical model against real world data.

■ Explain how natural processes are described and numerically modelled using mathematical concepts.

■ Implement computational models of landscape evolution in response to a variety of changing boundary conditions.

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.