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This course examines the physical processes involved with the formation and evolution of mountain glaciers and seasonal snow, including processes such as surface mass balance, dynamics and hydrology. The course develops knowledge by drawing on key research, and encourages students to critically evaluate published work. The supporting lab programme will enable students to develop a range of transferable skills by working with real data and equipment, for example, ground penetrating radar (GPR), snowpit analysis, and simple glacier models.
2021 Covid-19 Update: Please refer to the course page on AKO | Learn for all information about your course, including lectures, labs, tutorials, field trips and assessments..Why are glaciers touted as being excellent indicators of climate change? How do glaciers respond to climate? What will be the impact of current rapid glacial retreat to water resources, sea level rise, and tourism? What about ski-fields – will they survive a warming climate? This course focuses on the important role that snow and ice has on landscape evolution, climate interpretation and water availability. The lecture programme begins by exploring glacier mass balance and considering the challenges of measuring snow accumulation and ice ablation in mountainous regions. The intricacies of glacier motion are considered in-depth, and a unit on glacier hydrology highlights how knowledge of water systems are highly transferable. Material presented in lectures is reinforced by a lab programme that focuses on numerical and spatial analysis of real field data. The way glaciers shape the landscape (glacial geomorphology) and the ability to interpret landscape features to better understand climate change will be the focus of an optional 3-day field trip to the Mckenzie - Aoraki Mount Cook region. During this trip, students will get opportunity to engage with course lecturers about their current glacial research.
After successfully completing this course students will be able to:Explain the processes involved in determining glacier mass balance, ice motion and glacier hydrology, and be able to discuss interactions between these processes;Explain why glaciers are excellent climate indicators, and be able to make connections between glacial landscape features in the landscape and past climate variability;Be able to provide specific examples of glacier-related research conducted in New Zealand, as well as at other key research glaciers around the world.Develop a range of analytical, practical and academic skills including; the use of spreadsheet software and GIS for data analysis, interpret and understand a range of graphical data, use relevant formulae to calculate and predict physical parameters, write clearly and concisely and in an accessible scientific style, and, communicate science to an audience.Discuss the importance of understanding the cultural and social implications of undertaking research on public conservation land.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Employable, innovative and enterprising
Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.
Biculturally competent and confident
Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.
30 points of 200-level Geography, including GEOG201, orin special cases with approval of the Head of Department.
X1 two-hour lecture per weekX4 two-hour labs in selected weeksX1 three-day field trip (optional)
Benn, Douglas I. , Evans, David J. A;
Glaciers & glaciation
Hodder Education, 2010.
Cuffey, Kurt. , Paterson, W. S. B;
The physics of glaciers
There are no set-texts but each lecture is supported set reading(s) of a relevant scientific paper(s). Students are expected to find and read these papers prior to each lecture. Details of the readings will be provided at the start of the course
Prerequisites: Prerequisites: 45 points of 200-level Geography, including GEOG201, or in special cases with approval of the Head of Department.Recommended preparation: GEOG205
Domestic fee $877.00
International fee $4,438.00
* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.
For further information see
School of Earth and Environment