Volcanic Processes and Environmental Systems

Module summary

Module code: GEOL1019
Level: 6
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): David Wray



The aim of this module is to provide:
• a thorough understanding of volcanic processes and the distribution of volcanoes and their products;
• an understanding of the range of proximal physical hazards associated with volcanoes and volcanic eruptions;
• an appreciation of the role that eruption products have in modifying near-surface environments and biogeochemical cycles over short to long timescales.
• an overview of planetary volcanism in the Solar System; and the ability to assess the role of volcanic processes in the origin and evolution of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere;

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. Describe in detail and critically evaluate the role of volcanic processes in environmental systems;
2. Predict the spatial and temporal scale and effect of volcanic eruptions and their products;
3. Integrate spatial and physical volcanic data to facilitate the production of a hazard map;
4. Explain the factors involved in environmental models of volcanic systems and be able to construct and evaluate simple models from first principles.

Indicative content

Volcanoes and their products. Mapping volcanic products, volcanic activity and volcanic hazard. The dynamic Earth as a degassing, evolving planet. Volcanism in a planetary context. Proximal impacts of volcanic activity. Volcanic explosivity and eruption plumes. Volcanism and climate change. Volcanic pollution. Magma-water interactions. Hazardous volcanic processes and their interaction with the biosphere and the Earth surface environment. The origin of life and mass extinctions.

Teaching and learning activity

The module will involve student- and teacher-centred learning strategies, with emphasis on the former. The module will be delivered through lectures and practical exercises. Lectures will introduce topics and provide case histories of volcanic processes and hazards in environmental systems (learning outcomes 1, 2 & 3). Practical exercises will assess the student’s ability to develop the numeric and predictive analytical skills required to develop and critically evaluate environmental models of volcanic systems (learning outcome 4 & module work assessment).


Exercise: 50% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 4.
Word Length: 1500 words.
Outline Details: Data modelling and interpretation exercise + calculations.

Exam: 50% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3.
Duration: 1.5 hour unseen exam.

Formative Assessment: Pre-submission of modulework for feedback, Q&A sessions in class, exam revision session.