Earth and Ocean Systems

Module code: GL2101

The Earth is a complex planet. In your first year, you were introduced to disciplines through which specific Earth-related phenomena are studied, such as igneous petrology, palaeontology, and sedimentology. The Earth also functions as an integrated system, though, with interchange between the various ‘spheres’ that comprise it, such as the mantle, crust, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, and this interchange has kept this planet continuously habitable for more than 3 billion years.
This module provides an integrated approach to understanding our planet, focusing on the solid Earth and the oceans, and on the relations between them. It builds towards modules in the third and fourth year, particularly those that also take a holistic view of the Earth, such as Palaeoclimatology and Planetary Geology.

Topics covered

  • How to build a habitable planet: starting with stars and the formation of elements and simple compounds, including water
  • And how to use geochemical data to understand geological processes
  • Mantle convection; stirring and mixing
  • The recycling of continental crust during plate tectonics
  • Using rocks as clocks
  • Physical oceanography, and the evolution of the ocean basins
  • Changes to ocean chemistry through time, including sediment recycling into the oceans and element residence times
  • Ocean current systems and what drives them, past and present
  • The evolution of life in the oceans and its transition to land
  • Human impact on the Earth/ocean system
  • The fate of the Earth/ocean system in the far future
  • Planet/moon/ocean systems in the Solar System and beyond

Learning

  • 15 hours of lectures
  • 18 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 117 hours of guided independent study

Assessment 

  • Exam, 1½ hours (60%)
  • Report (40%)