Geography A-Level Projects

Are you a Geography A-Level student or a teacher looking for interesting projects to push and challenge your students? Here are some ideas (more to follow soon).

BRITICE

Take a look at the BRITICE project and download the maps: BRITICE. You could also download maps of the glaciation of Britain from the Journal of Maps. In particular, take a look at papers by Sahlin and Glasser and Hughes et al.

Investigate the maps. What glaciological features are marked on the maps? How are they formed? What do they tell us about the last British Ice Sheet? What landforms are near your house, or where you have been on holiday? Are there any nearby that you can go and take a look at?

More advanced: Can you classify the landforms into erosional and depositional? What processes have made these landforms? Where were the ice divides and where were the ice streams?

Sedimentology

QRG field trip 029

Glacial sediments in coastal cliff sections in North Norfolk

The coastal cliff sections in eastern England, particularly north Norfolk, Yorkshire and Co. Durham have excellent exposures of glacial sediments dating from the Mid- to Late Pleistocene. The Quaternary Research Association has an excellent selection of field guides to these areas. Visit a site and try photographing, measuring and sketching the glacial sediments. What processes may have been active at the ice-bed interface when these sediments were formed? Get your hands dirty and feel the till. What is is made up of? What kinds of rocks are in the till? Is it structureless, or can you see structures in it?

Google Earth

Take a look at Google Earth. Use Goole Earth to explore glacierised environments, such as the Antarctic Peninsula or Iceland.What satellite are you using and what is the resolution? What implications does this have for being able to identify objects on the ground?

Iceland

Look at Vatnajokull in Iceland. What structures can you see on the ice surface? How are they formed? What glacial and fluvioglacial features can you see in front of the ice terminus? Can you identify any of the following?

  • Stratification in glacier ice (showing the annual layers of snow)
  • Crevasses
  • Surface debris
  • Medial moraines
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Moraines
  • Crevasse-squeeze ridges

Antarctica

Use the search feature in Google Earth to find McMurdo and Rothera bases in Antarctica. What do they look like? How do they differ from normal towns? What features can you identify (e.g., heli-pad, runway, fuel stores, accommodation, vehicles)?

You can explore Rothera Research Station through the Google Map below.

View Larger Map

Can you find any ice streams in Antarctica? How do you know they are ice streams? (Hint: look at the ice surface).

Is the Antarctic continent entirely flat and white, or are there mountains? What do you notice about ice around the mountains?

Search for Beardmore Glacier. Where is this glacier?

Beardmore Glacier, Antarctica. Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program

Beardmore Glacier, Antarctica. Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program

Search for Larsen Ice Shelf. What is an ice shelf? What does it look like? Can you tell where the ice shelf begins and ends?

What does the South Pole look like?

Understanding glaciers

These interactive glacier models are great for understanding how glaciers work, and they’re ideal for undergraduates and A-Level Geography students or undergraduate students.

Navigate to the PHeT Glacier Simulation. Download the Java file to your desktop and run it on your computer. The file will open up and you’ll see the two tabs, Introduction and Advanced. Move the Bear slider along to move up and down the valley.

Introductory Questions

Can you answer these questions?

  1. When you don’t change anything, what can you observe on the glacier? Is it advancing or retreating, or is it in steady state?
  2. What happens to rocks beneath the glacier? What landforms are created as you watch the glacier?
  3. What glacier structures can you see on the ice surface, and what happens to them? What does this tell you about the glacier’s flow?

Equilibrium Line Altitude

Using the radio buttons on the green left-hand box, select ‘Metric’ and ‘Equilibrium Line’.

  1. What is the Equilibrium Line showing you? What happens to the snow at the Equilibrium Line?
  2. Click on the Ice Drill and drill some holes in the glacier ice. What happens to your drill holes? Why does this happen?
  3. Click on the Measuring tool and measure ice thickness. Where it the ice thickest? Why is this?
  4. Click on the Thermometer Tool. How does the temperature change along the length of the glacier? What about at the tops and bottoms of the mountains? Why is this?
  5. Use the GPS tool to measure the length of your glacier.
  6. Place a Flag on your ice surface near the top of the glacier. What happens to it? Can you explain why? What implications does this have for rocks that fall on the ice surface?

Advance and recession

Now use the Sea-Level Temperature and Average Snowfall sliding bars to make the glacier grow and shrink. If your glacier disappears or runs away, you can reset it to the Glacier Steady State. Use the Bear Slider to move along your glacier.

  1. What is the largest size of glacier you can grow?
  2. What do you need to do to make the glacier shrink?
  3. What does tell you about the relationship betwen temperature, precipitation, and glacier length?
  4. What happens to the Equilibrium Line as your make it colder or wamer? Why does it move? What does this mean for our understanding of Equilibrium Lines?
  5. Use the Measure Tool to track changes in ice thickness through time as you grow and shrink your glacier. How does the ice thickness change? Why does the ice thickness change?

Click on the Advanced Tab. Experiment with the options in the boxes. What do they do?

  1. Turn on Ice Flow Vectors. The length of the vector is proportional to glacier velocity. What do you notice about the length of the vectors along the length of the glacier, and from the ice surface to the bed?
  2. Turn on some graphs and see how your glacier properties change through time as you change temperature and precipitation.
  3. Make the glacier recede. What happens to the debris that is contained (entrained) within the glacier? What happens to the stream infront of the glacier? What landform is left behind after the glacier recedes?
  4. Turn time up to FAST. Create a pattern of 4 moraines using the temperature and precipitation sliders. Draw a plan view map of what they might look like (i.e., as if you looked down on them from above).

What is the response time?

Reset the glacier.

  1. Increase snow and precipitation to its maximum. How long will it take for the glacier to reach steady state again?
  2. Decrease the sliders to their minimum. How long will it take the glacier to disappear completely?

Glacial landforms

Click on Show Real Glacier.

  1. List 5 erosional and 5 depositional landforms you can see in the photograph.

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