GEOG412-22S2 (C) Semester Two 2022

Alpine and Polar Environments

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 18 July 2022
End Date: Sunday, 13 November 2022
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 31 July 2022
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 2 October 2022


Understanding physical processes and earth-atmosphere interactions in alpine and polar environments is crucial for the management of water resources, tourism and recreation, particularly in the context of global climate change. In this course, you will gain knowledge of these processes and interactions, and develop practical skills for collecting and analysing atmospheric, cryospheric (snow and ice) and geospatial data relevant to alpine and polar research.

Alpine environments are harsh and dynamic, yet they can also be foci of human activity. In order to make decisions about activity and infrastructure in these environments people first need to understand how physical processes in these environments interact. For example, avalanche hazard is a result of complex interactions between snow accumulation, weather conditions, topography, and human activity. Future water storage will be influenced by long-term climate trends, topography, infrastructure and demand for water. Therefore in addition to understanding physical processes, to manage resources and activities in alpine environments, people also need an understanding of cultural values, and various policies and legislation that help govern development and activities.

Learning Outcomes

  • The aim of this course is to provide guided advanced level learning about snow and ice processes in alpine environments. This course has a strong skills development focus. Key topics include precipitation measurement in alpine catchments and avalanche hazard.

    Knowledge gained through student-lead tutorials, guest lectures, assigned readings, and practical workshops, with be drawn together during a one-day field excursion (weather dependent) to a Canterbury ski area, where students will explore snow accumulation processes and engage with experts working in snow safety management.

    Learning Outcomes

    By the end of this course you should be able to:
  • Describe Earth-atmosphere interactions in complex alpine and terrain
  • Critically assess, and be familiar with, key research that describes process that influence the spatial variability in snow accumulation in an alpine setting
  • Prepare and confidently use scientific equipment relevant to data collection in alpine and polar environments (e.g. automatic weather stations, ground penetrating radar (GPR)).
  • Identify and discuss key cultural, social and legislative considerations relevant to research in New Zealand’s alpine environments
    • University Graduate Attributes

      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.

      Engaged with the community

      Students will have observed and understood a culture within a community by reflecting on their own performance and experiences within that community.


Entry subject to approval of the Head of Department.


GEOG408 and GEOG410

Timetable 2022

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 09:00 - 12:00 Ernest Rutherford 164 Geog/Geol Lab
18 Jul - 21 Aug
12 Sep - 23 Oct
Field Trip A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 09:00 - 17:00 29 Aug - 4 Sep

Timetable Note

X1 TWO hour tutorial per week
One-day field trip (covid restrictions and weather dependant)

Course Coordinator

Heather Purdie


Wolfgang Rack , Tim Kerr and Justin Harrison


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Online quizzes (x 2) 20%
Skills modules (x 3) 40%
Literature Review 30%
Literature Review (Peer Review) 10%

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended Reading

McClung, David. , Schaerer, P. A; The Avalanche handbook ; 3rd ed; Mountaineers Books, 2006.

Required textbook(s):
There are no set-texts but each tutorial will be 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.

Recommended textbook(s):
McClung & Schaerer (2006) The Avalanche Handbook, The Mountaineers Books, Seattle.


GEOG408 and GEOG410

Recommended preparation:
GEOG205, GEOG312

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $2,101.00

* 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.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 10 people apply to enrol.

For further information see School of Earth and Environment on the departments and faculties page .

All GEOG412 Occurrences

  • GEOG412-22S2 (C) Semester Two 2022