Office of Academic Affairs
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal

Earth and Environmental Sciences

EES 401: Earth Surface Processes (3)

Prerequisites (Desirable): All EES 300 level courses

Learning Objectives:

The Earth’s surface consists of several interacting morpho-tectonic elements on which the climate system dynamics is superposed. This endogenic-exogenic coupling at different spatio-temporal scales exercises a first order control on the development of the Earth’s surface and its gross characteristics. Against this backdrop, large scale physiographic and morpho-tectonic features, weathering and regolith development, sediment routing systems and drainage basins will be explored. Fundamental geomorphic concepts involving relationships between scale, pattern, and process will be introduced. Critical Earth surface processes related to hill-slopes, fluvial, aeolian, costal, and glacial geomorphic settings will be described. Lastly, the importance of human transformations of these process domains during the Anthropocene will be analyzed.

Course Contents:

Introduction to the Earth’s Surface: 
Sources of energy, energy flows and relative energy of surface processes, mass conservation and geomorphic transport laws (Bretherton Diagram).            
Geomorphic Concepts:
Spatial and temporal scales; Hierarchy and multi-scale process, magnitude-frequency concepts; Sensitivity, equilibrium, threshold, equifinality, non-linearity and complexity; Diffusion equation, advection equation and application to modelling of Earth surface process.    

Fundamentals of Earth Surface Systems:
Development of large scale topography and its role in Earth surface processes; Tectonics-climate coupling; Weathering rates and the Critical Zone processes; Bedrock to sediment routing systems; Quantitative characteristics of drainage basins, sediment and solute fluxes in drainage basins; Sediment  yield and landscape models.                                               

Specific Earth Surface Processes: 
Hill slopes and catchment erosion processes; Fluvial, aeolian and coastal processes and landforms; Complexity of large river systems.                                                                                                     

Geosphere and Cryosphere processes:
Polar ice sheets, Himalayan cryosphere, ice melt dynamics, spatio-temporal considerations, glacial and periglacial processes, thermal structure, climate change impacts on the cryosphere.                              

The Anthropocene:
Human transformations of Earth; Atmosphere-Geosphere-Biosphere interactions, concept of Anthropocene and human impacts on oceans, rivers and terrestrial biosphere.

Suggested Readings :

  1. Anderson, R. S., and Anderson, S. P., 2010, Geomorphology: The Mechanics and Chemistry of Landscapes, Cambridge University Press.
  2. Allen, P. A., 1997, Earth Surface Processes, Blackwell Publishing.
  3. Pelletier, J., 2008, Quantitative Modeling of Earth Surface Processes, Cambridge University Press.
  4. Summerfield, M. A., 2012, Global Geomorphology (2nd Revised Edition), Prentice Hall.
  5. Wilcock, P. R., and Iverson, R. M., 2003, Prediction in Geomorphology, AGU Publications.

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