Thursday, 28 April 2011

World at risk. Earthquakes and Megacities

This fantastic map shows the earthquake risk or regions around the world, the relative size of a countries population and the location and size of megacities. Reproduced here from a blog i follow:

The blog is called "Views of the world" and is a collection of very interesting and unique maps. This one clearly shows that certain cities are at high risk:

The city sizes are based on 2015 estimations by the UN, some regions are well known, such as LA, overdue for its next "big one", Istanbul with its notable seismic gap, and earthquakes recently working their way up the North Anatolian Fault. Some are more surprising. Bogota is at rick, according to a recent poll by LaPatria, a Columbian newspaper, 95% of buildings do not follow earthquake proof standards, and the region has experienced rapid urbanisation over the last 50 years. There have been significant quakes before in Columbia, in 1785, an earthquake lasting 4 minutes struck Bogota, the last significant quake was January 1999 with a magnitude 6.4. As a country, Columbia sits between the North and South, and the currently most successful economic region in the world, Latin America.

Mexico City is well understood, and with the Torre Major, and the other earthquake proof measures put in place since the 1985 quake, stands to be well prepared, can the same be said for Tehran, Baghdad and Kabul? Regions of conflict, with many other priorities for public funding. An earthquake in any one of these regions would be devastating. The last major earthquake to strike Lima was in 2007, measuring magnitude 7.9, but quakes on this boundary are regular, Chile has had 13 over magnitude 7 since 1973.

Perhaps Jakarta is the most prepared, this article discusses how prepared the city is following the devastating Japanese Earthquake, with the city council claiming it could withstand up to a magnitude 8, though some buildings were lower. With a population already approaching 10 million, lets hope this claim is never tested.

One point to take away, the earthquake in Japan has prompted worldwide reviews of where is at risk, and how prepared they are, and this can only be a good thing for future safety, especially as it not necessarily the most well designed building, or deepest foundations that save lives, but instead it is education, evacuation plans and early warning, where most countries are no focusing significant amounts  of time and money.

Essays workshop from today

Structuring Answers

Human essays usually focus on Impacts/issues/consequences/reasons and can nearly always be structured by a paragraph each on Socio-Economic, Political and Environmental. This includes essays on physical topics with a human element, such as flooding or protection. 
If it is Rivers and regarding processes it can normally be split into upper/middle/lower courses
For either rivers or Coasts, if it is a purely physical question, such as the formation of a landform, or changes associated with sea level change, it needs to be a logical explanation, using the right terminology, and set out in stages. 
This really is the key to doing well in eessays, you need to make sure that you are using geographical words in order to secure the top marks in all questions, not just essays!

In terms of further help, it was suggested that seeing some model answers would be the best way for you to understand structure. As such, you can vote on the essays you would most like to read and I will write them. If there are enough people interested, i will write two of the essays below this weekend for you to read. You need to vote on FB for the number essay you want. 
1.    Some housing and transport systems in the UK are being designed to reduce energy use. Discuss how the importance of such schemes is reducing the countries contribution to global warming(126)

2.    Describe and explain the impact of the use of fossil fuels on the environment (100)

3.    Discuss the view that nuclear power can be managed to that it is an environmentally sustainable source of energy (70)

4.    Describe and explain why there is no single form of renewable energy that would satisfy a countries complete energy needs.

5.    With reference to a named country, evaluate attempts to manage population change(124)

6.    Outline and comment on the economic and political consequences of population change (97)

7.    “for better or worse” discuss how population change can affect the character of rural and urban areas (66)

8.    Ageing populations represent the greatest concern to populations experiencing change. To what extent do you agree.

9.    With reference to one or more case studies of coastal management, discuss whether the benefits outweigh the costs (122)

10.                  With specific reference to a case study of coastal erosion, asses the relative importance of its physical and socio-economic consequences (94)

11.                  Using a case study, assess the causes and consequences of coastal flooding (62)

12.                  Describe and explain the coastal landforms resulting from sea level change

13.                  Describe and explain the development of meanders (120)

14.                  Describe and explain the formation of landforms resulting from rejuvenation (92)

15.                  Channel characteristics such as cross profile, wetted perimeter, hydraulic radius, roughness and channel efficiency change downstream. Describe and explain how channel characteristics change downstream (59)

16. Flooding represents the greatest risk to the poorest parts of the worlds population. Discuss.
 SO, cast your votes, write some of your own and stay on top of your revision!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A very cool Map

In Addition to Royal Wedding Fever, this cartogram shows population of the UK in a very cool way, so i thought i would share it with you!

Royal Wedding Geography - a themed post

So, this may well be jumping on the bandwagon, but I thought id see how the Royal Wedding could be used as a geographical point for your summer essays. Whether you are a Royalist or Republican, going to be glued to the TV on friday or avoiding it at all costs, what does this Wedding mean for the UK?

Fact - average tourist spending in the UK is £65 a day

  • For the wedding of Charles and Diana, 0.6 million people visited London for at least the day, that was 30 years ago, before the advent of the cheap flight and the Eurostar - if the same number come to London this weekend, and it is likely to be higher, this would generate £40 Million in revenue
  • There has been a 28% surge in Eurostar bookings for this weekend, in comparison to the same weekend last year
  • There has been 121% increase in Hotel bookings in London
  • There is a predicted 20% rise in tourism revenue this year, taking the UK's earnings from tourism from £500 million to £600 Million
  • BUT the bill is yet to come in for public spending on the wedding, will it balance out?
Social Media/Communications

  • Charles and Diana's wedding was the most watched TV event ever, with 1 billion viewers in 1981, back when we had TV's shaped like a large box, the internet was a sci-fi movie phenomena, and streaming unheard of. 
  • There are now 162 million webpages discussing the wedding
  • Google has produced a snazzy fly through of the wedding route in google earth GIS-Tastic: 

  • regardless of your feelings, 1/8 of the 30 million tourists to this country spend money on Royal attractions (thats 3 750 000 people every year who pay to do something with a Royal theme)
  • The BRIC countries are leading the way in visiting the UK for the Royal flavour with 83% of all Russians visiting Buckingham Palace
  • 60% of Americans opt for royal outings. Europeans spend the least - an average of £400 a visit - while those from the Middle East spend almost four times that, at an average of £1,500 per visit
  • Charles and Diana's wedding doubled UK tourism for 1981

  • Tesco has sold 120 miles of union jack bunting
  • Ebay reports a rise of 12,491% on Royal Memorabilia this year
  • Tesco has also sold 1300 tonnes of Jersey Royal New Potatoes compared to a total of 250 tonnes last year - good if you are growing them!
  • Goldsmiths Jewellers are predicting a 50% rise in engagements this spring - lets hope their gold rings are fairtrade like Will and Kates were rumoured to be (I liked this rumour - it did raise some awareness of the issues surrounding gold extraction - in fact, the Royal family has a small amount of Welsh gold in their vault which all royal wedding rings are traditionally made from)
  • Beer - an estimated extra 100 million pints will be pulled this weekend, hopefully mitigating the 3.8% decline in Beer sales in the UK this quarter in to last year
  • Memorabilia - who doesnt want a plate like this one? (seriously, this is big business)

Small Businesses
  • An extra bank holiday presents a cost to small businesses and employers, do you pay employees or make them take it as holiday, and loose a days business
  • Many people have opted to take the three days (Yes those that we are at college for!) as holiday, as effectively, you would then have 11 days in a row off work, only using up three days holiday. For many small businesses this would be catastrophic

Olympic Fever
  • With all the coverage, and pictures of London being taken and circulated this weekend, there is an excellent marketing opportunity for tourist thinking of coming to London, and many will be convinced to come visit.
  • The extra street cleaning, roadworks and preparation for the Wedding is timed well to help preparation for the Olympics
  • Some visitors will be staying longer, perhaps until the end of the games, and they have to spend money!
Social Impacts
  • Whatever your views, a wedding is a nice, spirit raising happy thing to celebrate, and in these times of austerity, job cuts, funding cuts and conflicts all around the world, a little good old fashioned cheer is a good thing. 
  • The UK has some negative press, we are involved in a new conflict in Libya that there are some very divided opinions about, this is a purely positive news article that will put the UK in the frontline of the media. 
  • There is however, an increased risk to some areas, the concentrations of people in towns and cities does provide a target. 
  • The younger generation have a closer link to William and Kate than any of the other Royals, and a happy modern fairytale marriage provides a good role model, and as a country, we could do with some nice healthy young role models around. 
  • The "copycat" wedding, is already available in China, further evidence for the Westernisation of Culture

So, whatever you are doing (the correct answer is "revising for my mock!"), enjoy the day, to be honest, there are only a couple of these in your lifetime, and its probably worth a few minutes of your time at least, if you can find any fantastically weird and wonderful geography links let me know by leaving me a comment!

Revision Summaries for Modules

The idea is that these topics should take you about half an hour to do, hopefully this helps:

Global Hydrological Cycle
Drainage basin systems
Water Balance Graph
Long and Graded Profile
River Features
River management (Hard)
River Management (Soft)

Factors affecting Fertility and Mortality
Population Pyramids
Demographic Transition Model
Youthful and Ageing Populations
Optimum Population
Population Policies
Settlement Case Studies
Social Segregation

Marine Energy
Processes of Weathering
Influence of Geology on Coastlines
Coasts as a System
Coastal Landforms
Biogenic Coastlines
Storm Surges
Coastal Management (Hard)
Coastal Management (Soft)
Lyme Regis

Types Of Energy
Renewables and Non Renewables - how, what, where advantages/Disadvantages
Appropriate technology
Climate Change
Energy Mix of UK and Sweden

Hope this helps. remember this week is the after college essay writing session on thursday, and normaly workshops running all week next week, skills work shop on tuesday!

Lastly. There are only three weeks left, working hard now really pays off for next year, so heres to three weeks of hard work!


Saturday, 16 April 2011


Hello Upper and Lower sixth!

It may be Easter, but you guys have a main priority for your weeks off. Revision, and lots of it, I know some of you seemed to think I was joking, but in order to achieve the grades you want, you need to approach this week as though you were still at college, and working every day.

As a bare minimum, in college time, you spend 4 hours and 40 minutes in lessons, and you should be spending around 3/4 hours doing your extra reading, as recommended to you since the start of the year. So, per subject, depending on if you are upper or lower sixth, you should plan to spend either 7 hours 40 min, or 8 hours 40 min per subject this week.

So, if you are doing four subjects at AS, this week you should try to timetable 30 hours and 40 minutes
and, if you are doing three subjects at A2, you should timetable 25 hours 40 minutes revising.

Sound like a lot? In comparison to the world of work, you have a 37.5 hour day week for an average job, and for nearly everyone, a job is the main aim of studying! So, now is the time to work, and for some of you, this comes easily, for others, it takes a bit of practise. The thing you want to avoid most, is not doing everything you can now to get your results, and that means you taking control of your own learning by following a few simple suggestions, this is by no means a set of instructions, but will hopefully help you to get started:

  1. Know what you have to revise: start by making a list of all your subjects, and the modules within them, break it down to subtopics that would take you about half an hour to revise (ie, river management, landforms, population pyramids or volcano types)
  2. Plan your time: no-one is going to work all day, all evening and weekends. Look at your week off, write out a list of days, and work out what times you already have plans, and block that time out. Be realistic, give yourself some time out to relax, like a weekend, it is important you recover from the demands of term time. However, you need to weigh up how much time is sensible to take out, and commit to a reasonable number of hours per day.
  3. Targets: use your list of modules and your time table to set your self goals. Don't make them unrealistic, that is demotivating, but use your half hour long subtopics to fill up the time. If you cant fit all the topics into this week, consider working at different times, i.e. evenings, and use the next bank holiday weekend (Unless you are planning to watch the Royal Wedding!)
  4. Get on with it: we all do the same thing, starting off is really difficult, but you have to do it. There is no way around this, but when I have to work, I can find almost anything to distract myself, suddenly the house needs cleaning, floors need scrubbing, if it gets really bad I decide to go running! Then, only once I've run out of every other possible thing to do, do I start work. This is bad, learn from my mistakes! The way to deal with revision apathy is to start small, ten minutes, stop for a drink, 15 minutes, stop for a snack, etc, build it up so you learn to focus for longer and longer periods of time.
  5. Celebrate: Achieving your goals is motivating, and rewarding, if you have done something right, reward yourself with something you like, and herein lies a lesson, have stuff around that makes a suitable reward, for me, it is expensive Ice cream, homemade cakes (no surprises there and they are normally made during my "do anything but work" phase) but make sure there is a light at the end of the revision tunnel (besides great results).

So, there are my tips on how to get started and how to revise, once you get going, it becomes a lot easier, especially once you find the place where you can work, for me, the public library was the saviour of my A-Levels, they have little private rooms you can work in, and a big table you can spread out on, and it is dead quiet (It is a rare person who actually takes in lots of information whilst watching TV or listening to music).

So, the question many of you have asked me, when i have suggested you spend 5-7 hours a day revising, is how do I know. Firstly, the geography team has seen a lot of students, with a lot of different styles come through Huish, and those that base themselves in a classroom and do the work, do much better. Those who make notes, revision cards etc do better (you are covering more ways in which your brain absorbs information - hearing, seeing, writing, speaking all work).

Secondly, on a more personal level, I revised in a similar way to that described above, it was not perfect, but I did work nearly every day, a couple of hours in the evenings after college. It worked, I don't think I could have worked any harder, and I got the grades I wanted to do the course I really wanted, and I now have a job I really enjoy, and for all of you, that starts with you getting good grades this summer.

So, in terms of what I can do to help you, later on there will be a list of subtopics for the modules we do at Huish, there are websites that have resources such as has most PP and geofiles on it, and the FB page is an ideal location for questions, there is a new discussion set up for each year group for you to ask any questions you have.

Remember, there are plenty of resources and help out there, but at the end of the day, a lot of this comes down to you. Help yourself by starting your revision sooner, rather than later, and making it effective.

Hope this helps!


Monday, 11 April 2011

ITCZ explained

This Photo from the NASA observatory website is a clear depiction of the ITCZ from a couple of weeks ago. The line of clouds running across the Northern sector of South America and across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans is a result of the area receiving the most insolation, therefore the most evapotranspiration, and low pressure forming as a result of the continued rise of warm air. Remember, it is the Long Wave Terrestrial Radiation that heats the air, not the incoming UV.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Iceland day 3!

We are at the moment driving across the Sandur, a vast volcanic plain, formed through glacial outbursts or Jokulhaulps. The last of these, from Grimsvotn in 1996. The landscape is littered with the remains of old bridges, that sometimes last only a few days, and are often destroyed in order to allow the flood waters to pass through. There has been much stabilization of the sandur with planting of resistant plants which aim to capture Aeolian sediments and protect the main ring road. This road is quite an accomplishment for Iceland, the vast sandur's present a significant risk to those attempting to cross the,.The villages and the towns in the East depend on it now as a main route to the capitol, but before that, the options were to cross the mountain glaciers, dangerous in the case of Vatnajokul which has the largest geothermal system in Europe underneath it, or to try to cross the hundreds of glacial fed rivers. The alternative is to drive around the rest of the coastal road to the north, not exactly a short cut! If you go it wrong, as would have been easy with Grimsvotn, as the flood occurred six weeks after the eruption, and rose to 5m high, you risk being washed away with boulders the size of houses! Here is a picture taken looking out across the Sandur that clearly shows some of the management in place for glacial floods:

The wing dykes are a means of diverting flow away from roads and bridges that would be more expensive to repair. There are many of these all over Iceland, as the ring road is often destroyed over the winter periods in different places. 

After this we headed to the Glacial Lagoon, Jokulsarlon, where the Bond movie was filmed, this is a proglacial lake, formed as the glacier retreats and deposits material in a terminal morraine, then fills with water behind it. This one is connected to the sea, and creates a spectacular black beach littered with icebergs. We did manage to see some seals in the lagoon, they are to two tiny black dots in the middle!

The ice is filled with tiny bubbles, which we will be using as proxy evidence for climate change very soon in class. We can measure the relative proportions of gases in the bubbles and from that calcualte atmospheric composition and temperature. They are also remarkably pretty:

The shores of the lake, which is brackish water are also coated in smaller icebergs which can take many years to melt if they are large enough. The concern over the lake is that the coastline is eroding due to lack of fresh input of sediment from eruptions, and rising sea levels, if there is no replenishment, the river mouth will soon reach the lake, the morraines will be destroyed and the ice will be gone:

Finally, the beach, blue icebergs, black sand and white waves, enough said:

There are times in Iceland's history when these floods cause significant growth of the land, in fact they depend on much of the material as without it, coastal towns like Vik, where we stopped for souvenirs, are more at threat from coastal erosion as the sediment is removed by the high energy waves but not replenished at the same rate. The last Katla eruption in 1918 extended the southern coastline by 4km in 24 hours. Katla and Hekla are both overdue! Maybe replenishment will come soon, though preferably not while we are out here!!!

Iceland Day 2!

Today was a real Icelandic experience! We have had the full range in weather, from sunny and warm, to sleet and driving rain! It would be fair to say all our waterproofs were fully tested today, and not all of them made it through! (unfortunately my own trousers fall into that category)

We started the day with a trip to a fantastic waterfall Skaftelfoss (? - spelling to be amended when i can find an Icelander to ask). This is the one you can walk all the way behind on a wide ledge, and look out across the Glacial flood plains through the water:

For the more adventurous/well dressed, you can stand underneath the falling water, for a few minutes at most! As demonstrated by these students! (This may have been the downfall of many of the failed waterproofs today)

from there, we went to another unpronounceable waterfall, which for those of you in either mine or Nikkis's classes will have seen at least once on one of the many Iain Stewart documentaries. This is the one he Paraglided off from, and used (for those who can remember it) in the rather dramatic Scottish widows video:

If you came on the trip and are reading this in retrospect, can you spot the waterfalls, the coastline and arches and waterfalls we went too, as well as a particularly infamous lava flow? Let me know if you've worked it out! This started out as a wet stop, but we did manage to get some great photos, like this one:

From here it was on to the southern coastline, which is filled with spectacular coastal features such as arches and stacks, and some huge caves. A couple of members of staff had to make a desperate run for shore when a very large wave took them by surprise, and we had a nice walk along the top of one of these arches. The marine energy is high in Iceland for a couple of reasons, firstly, the Gulf stream is important for Iceland, as much of the North Atlantic deep water sinks just to south, and this sinking motion at the northern most tip of the gulf stream, helps to drag warm water across from the Gulf of Mexico, which in turn, gives the UK its nice CTWM climate. Secondly, there is no land to the south of Iceland until you hit Antarctica! So there is a large fetch, plenty of wind, and finally, lots of deep depressions from the passage of the Rossby waves in the Polar Jet. 

The interplay between the high energy and hard rock coastlines produces some textbook landforms. The Arches and stacks tend to form in the lava flows on the coastline which are in some cases well over 100m thick. Dyrhouley coastline has a series of arches, as pictured, filled with seabirds whose main defense mechanism is to produce smelly vomit to coat their attackers.

Here's Nick doing his best Geographer pose!

And some nicely silhouetted students by the sea:

After lunch, we went on to the Sandur, and drove through the Laki Lava fields, a truly impressive, if menacing reminder of the power of some of these Icelandic volcanoes. Laki erupted and formed these lava fields in 1783, the fissure was a typical Icelandic eruption and was over 24km long and with over 100 active craters. The eruption lasted several months, releasing enough CO2 and SO2 to affect global climates for a few years afterwards. The lava covers an area of 600 square KM, the same size as the Somerset Levels, the immediate area during the eruption was utterly destroyed, the lava flows over 60km from its source, drying up the glacial rivers and utilizing their beds in order to flow downhill efficiently. The lava is unusual, it has a high concentration of fluorine, poisonous to both humans and animals in large quantities, it has however, led to the formation of some really spectacular moss, it is thick, often over 6 inches thick, and a very bright green, but that is all that grows here, other vegetation would not have anywhere near enough soil to grown here (think succession and pedogenesis – 3000 years to form 1m of soil and this eruption created a new lithosere)

So, we finished the day with an outstanding dinner of roasted Icelandic Lamb, with sweat potatoes and chocolate pudding, and added a Huish Cairn to the Cairn Field: