MSc Data Science (Earth and Environmental Analytics)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Environmental Monitoring and Modelling

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART62012
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit is run as a series of lectures and practicals where the focus is on preparing the student to be able to select the appropriate technique for measuring environmental data, to be able to analysis data, to use Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and to apply industry standard software for hydrological modelling, river modelling, water resource modelling, and glacier runoff modelling in a range of climatic zones around the globe.

Each week a new measurement and modelling approach will be introduced in a lecture and students will then gain hands-on experience in data analysis, using GIS, applying models and interpreting model output. This unit complements ‘Measuring and Predicting’ Part 1 and Part 2 by exploring processes but also with an emphasis on using models used in industry to examine real-world problems rather than focusing the computational detail.

The unit starts by using different models to explore flood hydrology and the mechanism of flooding including techniques to collect and analyse hydrometric data. The unit prepares students to use GIS and apply geospatial analysis techniques to rainfall data. Students apply hydrological models to examine catchment flow dynamics and use 1 Dimensional (1D) and 2 Dimensional (2D) numerical river models to explore channel and floodplain hydraulics for rivers in the UK. The unit then explores glaciers and their hydrological processes in mountain catchments. The unit prepares students to apply a glacier runoff model, perform a model calibration and sensitivity analysis on model parameters. The students make use of hydrometeorological data collected in the Upper Indus Basin, in the Karakoram Himalaya, Northern Pakistan.

The unit also explores low flows, drought, water scarcity and food insecurity. The unit prepares students to apply water balance models as a tool to solve water security problems and help policy makers resolve water conflicts at the basin, regional and global scale. Students use real-world data from the Rift Valley Lakes Basin (RVLB) in Ethiopia and learn how water stress is a constraint to agricultural production and economic development resulting in food insecurity and poverty. Students will be able to estimate water demands from irrigation agriculture and to model the sensitivity of water demand to different crop types, cropping patterns, and irrigation practices and to model the change in water demands as a result of a future warmed climate. The unit then examines global future mega trends of population growth, urbanisation, and climate change and their impacts on society. The unit introduces students to climate change models and some of the predicted impacts around the world with a focus on East Africa.



To develop students understanding of data analysis, environmental measurement, and the application of environmental modelling approaches in research and/or consultancy.


Learning outcomes


On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


Understand flood hydrology and to be able to estimate design flows used to resolve flooding problems



Gain an appreciation of hydrometeorological data collection and environmental monitoring


Demonstrate knowledge of different modelling approaches including for hydrological and hydraulic (1D 2D and 3D) modelling, water resource modelling, glacier modelling, and climate models using case studies


Be able to use industrial standard software for environmental modelling purposes and recognise their application to real world problems


Appreciate the importance of the water-food-energy nexus, global water insecurity, causes of water conflicts, and the economics of water scarcity, and how water resources modelling can assist policy makers for food security and poverty reduction purposes


Be able to develop a glacier runoff model and interpret model output, to evaluate model performance and evaluate model parameters through sensitivity analysis



2-hour lecture plus 2-hour practical on computer cluster each week.


  1. Measurement and Modelling in Environmental Science

Lecture: Flood Hydrology, Modelling and Modelling

Practical: Climate Analysis & Hydrological Modelling using data for the Rift Valley, Ethiopia


  1. Rainfall Runoff Modelling and Design Hydrology.

Lecture: Rainfall Runoff Modelling and Design Flow Estimation

Practical: Hydrology and Hydrological Analysis - estimating design flood peaks at river gauges using data for UK catchments.


  1. Advanced Modelling in Environmental Science

Lecture: Hydraulic River Modelling

Practical: Hydraulic River Modelling – Using Flood Modeller Pro (FMP) software to model river flows and levels for UK rivers.


  1. Water Resource Modelling

Lecture: Water Scarcity

Practical: Climate and water demand analysis for the Rift Valley, Ethiopia (Part 1).


  1. Water and Food Security

Lecture: Water Scarcity & Irrigation agriculture

Practical: Climate and water demand analysis for the Rift Valley, Ethiopia (Part 2).


  1. Modelling in Mountain Environments

Lecture: Glacier Hydrology and Modelling

Practical: Glacier Runoff Modelling using data from Passu Glacier, Karakoram Himalayas, Northern Pakistan.


  1. Climate Change Modelling in Environmental Science

Lecture: Glacier Hydrology and Modelling

Practical: No related Practical.


  1. Q+A session


Teaching and learning methods

  • Each theme is taught using lectures and practical exercises either classroom based (on campus) or online using e-learning (off campus) with drop-in classroom sessions when requested
  • 2-hour lecture per week covering a different modelling approach and theme; the relevant theory; and usage cases for the model, with examples
  • 2-hour computer practical each week, with guided learning where students download and use data and models to simulate environmental processes, and plot / interpret the results based a theme introduced in lecture
  • Practical exercises can be done as guided on-line video, with drop-in classroom help sessions when requested, and with regular online help sessions
  • Supplemented with on-line video to aid with technical tasks
  • Experts from industry share their knowledge of environmental modelling using state of the art software available to download at no cost
  • Practicals are supplemented by demonstrations using a Flume to teach hydraulics and the Universities Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox to visualise in real time water spreading models
  • Summative assessment is through a practical book based on computer based practical exercises related to each theme taught

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Set exercise 100%

Feedback methods

Online within 2 weeks.


Recommended reading

 R & D Project FD1913 ‘Revitalisation of the FSR/FEH rainfall-runoff method’

Flood Estimation Handbook Supplementary Report.

Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH) Volumes 1 – 5.

Shaw, E. (1991) Hydrology in Practice.


Ferguson, R. I., 1999. Snowmelt runoff models. Progress in Physical Geography, 23 (2), 205-227.


Fountain, A. G., and Tangborn, W., 1985. Overview of contemporary techniques. In Young, G. J. (ed.),

Techniques for prediction of runoff from glacierized areas. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication number 149, 27-41.


Lowe, A.T. and Collins D.N. 2001. Modelling runoff from large glacierised basins in the Karakoram Himalaya using remote sensing of the transient snowline. International Association Hydrological Sciences Publication number 267, 99-104.


Richard, C., and Gratton, D. J., 2001. The importance of the air temperature variable for the snowmelt runoff modelling using the SRM. Hydrological Processes, 15 (18), 3357-3370.


Turpin, O. C., Ferguson, R. I., and Clarke, C. D., 1997. Remote sensing of snowline rises as an aid to testing and calibrating a glacier runoff model. Phys. Chem. Earth, 22, 3-4, 279-283.


Various authors, 2003. Mountain Hydrology and Water Resources, Journal of hydrology, Vol. 282, issues 1-4, 1-181.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 100

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Lowe Unit coordinator

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