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Extreme Geological Events

Explore how extreme geological events have shaped Earth and what challenges future events might pose to our planet.

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Extreme Geological Events
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

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    $23.33/monthLearn more

Discover how extreme geological events have transformed our planet.

Retrace how Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and has evolved to become the planet we know today.

On this course, you’ll get an introduction to the geological history of planet Earth, and explore the extreme events that shaped it and created conditions for life.

You’ll learn about the largest floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and explore the impact they have had and will continue to have on our dynamic planet.

Finally, you’ll discuss the likelihood of extreme events happening in the future and how we can deal with the risks and hazards.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Throughout its 4.5 billion year history earth has evolved dramatically to become the planet we know today and it will continue to evolve in the future. The natural processes that bring about changes to our planet can be slow, lasting millions, or even billions of years. Changes can also occur over shorter time scales through extreme events. In this course we’ll explore how the earth was formed and discover how extreme geological events have shaped its surface, and created the conditions for life. We’ll look at colossal events like the formation of the universe through the Big Bang and snowball earth when our planet was frozen over completely and trapped in an extreme ice estate for millions of years.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds We will discuss how deep earth processes can lead to the largest volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and the role that they play in making our planet dynamic. We’ll learn more about the largest most extreme versions of flooding and tsunamis so-called mega floods and mega tsunamis and the impact that they have had on our planet. Finally we’ll fast forward to the present day to look at the hazards and risks that these events present to society and the likelihood of humans experiencing these extreme catastrophic events in the future. Join our team of experts at Cardiff University and sign up now to begin your geological journey.


  • Week 1

    Forming a habitable planet through extreme events

    • What are extreme geological events?

      We'll begin by considering the term 'extreme' and introduce a key point of view for looking at geological events.

    • The emergence of our planet through extreme events

      In this activity, we’ll look at the extreme events that led to the formation of the Earth.

    • The emergence of life through extreme events

      In this activity, we will consider the extreme events that were crucial in Earth’s history and how they led to life in its current form.

    • A habitable planet with complex life

      In this activity, we reflect on all the events we've covered and how through them Earth became a habitable planet with complex life.

  • Week 2

    The extreme events our planet experiences

    • What events are we looking at?

      We’ll begin by considering the types of events we are exploring this week.

    • Extreme earthquakes

      In this activity, we’ll look at the processes and triggers that lead to earthquakes. We’re look at extreme earthquakes, so-called megaquakes and how they’ve shaped our planet.

    • Extreme volcanic eruptions

      In this activity, we’ll look volcanic eruptions and the different types of eruption. We’ll look at extreme eruptions and role they’ve played in the development of our planet.

    • Extreme tsunamis and floods

      In this activity, we turn our attention to tsunamis and floods. We’ll look at the most extreme versions, megatsunamis and megafloods and some events that have impacted our planet.

    • A planet shaped by extreme events

      In this activity, we reflect on all the events we've seen so far and how Earth has been shaped by them.

  • Week 3

    Humans and extreme events

    • What's our perspective?

      We’ll begin by considering the perspective through which we'll be considering events this week.

    • From myths to facts

      In this activity, we will consider how human experience and understanding of extreme geological events has developed over time.

    • Hazard and risk

      In this activity, we look to the present day and the hazard and risks that extreme geological events present to us humans.

    • Preparing for the future

      In this activity, we will consider how we should prepare for future events based on evidence and what is known about our dynamic Earth.

    • The end of our events

      In this activity, we will summarise what we’ve covered on the course. We’ll consider how you might pursue further study.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify key events that led to the formation of the Earth
  • Discuss why the Earth is dynamic, able to support life and experience extreme geological events
  • Explore the relationship between extreme events and the emergence of simple and complex life on Earth
  • Identify the distinction between extreme geological events and the regular activity that occurs on our dynamic planet
  • Summarise the processes and triggers that lead to megaquakes, super eruptions, mega-tsunamis and megafloods.
  • Explore how extreme events have shaped and impacted our planet
  • Assess how evidence of extreme events from the past is gathered and evaluated
  • Explore the difference between risk and hazard in relationship to extreme geological events
  • Discuss the possibility of extreme geological events happening on our planet in the future and how we can mitigate the hazards they present us

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in the geological history of Earth, but may be of particular interest to students looking to study Earth Science.

Who will you learn with?

Lecture at School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University. I am a Geologist studying the long term chemical evolution of the Earth's surface environment.

Ernest does research in Geomicrobiology, Geology and Biogeochemistry. Current focus is on biogeochemical elemental cycles linked to the evolution of life through Earth history.

I'm a lecturer in isotope geochemistry at Cardiff University (UK). I research how magmatic systems work and how this underpins the evolution of Earth and other planets.

I'm a lecturer in geomorphology at Cardiff University. I'm interested in the movement of water and sediment around the Earth's surface, and in what it does while it's moving.

Claire is a Lecturer in Coastal Processes at Cardiff University. As a coastal geomorphological field scientist, Claire specialises in how extreme waves and storms interact with our coastlines.

I am a Lecturer in Geodynamics at Cardiff University. My research focuses on understanding the physical mechanisms of volcanic eruptions.

I am a Lecturer in Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University. My research is focused on the use of seismology to investigate the structure of the Earth from the crust to the deep mantle.

Who developed the course?

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and is ranked within the top 150 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings.


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