Physical Geography Coursework 2018/19: Top Tips

So to re-cap you have to take Pangea Ultima (+250 Ma) and from first principles work out what the climate zones, ocean currents and perhaps vegetation were like.  The exercise is about working from first principles (Topic Two) what the climate of this future Earth would look like.  So working from the Earth’s heat engine where should the heat deficit and surplus be?  Apply the current model of atmospheric circulation taking care to think about relief and land-sea temperature contrasts.  Just like the conceptual content in the linked blog post, try to sketch out the main climate zones on the future super continent.  Are there places on the future continent that will have similar climatic conditions to locations today?  If so you might like to find some weather data on line and add this to your map or description.

Now think about ocean currents.  Where would be the subtropical gyres be located?  Where would you have areas of up-welling and down-welling?  Think about areas of deep water production and up-welling; would there have been a thermohaline circulation?  What would the inland seas have been like?  The biggest challenge is to think about the impact of monsoons.  In the past Pangea experienced mega-monsoons.  You might finds some literature to guide you here – try some simple Google Scholar Searches on ‘Pangea and Mega-monsoons’.  I suspect that Pangea Ultima will be a supercontinent of extremes, what do you think?

The best way to explore the above is to print out a few of the outline maps provided on Brightspace and annotate them with pencils or crayons sketching out what you think it may be like.  Keep a simple decision log for each conclusion; why have you drawn the climate zone as you have, what the alternative options?  The decision log will help you justify your conclusions when you come to write it up.

When you have one or more maps with your predictions sketched out it is time to turn to one of the two suggested drawing packages – Illustrator or Inkscape – and draw up a neat or ‘fair copy’ version for inclusion in your report.  There are a couple of videos on Brightspace to get you started.  If you have too much information on one map it might be wise to produce more than one.  Add labels and annotations before exporting as an image file such as a jpeg.

Now you are ready to start writing.  Past in your figures into a Microsoft Word or Google Docs file and add captions.  The first figure/map will be Figure 1, the second Figure 2 and so on.  Make sure the caption explains the figure so it is readable independently of the text.  For example:

Figure 1: The main climate zones for Pangea Ultima (+250 Ma), with the principle ocean currents indicated. 

In the text when you refer to this figure you will say something like:

In Figure 1 I have indicated the main climate zones for Pangea Ultima, not the zonal pattern from the equator to the poles.


The main climate zones predicted for Pangea Ultima (Fig. 1) show a simple zonal pattern. 

Note the use of the capital letter for Figure 1 where it occurs outside parentheses.

Here are some links to guidance on writing figure captions: One, Two, and Three .

You can’t really start writing until you have your maps roughed out (you don’t need to wait for the perfect finished copy), but once this is done then the structure should follow as indicated below:


The diagram indicates the relative size and importance of each section the content of which is given in the below:

  • Section One: You need a few sentences of introduction.  Something about the task, different reconstruction  of Pangea Ultima, sources of error in these reconstructions.  Why is such a task useful and how have you gone about it? [Indicative size 100 words]
  • Section Two:  What are the key principles or earth systems that have informed your response?  Where have you gained information from? [Indicative size 200 words]
  • Section Three:  This is the bulk of your answer and should be linked to your maps.  Describe what you have depicted and justify it.  The decision log may help you remember what you thought at the time.  You need to focus on the why as you describe your map(s).  The maps do bulk of the description so don’t replicate unduly.  [Indicative size 400 words]
  • Section Four: What are the alternative scenarios that you could have chosen?  Where are the sources of uncertainty?  What are the counter-points to the argument made in Section 3.  Are there some assumptions which may not be valid or need to be acknowledged? [Indicative size 200 words]
  • Section Five:  A brief summary/conclusion to tie up your submission. [Indicative size 100 words]
  • Section Six: Reference list.  Only list out references you have cited and if you have cited none then there will be no section 6!  Follow the BU style guide.

Once you have completed a draft bring it to one of the drop-in sessions to get some formative feedback.

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