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Extreme Geological Events

Cardiff University via FutureLearn


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.

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.


  • Forming a habitable planet through extreme events
    • What are extreme geological events?
    • The emergence of our planet through extreme events
    • The emergence of life through extreme events
    • A habitable planet with complex life
  • The extreme events our planet experiences
    • What events are we looking at?
    • Extreme earthquakes
    • Extreme volcanic eruptions
    • Extreme tsunamis and floods
    • A planet shaped by extreme events
  • Humans and extreme events
    • What's our perspective?
    • From myths to facts
    • Hazard and risk
    • Preparing for the future
    • The end of our events

Taught by

Wim Degruyter


4.9 rating, based on 50 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 189 ratings

Start your review of Extreme Geological Events

  • Plenty of information mainly about volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The difference between a large earthquake/volcanic eruption and a mega event is clearly described.
  • “Extreme Geological Events” is a course that I’m glad I am taking. This is complicated information, YET very enjoyable and easily learned. This course is for all learners of all ages. The instructors and team should be very proud!
  • Very interesting, especially to find out that not every event that occurs on earth is considered Extreme even though it certainly seems like it at the time. I just love learning about earth and how dynamic it is
  • Anonymous
    Volcanoes have always fascinated me, so I was drawn to this course, but it contained SO much more including concepts that I was completely unaware of or had outdated knowledge of (I did A level Geography in 1980).
    I now feel up to date and connected with many exciting subjects that I will continue to take notice of.
    I loved the structure with reading/listening blended with thinking and researching for myself.
    Huge smile on face: I have loved this course. Thank you.
  • Anonymous
    Today's world is filled with extreme events, be they political, personal or geological. The material in this course clarifies some of the most extreme geological ones. Some I have lived through and some occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago,…
  • Anonymous
    Educative, insightful and worth learning. I really enjoyed the Earth history and also learned about megaquakes, megatsunamis,and mega floods and how they can affect lives and property due to the risk they pose.
    Interestingly, modern technology is playing a role on detecting future occurrences.
  • Anonymous
    An excellent and ambitious undertaking built around the theme of extreme events. The Big Bang? How about that for an extreme event. topics range from the formation of stars and galaxies, to the solar system and Earth's moon. Snowball Earth is an interesting topic along with the influence of early life feeding oxygen into Earth's atmosphere. You'll find discussions of more familiar extreme events in terms of Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and super floods. Assessing present day risks from major natural disasters brings these events into contemporary relevance. A great course!

  • Anonymous
    I found this to be a highly informative and thought-provoking course. I knew some things already from other associated studies but I was astounded by some of the information in relation to the formation both of the universe and of our solar system. Time very well spent and I would unhesitatingly recommend Extreme Geological Events to anyone. If nothing else, I'd be astonished if it doesn't leave you just pining to sit on a rock beside a crystal clear lake in Sweden and wonder why I haven't found this idyllic place during my travels?
  • Anonymous
    This course is definitely rated five stars. I am a high school Geography teacher and I am doing this course during the Covid 19 period of quarantine.
    It is so engaging that I find myself just going from activity to activity. The short lectures are easy to follow and easy on the brains ability to concentrate and absorb.
    the videos are real world examples and relevant and just great to look at.
    Sessions are of a manageable length of time.
    The information is thought provoking and stimulating.
    Glad I signed up. Thank you for offering this course. I will be encouraging all my students to do this course.
  • Anonymous
    I have just finished the course and, as it hasn't been timed out yet, I am enjoying looking over it again to see what I missed the first time. As I am not a 'scientist' I have found it mind stretching, easy to understand once I appreciated the time and scale involved (starting with the 'Big Bang', right down to us 'puny' humans as one contributor put it) and very eager for more along similar lines (especially about Wales, first time I have found mention of wales in any FL course I have done). Try it!
  • John A Connell
    I have taken several FL courses and rate this course in the top 2 or three I have experienced. It was comprehensive and thought provoking. Its structure encouraged and led to a remarkable learner interaction. The mentors and presenters were excellent and interacted frequently. I found it remarkable for not only the science but also the human factors and historical perspectives related to geological events. A course highly recommended.
  • Anonymous
    I appreciate how the course was organized from the macro (universe, galaxy, beyond) to the micro (earth, local area, human perspective), and how the macro has had an enormous influence on the micro. All that the human element in the micro 'part' can do is study the events, anticipate some of them, and prepare adequately, which is, in the end, what the course was all about -- knowledge and understanding, followed by application. I got that part ... plus a whole lot more! In short, a fabulous course that has reminded us once again of the uses and benefits of science and of the scientific approach.
  • Anonymous
    The course was extremely interesting and presented well. I thought I knew about tsunamis, volcanos, and earthquakes, but learned even more information and history. There were not only the mechanics of the events, but the effects, causes, and preventive measures to save lives. The comments by other people taking the course were also informative. I hope there are more courses like this one.
  • Anonymous
    I am a regular online learner and this is one of the very best courses I have undertaken. This is my first course in geology/ecology (usually I am studying in other disciplines) but I found it fascinating and the material extremely well explained. I also liked the pace of the course - the study material wasn't too long or repetitive and very good links provided. The staff responded quickly to comments on the feed as did many of the other students. Thank you all and please do another similar course from University of Cardiff for us soon.
  • Anonymous
    I learned a lot about our Earth and the different ways it was shaped over 4.5 billion years. Fascinated by events such as mega eruptions and megafloods.

    Now I know how the English Channel was formed! Good to read about Krakatoa and Mount Vesuvius.
    Hardly any feedback from staff members but many helpful and insightful comments from learners.
    I really rate this course 4.5 stars.
  • Anonymous
    Well prepared & presented. One of the best MOOC's I've done. One of the strengths of the course is the interactive mentor comments. They really did stimulate learning, motivation debates & clarified questions with clear answers & reference to furth…
  • Anonymous
    This course covers a range of timescales and types of events from astronomical to global to local. No prior knowledge of geology is required: everything is well illustrated and explained. One of the better FL courses and should interest anyone with a wide interest in our natural world and our sometimes precarious existence.
  • Anonymous
    An excellent course with a team of interesting and expert educators and a wide range of different resources produced. Great opportunities for interaction with other learners, which is always a key aspect of Future Learn courses. I learned a lot and was completely engaged throughout.
  • Anonymous
    Well constructed and interesting course. I liked the range, from cosmological creation of stars and planets through volcanoes, earthquakes etc to the human impact of these events. The activities were fascinating and enjoyable to do. Thoroughly recommend it!
  • Anonymous
    Terrific course, instructors/mentors put a lot of thought and effort into the class content. This course prompted me to seek out additional research based on what I had learned. I don't have a science background, but was still able to follow along.

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