Surface Processes

S270 support video in six bands:
1) Coastal Processes: Shows how sedimentary processes in a coastal setting are preserved in present and past depositional environments. The processes include waves, currents, wind, tides and the actions of plants and animals. Sedimentary rocks shown include wave ripple and current ripple beds, planar stratified beds (beach deposits) quiet water and storm water deposits, bioturbated beds, hummocky cross-stratification, mud drapes (evidence for tides), tidal channel deposits and a palaeosol. Where possible examples of the depositional processes are compared with the rock record. Filmed on location on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) off the Northumberland coast.
2) Form and Function of Fossils: Discusses how to work out the swimming adaptations of fossils, in particular, ammonites. First examines the nautilus, one of the closest living relatives to the extinct ammonites, looking closely at its body morphology and comparing mass and the centre of buoyancy with that of modern fish. Also examines how it has been discovered which ammonite shell has the lowest hydrodynamic drag and suggest that ammonite shells evolved towards more streamlined shapes in order to escape the ever-increasing number of predators in the Jurassic and Cretaceous oceans.
3) Fossils as Clues to Past Environments: Shows how observations of fossils and sedimentary rocks, and the field relations of these, can be used to reconstruct an ancient complex of environments. Visits the Capitan Reef, the largest known fossilised reef, which is preserved in the desert along the New Mexico-Texas border. Examines ancient environments including the basin, fore-reef, reef and back-reef parts of a Permian reef complex and compares these with modern environments such as a tropical barrier reef. Posits a new synthesis explaining the relationship between different biota and the way the Permian reef may have built up.
4) Graphic Logging: Describes a succession exactly as it occurs in about 20 metres of sedimentary rock sandwiched between two limestones along the foreshore at Sea House, Scremerston, near Berwick-upon-Tweed. Shows how the succession is recorded and interprets the transgression of the various sedimentary environments involved, thus illustrating Walther’s Law following field observations. The student is expected to complete a graphic log for the various sections described.
5) Deserts: Shows most of the sedimentary processes that occur in modern-day deserts and their surrounding environments and how some of these processes can be seen in the rock record of palaeo-deserts. Uses examples from Death Valley, USA, and the Sahara Desert in Oman and palaeo-desert rocks from the Vale of Eden in the north of England. Describes and illustrates desert weathering; alluvial fan formation; flash floods; playa lakes; sief, star and barchan sand dune formation; interdune deposits; and trace fossils. Shows Permian desert rocks at Bongate Scar, where the distinctive red sandstone rock faces show what a series of migrating barchan dunes might leave preserved, and a typical cross-section through an alluvial fan in Hough Quarry.
6) Interpreting the Capitan Reef: Shows how both modern and palaeo deposits preserved in the rocks of Holy Island (Lindisfarne) on the Northumberland coast relate to the processes forming them. Describes various fossils: ‘Zoophycos’, chondrites, coral, crinoids, trilobites, brachiopods, Lepidodendron’, ‘Stigmaria’, and trace fossils of various kinds. Explains sedimentary environments that include tidal floats, tidal channels, beach sands; marine environments including storm and fair-weather wave-base, coral reef; land environments including palaosols, river-deposited sands, muds, and a coal swamp. Interprets the field evidence for the transgressions between the various environments shown in successive strata.
Geology, Course S260
Great Britain
Video; Videocassette. Standard formats. col. 177 min.
Year of production
Off-air recording licence; 2000 sale: £145.00 (+VAT +p&p)
deserts; fossils; landforms; reefs; sedimentary processes


David Jackson

Production Company


BBC Open University Productions



Open University Worldwide

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