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Introducing Physical Geography

The study of Geography explores many aspects of the human and physical environment.
This chapter introduces the discipline of geography and explains its many branches. The
scope of physical geography covered in this text is introduced. Geographers are also very
interested in the relationship between humans and the earth. In this first chapter linkages
are made between physical geography and some very important environmental issues
facing humankind.

Another aim of this chapter is to introduce you to some of the major ideas that help to
organize the study of physical geography. These are the ideas of spheres (or realms),
scales, systems, and cycles. The idea of systems is especially important as it is the
framework for studying Earth surface processes that is used throughout the book.

Geography is the study of the changing patterns and processes taking place at the
Earths surface.

Geographers also study human activities that take place on the Earth and the
relationships between human activities and the natural world.

Geography has two approaches,: regional geography and systematic geography.

Regional geography examines the characteristics of particular places on the
Earth.

Systematic geography looks for principles that allow us to explain and predict
the patterns and processes that we observe on the Earth.

Systematic geography can be divided into human geography and physical
geography.

Human geography examines economic, social and behavioral processes while
physical geography examines natural processes.

Physical geography includes climatology, geomorphology, coastal and marine
geography, geography of soils, and biogeography.

Hazard assessment and water resources bring together both human and physical
geography by studying how humans affect and are affected by the natural world.

Geographers use specialized tools including maps, geographical information
systems (GIS), and remote sensing to allow them to portray information that
varies spatially on the Earths surface.
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A systems approach considers the interconnections and flows of material and
energy in natural systems.

Physical geography is also concerned with the relationships between humans and
their environments. Environmental change is caused by both natural and human
processes. Some important topics of global change that physical geographers are
studying are global climate change, the carbon cycle, biodiversity, pollution,
and extreme events.

The natural systems and processes that are studied in physical geography can be
considered to operate in four great spheres (or realms): the atmosphere, the
lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and the biosphere.
The life layer is the focus of physical geography. It is the shallow surface layer where
the four realms (or spheres) interact and where most life forms are found.
Processes operating in the four spheres are studied at different spatial scales or levels
of detail. These range from global, through continental and regional, to local and
individual scales.
The processes studied in physical geography also operate at a range of time scales;
some act over millions of years while others act over seconds.
The processes of the four realms interact in a very complex way to shape the life layer.
Viewing these interactions as systems allows us to unravel and understand that
complexity.
A system is a set of things that are somehow related or organized.
Most natural systems are flow systems in which matter or energy flow along
pathways interconnected in a structure.
All flow systems have a power source.
Open flow systems have inputs and outputs, while closed flow systems do not.
Cycles are closed matter flow systems. In a cycle, a fixed amount of material is
continually recirculated through a series of pathways or loops.
Feedback in a flow system occurs when the flow in one pathway affects the flow in
another. Positive feedback increases flow while negative feedback reduces it.
Negative feedback in a flow system tends to produce stability or equilibrium.
Time cycles are periodic changes in system flow rates that occur over periods ranging
from hours to millions of years.
Studying the systems of the life layer and their interactions leads to a better
understanding of the human habitat, environmental problems, and global change.
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Chapter 1
The Earth as a Rotating Planet

This chapter deals with the way solar radiation drives energy and matter flows in the
atmosphere and oceans and how these flows are linked to weather and climate. This
chapter introduces you to some basic ideas about the Earth, its rotation, and revolution.
The Earth is shaped as an oblate ellipsoid because the Earth's rotation causes it to
bulge slightly at the equator.
The Earth rotates in an eastward direction.
The Earth's rotation has three important environmental effects:
1. It imposes a daily, or diurnal, cycle of daylight, air temperature, air humidity, and
air motion.
2. It produces the Coriolis effect which deflects the flow of fluids (air and water) to
the left in the southern hemisphere and to the right in the northern hemisphere.
3. Tides result from the moons gravitational pull on the side of the Earth closest to
the moon, creating a rise and fall of ocean water as the Earth rotates.
The Geographic Grid provides a system for locating features on the Earths surface
using parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude.
Latitude is the angular distance of a point north or south of the equator. It increases
from a minimum of 0 at the equator to a maximum of 90 at the north and the south
poles. Lines of latitude are parallel to each other and describe circles that decrease in
circumference away from the equator.
Longitude is the angular distance of a point east or west of the prime meridian at
Greenwich, England. It increases to the west and the east away from the prime
meridian (0) to a maximum of 180. Lines of longitude are farthest apart at the
equator and converge at the poles. All circles described by meridians of longitude are
the same circumference.
A map projection is a system for changing the curved/spherical geographic grid to a
flat grid.
Map scale relates distance on a map to distance on the Earths surface.
The polar projection produces a map with true shapes of small areas.
The Mercator projection shows true compass direction on any straight line on the
map and is useful for showing the flow of winds and ocean currents as well as lines of
equal air temperature and pressure.
The Goode projection is an equal area projection useful for depicting geographical
features that occupy surface areas.
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The standard time system is based on twenty four time zones that keep time
according to standard meridians that are spaced 15 apart and represent a time
difference of one hour.
The international date line is located near 180 longitude. Crossing this line in a
westward direction requires the calendar to be advanced by one day.
The Earth revolves counterclockwise around the sun every 365 days in an elliptical
orbit.
The Earth is closest to the sun at perihelion (~ January 3) and farthest from the sun at
aphelion (~ July 4).
The Earths axis of rotation is tilted 23 away from the perpendicular and its north
pole always points towards Polaris (the north star).
The axial tilt and the revolution of the Earth around the sun combine to produce the
progression of the seasons.
At an equinox, everywhere on Earth experiences a 12-hour day and a 12-hour night.
At a solstice, polar regions experience either a 24-hour day or a 24-hour night.
The maximum solar radiation is received at the subsolar point which crosses the
equator twice in the course of a year as it moves between the Tropic of Cancer to the
Tropic of Capricorn.
Two important facts about the Sun-Earth energy flow system are that:
1. half of the Earth is always receiving solar energy.
2. Not all places on the Earths surface receive the same amount of energy.

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Chapter 2
The Earths Global Energy Balance

This chapter focuses on solar radiation which flows through the atmosphere to the Earths
surface. This energy is responsible for driving the Earths physical and biological
systems.
The Earths energy balance is the balance between the flow of energy reaching the
Earth and the flow of energy leaving the Earth.
Solar energy is the driving force for most natural phenomena at the Earths surface.
Electromagnetic radiation is emitted from all objects as a collection of wavelengths
traveling away from the surface of an object.
Two principles that govern the emission of electromagnetic radiation are:
An inverse relationship exists between the temperature of an object and the range
of wavelengths that object emits as electromagnetic radiation.
Hot objects radiate more energy than cooler objects.
The sun is a star of average size with a surface temperature of 6000 C generated by
nuclear fusion.
The solar constant is the amount of energy received per square meter just outside the
Earths atmosphere. The value is 1370 watts per square meter (1370 W/m2).
The sun emits a large amount of energy, concentrated in the ultraviolet, visible, and
shortwave infrared wavelengths. This is called short wave radiation.
The Earth is much cooler than the sun. It therefore emits less energy and emits that
energy as longwave radiation.
Insolation, or incoming solar radiation, varies with the angle of the sun above the
horizon and daylength.
Locations between 23 north and 23 south of the equator experience two
insolation maxima per year, while locations poleward of these latitudes experience
only one insolation maximum.
Locations poleward of the arctic and Antarctic circles experience daily insolation
values of zero for part of the year.
Daily insolation values are greatest at the pole during the summer solstice.
The seasonal pattern of daily insolation is the basis for dividing the Earth into world
latitude zones which include equatorial, tropical, subtropical, midlatitude, subarctic
(subantarctic), arctic (antarctic), and north (south) polar zones.
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Although the Earths atmosphere extends to approximately 10,000 kilometers above
the Earth, ninety-seven percent of the atmosphere lies within 30 kilometers of the
Earths surface.
Pure dry air consists of seventy-eight percent nitrogen and twenty-one percent
oxygen by volume. Argon, CO
2,
and other trace gases make up the remaining one
percent.
CO
2
is a very important gas due to its ability to absorb radiant heat and its role in
photosynthesis.
The ozone layer is found in the stratosphere, where it absorbs ultraviolet radiation
and shields the Earth from the stratospheres harmful effects.
Human activity has increased the amount of gases such as chloroflourocarbons,
nitrous oxides, bromine oxides, and hydrogen oxides which are depleting the ozone
layer.
For every one percent decrease in global ozone, ultraviolet radiation may increase by
two percent.
Sensible heat is the quantity of heat held by an object that can be sensed by touch,
measured by a thermometer, and transferred by conduction from warmer to cooler
objects.
Latent heat is energy that is absorbed and stored when a substance changes state
from a liquid to a gas or a solid to a liquid. Latent heat is transferred when water
evaporates from a land or water surface and is important in moving large amounts of
energy from one region to another.
As solar radiation flows through the atmosphere, energy is scattered and absorbed
by gas molecules and dust particles in the air.
Clouds are a major factor in determining how much energy reaches the Earths
surface absorbing five to twenty percent and reflecting thirty to sixty percent of
insolation.
Albedo refers to the percentage of shortwave (SW) energy reflected by a surface.
The albedo of the Earth is twenty-nine to thirty-four percent.
CO
2
and water vapor absorb incoming SW radiation and outgoing LW radiation from
the Earth. They re-emit this radiation in all directions with part of it returning to the
Earths surface in counterradiation, making the surface of the Earth warmer than it
would otherwise be.
Energy entering the Earths atmosphere is reflected by molecules, dust, clouds, and
the surface and absorbed by molecules, dust, and clouds leaving only forty-nine
percent of the incoming energy to be absorbed by the Earths land and water surfaces.
The energy entering the Earths system must be balanced by energy leaving the
Earths system. Energy leaves the Earths surface as longwave radiation as well as
through transfers of sensible heat and latent heat. Human changes to the Earth that
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affect albedo, cloud cover, or other aspects of the energy transfers may have an
impact on this balance.
Net radiation is the difference between all incoming and all outgoing radiation.
Although net radiation is zero for the Earth as a whole, it is positive between latitude
40 north and 40 south and negative poleward of these latitudes. As a result, global
and atmospheric circulation systems transport energy from lower to higher latitudes.

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Chapter 3
Air Temperature

This chapter focuses on the temperature of the air above the Earths surface. It examines
air temperature, its measurement, and the factors that cause it to vary through time and
space. This chapter also considers the topic of global warming.
Five important factors influencing air temperature are:
insolation
latitude
surface type
coastal versus interior location
elevation
Temperature is a measure of the sensible heat of a substance which changes as
energy flows across its surface.
When the net radiation of a surface the balance between incoming shortwave and
outgoing longwave radiation is positive, the surface temperature rises, and when net
radiation is negative, the surface temperature falls.
Heat energy can be transferred by conduction, by latent heat transfer, and by
convection.
The daily cycles of insolation and net radiation peak at solar noon, while the daily
cycle of air temperature peaks in the mid-afternoon.
Air temperature measured above an urban surface is usually higher than that over a
nearby rural surface.
The troposphere is the lower part of the atmosphere in which temperature declines
with altitude.
The environmental temperature lapse rate the rate of temperature change with
altitude averages 6.4 C per 1000 meters in the troposphere.
The troposphere is the zone in which most every-day weather phenomena (i.e.
clouds, storms, rainfall, snowfall) occur.
The top of the troposphere is known as the tropopause and is found about six
kilometers above the surface at the poles and sixteen kilometers above the surface at
the equator.
In the stratosphere, the absorption of ultraviolet radiation causes the temperature to
increase with altitude.
Daily air temperature cycles tend to be more pronounced in high elevation
environments.
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In a temperature inversion, the normal situation of air cooling with altitude is
reversed and air warms with altitude.
Yearly temperature range is greater in high latitude and continental locations and
less at equatorial and coastal locations.
The world patterns of isotherms are largely explained by latitude, coastal-interior
contrasts, and elevation.
Six important points about temperature patterns are:
Temperatures decrease from the equator to the poles.
Large landmasses in the subarctic and arctic develop centers of extremely low
temperatures in winter.
Temperatures in equatorial regions change little from January to July.
Isotherms make a large north-south shift from January to July over continents in
the midlatitude and subarctic zones.
Highlands are colder than surrounding lowlands.
Areas of perpetual ice and snow are intensely cold.
Five important points about temperature range are:
The annual temperature range increases with latitude.
The greatest ranges are in the subarctic and arctic zones of Asia and North
America.
Annual range is moderately large on land in the tropical zone.
Annual range in coastal areas is less than the range inland at the same latitude.
Small temperature ranges are found near oceans in the tropical zone.
Factors affecting global warming and cooling include:
greenhouse gases
tropospheric aerosols
cloud changes
land cover changes
changes in solar output
aerosols from volcanic activity
The warming effect of the greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous
oxides, ozone, and chloroflourocarbons) has exceeded the cooling effect of other
factors since about 1850.
Observations show both substantial annual variations in the average temperature of
the lower atmosphere and a pronounced trend toward warmer temperatures in recent
years.
Most scientists agree that the observed atmospheric warming trend is the result of
greenhouse gas emissions from human activities and that the warming trend will
continue into the future.

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Chapter 4
Atmospheric Moisture and
Precipitation

This chapter considers the types and sources of moisture in the atmosphere. It examines
in detail the mechanisms by which atmospheric moisture becomes precipitation: in
particular, the important process of adiabatic cooling that occurs when air moves upward
in the atmosphere. This chapter also discusses the effect that human activities can have
on air quality.
Water exists in the atmosphere as water vapor, clouds, fog, and precipitation.
The movement of water between the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere is called the
hydrologic cycle.
Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air.
The amount of water the air can hold depends on temperature. Warm air can hold
more moisture than cold air.
Specific humidity is the actual mass of water vapor per mass of air, usually stated in
grams of water vapor per kilogram of air. It is a measure of the amount of water vapor
that can be extracted from the atmosphere as precipitation.
The dew point temperature is the temperature at which relative humidity would be
100%. Condensation will occur if the temperature falls producing dew or frost.
Relative humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air expressed as a
percentage of the amount of water vapor the air can hold given its present temperature.
Precipitation results when a large mass of air is lifted and cooled to a temperature
below its dew point.
The adiabatic process causes heating or cooling solely by pressure change: air that
rises, expands, and cools as pressure decreases with altitude or air that descends,
encounters higher pressures, is compressed, and warms.
A parcel of air cooling without condensation cools at the dry adiabatic lapse rate of
10 C per 1000 meters (5.5 F per 1000 feet.).
Once air has cooled to its dew point, condensation releases latent heat, slowing the
rate of cooling to the wet adiabatic lapse rate which varies between 4 and 9 C per
1000 meters (2.2 and 4.9 F per 1000 feet) depending on the temperature and
pressure of the air and its moisture content.
A cloud is made up of water droplets or ice formed on tiny particles of matter called
condensation nuclei.
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Clouds are classified on the basis of height and form.
Clouds at ground level are called fog. Radiation fog forms when the temperature of the
air near the ground falls below the dew point. Advection fog occurs when warm moist
air is cooled below dew point as it moves over a cold surface.
Precipitation forms when either cloud droplets or ice crystals increase in size by
colliding with each other until they are heavy enough to fall.
Precipitation that occurs as a result of air being forced over a topographic barrier is
called orographic precipitation. Air that rises because it is warmer than the air around
it produces convectional precipitation, and air that is forced to rise over another air
mass produces cyclonic precipitation.
Thunderstorms are intense convectional storms associated with massive
cumulonimbus clouds. They may produce heavy rains, hail, thunder, lightening, and
intense downdrafts (microbursts) which may create hazards for humans.
Air pollutants are undesirable gases, aerosols, and particulates injected into the
atmosphere by human and natural causes.
The most important human source of pollutants is the combustion of fossil fuels for
the production of energy for transportation, heating, and industrial processes.
Urban air pollution produces smog and haze which reduce visibility and
illumination. Urban areas also experience more fog, cloudiness, and precipitation than
adjacent rural areas.
Acid deposition refers to acid rain and acidic dust particles produced by emissions of
sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide. Acid deposition is very damaging to natural
ecosystems.

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Chapter 5
Winds and Global Circulation

This chapter considers winds and ocean currents. It examines how unequal surface
heating and the rotation of the Earth generate global circulation systems in the
atmosphere and oceans.
The weight of air and the force of gravity pulling air towards the Earth create air
pressure. Air pressure is greatest at the Earth's surface and decreases with altitude.
Differences in pressure cause air to move horizontally. This air in motion is called
wind. Winds move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.
Pressure differences between two places create pressure gradients and the resulting
pressure gradient force causes air to move from high pressure areas to low pressure
areas.
Land and sea breezes are examples of winds caused by pressure differences that
result from temperature differences over land and water surfaces.
Wind direction is measured by a wind vane, and wind speed is measured by an
anemometer.
The Coriolis effect is due to the Earth's rotation and causes objects in motion to
appear to be deflected off course. This apparent deflection is to the right in the
northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. The effect is absent at
the equator and increases as you move towards the poles.
Another force affecting the direction of wind is that of friction.
Air flow spirals into a low-pressure center and rises while the air descends and flows
out of a high pressure center.
The inward spiral at a low-pressure center is counterclockwise in the northern
hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
The outward spiral at a high-pressure center is clockwise in the northern
hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere.
Cyclones (low pressure centers) are associated with cloudy or rainy weather.
Anticyclones (high pressure centers) are associated with clear, dry weather.
At the equator, heating causes air to rise creating an area of low pressure called the
Intertropical Convergence zone (ITCZ).
At 30 latitude, air descends creating areas of high pressure in the subtropical high
pressure belt. Air moves out of these high pressure areas toward the equator creating
the Trade Winds. Winds also move toward the midlatitudes creating the Westerlies.
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The monsoon is a seasonally reversing wind pattern that brings heavy rains onto the
Asian subcontinent in summer and hot, dry conditions in the winter.
Winds at an altitude of five to seven kilometers above the Earths surface are
influenced by pressure gradient force and Coriolis force but not by the force of
friction. These winds are the geostrophic winds that flow parallel to isobars.
Rossby waves are large undulations in the flow of the upper air Westerlies along the
zone of contact between cold and warm air. They allow warm air to penetrate
northward and cold air to penetrate southward.
Jet streams are narrow bands of high velocity air that form primarily along the polar
front and above the Hadley cell in the subtropics.
The uppermost layer of ocean water is the warmest. Below this warm layer,
temperatures decline rapidly to around 0 and remains cold in a layer extending to the
ocean floor.
Ocean currents are persistent, mainly horizontal flows of ocean water set in motion
by the prevailing surface winds. Coreolis force causes the flows to be deflected about
45 from the direction of the wind.
Gyres are circular movements of water that are driven by the subtropical high pressure
cells.
El Nio occurs when warm water replaces the usual upwelling cold water that flows
along the South American coast. El Nio affects climate in other parts of the world.
Thermohaline circulation refers to slowly moving, deep ocean currents driven by the
sinking of cold, salty water in the northern Atlantic. This circulation is thought to play an
important role in the storage and release of CO
2
.
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Chapter 6
Weather Systems

This chapter examines the way in which atmospheric circulation processes generate the
daily variations in temperature, humidity, cloudiness, windiness, and precipitation that we
know as weather.
An air mass is a large body of air with a similar temperature, moisture, and lapse rate
characteristics over thousands of kilometers.
The air mass characteristics are acquired in source areas where the air remains for
some time allowing it to acquire the characteristics of the surface over which it rests.
Air masses are classified on the basis of the latitude and the surface type of the source
area. The main air mass classes are:
mT maritime tropical
mE maritime equatorial
cT continental tropical
mP maritime Polar
cP continental Polar
cA continental Arctic
cAA continental Antarctic
A front is a boundary between one air mass and another. The leading edge of cold air
advancing into an area is called a cold front. Warm air moving into an area of cold
air is called a warm front.
An occluded front develops when a cold front overtakes a warm front and forces
warm air aloft.
Cyclonic precipitation can occur when moist air is forced aloft and adiabatically
cooled in the convergent, upward flow of a cyclone.
An important weather system affecting middle and high latitudes is a traveling low
pressure system called a wave cyclone that develops along the polar front.
Wave cyclones move from west to east and the interaction of warm and cold fronts
within the cyclone often produces cyclonic storms.
A tornado is an intense low pressure system with very high wind speeds. Tornadoes
occur in association with thunderstorms that develop along cold fronts and with
hurricanes.
A weather system associated with tropical areas is the easterly wave, a low pressure
trough into which air converges and is lifted producing precipitation.
A polar outbreak occurs when cold polar air forces its way into very low latitudes,
bringing storms followed by cold, clear weather.
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Tropical cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons are all names for powerful storms
which develop over warm ocean surfaces between 8 and 15 latitude, migrate
westward, and curve toward the poles.
Tropical cyclones often create tremendous damage due to high winds, high waves,
flooding, and heavy rains.
The atmospheric circulation transfers heat and moisture from equatorial regions
toward the Polar Regions by the Hadley cell circulation and Rossby waves.
The thermohaline circulation within the oceans is another important mechanism by
which heat is transferred from the equatorial to the polar regions of the Earth.
An important element of climatic change studies is the positive and negative
feedbacks between surface temperature and cloud cover.

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Chapter 7
Global Climates

This chapter brings together many of the ideas developed in previous chapters and
considers climate at the global scale. It introduces the processes and factors that produce
different climates on the Earth.
The climate of an area refers to the average weather conditions over a long period of
time based on measurements of temperature and precipitation.
Important principles to help you understand climate are:
Low latitude locations have warmer temperatures and smaller annual temperature
ranges than high latitude locations.
Continental locations tend to have much larger annual temperature ranges than
coastal locations at the same latitude.
Colder locations tend to have less precipitation than warm locations, because
warm air can hold more moisture than cold air.
The basic control on temperature is latitude, while the effect of a continental or
maritime location is an important secondary control.
Some generalizations about precipitation are:
Pressure systems and the global circulation are the major determinants of
precipitation patterns.
The equatorial region experiences high convectional precipitation because of
heating. These areas of high precipitation extend north and south along the east
sides of the continents because the trade winds bring moisture onto the land.
The subtropical high-pressure cells, characterized by dry, subsiding air, produce
arid and semiarid regions.
Mountain ranges produce wet areas where air masses are forced to rise over the
mountains creating an orographic effect.
Coastal mountains also act as barriers to moisture producing a rainshadow effect
on the lee side of the mountains.
Continental interiors tend to be dry because they are far away from the source
areas of moist air masses.
Three types of annual precipitation patterns are:
Uniformly distributed precipitation
Precipitation maximum during the warmest period of the year
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Precipitation maximum during the coolest period of the year
Seven global precipitation regions can be identified based on these principles:
Wet equatorial
Trade wind coasts
Tropical Deserts
Midlatitude deserts and steppes
Moist subtropical
Midlatitude west coasts
Arctic and Polar Deserts
Low latitude climates are dominated by cT, mT, and mE air masses. The position of
the ITC and the subtropical high pressure cell affect these climates throughout the
year. Weather disturbances include the easterly wave and tropical cyclones. This
group of climates includes:
Wet equatorial
Monsoon and trade-wind coast
Wet-dry tropical
Dry tropical
Midlatitude climates occupy the polar front zone where warm and cold air masses
conflict producing wave cyclones. This groups of climates includes:
Dry subtropical
Moist subtropical
Mediterranean
Marine west-coast
Dry midlatitude
Moist continental
High latitude climates are dominated by polar and arctic air masses. They are
sources areas of cP, mP, cA, and cAA air masses. Continental polar air meets cA air
along the arctic front zone. This group of climates includes:
Boreal forest
Tundra
Ice Sheet
Dry climates are those in which the potential total annual evaporation greatly
exceeds the annual precipitation amount.
Low latitude climates:
occupy the equatorial zone, much of the tropical zone, and some of the
subtropical zone
include climates that range from very wet to very dry
are influenced by the intertropical convergence zone, tropical easterly wind
systems, and the subtropical high pressure cells
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experience traveling low pressure systems such as the easterly wave and tropical
cyclones
The wet equatorial climate is characterized by:
dominance of the intertropical convergence zone (ITC)
mE and mT air masses
uniform, very warm temperatures in all seasons
ample precipitation, heaviest when the ITC is nearby
Monsoon and trade wind coastal climates are characterized by:
heavy rainfall with strong seasonal patterns
a larger temperature range than the wet equatorial climate
dominance of the ITC during the heavy rainfall period and the subtropical high
pressure system during the dry season
trade wind coast climates are a result of mT and mE air masses blowing onto
coastal areas bringing large amounts of moisture
the monsoon aspect of these climates is a result of the changing position of the
ITC and reversing pressure gradients
heavy rainfall is associated with the ITC and an airflow from ocean to land, while
the dry season is associated with airflow off the Asian continent to the ocean
The wet equatorial, monsoon, and trade wind coastal climates produce low latitude
rainforest with dense vegetation, numerous streams, and a great diversity of plant
and animal life.
Products and resources of the rainforest include lumber, drugs, rubber, and foods
such as cassava, yams, taro, bananas, plantain, and coconuts.
The wet-dry tropical climate is characterized by:
a warm climate but with a more marked temperature range
during the high sun season, proximity to the ITC brings heavy rains
during the cooler period, the subtropical high pressure cell produces very dry
conditions
vegetation adapts to the seasonality of rainfall and is described as rain-green
because it enters a dormant period during the dry season and leafs out and blooms
in the rainy season
dramatic variations in rainfall are reflected in streamflow which varies from very
low flows to flood-like conditions
agriculture experiences periodic drought
The dry tropical climate:
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is dominated by the Subtropical High Pressure Cell
experiences very low precipitation and intense daytime heating under
predominantly clear skies
includes many of the world's great deserts
semi-arid areas on the edges of the desert may have a short wet season. These
steppe areas are transitional from the desert to the wet-dry tropical climate
Midlatitude and high latitude climates as a group:
occupy the midlatitude zone, part of the subtropical zone, and extend poleward
into the subarctic latitude zone
are located mainly in the northern hemisphere
are affected by the poleward portion of the subtropical high pressure cells, the
westerly wind belt, and the conflict between warm and cold air masses that occurs
along the polar front zone
The dry subtropical climate:
is a poleward extension of the dry tropical climate but shows a greater annual
temperature range due to its higher latitude
experiences a cool or cold season influenced by invasions of air from higher
latitudes
receives occasional precipitation from midlatitude cyclones
is divided into arid and semi-arid subtypes
has more abundant vegetation than the dry tropical climate due to lower
temperatures and slightly more precipitation
supports plants and animals that have adapted their life cycles to take advantage of
infrequent periods of rain
supports agriculture only under irrigation
The moist subtropical climate:
is created by warm, moist air flowing out of the subtropical high pressure cells
onto the eastern sides of the continents
has abundant summer rainfall, mainly convectional with an occasional tropical
cyclone
in Southeast Asia experiences a strong monsoon effect
receives winter precipitation from wave cyclones while the storm tracks are in
their most southerly position
abundant yearly precipitation provides ample water for urban and industrial
development but may cause flooding
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supports broadleaf deciduous and evergreen forests and some needle-leaf and pine
forests
soils are depleted by high rainfall as nutrients are washed out of the soil
The Mediterranean climate:
experiences a very dry summer due to migration of the subtropical high-pressure
cell into the area.
winter is dominated by rainfall provided by CP air masses and cyclonic storms
has a moderate temperature range
is limited to narrow coastal zones
is a pleasant climate for humans although there are problems with water
availability in summer and plants must adapt to the dry summer period
The marine west coast climate:
experiences mild temperatures with a small temperature range for its latitude
is a moist climate with a winter precipitation maximum due to frequent cyclonic
storms; in summer the northward movement of the subtropical high pressure cell
reduces precipitation
supports needle-leaf forests in the wet mountainous areas of Pacific North America
and deciduous trees in the relatively drier areas in Europe
The dry midlatitude climate:
influences the interior regions of North America and Eurasia
in some areas, the rainshadow effect blocks maritime air masses so drier
continental air masses dominate
summer rainfall is largely convectional associated with occasional maritime air
masses
has a strong annual temperature range with warm to hot summers and cold to very
cold winters
includes arid and semi-arid environments ranging from cold desert to steppes
soils have a high natural fertility and support a vegetation of short grass prairie
with moisture being the limiting factor
experienced serious land degradation during the drought years of the 1930s after
vast areas of land in this climate type were broken for agriculture
The moist continental climate:
is found in central and eastern North America and Eurasia
exhibits large seasonal temperature variation as well as strong day-to-day variation
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receives ample precipitation peaking in the summer with mT air masses while the
winter is dominated by cP and cA air masses
East Asia experiences a monsoon effect which increases summer precipitation
supports a native vegetation of deciduous forest which grades into tall grass prairie
toward continental interiors
soils show some leaching and acidity due to an abundance of precipitation
supports large scale agriculture
The high latitude climates:
are located in the westerly wind belt
are influenced by mP air masses conflicting with cP and cA air masses and wave
cyclones which develop along the arctic-front zone
experience higher summer precipitation brought in by mT air masses
The boreal forest climate:
has long, bitterly cold winters and short cool summers
experiences a very large annual temperature range as a result of its continental
location
is a source region for cP air masses, and invasions of cA air masses are common
has low total annual precipitation with a summer precipitation maximum produced
by maritime air masses
supports a native vegetation of needle leaf trees which supply the pulpwood and
lumber industry; agriculture is practiced along milder coastal areas
The tundra climate:
is found along arctic coastal areas
experiences long severe winters dominated by cP, mP, and cA air masses
has a smaller temperature range than expected for its latitude due to the
moderating effect of the nearby ocean
vegetation consists of grasses, sedges, lichens, and some shrubs; species diversity
is low but the number of individuals is high
soils are poorly developed and are underlain with permafrost
Permafrost is permanently frozen ground overlain by an active layer that thaws
during the summer.
The tundra climate is cold enough to create continuous permafrost, frozen ground
with few gaps or interruptions. Discontinuous permafrost occurs in patches and is
found in the boreal forest climate.

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The ice sheet climate:
is the source region of arctic and antarctic air masses
occurs on the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and over the Arctic ocean ice
experiences the lowest mean annual temperature; no month has a mean
temperature above freezing
has very low precipitation which doesnt completely melt away because the air is
too cold
is a very harsh environment devoid of soils and vegetation, and the few species of
animals found in this climate are marine oriented

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Chapter 8
Biogeographic Processes

Biogeography explores the distribution of plants and animals on the Earth. This chapter
examines how organisms live in ecosystems and the cycling of energy and matter through
ecosystems.

This chapter also explores ecological biogeography by examining factors that determine
the spatial distributions of organisms in time and space. We look at processes such as
evolution, dispersal, and extinction of species through time.
Ecology studies the interaction between life forms and their environments.
An ecosystem is defined as a group of organisms and the environment with which
they interact. These systems import and export matter and energy.
The food web, or food chain, refers to the flow of energy from one level to another in
an ecosystem.
Primary producers are plants and animals that are able to create carbohydrates from
carbon dioxide and water and light energy through the process of photosynthesis.
In the food web, consumers feed on the primary producers or on other consumers and
transfer energy through different levels in this manner.
Decomposers (microorganisms and bacteria) feed on decaying organic matter at all
levels in the food web.
Solar energy is absorbed initially by the primary producers and stored as chemical
energy which is digested by consumers. Only ten to fifty percent of the energy at any
level is passed on to the next level; consequently, the amount of organic matter and
consumers must decrease with each level.
Photosynthesis is a biochemical reaction which results in the production of
carbohydrates and oxygen using water, carbon dioxide, and light energy. A simplified
chemical reaction is:
H
2
O + CO
2
+ light energy = CHOH + O
2
In the respiration process carbohydrate is broken down and combined with oxygen to
create carbon dioxide, water, and chemical energy. A simplified chemical reaction is
CHOH + O
2
= CO
2
+ H
2
O + chemical energy
Photosynthesis is dependent on light and heat. Photosynthesis only occurs when light
is available, so longer days produce more plant growth. Photosynthesis also increases
with temperature to about 20C and then levels off.
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Net photosythesis is measured as the carbohydrate remaining after respiration takes
up carbohydrate to feed the plant. Net photosynthesis increases with temperature until
approximately 18 C, after which it declines as the rate of respiration increases faster
than the rate of photosynthesis.
Net primary production is the annual amount of useful energy produced by an
ecosystem. It is controlled by light intensity and duration, temperature, and water
availability. Net primary production is measured as biomass, the dry weight of
organic matter per unit area within an ecosystem.
Biomass is an important source of renewable energy. Using biomass involves
releasing solar energy that has been stored in plant tissue through photosynthesis.
Energy can be obtained by burning firewood, or through intermediate products such as
charcoal, methane gas, and alcohol.
Biochemical cycles are the pathways of particular nutrients or materials through the
Earth's ecosystem.
The macronutrients hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen account for 99.5% of all living
matter.
The Carbon Cycle
most carbon lies in storage pools as carbonate sediments
only 0.2% is available as CO
2
or as decaying biomass in active pools.
carbon exists as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans, carbohydrate in
organic matter, hydrocarbon compounds in rock, and as mineral carbonate
compounds.
CO
2
is added to the Earth system by volcanic eruptions and by industry: it is taken
out of the Earth system by plants in photosynthesis and by phytoplankton in the
oceans.

The Oxygen Cycle: oxygen is added to the Earth system by volcanic activity and is
lost to the system through organic respiration, mineral oxidation, industrial and natural
combustion, and dissolved in ocean water.

The Nitrogen Cycle
the atmosphere is a large storage pool of nitrogen.
nitrogen can only be utilized through nitrogen fixation and is lost to the biosphere
through denitrification.
human influence has increased the amount of nitrogen in the biosphere through the
use of nitrogen fertilizers and fuel combustion.

Sedimentary cycles involve many macronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron,
potassium, sodium, and phosphorus which move from the land surface to the ocean
and subsequently return to land surfaces by tectonic uplift. Storage pools include sea
water, sediments, and sedimentary rocks. Eventually these macronutrients are
released into the Earth system through weathering.

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Ecosystems are strongly influenced by landforms and soils.
Habitat refers to the preferences of a species for a particular location including such
factors as conditions of slope, water drainage, and soil type.
Ecological niche refers to the functional role played by an organism, as well as the
physical space it inhabits. Many species may occupy the same habitat, but only a few
will ever share the same ecological niche.
A community is an assemblage of organisms that live in a particular habitat and
interact with each other.
The most important environmental factors influencing the location of species are
moisture and temperature.
Species have a variety of adaptations to help them cope with the abundance or scarcity
of water. Xerophytes are plants adapted to dry conditions.
Temperature affects physiological processes in plants. Plants have a temperature
range within which they can survive as well as optimum temperatures for each of their
functions.
Climatic factors of moisture, temperature, light, and wind are important in determining
plant distributions. Bioclimatic frontiers are boundaries that mark the limits of the
potential distribution of a species.
Geomorphic factors influencing ecosystems include slope steepness and slope aspect.
Edaphic or soil factors are also important in differentiating habitat.
Species interactions also determine the distribution patterns of plants and animals.
Interactions may be positive or negative. These include:
Competition between species occurs when two species require the same resource
that is in short supply.
Negative interactions include predation, parasitism, herbivory, and allelopathy.
Symbiosis includes three types of positive interaction between species:
commensalism, protocooperation, and mutualism.
Ecological succession is a development sequence in which plant communities, or
seres, succeed one another as they progress to a stable climax, the most complex
community of organisms possible in an area.
Succession starts with pioneer species that can survive in harsh conditions. These
pioneers moderate the harsh conditions and gradually other species move in.
Disturbances that can interrupt the sequence include fires, insects, disease, and
human activities such as cutting and clearing.
Four key historical biogeography processes that affect the distribution of species are
evolution, speciation, extinction, and dispersal.
Patterns of distributions include endemic species, which are found in one region and
no where else, cosmopolitan species which are found widely, and disjunction, in
which closely related species are found in widely separated regions.
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Biodiversity is determined by the variety of the Earths environments, as well as the
processes of evolution, dispersal, and extinction through geologic time. Human
activity on Earth is rapidly decreasing biodiversity by contributing to extinctions
through dispersing competing organisms, hunting, fire, habitat alteration, and
fragmentation.

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Chapter 9
Global Biogeography
This chapter focuses on global patterns of vegetation and the characteristics of the
vegetation found in the biomes of the Earth.
Natural vegetation is the plant cover that would establish itself in an area without
human interference. Many areas of the Earth have been modified by humans, but
large areas of natural vegetation still exist in more inaccessible areas.
The life form of a plant refers to its physical structure, size, and shape. Lifeforms
include trees, shrubs, lianas, herbs, and lichens.
Biomes are the largest recognizable subdivision of terrestrial ecosystems. These
include the forest, savanna, grassland, desert, and tundra biomes.
The Forest Biome includes six major types of forest:
The low latitude rainforest is found in the equatorial and tropical zone which
experiences continuously warm temperatures with consistently abundant rainfall.
These ideal conditions produce a forest of tall, closely set trees with a multilayered
canopy and the largest diversity of species of any lifezone.
The monsoon forest grows in a wet-dry tropical climate. The stress of the dry
season results in a deciduous forest that sheds its leaves. The monsoon forest has
an open canopy allowing more development in the lower forest layers.
The subtropical evergreen forest is associated with the moist subtropical climate.
The native vegetation consists of broadleaf and needleleaf evergreen trees although
little natural forest remains due to agricultural development.
The midlatitude deciduous forest has a tall dense canopy in summer but sheds its
leaves in winter in response to the cold temperatures.
The needleleaf forest consists of a few species of tall cone-shaped mostly
evergreen coniferous trees. These trees create a continuous deep shade at ground
level which inhibits the growth of shrubs and herbs. The needleleaf forest is
associated with the boreal forest climate and the high elevations of mountainous
areas.
The schlerophyll forest develops in the Mediterranean climate. The trees have
adapted to the dry, hot summers by producing small, hard, thick leaves that
minimize water loss.
The Savanna Biome is a product of the tropical wet-dry climate. Vegetation changes
from woodland to thorntree grassland with increasing dryness. Adaptations to dryness
include deciduous habit and small leaves or thorns.
The Grassland Biome is found in the midlatitude and subtropical zones which have
well developed winter and summer seasons. The biome includes both tall-grass prairie
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and steppe. Steppe vegetation grows in the semi-arid subtype of the dry continental
climate.
The desert biome includes both desert and semi-desert subtypes. The area of semi-
desert ranges from the tropical to the midlatitude zone. The vegetation includes sparse
xerophytic shrubs and in some areas thorny trees and shrubs are adapted to a long hot
dry season with a short wet season. Desert vegetation ranges from small, hard leafed
or spiny shrubs, succulent plants, and hard grasses to many areas with no vegetation
covered by shifting sands and salt flats.
The tundra biome is found at high latitudes and high elevations. Plants include low
herbs, dwarf shrubs, sedges, grasses, mosses, and lichens. At high latitudes plant
growth is influenced by long winters with little light and short cool summers with very
long days. Permafrost underlies the surface and restricts drainage and root
development.
As elevation increases, temperatures decrease and precipitation increases, leading to a
sequence of vegetation zones or life zones related to altitude.
Climate changes with latitude and longitude are reflected in changes in vegetation.
These changes are gradual.

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Chapter 10
Global Soils

This chapter looks at the life layer where physical and biological processes interact. It
examines soil characteristics, the processes of soil formation, and the global pattern of the
distribution of soil that develops as the interface between the lithosphere, the biosphere,
and the atmosphere.
Soil is a complex mixture of solids, liquids, and gases. It contains mineral material
derived from the parent material and organic matter derived from living plants and
other organisms in the soil.
The major soil-forming factors are parent material, climate, vegetation, and time.
Soil characteristics develop over very long periods of time.
Soil color is the most obvious characteristic of soil. Color may be inherited from
parent material, but it is often a result of soil forming processes.
Soil texture refers to the proportion of soil particles that fall into each of three size
grades: sand, silt, and clay.
Soil colloids are the smallest particles in soils. They are important because they hold
plant nutrients in the soil in the form of ions.
Soil pH can range from acid to alkaline.
Soil structure refers to the way in which the soil grains are bound together by colloids
into peds.
Chemical and organic processes in soils change primary minerals into secondary
minerals such as oxides and clay minerals.
The nature of the clay minerals determines a soils base status, which, in turn, affects
its fertility or ability to retain nutrients.
The storage capacity of a soil is the maximum amount of water that it can retain by
capillary tension when it is allowed to drain. The wilting point is the water storage
level below which plants cannot access water. The difference between the storage
capacity and the wilting point is the available water capacity for plants which varies
with soil texture.
Water stored within a soil is depleted by evaporation and transpiration until it is
recharged by precipitation.
The soil water balance describes the inter-relationship between water need (potential
evapotranspiration), water use (actual evapotranspiration), precipitation, and storage
in the soil water zone.
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A soil water budget is a numerical accounting, usually done on a monthly basis, of
the soil water balance components. It determines the amount of water plants need for
optimal growth.
Most soils have distinct horizontal layers, known as soil horizons, that develop by the
processes of enrichment, removal, translocation, and transformation.
Soil forming processes include:
Enrichment - the addition of organic and mineral material to the soil by
sedimentation and biological activity.
Leaching - the removal of dissolved material in percolating soil water, and by
erosion.
Translocation - the removal of material from upper horizons (eluviation) and its
accumulation in lower horizons (illuviation).
Humification - an important transformation process in which organic material is
decomposed to humus.
Soil classification systems are used to study the distribution of soils and their
relationship to a variety of environmental factors.
The U.S. Comprehensive Soil Classification System groups the soils of the world into
11 soil orders that are distinguished primarily by the presence of diagnostic horizons.
Seven soil orders (Oxisols, Ultisols, Vertisols, Alfisols, Spodosols, Mollisols, and
Aridisols) have well-developed horizons and can often be associated with particular
climatic regimes.
One soil order, Histosols, includes soils with a large proportion of organic matter.
Three soil orders (Entisols, Inceptisols, and Andisols) have poorly developed
horizons or are capable of further mineral alteration.

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Chapter 11
Earth Materials

This chapter deals with the systems and cycles of the solid Earth. This chapter discusses
the basic materials of the solid Earth rock and minerals and some principals of their
formation. These are linked to the cycle of rock change which describes how different
rock types develop as Earth materials are cycled and recycled through geologic time.
The elements oxygen and silicon account for about seventy-five percent of the
Earths crust, while the metallic elements iron, aluminum, and the base elements
account for most of the rest.
The elements of the crust are combined in inorganic chemical compounds called
minerals.
These minerals are mixed together in various proportions to form many kinds of rock.
The rocks of the Earths crust are grouped into three major classes: igneous,
sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
Igneous rocks form when molten material from the Earths interior cools and
solidifies in the crust.
Magma cooled slowly below the surface forms coarse-textured intrusive igneous
rocks. Lava cooled rapidly at the surface forms fine-textured extrusive igneous rocks.
Igneous rocks consist mainly of silicate minerals containing silicon, oxygen, and
metallic elements. The kind of metallic elements present determines the mineral
density.
Less dense felsic minerals dominate the igneous rocks of the upper crust, while more
dense mafic and ultramafic minerals dominate those of the lower crust.
Silicate minerals undergo chemical changes called mineral alteration when exposed
to air and water at the Earths surface.
Most clay minerals are produced by mineral alteration.
Weathering, or the breakdown of rocks into smaller particles known collectively as
sediment, occurs through both mineral alteration and physical disintegration.
Layers of mineral sediment and organic matter accumulate in oceans and low-lying
land areas to be compacted and hardened into sedimentary rocks. Different types of
sediment produce different kinds of sedimentary rock.
Igneous and sedimentary rocks can be altered by heat and pressure to form
metamorphic rocks.
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The cycle of rock change describes the circulation of rock material between the
Earths interior and the crust. This is a very slow process powered by the heat of
radioactive decay deep within the Earth.
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Chapter 12
The Lithosphere and Plate Tectonics

This chapter introduces the grand cycle of plate tectonics. This cycle explains how the
continents and ocean basins of the Earths surface slowly change as forces deep within
the Earth cause vast tectonic plates to converge, collide, split, and separate.
The solid Earth has a layered structure: a dense, metallic core surrounded by a
mantle of ultramafic rock which is covered by a crust with mafic rocks exposed on
the ocean floor and felsic rocks exposed on the continents.
Geologists use the term lithosphere to refer to the Earths outer layer of rigid, brittle
rocks which extend through the crust to the upper mantle. Beneath the lithosphere lies
the asthenosphere: the layer of soft, plastic rock in the mantle.
The history of the Earth can be subdivided into various time intervals using the
geologic time scale. Most of the landscape features of the Earths surface developed
during the Cenozoic Era which began sixty-five million years ago.
The major relief features of the Earths surface are the continents and ocean basins.
The continents contain young, dynamic alpine belts and old, stable continental
shields.
The ocean basins consist of extensive, smooth abyssal plains marked by long, narrow
midoceanic ridges.
Shallow continental shelves are found beneath the ocean next to continental shields,
while deep oceanic trenches are found adjacent to alpine belts.
The two basic tectonic processes are compression and extension.
The lithosphere is broken into six great plates and several lesser plates that move
relative to one another.
Spreading boundaries exist where plates move apart, converging boundaries where
they collide, and transform boundaries where they move past one another.
Spreading boundaries are marked by midoceanic ridges on the ocean floor and rift
valleys on continents. New ocean crust is formed along spreading boundaries.
Subduction occurs where continents meet the ocean floor along a converging
boundary and the denser rock of the ocean floor plunges beneath the continent. An
oceanic trench marks the subduction zone.
Subduction along continental margins leads to the formation of island arcs and
alpine belts as subducted ocean crust melts and rises to the surface in volcanoes, and
sediment from the ocean floor is folded and faulted as it accumulates on the
continental margin.
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Plate movement is thought to be driven by convection currents in the plastic rock of
the asthenosphere.
The plate tectonics cycle ties together major relief features, volcanic and Earthquake
activity, and patterns of rock age and type at the Earths surface.
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Chapter 13
Volcanic and Tectonic Landforms

This chapter examines some of the landforms produced by the internal Earth processes of
volcanic activity, the folding and faulting of crustal rocks, as well as Earthquake activity.
The surface forms of the Earths crust are known as landforms; geomorphology is
the study of the processes which produce these features.
Initial landforms are formed by volcanic and tectonic activity, while sequential
landforms are formed by the agents of denudation such as running water, waves,
wind, and glacier ice.
Lava eruptions at the Earths surface form volcanoes and lava flows.
Stratovolcanoes form from the eruption of thick, gassy, felsic lavas and are most
common along the converging plate boundaries of the Pacific rim. They have steep
sides and often have explosive eruptions that form calderas. Stratovolcanoes may
also emit a glowing cloud of white-hot gases and fine ash that travels very rapidly,
searing everything in its path.
Broadly rounded shield volcanoes form over hotspots and along midoceanic ridges
where more fluid, less gassy basaltic lavas erupt. These lavas can form vast flood
basalts when they erupt on continents.
People who live near active volcanoes have frequently experienced the loss of life
and property associated with these environmental hazards. Scientific monitoring
of gases emitted from the volcano as well as monitoring minor Earthquakes and
tilting have improved scientists ability to predict periods of volcanic activity.
Tectonic movements can apply both compressional and extensional forces to rock.
Compression along converging plate boundaries initially causes folding which
produces anticlines and synclines. Sustained compression can lead to overturned
folds and, with enough force, overthrust faulting may occur.
A fault occurs when the brittle rocks of the Earths crust move along a plane,
breakage, or fault plane.
Extension along spreading boundaries generates normal faults with upthrown and
downdropped blocks that can be as large as mountain ranges and rift valleys. A
narrow block dropped down between two normal faults is a graben, and a narrow
block elevated between two normal faults is a horst.
Transcurrent faults occur where rock masses move horizontally past each other.
In a reverse fault, one side rides up over the other, and the Earths crust is shortened.
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Earthquakes occur when tectonic forces cause rock to suddenly fracture and move,
shaking the ground in the vicinity of the fracture
Submarine Earthquakes can produce sea waves known as tsunami.
The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale used to measure the energy released by an
Earthquake.
Most severe Earthquakes occur along lithospheric plate boundaries.

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Chapter 14
Weathering and Mass Wasting

This chapter begins the study of the matter and energy flows that shape the surface of the
Earth. This chapter examines how rock material is broken down by weathering and how
weathered material moves downhill under the influence gravity.
A variety of weathering processes cause rock to break down into smaller particles
and to decompose chemically at the Earths surface.
Physical weathering is the disintegration of rock into smaller fragments of the same
mineral composition by processes such as frost action, salt-crystal growth, and
unloading.
Chemical weathering is the decomposition of rock resulting from mineral alteration
processes such as hydrolysis, oxidation, and acid solution.
Over much of the land surface, the underlying bedrock is covered by a layer of
weathered material called regolith.
Regolith is the source of sediment carried by wind, water, and glacial ice, and the
parent material for soil development.
Frost action is one of the most important physical weathering processes in cold
climates. It occurs when water freezes in joints in the rock, and the expansion of the
water during repeated freezing forces the joints to enlarge.
Salt crystal weathering operates extensively in dry climates and is the result of the
growth of salt crystals in rock pores. Groundwater moves to the surface through
capillary action and evaporates, leaving the salts behind producing grain by grain
breakup of sandstone.
Unloading is a form of physical weathering that occurs when the removal of
overlying layers causes the rock to expand, cracking in layers parallel to the surface
that break away from the rock in sheets.
Physical weathering can also occur when rocks are subject to intense heating and
cooling and through the growth of plant roots that can wedge rocks apart.
The chemical weathering processes of hydrolosis and oxidation change rock
minerals into clay minerals and oxides.
Acid action is most commonly due to the work of weak solutions of carbonic acid
dissolving certain rocks, particularly limestone and marble.
Mass wasting is the spontaneous downhill movement of soil, regolith, and rock on
slopes under the influence of gravity.
Regolith and soil are more susceptible to mass wasting than bedrock.
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Soil creep is the gradual downhill movement of particles as they are rearranged by
wetting and drying, freezing, and thawing and other processes.
Water-saturated regolith can move quickly down a slope in an Earthflow.
Mudflows and debris floods can develop when intense rains fall on exposed soil
surfaces.
A large mass of bedrock which breaks free from a slope can slide rapidly downhill as
a landslide. The rock mass usually disintegrates as it moves.
Earthflows, mudslides, and landslides can be induced both by natural processes and
by human activities. They can have a major impact on the environment and present a
serious hazard to humans. Human activities that extract mineral resources involve
scarification of the land surface.
The periglacial system refers to the distinctive landforms and geomorphological
processes of arctic and alpine tundra environments which have a strong annual
temperature cycle and extremely cold winters.
Much of the tundra environment has a layer of permafrost (perennially frozen
ground) beneath a surface active layer (seasonally thawed ground). Permafrost is
classified as continuous, discontinuous, sub-sea, and alpine. Continuous permafrost
may reach up to 450 meters in depth.
Ground ice in permafrost can occur as ice wedges and pingos.
Intense frost action can generate patterned ground features such as ice-wedge
polygons and stone polygons.
Summer thawing of the active layer can produce saturated soils that flow downhill to
form solifluction lobes and terraces.
Human activity which disturbs the surface cover of the permafrost may lead to thermal
erosion, in which the permafrost melts to greater depths leading to the development of
depressions and ground subsidence known as thermokarst.
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Chapter 15
Fresh Water of the Continents

This chapter examines what is probably the single most important environmental agent
acting at the Earths surface: water. The circulation of water within the Earths surface
system is described by the hydrologic cycle. This chapter examines two parts of that
cycle: water at the land surface and water underground.
Water on the continents represents on three percent of the hydrospheres total water.
Fresh water in lakes and rivers accounts for less than one percent of the Earths water.
This fresh water is derived from precipitation over the continents generated in the
operation of the global hydrologic cycle.
The soil layer plays an important role determining if precipitation will be directed to
the atmosphere by evapotranspiration, to groundwater by percolation, or to streams
and rivers as overland flow.
Groundwater refers to water beneath the surface that fully saturates the pore spaces
in bedrock, regolith, or soil.
The water table marks the upper surface of the groundwater zone where the pore
spaces in rock and regolith are completely filled or saturated with water.
Groundwater moves slowly underground to eventually return to the surface by
seepage into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.
An aquifer is a layer of rock or sediment that holds abundant free flowing ground
water.
The movement of groundwater through highly soluble limestone rock produces
distinctive karst landscapes.
Human use of groundwater resources have resulted in depletion of groundwater
resources, ground subsidence, and groundwater contamination.
Runoff includes both overland flow and flow in stream and river channels.
Streams and rivers are organized into drainage systems in which the channels collect
overland flow from slopes and seepage from groundwater and transfer this water
downstream to larger channels. Each stream has a drainage basin, which includes
all the land around the stream that supplies water to the stream. The drainage basin is
bound by drainage divides, which mark the ridges between adjacent drainage basins.
Discharge, or the flow rate of water past a location on a channel, increases
downstream through drainage networks as flow from tributary streams is collected.
A hydrograph is a plot showing the variation in the discharge of a stream over time.
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The lag time between peak discharge and peak precipitation reflects the time required
for water to move down slopes and through progressively larger stream channels.
In urban areas, the high proportion of impervious surfaces and the storm sewers that
move water to stream channels very rapidly act to reduce the lag time and increase
the peak discharge levels of urban streams.
In humid regions, annual stream hydrographs show discharge peaks from individual
rainfall events superimposed on base flow derived from groundwater.
Floods occur when discharge exceeds the capacity of a river channel and water flows
over the low-lying floodplain adjacent to the channel.
Lakes are important elements of the drainage system because they are sources of
fresh water and are used for recreation and hydroelectric power generation.
Lakes without a surface outlet often become saline as they lose water primarily
through evaporation. Saline lakes are characteristic of arid climates.
Humans living in desert areas have relied on exotic rivers for their water supplies.
Many of these areas have experienced problems from salinization and water logging
as a result of irrigation.
Human activities can cause pollution of both surface and underground water.
Our industrialized society demands huge quantities of fresh surface water. The
increasing environmental impacts of these high levels of demand necessitate very careful
planning for future water developments.
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Chapter 16
Landforms Made by Running Water

This chapter focuses on running water as a land-forming agent. It examines the processes
by which running water moves sediments and shapes landforms at the Earths surface.
Landforms produced by running water dominate most of the Earths terrestrial
environments.
Water is one of the four active agents of denudation (the others being wind, waves,
and glacial ice) that erode, transport, and deposit sediments at the Earths surface to
produce erosional and depositional landforms.
The term fluvial is applied to the processes and landforms associated with the action
of running water.
Fluvial processes can erode and transport soil particles from slopes and uplands
causing soil erosion.
Rates of soil erosion and soil formation are in equilibrium on the slopes of most
natural landscapes. This is known as the geologic norm. Disturbance of this
equilibrium by human activity or natural catastrophes can lead to accelerated erosion.
Some eroded soil particles are deposited immediately at the base of slopes to form
colluvium, while others enter streams and are carried downstream before being
deposited as alluvium along valley floors.
A stream can erode material from its bed and banks. Soft materials can be effectively
eroded by hydraulic action, while hard bedrock materials can only be eroded by
abrasion.
The stream load or sediment carried by a stream is transported in three ways: as
dissolved load, suspended load, and bedload. Suspended load is usually the largest
of these components.
Stream capacity to carry solid sediment is dependent on stream flow velocity, which,
in turn, is dependent on channel gradient.
Streams tend to a graded condition over time such that the channel gradient and
stream capacity are adjusted to move the average amount of water and sediment
supplied by slopes.
Indicators of a graded condition are the development of a floodplain and a smooth
stream profile.
Grade is maintained as landscapes are eroded toward base level and, in tectonically
stable areas, erosion can eventually lead to the formation of a peneplain.
Floodplain development involves lateral channel shifting by bank erosion on the
outside of channel bends and deposition of alluvium in point bars on the inside of
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channel bends. It results in valley widening and the development of alluvial
meanders.
Large rivers with low gradients and wide floodplains are called alluvial rivers.
Meandering or lateral shifting of alluvial rivers produces cutoff meanders, oxbow
lakes, and other distinctive landforms.
Tectonic and environmental changes can cause aggradation and degradation in
alluvial rivers and lead to the formation of alluvial terraces and entrenched
meanders.
Fluvial processes are very effective in shaping desert landforms because of the sparse
vegetation cover.
Some of the more distinctive fluvial landforms of arid regions are alluvial fans,
pediments, and playas.

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Chapter 17
Landforms and Rock Structure

This chapter considers how rock properties influence the landforms and drainage patterns
produced by fluvial denudation.
The Earths crust contains a variety of rock types which differ in their resistance to
denudation. More resistant rock tends to form uplands and ridges, while weaker rock
forms lowlands and valleys.
Rock layers can be tilted, folded, and fractured by tectonic forces to produce a variety
of rock structures. The tilt and orientation of rock layers and fractures are described by
their strike and dip.
In areas with horizontal strata and an arid climate, fluvial denudation produces vertical
cliffs of resistant rock separated by gentler slopes of less resistant rock. These slopes
surround flat-topped plateaus, mesas, and buttes capped by resistant rock.
Different rock types and structures tend to produce different drainage patterns or
stream network characteristics. Drainage patterns have some interesting, systematic
geometric properties.
Areas of horizontal strata usually have broadly branching, dendritic drainage
patterns.
On gently dipping strata along coastal plains, cuestas form in more resistant rock
while lowland valleys develop in the less resistant rock. The development of
consequent streams across the cuestas and subsequent streams along the lowland
valleys produces a trellis drainage pattern.
Fluvial denudation of a sedimentary dome produces an annular drainage pattern and
a circular pattern of hogbacks of more resistant rock separated by lowlands of less
resistant rock.
Linear fold belts of anticlines and synclines are eroded into ridge-and-valley
landscapes, with the more resistant strata forming ridges and the less resistant strata
forming valleys. A trellis drainage pattern is typical of these landscapes.
A rock face produced by faulting can persist as a fault-line scarp, while a landscape is
worn down by denudation. A subsequent stream often marks the zone of weakness
along a fault plane.
Tightly folded metamorphic rocks tend to erode to ridge-and-valley landscapes that
are less rugged than those developed in folded sedimentary rock. The resistant
metamorphic rocks of slate and schist form the hill belts, while the less resistant
marble forms the valleys.
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A monadnock is an isolated projection of intrusive igneous rock surrounded by an
eroded plain. Dendritic drainage patterns develop on these eroded batholiths.
Radial drainage patterns develop in the early stage of erosion of stratovolcanoes. The
advanced stage of erosion produces volcanic necks and radial dikes of resistant
igneous rock.
The erosion of shield volcanoes results in landscapes of steep slopes and sharp ridges.
Radial consequent streams cut deep canyons into the sides of the extinct volcanoes.
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Chapter 18
Landforms Made by Waves and Wind

This chapter examines the processes and landforms that result when wind energy moves
surface materials, either directly as wind or indirectly as waves. Both waves and wind are
driven by the rotation and unequal surface heating of the Earth. Unlike fluvial action and
mass wasting, wind and waves can move material uphill against the force of gravity.
Shoreline refers to the line of contact between water and land, while coastline refers
to the zone of influence of coastal processes.
Wave action is the most important agent shaping coastal landforms. Waves
approaching a shoreline are slowed by the drag of the bottom, become steeper, and
eventually collapse to form breakers.
The energy of breakers expended along a coastline causes erosion and transportation
of shoreline materials.
Weak or soft shoreline materials are eroded rapidly by wave action to form marine
scarps, while more resistant materials are eroded slowly to form marine cliffs.
Beaches are thick wedge-shaped accumulations of sand shaped by the swash and
backwash of water along the shoreline.
Waves striking a shoreline at an oblique angle cause littoral drift: the movement of
sediment along the shore by the processes of beach drift and longshore drift.
The sands transported by littoral drift can form spits, bars, and pocket beaches along
a coast.
Variations in sediment transport along a coast can lead to progradation (building out)
and retrogradation (cutting back) of the shoreline.
Tides are regular fluctuations in sea level caused by the gravitational forces of the sun
and moon.
Tides drive ebb and flood currents which redistribute fine sediments within bays and
estuaries.
Coastlines of submergence result from partial drowning of the coast by a rise in sea
level or sinking of the land. Ria coasts and fjord coasts are deeply embayed with bold
relief.
Coastlines of emergence, where submarine deposits become exposed, usually have
gentle relief and slope gently toward the ocean. Repeated crustal uplift produces
barrier island coasts while rapid emergence can produce raised shorelines and
marine terraces.
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Coastlines created when new land is built out into the ocean include delta and volcano
coasts as well as coral reef coasts.
Global sea level has fluctuated substantially in the past and is presently rising slowly.
The present rise may be due to the melting of glacier ice and thermal expansion of the
oceans caused by global warming.
Wind action is capable of moving dry, fine, loose sediments that are not protected by
a vegetation cover and is an effective landforming agent in deserts, semiarid regions,
and along coasts.
Wind erosion includes abrasion and deflation. The wind drives loose sand and dust
particles against exposed surfaces in a process of abrasion.
The removal of loose particles from the ground surface by wind is called deflation.
Deflation can produce blowouts, desert pavements, and dust storms. Clay and silt
particles are lifted high into the air and carried long distances, while sand particles are
lifted only with moderately strong winds and are only carried one to two meters above
the ground.
Sand dunes form where there is an abundant source of sand available for movement
by wind.
Variations in wind conditions, vegetation cover, and sand abundance produce a wide
variety of dune types. Some of the more important are:
Barchan dunes - individual, crescent-shaped dunes with arms pointing downwind
Transverse dunes - wave-like dunes with a crest aligned perpendicular to the
wind direction
Parabolic dunes - crescent-shaped dunes with the dune crest bowed outward in a
downwind direction.
Longitudinal dunes long, narrow ridges oriented parallel with the prevailing
wind direction
Loess is a sheet-like deposit of wind-transported silt. Extensive loess deposits in North
America were derived from fresh glacial deposits exposed at the end of the last ice
age.
Human disturbance of the vegetation cover in semiarid regions can expose the soil to
induced deflation or wind erosion.

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Chapter 19
Glacial Landforms and the Ice Age

This chapter examines the role of glacial ice as a denudation and landforming agent.
Glacial ice had a major impact on the landscapes of midlatitude and subarctic regions
during the past Ice Age and still covers many high latitude and high elevation areas of the
Earth.
Glaciers are natural bodies of land ice that have, or have had in the past, the ability to
flow. They form where winter snowfall exceeds summer ablation over long periods of
time.
Glaciers erode the land surface by plucking and abrasion. Eroded material is
incorporated into the glacier, transported, and eventually deposited when the ice melts.
Alpine glaciers form in cirques in high mountain locations and often flow down pre-
existing stream valleys carving them into U-shaped glacial troughs.
Snow builds up in the zone of accumulation found at the upper end of the glacier
where layers of snow undergo compaction and recrystalization to produce firn.
Beneath the surface of the glacier, the ice acts as a plastic substance and will flow
slowly. Glaciers also move by basal sliding.
Glaciated landscapes tend to be very rugged. Freeze-thaw weathering and glacial
erosion produce cirques, artes, and horn peaks.
The erosional capacity of glaciers also produces large quantities of depositional
materials. Piles of unsorted debris that form along the end and sides of glaciers are
moraines.
Ice sheets are accumulations of ice that cover large areas and extend over major
topographic features. Greenland and Antarctica are sites of present-day ice sheets.
Ice shelves are extensions of ice sheets that float on ocean water. Icebergs are pieces
of ice that break free from ice shelves and glaciers to float in the ocean.
Continental ice sheets expand and contract during an ice age, causing alternating
periods of glaciation, deglaciation, and interglaciation.
During the Late-Cenozoic Ice Age, extending over the past two to three million years,
continental ice sheets have grown and melted up to thirty times.
Much of North America and Europe, as well as parts of Asia and South America, were
covered with ice during the most recent episode of ice sheet expansion, the Wisconsin
Glaciation.
The erosive action of alpine glaciers and ice sheets produces grooved, scratched, and
polished surfaces on more resistant rock, and strips away regolith and weaker rock.
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Glacial drift refers to all those sediments that are deposited by glaciers. Unstratified
drift deposited directly from glaciers is called till. Those sediments derived from
glaciers, but modified by transportation by meltwater, are called stratified drift.
Some of the more common landforms made up of till deposits are moraines, till
plains, and drumlins.
Stratified drift features include outwash plains, which form where braided meltwater
streams issuing from glaciers deposit sediment over a wide area. Sediment deposited
by meltwater streams flowing in ice tunnels beneath a glacier form ridge-like eskers.
Kames are stratified drift deposits that originate as deltas in meltwater lakes near
glacier margins.
Three possible causes of the Late-Cenozoic Ice Age are:
a change in continent positions due to plate tectonic activity
an increase in the number and severity of volcanic eruptions
a reduction in solar energy output
Cycles of glaciation appear to be related to cyclic changes in the Earths axial tilt and
distance from the sun.
Global warming has the potential to change both ablation and snowfall on the Earths
ice sheets. The net effect of these changes on global sea level is uncertain.


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