Physical geography

Physical geography

Overview

Physical geography is one of the two major subfields of geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

. Physical geography is that branch of natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

, biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 and geosphere
Geosphere
The term geosphere is often used to refer to the densest parts of Earth, which consist mostly of rock and regolith. The geosphere consists of the inside of the Earth or other planets or bodies....

, as opposed to the cultural or built environment
Built environment
The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from personal shelter and buildings to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply or energy networks.The built...

, the domain of human geography
Human geography
Human geography is one of the two major sub-fields of the discipline of geography. Human geography is the study of the world, its people, communities, and cultures. Human geography differs from physical geography mainly in that it has a greater focus on studying human activities and is more...

.

Within the body of physical geography, the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 is often split either into several spheres or environments, the main spheres being the atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

, biosphere, cryosphere
Cryosphere
The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and frozen ground . Thus there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere...

, geosphere, hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

, lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

 and pedosphere
Pedosphere
The pedosphere is the outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The sum total of all the organisms, soils, water and air is termed as the "pedosphere"...

.
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Encyclopedia

Physical geography is one of the two major subfields of geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

. Physical geography is that branch of natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

, biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 and geosphere
Geosphere
The term geosphere is often used to refer to the densest parts of Earth, which consist mostly of rock and regolith. The geosphere consists of the inside of the Earth or other planets or bodies....

, as opposed to the cultural or built environment
Built environment
The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from personal shelter and buildings to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply or energy networks.The built...

, the domain of human geography
Human geography
Human geography is one of the two major sub-fields of the discipline of geography. Human geography is the study of the world, its people, communities, and cultures. Human geography differs from physical geography mainly in that it has a greater focus on studying human activities and is more...

.

Within the body of physical geography, the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 is often split either into several spheres or environments, the main spheres being the atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

, biosphere, cryosphere
Cryosphere
The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and frozen ground . Thus there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere...

, geosphere, hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

, lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

 and pedosphere
Pedosphere
The pedosphere is the outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The sum total of all the organisms, soils, water and air is termed as the "pedosphere"...

. Research in physical geography is often interdisciplinary and uses the systems approach.

Sub-fields



Physical Geography can be divided into several sub-fields, as follows:
  • Geomorphology
    Geomorphology
    Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them...

    is the field concerned with understanding the surface
    Lithosphere
    The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

     of the Earth and the processes by which it is shaped, both at the present as well as in the past. Geomorphology as a field has several sub-fields that deal with the specific landforms of various environments e.g. desert
    Desert
    A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

     geomorphology and fluvial
    Fluvial
    Fluvial is used in geography and Earth science to refer to the processes associated with rivers and streams and the deposits and landforms created by them...

     geomorphology, however, these sub-fields are united by the core processes which cause them; mainly tectonic or climatic processes. Geomorphology seeks to understand landform
    Landform
    A landform or physical feature in the earth sciences and geology sub-fields, comprises a geomorphological unit, and is largely defined by its surface form and location in the landscape, as part of the terrain, and as such, is typically an element of topography...

     history and dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling (Geomorphometry
    Geomorphometry
    Geomorphometry is the science of quantitative land surface analysis. It gathers various mathematical, statistical and image processing techniques that can be used to quantify morphological, hydrological, ecological and other aspects of a land surface. Common synonyms for geomorphometry are...

    ). Early studies in geomorphology are the foundation for pedology, one of two main branches of soil science
    Soil science
    Soil science is the study of soil as a natural resource on the surface of the earth including soil formation, classification and mapping; physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils.Sometimes terms which...

    .



  • Hydrology
    Hydrology
    Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

    is predominantly concerned with the amounts and quality of water moving and accumulating on the land surface and in the soils and rocks near the surface and is typified by the hydrological cycle. Thus the field encompasses water in rivers, lakes, aquifers and to an extent glaciers, in which the field examines the process and dynamics involved in these bodies of water. Hydrology has historically had an important connection with engineering
    Engineering
    Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

     and has thus developed a largely quantitative method in its research; however, it does have an earth science
    Earth science
    Earth science is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, the Earth being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth sciences...

     side that embraces the systems approach. Similar to most fields of physical geography it has sub-fields that examine the specific bodies of water or their interaction with other spheres e.g. limnology
    Limnology
    Limnology , also called freshwater science, is the study of inland waters. It is often regarded as a division of ecology or environmental science. It covers the biological, chemical, physical, geological, and other attributes of all inland waters...

     and ecohydrology
    Ecohydrology
    Ecohydrology is an interdisciplinary field studying the interactions between water and ecosystems. These interactions may take place within water bodies, such as rivers and lakes, or on land, in forests, deserts, and other terrestrial ecosystems...

    .



  • Glaciology
    Glaciology
    Glaciology Glaciology Glaciology (from Middle French dialect (Franco-Provençal): glace, "ice"; or Latin: glacies, "frost, ice"; and Greek: λόγος, logos, "speech" lit...

    is the study of glaciers and ice sheets, or more commonly the cryosphere
    Cryosphere
    The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and frozen ground . Thus there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere...

     or ice
    Ice
    Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

     and phenomena that involve ice. Glaciology groups the latter (ice sheets) as continental glaciers and the former (glaciers) as alpine glaciers. Although, research in the areas are similar with research undertaken into both the dynamics of ice sheets and glaciers the former tends to be concerned with the interaction of ice sheets with the present climate and the latter with the impact of glaciers on the landscape. Glaciology also has a vast array of sub-fields examining the factors and processes involved in ice sheets and glaciers e.g. snow
    Snow
    Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

     hydrology and glacial geology.



  • Biogeography
    Biogeography
    Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

    is the science which deals with geographic patterns of species distribution and the processes that result in these patterns. Biogeography emerged as a field of study as a result of the work of Alfred Russel Wallace
    Alfred Russel Wallace
    Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...

    , although the field prior to the late twentieth century had largely been viewed as historic in its outlook and descriptive in its approach. The main stimulus for the field since its founding has been that of evolution
    Evolution
    Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

    , plate tectonics
    Plate tectonics
    Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

     and the theory of island biogeography. The field can largely be divided into five sub-fields: island biogeography
    Island biogeography
    Island biogeography is a field within biogeography that attempts to establish and explain the factors that affect the species richness of natural communities. The theory was developed to explain species richness of actual islands...

    , paleobiogeography, phylogeography
    Phylogeography
    Phylogeography is the study of the historical processes that may be responsible for the contemporary geographic distributions of individuals. This is accomplished by considering the geographic distribution of individuals in light of the patterns associated with a gene genealogy.This term was...

    , zoogeography
    Zoogeography
    Zoogeography is the branch of the science of biogeography that is concerned with the geographic distribution of animal species.-External links:*: A course outline and collection of Web resources by Dr. Taylor, UBC...

     and phytogeography
    Phytogeography
    Phytogeography , also called geobotany, is the branch of biogeography that is concerned with the geographic distribution of plant species...




  • Climatology
    Climatology
    Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

    is the study of the climate
    Climate
    Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

    , scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a long period of time. Climatology examines both the nature of micro (local) and macro (global) climates and the natural and anthropogenic
    Anthropogenic
    Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes impacts on biophysical environments, biodiversity and other resources. The term anthropogenic designates an effect or object resulting from human activity. The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian...

     influences on them. The field is also sub-divided largely into the climates of various regions and the study of specific phenomena or time periods e.g. tropical cyclone rainfall climatology
    Tropical cyclone rainfall climatology
    A tropical cyclone rainfall climatology is developed to determine rainfall characteristics of past tropical cyclones. A tropical cyclone rainfall climatology can be used to help forecast current or upcoming tropical cyclone impacts. The degree of a tropical cyclone rainfall impact depends upon...

     and paleoclimatology
    Paleoclimatology
    Paleoclimatology is the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of Earth. It uses a variety of proxy methods from the Earth and life sciences to obtain data previously preserved within rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils; it then...

    .

  • Meteorology
    Meteorology
    Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

    is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and short term forecasting (in contrast with climatology). Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the eighteenth century. Meteorological phenomena are observable weather events which illuminate and are explained by the science of meteorology.



  • Pedology
    Pedology (soil study)
    Pedology is the study of soils in their natural environment. It is one of two main branches of soil science, the other being edaphology...

    is the study of soils in their natural environment. It is one of two main branches of soil science
    Soil science
    Soil science is the study of soil as a natural resource on the surface of the earth including soil formation, classification and mapping; physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils.Sometimes terms which...

    , the other being edaphology
    Edaphology
    Edaphology is one of two main divisions of soil science, the other being pedology. Edaphology is concerned with the influence of soils on living things, particularly plants. The term is also applied to the study of how soil influences man's use of land for plant growth as well as man's overall...

    . Pedology mainly deals with pedogenesis
    Pedogenesis
    Pedogenesis is the science and study of the processes that lead to the formation of soil ' and first explored by the Russian geologist Vasily Dokuchaev , the so called grandfather of soil science, who determined that soil formed over time as a consequence of...

    , soil morphology
    Soil morphology
    Soil morphology is the field observable attributes of the soil within the various soil horizons and the description of the kind and arrangement of the horizons. C.F...

    , soil classification
    Soil classification
    Soil classification deals with the systematic categorization of soils based on distinguishing characteristics as well as criteria that dictate choices in use.- Overview :...

    . In physical geography pedology is largely studied due to the numerous interactions between climate (water, air, temperature), soil life (micro-organisms, plants, animals), the mineral materials within soils (biogeochemical cycles) and its position and effects on the landscape such as laterization.

  • Palaeogeography
    Palaeogeography
    Palaeogeography is the study of what the geography was in times past. It is most often used about the physical landscape, although nothing excludes its use in reference to the human or cultural environment...

    is a cross-disciplinary study that examines the preserved material in the stratigraphic record in order to determine the distribution of the continents through geologic time. Almost all the evidence for the positions of the continents comes from geology
    Geology
    Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

     in the form of fossil
    Fossil
    Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

    s or paleomagnetism
    Paleomagnetism
    Paleomagnetism is the study of the record of the Earth's magnetic field in rocks. Certain minerals in rocks lock-in a record of the direction and intensity of the magnetic field when they form. This record provides information on the past behavior of Earth's magnetic field and the past location of...

    . The use of this data has resulted in evidence for continental drift
    Continental drift
    Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other. The hypothesis that continents 'drift' was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596 and was fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912...

    , plate tectonics
    Plate tectonics
    Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

     and supercontinents. This in turn has supported palaeogeographic theories such as the Wilson cycle.



  • Coastal geography
    Coastal geography
    Coastal geography is the study of the dynamic interface between the ocean and the land, incorporating both the physical geography and the human geography of the coast...

    is the study of the dynamic interface between the ocean and the land, incorporating both the physical geography (i.e. coastal geomorphology, geology and oceanography) and the human geography of the coast. It involves an understanding of coastal weathering
    Weathering
    Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soils and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, biota and waters...

     processes, particularly wave action, sediment movement and weathering, and also the ways in which humans interact with the coast. Coastal geography although predominantly geomorphological in its research is not just concerned with coastal landforms, but also the causes and influences of sea level change.



  • Oceanography
    Oceanography
    Oceanography , also called oceanology or marine science, is the branch of Earth science that studies the ocean...

    is the branch of physical geography that studies the Earth's oceans and seas. It covers a wide range of topics, including marine organisms and ecosystem dynamics (biological oceanography); ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics (physical oceanography
    Physical oceanography
    Physical oceanography is the study of physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean, especially the motions and physical properties of ocean waters.Physical oceanography is one of several sub-domains into which oceanography is divided...

    ); plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor (geological oceanography); and fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries (chemical oceanography
    Chemical oceanography
    Chemical oceanography is the study of ocean chemistry: the behavior of the chemical elements within the Earth's oceans. The ocean is unique in that it contains - in greater or lesser quantities - nearly every element in the periodic table....

    ). These diverse topics reflect multiple disciplines that oceanographers blend to further knowledge of the world ocean and understanding of processes within it.

  • Quaternary science
    Quaternary science
    Quaternary science is an inter-disciplinary field of study focusing on the Quaternary period, which encompasses the last 2.6 million years. The field studies the last ice age and the recent interstadial the Holocene and uses proxy evidence to reconstruct the past environments during this period to...

    is an inter-disciplinary field of study focusing on the Quaternary
    Quaternary
    The Quaternary Period is the most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the ICS. It follows the Neogene Period, spanning 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present...

     period, which encompasses the last 2.6 million years. The field studies the last ice age and the recent interstadial the Holocene
    Holocene
    The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

     and uses proxy evidence to reconstruct the past environments during this period to infer the climatic and environmental changes that have occurred.



  • Landscape ecology
    Landscape ecology
    Landscape ecology is the science of studying and improving relationships between urban development and ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems...

    is a sub-discipline of ecology
    Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

     and geography that address how spatial variation in the landscape affects ecological processes such as the distribution and flow of energy, materials and individuals in the environment (which, in turn, may influence the distribution of landscape "elements" themselves such as hedgerows). The field was largely founded by the German geographer Carl Troll
    Carl Troll
    Carl Troll , was a German geographer, brother of botanist Wilhelm Troll.From 1919 until 1922 Troll studied amongst other biology, chemistry, geology, geography and physics at the Universität in München. In 1921 he obtained his doctorate in botany and in 1925 his habilitation in geography...

     Landscape ecology typically deals with problems in an applied and holistic context. The main difference between biogeography and landscape ecology is that the latter is concerned with how flows or energy and material are changed and their impacts on the landscape whereas the former is concerned with the spatial patterns of species and chemical cycles.



  • Geomatics
    Geomatics
    Geomatics is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic information, or spatially referenced information.-Overview and etymology:...

    is the field of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering of geographic information, or spatially referenced information. Geomatics includes geodesy (scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the earth, its gravitational field, and other geodynamic phenomena, such as crustal motion, oceanic tides, and polar motion) and G.I.S.
    Geographic Information System
    A geographic information system, geographical information science, or geospatial information studies is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data...

     (a system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth) and remote sensing
    Remote sensing
    Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object. In modern usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth by means of propagated signals Remote sensing...

     (the short or large-scale acquisition of information of an object or phenomenon, by the use of either recording or real-time sensing devices that are not in physical or intimate contact with the object).



  • Environmental geography
    Environmental geography
    Integrated geography is the branch of geography that describes the spatial aspects of interactions between humans and the natural world. It requires an understanding of the dynamics of geology, meteorology, hydrology, biogeography, ecology, and geomorphology, as well as the ways in which human...

    is a branch of geography that analyzes the spatial aspects of interactions between humans and the natural world. The branch bridges the divide between human and physical geography and thus requires an understanding of the dynamics of geology, meteorology, hydrology, biogeography, and geomorphology, as well as the ways in which human societies conceptualize the environment. Although the branch was previously more visible in research than at present with theories such as environmental determinism
    Environmental determinism
    Environmental determinism, also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture...

     linking society with the environment. It has largely become the domain of the study of environmental management or anthropogenic influences.

Journals and literature


Physical geography and Earth Science journals communicate and document the results of research carried out in universities and various other research institutions. Most journals cover a specific field and publish the research within that field, however unlike human geographers, physical geographers tend to publish in inter-disciplinary journals rather than predominantly geography journal; the research is normally expressed in the form of a scientific paper. Additionally, textbooks, books, and magazines on geography communicate research to laypeople, although these tend to focus on environmental issues or cultural dilemmas. Examples of journals that publish articles from physical geographers are:

Historical evolution of the discipline



From the birth of geography as a science during the Greek classical period and until the late nineteenth century with the birth of anthropogeography or Human Geography, Geography was almost exclusively a natural science: the study of location and descriptive gazetteer of all places of the known world. Several works among the best known during this long period could be cited as an example, from Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 (Geography), Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

 (Geography) or Dionisio Periegetes (Periegesis Oiceumene) in the Ancient Age to the Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt...

 (Cosmos) in the century XIX, in which geography is regarded as a physical and natural science, of course, through the work Summa de Geografía of Martín Fernández de Enciso
Martín Fernández de Enciso
Martín Fernández de Enciso was a navigator and geographer from Seville, Spain. He was instrumental in colonising the Isthmus of Darien. Fernandez de Enciso founded a village near the Cabo de la Vela with the name Nuestra Señora Santa María de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela, the first settlement...

 from the early sixteenth century, which is indicated for the first time the New World.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a controversy exported from Geology, between supporters of James Hutton
James Hutton
James Hutton was a Scottish physician, geologist, naturalist, chemical manufacturer and experimental agriculturalist. He is considered the father of modern geology...

 (uniformitarianism Thesis) and Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

 (catastrophism) strongly influenced the field of geography, because geography at this time was a natural science since Human Geography or Antropogeography had just developed as a discipline in the late nineteenth century.

Two historical events during the nineteenth century had a great effect in the further development of physical geography. The first was the European colonial expansion in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and even America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in search of raw materials required by industries during the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. This fostered the creation of geography departments in the universities of the colonial powers and the birth and development of national geographical societies, thus giving rise to the process identified by Horacio Capel as the institutionalization of geography.

One of the most prolific empires in this regard was the Russian. A mid-eighteenth century many geographers are sent by the Russian altamirazgo different opportunities to perform geographical surveys in the area of Arctic Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

. Among these is who is considered the patriarch of Russian geography: Mikhail Lomonosov
Mikhail Lomonosov
Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov was a Russian polymath, scientist and writer, who made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries was the atmosphere of Venus. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art,...

 who in the mid-1750s began working in the Department of Geography, Academy of Sciences to conduct research in Siberia, their contributions are notable in this regard, shows the soil organic origin, develops a comprehensive law on the movement of the ice that still governs the basics, thereby founding a new branch of Geography: Glaciology. In 1755 his initiative was founded Moscow University where he promotes the study of geography and the training of geographers. In 1758 he was appointed director of the Department of Geography, Academy of Sciences, a post from which would develop a working methodology for geographical survey guided by the most important long expeditions and geographical studies in Russia. Thus followed the line of Lomonosov and the contributions of the Russian school became more frequent through his disciples, and in the nineteenth century we have great geographers as Vasily Dokuchaev who performed works of great importance as a "principle of comprehensive analysis of the territory" and "Russian Chernozem" latter being the most important where introduces the geographical concept of soil, as distinct from a simple geological strata, and thus founding a new geographic area of study: the Pedology. Climatology also receive a strong boost from the Russian school by Wladimir Köppen
Wladimir Köppen
Wladimir Peter Köppen was a Russian geographer, meteorologist, climatologist and botanist. After studies in St. Petersburg, he spent the bulk of his life and professional career in Germany and Austria...

 whose main contribution, climate classification, is still valid today. However, this great geographer also contributed to the Paleogeography through his work "The climates of the geological past" which is considered the father of Paleoclimatology
Paleoclimatology
Paleoclimatology is the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of Earth. It uses a variety of proxy methods from the Earth and life sciences to obtain data previously preserved within rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils; it then...

. Russian geographers who made great contributions to the discipline in this period were: NM Sibirtsev, Pyotr Semyonov, K. D. Glinka, Neustrayev, among others.

The second important process is the theory of evolution by Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 in mid-century (which decisively influenced the work of Ratzel, who had academic training as a zoologist and was a follower of Darwin's ideas) which meant an important impetus in the development of Biogeography.

Another major event in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century will give a major boost to development of geography and will take place in United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It is the work of the famous geographer William Morris Davis
William Morris Davis
William Morris Davis was an American geographer, geologist, geomorphologist, and meteorologist, often called the "father of American geography"....

 who not only made important contributions to the establishment of discipline in his country, but revolutionized the field to develop geographical cycle theory which he proposed as a paradigm for Geography in general, although in actually served as a paradigm for Physical Geography. His theory explained that mountains and other landforms are shaped by the influence of a number of factors that are manifested in the geographical cycle. He explained that the cycle begins with the lifting of the relief by geological processes (faults, volcanism, tectonic upheaval, etc.).. Geographical factors such as rivers and runoff begins to create the V-shaped valleys between the mountains (the stage called "youth"). During this first stage, the terrain is steeper and more irregular. Over time, the currents can carve wider valleys ( "maturity") and then start to wind, towering hills only ( "senescence"). Finally, everything comes to what is a plain flat plain at the lowest elevation possible (called "baseline") This plain was called by Davis' "peneplain" meaning "almost plain" Then the rejuvenation occurs and there is another mountain lift and the cycle continues. Although Davis's theory is not entirely accurate, it was absolutely revolutionary and unique in its time and helped to modernize and create Geography subfield of Geomorphology. Its implications prompted a myriad of research in various branches of Physical Geography. In the case of the Paleogeography this theory provided a model for understanding the evolution of the landscape. For Hydrology, Glaciology and Climatology as a boost investigated as studying geographic factors shape the landscape and affect the cycle. The bulk of the work of William Morris Davis led to the development of a new branch of Physical Geography: Geomorphology whose contents until then did not differ from the rest of Geography. Shortly after this branch would present a major development. Some of his disciples made significant contributions to various branches of physical geography such as Curtis Marbut and his invaluable legacy for Pedology, Mark Jefferson
Mark Jefferson
Mark Robin Jefferson is a New Zealand cricketer who has played for Wellington and Northern Districts in the State Championship and the State Shield.-References:...

, Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman
Isaiah Bowman, AB, Ph. D. was an American geographer...

, among others.

Notable physical geographers




  • Eratosthenes
    Eratosthenes
    Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

     (276 194 BC), who made the first known reliable estimation of the Earth's size. He is considered the father of geodesy
    Geodesy
    Geodesy , also named geodetics, a branch of earth sciences, is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in a three-dimensional time-varying space. Geodesists also study geodynamical phenomena such as crustal...

    .
  • Ptolemy
    Ptolemy
    Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

     (c.
    Circa
    Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

    90 c.168), who compiled Greek and Roman knowledge to produce the book Geographia.
  • Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī (973 1048 AD), considered the father of geodesy
    Geodesy
    Geodesy , also named geodetics, a branch of earth sciences, is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in a three-dimensional time-varying space. Geodesists also study geodynamical phenomena such as crustal...

    .
  • Ibn Sina
    Avicenna
    Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

     (Avicenna, 980–1037), who formulated the law of superposition
    Law of superposition
    The law of superposition is a key axiom based on observations of natural history that is a foundational principle of sedimentary stratigraphy and so of other geology dependent natural sciences:...

     and concept of uniformitarianism
    Uniformitarianism (science)
    In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

     in The Book of Healing
    The Book of Healing
    The Book of Healing is a scientific and philosophical encyclopedia written by Abū Alī ibn Sīnā from Asfahana, near Bukhara in Greater Persia. Despite its English title, it is not in fact concerned with medicine...

    .
  • Muhammad al-Idrisi
    Muhammad al-Idrisi
    Abu Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani al-Sabti or simply Al Idrisi was a Moroccan Muslim geographer, cartographer, Egyptologist and traveller who lived in Sicily, at the court of King Roger II. Muhammed al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta then belonging to the Almoravid Empire and died in...

     (Dreses, 1100 c.1165), who drew the Tabula Rogeriana
    Tabula Rogeriana
    The Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi'khtiraq al-afaq lit. "the book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands", most often known as the Tabula Rogeriana , is a description of the world and world map created by the Arab geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, in 1154...

    , the most accurate world map in pre-modern times.
  • Piri Reis
    Piri Reis
    Piri Reis was an Turkish Ottoman admiral, geographer and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 and died in 1554 or 1555....

     (1465 c.1554), whose Piri Reis map
    Piri Reis map
    The Piri Reis map is a pre-modern world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman-Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. The half of the map that survives shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil with reasonable accuracy...

     is the oldest surviving world map to include the Americas
    Americas
    The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

     and possibly Antarctica
  • Gerardus Mercator
    Gerardus Mercator
    thumb|right|200px|Gerardus MercatorGerardus Mercator was a cartographer, born in Rupelmonde in the Hapsburg County of Flanders, part of the Holy Roman Empire. He is remembered for the Mercator projection world map, which is named after him...

     (1512–1594), an innovative cartographer
    Cartography
    Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:*Set the map's...

     and originator of the Mercator projection
    Mercator projection
    The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection presented by the Belgian geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator, in 1569. It became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course, known as rhumb lines or loxodromes, as...

    .
  • Bernhardus Varenius
    Bernhardus Varenius
    Bernhardus Varenius was a German geographer.-Life:His early years were spent at Uelzen, where his father was court preacher to the duke of Brunswick...

     (1622–1650), Wrote his important work "General Geography" (1650), first overview of the geography, the foundation of modern geography.
  • Mikhail Lomonosov
    Mikhail Lomonosov
    Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov was a Russian polymath, scientist and writer, who made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries was the atmosphere of Venus. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art,...

     (1711–1765), father of Russian geography and founded the study of glaciology.
  • Alexander Von Humboldt
    Alexander von Humboldt
    Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt...

     (1769–1859), considered the father of modern geography. Published Kosmos and founded the study of biogeography.
  • Arnold Henry Guyot
    Arnold Henry Guyot
    Arnold Henry Guyot was a Swiss-American geologist and geographer.-Biography:...

     (1807–1884), who noted the structure of glaciers and advanced the understanding of glacial motion, especially in fast ice flow.
  • Louis Agassiz
    Louis Agassiz
    Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

     (1807–1873), the author of a glacial theory which disputed the notion of a steady-cooling Earth.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace
    Alfred Russel Wallace
    Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...

     (1823–1913), founder of modern biogeography and the Wallace line
    Wallace Line
    The Wallace Line separates the ecozones of Asia and Wallacea, a transitional zone between Asia and Australia. West of the line are found organisms related to Asiatic species; to the east, a mixture of species of Asian and Australian origin is present...

    .
  • Vasily Dokuchaev (1840–1903), patriach of Russian geography and founder of pedology.
  • Wladimir Peter Köppen (1846–1940), developer of most important climate classification and founder of Paleoclimatology.
  • William Morris Davis
    William Morris Davis
    William Morris Davis was an American geographer, geologist, geomorphologist, and meteorologist, often called the "father of American geography"....

     (1850–1934), father of American geography, founder of Geomorphology and developer of the geographical cycle theory.
  • Walther Penck
    Walther Penck
    Walther Penck was an Austrian geographer, born in Vienna as son of geographer Albrecht Penck.Walther Penck worked 1912-1914 in Argentina as a geographer, and is best known for his contributions to the field of geomorphology...

     (1888–1923), proponent of the cycle of erosion
    Cycle of erosion
    The cycle of erosion was a model for stream erosion and landscape development proposed by William Morris Davis in the late 19th century. Davis' Stages in the fluvial cycle of erosion published in 1909 defined a young, mature, and old sequence in the development of river valleys and the landscape...

     and the simultaneous occurrence of uplift
    Tectonic uplift
    Tectonic uplift is a geological process most often caused by plate tectonics which increases elevation. The opposite of uplift is subsidence, which results in a decrease in elevation. Uplift may be orogenic or isostatic.-Orogenic uplift:...

     and denudation
    Denudation
    In geology, denudation is the long-term sum of processes that cause the wearing away of the earth’s surface leading to a reduction in elevation and relief of landforms and landscapes...

    .
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton
    Ernest Shackleton
    Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE was a notable explorer from County Kildare, Ireland, who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...

     (1874–1922), Antarctic explorer during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
    Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
    The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration defines an era which extended from the end of the 19th century to the early 1920s. During this 25-year period the Antarctic continent became the focus of an international effort which resulted in intensive scientific and geographical exploration, sixteen...

    .
  • Robert E. Horton
    Robert E. Horton
    Robert Elmer Horton was an American ecologist and soil scientist, considered by many to be the father of modern hydrology....

     (1875–1945), founder of modern hydrology and concepts such as infiltration capacity and overland flow.
  • J Harlen Bretz
    J Harlen Bretz
    J Harlen Bretz was an American geologist, best known for his research that led to the acceptance of the Missoula Floods, and also for his work on caves. He was born to Oliver Joseph Bretz and Rhoda Maria Howlett, farmers in Saranac, Michigan, as the oldest of five children...

     (1882–1981), pioneer of research into the shaping of landscapes by catastrophic floods, most notably the Bretz (Missoula) floods
    Missoula Floods
    The Missoula Floods refer to the cataclysmic floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge at the end of the last ice age. The glacial flood events have been researched since the 1920s...

    .
  • Luis García Sáinz
    Luis García Sáinz
    Luis García Sáinz was a pioneer of physical geography in Spain. It was the first Professor in Geography en la University of Valencia and secretary on restart the Instituto Juan Sebastián Elcano. He belongs to the German School of Spanish Geographers...

     (1894–1965),was a pioneer of physical geography in Spain.
  • Willi Dansgaard
    Willi Dansgaard
    Willi Dansgaard was a Danish paleoclimatologist. He was Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at the University of Copenhagen and a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Icelandic Academy of Sciences, and the Danish Geophysical Society.-...

     (1922–2011), palaeoclimatologist and quaternary scientist, instrumental in the use of oxygen-isotope dating and co-identifier of Dansgaard-Oeschger event
    Dansgaard-Oeschger event
    Dansgaard–Oeschger events are rapid climate fluctuations that occurred 25 times during the last glacial period. Some scientists claim that the events occur quasi-periodically with a recurrence time being a multiple of 1,470 years, but this is debated...

    s.
  • Hans Oeschger
    Hans Oeschger
    Professor Hans Oeschger was the founder of the Division of Climate and Environmental Physics at the Physics Institute of the University of Bern in 1963 and director until his retirement in 1992....

     (1927–1998), palaeoclimatologist and pioneer in ice core research, co-identifier of Dansgaard-Orschger events.
  • Richard Chorley
    Richard Chorley
    Richard John Chorley was a leading figure in the late 20th century for his work in quantitative geography, and played an instrumental role in bringing in the use of systems theory to geography.-Early Education:...

     (1927–2002), a key contributor to the quantitative revolution
    Quantitative revolution
    In the history of geography, the quantitative revolution [n] was one of the four major turning-points of modern geography -- the other three being environmental determinism, regional geography and critical geography)...

     and the use of systems theory
    Systems theory
    Systems theory is the transdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems at all nesting levels in all fields of research...

     in geography.
  • Sir Nicholas Shackleton
    Nicholas Shackleton
    Sir Nicholas John Shackleton FRS was a British geologist and climatologist who specialised in the Quaternary Period...

     (1937–2006), who demonstrated that oscillations in climate over the past few million years could be correlated with variations in the orbital and positional relationship between the Earth and the Sun.
  • Stefan Rahmstorf
    Stefan Rahmstorf
    Stefan Rahmstorf is a German oceanographer and climatologist. Since 2000, he has been a Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography from Victoria University of Wellington...

     (born 1960), professor of abrupt climate changes and author on theories of thermohaline dynamics.

See also


  • Ecology
    Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

  • Environmental science
    Environmental science
    Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

  • Environmental studies
    Environmental studies
    Environmental studies is the academic field which systematically studies human interaction with the environment. It is a broad interdisciplinary field of study that includes the natural environment, built environment, and the sets of relationships between them...

  • Geostatistics
    Geostatistics
    Geostatistics is a branch of statistics focusing on spatial or spatiotemporal datasets. Developed originally to predict probability distributions of ore grades for mining operations, it is currently applied in diverse disciplines including petroleum geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, meteorology,...

  • Weathering
    Weathering
    Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soils and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, biota and waters...

  • Physiographic regions of the world
    Physiographic regions of the world
    The physiographic regions of the world are a means of defining the Earth's landforms into distinct regions based upon classic 1916 three-tiered approach defining divisions, provinces, and sections...


External links