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Encyclopedia > Geomorphology
Surface of the Earth
Surface of the Earth

Geomorphology is the study of landforms, including their origin and evolution, and the processes that shape them. The underlying question is: Why do landscapes look the way they do? The term is derived from the Greek geo, meaning Earth, and morph, meaning form. Geomorphologists seek to understand landform history and dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling. The discipline is practiced within geology, geography, archaeology and civil and environmental engineering. Early studies in geomorphology are the foundation for pedology, one of two main branches of soil science. Download high resolution version (3078x2203, 1905 KB)Surface of the Earth, Revised March 2000 World Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics, Boulder NGDC DATA ANNOUNCEMENT NUMBER: 00-MGG-05 This image was generated from digital data bases of land and sea-floor elevations on a 2-minute latitude/longitude grid... Download high resolution version (3078x2203, 1905 KB)Surface of the Earth, Revised March 2000 World Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics, Boulder NGDC DATA ANNOUNCEMENT NUMBER: 00-MGG-05 This image was generated from digital data bases of land and sea-floor elevations on a 2-minute latitude/longitude grid... A landform comprises a geomorphological unit. ... Geology (from Greek γη- (ge-, the earth) and λογος (logos, word, reason)) is the science and study of the Earth, its composition, structure, physical properties, history, and the processes that shape it. ... Archaeology, archeology or archæology (from the Greek words αρχαίος = ancient and λόγος = word/speech/discourse) is the study of human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, biofacts, human remains, and landscapes. ... The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland. ... Environmental engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to improving the environment (air, water, and/or land resources), to provide healthful water, air and land for human habitation and for other organisms, and to investigate the possibilities for remediation of polluted sites. ... Pedology (pědǒlōgy), (from Russian: pedologiya, from the Greek pedon = soil, earth), is the study of soils and soil formation. ... Soil science deals with 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 per se; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils. ...


Landforms evolve in response to a combination of natural and anthropogenic processes. The landscape is built up through tectonic uplift and volcanism. Denudation occurs by erosion and mass wasting, which produces sediment that is transported and deposited elsewhere within the landscape or off the coast. Landscapes are also lowered by subsidence, either due to tectonics or physical changes in underlying sedimentary deposits. These processes are each influenced differently by climate, ecology, and human activity. A tectonic uplift is a geological process most often caused by plate tectonics which increases elevation. ... This article is about volcanoes in geology. ... Severe soil erosion in a wheat field near Washington State University, USA. Erosion is the displacement of solids (soil, mud, rock, and other particles) by the agents of wind, water, ice, movement in response to gravity, or living organisms (in the case of bioerosion). ... In geology, mass wasting is the process by which rock and regolith move downslope. ... Deposition, also known as sebimentatation, is the geological process whereby material is added to a landform. ... (Ecology is sometimes used incorrectly as a synonym for the natural environment or environmentalism. ...


Particular applications of geomorphology include landslide prediction and mitigation, river control and restoration, coastal protection, and even assessing the presence of water on Mars. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the solar system, named after the Roman god of war (the counterpart of the Greek Ares), on account of its blood red color as viewed in the night sky. ...

Contents


History

Geomorphology was not originally differentiated from the rest of geography. The first geomorphic model was the geographical cycle or the cycle of erosion, developed by William Morris Davis between 1884 and 1899. The cycle was inspired by theories of evolution, and was depicted as a sequence by which a river would cut a valley more and more deeply, but then erosion of side valleys would eventually flatten out the terrain again, now at a lower elevation. The cycle could be started over by uplift of the terrain. The model is today considered too much of a simplification to be especially useful in practice. William Morris Davis (February 12, 1850 - February 5, 1934) was an American geographer, geologist and meteorologist, often called the father of American geography. He was born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of Edward M. Davis and Maria Mott Davis (a daughter of the womens advocate Lucretia... 1884 is a leap year starting on Tuesday (click on link to calendar). ... 1899 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... A speculatively rooted phylogenetic tree of all living things, based on rRNA gene data, showing the separation of the three domains, bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes, as described initially by Carl Woese. ... Biological uplift refers to the theoretic prospect of upgrading the capacities of non-human animals or other intelligences. ...


Walther Penck developed an alternative model in the 1920s, based on ratios of uplift and erosion, but it was also too weak to explain a variety of landforms. Walther Penck (August 30, 1888 - September 29, 1923) Born in Vienna as son of Albrecht Penck. ... Sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or primarily in North America and in Australia as the Roaring Twenties . In Europe it is sometimes refered to as the Golden Twenties. ...


Processes

Age of seafloor crust. Red is youngest.
Age of seafloor crust. Red is youngest.

Modern geomorphology focuses on the quantitative analysis of interconnected processes, such as the contribution of solar energy, the rates of steps of the hydrologic cycle, and plate movement rates from geophysics to compute the age and expected fate of landforms. The use of more precise measurement technique has also enabled processes like erosion to be observed directly, rather than merely surmised from other evidence. Computer simulation is also valuable for testing that a particular model yields results with properties similar to real terrain. Download high resolution version (1624x1020, 895 KB)Age of oceanic crust. ... Download high resolution version (1624x1020, 895 KB)Age of oceanic crust. ... Solar power describes a number of methods of harnessing energy from the light of the sun. ... The water cycle—technically known as the hydrologic cycle—is the circulation of water within the earths hydrosphere, involving changes in the physical state of water between liquid, solid, and gas phases. ... Geophysics, the study of the earth by quantitative physical methods, especially by seismic reflection and refraction, gravity, magnetic, electrical, electromagnetic, and radioactivity methods. ... A simulation is an imitation of some real device or state of affairs. ...


Primary surface processes responsible for most topographic features include wind, waves, weathering, mass wasting, ground water, surface water, glaciers, tectonism, and volcanism. Wind is the roughly horizontal movement of air (as opposed to an air current) caused by uneven heating of the Earths surface. ... Aletsch glacier, Switzerland A glacier is a large, long-lasting river of ice that is formed on land and moves in response to gravity. ...


Fluvial Geomorphology

Rivers and streams are not only conduits of water, but also of sediment. The water, as it flows over the channel bed, is able to mobilise sediment and transport it downstream, either as bedload, suspended load or dissolved load. The rate of sediment transport depends on the avilability of sediment itself and on the river's discharge. Sediment is any particulate matter that can be transported by fluid flow and which eventually is deposited as a layer of solid particles on the bed or bottom of a body of water or other liquid. ... Sediment is any particulate matter that can be transported by fluid flow and which eventually is deposited as a layer of solid particles on the bed or bottom of a body of water or other liquid. ... The term discharge can have several meanings in different contexts: To discharge a weapon is to fire it. ...


As rivers flow across the landscape, they generally increase in size, merging with other rivers. The network of rivers thus formed is a drainage system and is often dendritic, but may adopt other patterns depending on the regional topography and underlying geology. A drainage system is the pattern formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular watershed. ...


Glacial Geomorphology

Glaciers, while geographically restricted, are effective agents of landscape change. The gradual movement of ice down a valley causes abrasion and plucking of the underlying rock. Abrasion produces fine sediment, termed glacial flour. The debris transported by the glacier, when the glacier recedes, is termed a moraine. Glacial erosion is responsible for U-shaped valleys, as opposed to the V-shaped valleys of fluvial origin. Aletsch glacier, Switzerland A glacier is a large, long-lasting river of ice that is formed on land and moves in response to gravity. ... A natural, 4 tonne, block of ice on a beach in Iceland Icicles Ice is frozen water (one of its three phases of matter), and thereby a transparent, crystal, soft and fragile solid. ... In dermatology, an abrasion is superficial damage to the skin, generally not deeper than the epidermis. ... Plucking Plucking, in the sense relating to glaciers, is when a glacier erodes away chunks of bedrock to be later deposited as erratics. ... Sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic, metamorphic rock types of North America. ... Rock flour consists of clay-sized particles of rock, generated by glacial erosion or by artificial grinding to a similar size. ... Moraine is the general term for debris of all sorts originally transported by glaciers or ice sheets that have since melted away. ...


Weathering

Main article: Weathering. Weathering is the process of decomposition and/or disintegration of rocks, soils and their minerals through natural, chemical, and biological processes. ...


This results from chemical dissolution of rock and from the mechanical wearing of rock by plant roots, ice expansion, and the abrasive action of sediment. Weathering provides the source of the sediment transported by fluvial, glacial, aeolian, or biotic processes.


Taxonomy

Different geomorphological processes dominate at different spatial and temporal scales. To help categorize landscape scales some geomorphologists use the following taxonomy: Taxonomy (from Greek verb tassein = to classify and nomos = law, science, cf economy) may refer to: the science of classification (see alpha taxonomy) a classification Initially taxonomy was only the science of classifying living organisms, but later the word was applied in a wider sense, and may also refer to...

Its use, however, is rare and may be misleading - the nature of landscape change may be better viewed as a continuum of coupled processes. Dymaxion map by Buckminster Fuller shows land mass with minimal distortion as only one continuous continent A continent (Latin continere, to hold together) is a large continuous land mass. ... The worlds oceans as seen from the South Pacific Ocean (from Okeanos, Greek for river, the ancient Greeks noticed that a strong current flowed off Gibraltar, and assumed it was a great river); covers almost three quarters (71%) of the surface of the Earth, and nearly half of the... The Baltic Shield (or Fennoscandian Shield) is a segment of the Earths crust belonging to the East European Craton, representing a large part of Fennoscandia, northwestern Russia and the northern Baltic Sea. ... The most general definition of a mountain range is a group of mountains bordered by lowlands. ... Sunset at sea Look up Sea in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Look up maritime in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The location of Sahel in Africa The Sahel (from Arabic ساحل, sahil, shore, border or coast of the Sahara desert) is the boundary zone in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the more fertile region to the south, known as the Sudan (not to be confused with the country... France, viewed from the NASA Shuttle Topography Radar Mission. ... A weald once meant a dense forest, especially the famous great wood once stretching far beyond the ancient counties of Sussex and Kent, England, where this country of smaller woods is still called the Weald. ... The Cotswolds are a range of hills in central England, sometimes called the heart of England, a hilly area reaching over 300 m or 1000 feet. ... Mount McKinley in Alaska has one of the largest visible base-to-summit elevation differences anywhere For other uses of this term, see Mountain (disambiguation). ... Eruption redirects here. ... Estuaries and coastal waters are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, providing numerous ecological, economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits and services. ... A gully is a geological feature that is created by running water such that it forms a deep ditch. ...


References

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a highly-respected publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. ... This article is about the year. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Methuen & Co Limited is a firm of British publishers, which began publishing in London in 1892. ... 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) is a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

See also

The base level of a river or stream is the lowest point to which it can flow, often referred to as the mouth of the river. ... Biogeology is the study of how the biosphere and the lithosphere interact. ... Bioerosion describes the erosion of hard ocean substrates by living organisms by a number of mechanisms. ... Coastal erosion is a process which affects the landmass of an area as a consequence of the sea acting upon it. ... Denudation is the geological process which involves the erosion and weathering of landscapes, resulting in the physical lowering of the landscape, by such processes as wind, rain, the sun, etc. ... A drainage system is the pattern formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular watershed. ... Severe soil erosion in a wheat field near Washington State University, USA. Erosion is the displacement of solids (soil, mud, rock, and other particles) by the agents of wind, water, ice, movement in response to gravity, or living organisms (in the case of bioerosion). ... Erosion prediction There are dozens of erosion prediction models. ... Stream beds or river valleys have various different landforms. ... Geologic modeling is the applied science of creating computerized representations of portions of the Earths crust, especially oil and gas fields and groundwater aquifers. ... It has been suggested that Mudslide be merged into this article or section. ... The plates of the Lithosphere. ... The word meander has a number of senses. ... A peneplain is final stage in fluvial or stream erosion. ... Soil is material capable of supporting plant life. ... Soil conservation refers to techniques used to prevent soil being lost or harmed by overuse, erosion, salinization etc. ... Soil mechanics is a discipline that applies the principles of Engineering mechanics to predict the mechanical behavior of soil. ... Retrogression and degradation are two regressive evolution processes associated with the loss of equilibrium of a stable soil. ... Stream capture is a geological or hydrological phenomenon which occurs when a stream from a neighboring drainage system erodes through the divide between two streams and captures another stream which then is diverted from its former bed and now flows down the bed of the capturing stream. ... A watershed is a region of land where water drains downhill into a specified body of water, such as a river, lake, sea, ocean or wetland. ... // Foundations Principles of Geology Author: Charles Lyell Publication data: 1830–1833. ...

External link

  • The Geographical Cycle, or the Cycle of Erosion (1899)

  Results from FactBites:
 
British Society for Geomorphology (BSG), formerly the British Society for Geomorphology (BGRG), - geomorphology, ... (227 words)
British Society for Geomorphology (BSG), formerly the British Society for Geomorphology (BGRG), - geomorphology, landforms and earth surface processes
The BSG is the professional organisation for British geomorphologists and provides a community and services for those involved in teaching or research in geomorphology, both in the UK and overseas.
The BSG promotes the field of geomorphology, encouraging interests in: earth surface process, and the erosion, deposition and formation of landforms and sediments.
Geomorphology - MSN Encarta (522 words)
Geomorphology, study of the landforms on the Earth's surface, their history, and the processes that mould them.
Geomorphology is a component of both physical geography and of Earth science.
There are many different approaches to geomorphology and these have varied in their importance from country to country and from decade to decade.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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