SO262 Physical Geography

Course Objectives


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Chapter 1 Essentials of Geography: maps, remote sensing, and GIS
  1. Define physical geography, and discuss its importance.
  2. Discuss the importance of latitude in the earth sciences.
  3. Describe map projections, and how they impact the presentation of information.  Discuss the importance of conformal and equal area maps.
  4. Discuss the importance of remote sensing for the earth sciences.  Differentiate spatial, spectral, radiometric, and temporal resolution in remote sensing.
  5. Define a Geographical Information System (GIS) and understand that because earth science deals with location, GIS provides a key way to view geographic data.
  6. Key terms: SRTM
Chapter 2 Solar energy and seasons
  1. Discuss the differences in energy emitted by the sun and the earth, both in terms of wavelength and amount of energy.
  2. Discuss the distribution of insolation over the earth by latitude, and by season.
  3. Discuss the length of daylight, and how it varies by latitude and season.
  4. Sketch a typical temperature profile through the atmosphere, and describe the reasons for the inflection points.
  5. Discuss how we can divide the atmosphere based on composition, temperature, and function.
  6. Discuss the effect of pollution on the atmosphere.
  7. Key terms: solstice, equinox, tropics,
Chapter 3 Atmospheric Energy and Global Temperatures
  1. Discuss how energy travels though the atmosphere.
  2. Describe the patterns of global net radiation and the surface energy budget.
  3. Discuss the global patterns of temperature, in particular those for January and February and annual temperature ranges.
  4. Contrast heat index and wind chill with measured temperatures.
  5. Discuss heat islands, and how humans change microclimate.
Chapter 4 Atmosphere and Ocean Circulation
  1. Discuss the variation of pressure in the atmosphere, by latitude and by season.
  2. Describe the forces responsible for the winds, and major wind belts in the atmosphere.
  3. Discuss the jet stream, land-water breezes, mountain-valley breezes, katabatic winds, and monsoons.
  4. Describe some of the major multi-year oscillations of pressure and temperature.
  5. Describe the basic pattern on ocean circulation with gyres in each ocean basin.
Chapter 5 Atmospheric Water and Weather
  1. Describe the distribution of water on earth.
  2. Discuss the importance of the phase changes of water for global climate.
  3. Describe the types of air masses (mT, cT, mP,cP), and the four lifting mechanisms that produce precipitation.
  4. Discuss cloud classification, including fog.
  5. Describe the major forms of severe weather.
Chapter 6 Water resources
  1. Describe the water cycle and how it transfers water from the oceans to land.
  2. Discuss the concept of the water-budget, and its importance for any location on earth.
  3. Explain the water-balance equation.
  4. Differentiate ground water and surface water.
  5. Evaluate graphs showing the annual patterns of precipitation and evapotranspiration
  6. Discuss future challenges for water supply, and how they vary geographically.
  7. Key terms: aquifer, artesian well, evapotranspiration, infiltration
Chapter 7 Global climate systems
  1. Understand how temperature, precipitation, air pressure, air mass patterns, and sea-surface temperature contribute to climate regions.
  2. Differentiate genetic and empirical climate systems, and know how the Koppen system developed.
  3. Interpret a climograph in terms of what it says about the climate of a region, and the likely location of that region on the earth.
  4. Describe the typical tropical, mesothermal, microthermal, and polar climate regions.
  5. Describe how we classify arid and semi-arid climates.
  6. Disciuss why future climate patterns might be different from those we see today.
Chapter 8 Plate tectonics
  1. Describe the broad features of plate tectonics, including the three types of plate boundary and typical rates of plate motion (10's of mm/yr).
  2. Differentiate continental and oceanic crust.
  3. Differentiate active and passive continental margins.
  4. Discuss the rock cycle, and the main characteristics of each of the kinds of rock.
Chapter 9 Tectonics, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes
  1. Describe the hypsometry of the earth, and the earth's major topographic regions.
  2. Discuss the types of faults, and the regions where they occur.
  3. Discuss the different types of plate collisions and the resulting orogeny.
  4. Describe what happens during an earthquake, how we measure it, and it relates to faulting.
  5. Discuss the different types of volcanic eruption and the resulting landforms.
Chapter 10 Weathering, Karst, Mass movement
  1. Define geomorphology and geomorphometry.
  2. Define the types of weathering, and the climates where each tends to dominate.
  3. Discuss examples of physical and chemical weathering.
  4. Review the processes and features with karst topography.
  5. Discuss the spectrum of mass movements, and why we use moisture content and speed to classify them.
Chapter 11 River Systems and Landforms
  1. Discuss the fluvial processes of erosion, transportation, and deposition.
  2. Describe what we can tell from drainage patterns.
  3. Discuss the relationship between channel geometry, flow velocity, and the transport of sediment.
  4. Discuss how a stream meanders, and what happens when a river floods.
  5. Describe the factors that influence the form a river delta.
  6. Key terms: braided stream, 100 year flood, graded stream.
Chapter 12 Wind processes and desert landscapes
  1. Characterize the work accomplished by wind and aeolian processes.
  2. Discuss wind erosion and the resulting landforms.
  3. Describe the transport of sediment by the wind.
  4. Identify the main types of sand dunes.
  5. Discuss loess deposits, their characteristics, and where they occur.
  6. Locate the major desert landscapes of the world.
  7. Key terms: desert pavement, alluvial fans.
Chapter 13 Oceans and coastal processes
  1. Identify characteristic erosional and depositional features found on coasts, and relate them to the differences between active and passive continental margins.
  2. Discuss how refraction concentrates and dissipates wave energy, straightening coasts and causing erosion or deposition to dominate in different regions.
  3. Describe barrier islands.
  4. Understand the problems with sea level rise, and the difference between the large amount of coastal erosion caused by a small vertical rise in mean sea level.
  5. Asses the importance of corals, wetlands, salt marshes, and mangroves.
Chapter 14 Glacial and Periglacial Landforms
  1. Describe the main features of continental and alpine glaciation, and the landforms they create.
  2. Discuss the differences between transport by glaciers and the wind or running water, and the relation of wind and water transport in glacial environments.
  3. Discuss periglacial processes, and the features of permafrost and frozen ground.
  4. Explain why the Pleistocene ice age was important, both in terms of the landforms we inherited from it, and for what it can tell us about paleoclimatology and global climate change.
  5. Key terms: moraines, till.
Chapter 15 Soils
  1. Define soil and the typical soil profile.
  2. Explain some of the major processes involved in soil formation: laterization, salinization, calcification, podzolization, gleization.
  3. Discuss the relationship between climate and soil formation.
  4. Discuss the relationships between soil chemistry and the ability of the soil to sustain plants or agriculture.
Chapter 16 Ecosystems and Biomes
  1. Define ecology, community, habitat, and niche.
  2. Relate photosynthesis as the main driving force for all life, and its relation to respiration and decomposition in terms of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  3. Discuss succession and changes in communities over time.
  4. Define ecosystems and biomes.
  5. Describe the distribution of the major biomes in terms of latitude and altitude.
Chapter 17 Earth and Humans
  1. Discuss the challenges that an increasing human population places on the earth.
  2. Describe the challenges that humans face as a result of global climate change, that polar regions and coastal regions may see problems sooner, and that the climate and vegetation belts of the earth might shift as a result.
  3. Key terms: population pyramids.