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Physical introduction to the earth

Updated on June 19, 2013

Physical Geography

The web of Physical Geography.
The web of Physical Geography. | Source

What is Physical Geography?

The study of the physical characteristics of the earth is the prime subject matter of physical geography. One of the two major branches of geography, physical geography can be defined as an integrated study of the physical environment of the earth. It deals with the natural environment which surrounds us, including all the energy to matters in all levels. The term ‘natural environment’ embraces four components viz., air, soil, water and biological agents. The earth is split into four components and their own spheres.

The spheres

The first one is the Atmosphere which gives us the valuable and irreplaceable air that we breathe. It is a layer of various gases that support life on the earth and retained through the gravitational force. The second one i.e. the Lithosphere comprises the rocks and soil which form the outermost portion of the earth’s crust as well as the upper portions of mantle. Hydrosphere, the third component of our environment includes the vital force of life on this planet, water. It is found that the first life form on the earth was formed in the ocean and after that it covers both the land and water. The last and the most important sphere, Biosphere comprises all the life forms present in the three other spheres. It includes from the mightiest Blue whale to micro organisms, from the deep ocean creatures to the bacteria present in the air and from ameba to humans.

The sub branches of geography

The major concern of physical geography is to study the earth’s relief features. One of the major sub-division of the subject, Geomorphology is devoted to the scientific study of earth’s landforms. Geomorphology is concerned with the proper analysis of the earth’s crust as well as with the erosional and depositional processes and their activities throughout the time.

Trivia- The term ‘geomorphology’ is derived from three Greek words i.e. geo means earth; morphe means features and logos means study.

The second concern of physical geography is the atmosphere. The atmosphere provides us essential gases and protects us from extra terrestrial radiations. The branch that studies various atmospheric processes, elements weather and climate, their causes and effects is called Climatology. Biogeography is another major division which studies the distribution of plants and animals and their interaction and adaption to the physical environment. The division that studies the upper part of the earth’s surface is Pedology. It studies the soil formation processes and its evolution. The other major branches are Oceanography and Hydrology. Out of these two branches, the first one is the study of waves, tides, currents of ocean and relief and biological characteristics of oceans; whereas the other one covers the water on the earth’s surface.

Though the physical geography covers a wide range of topics, it offers the readers the opportunity to study the subjects which are related to it as a physical geographer cannot be an expert on all matters. The physical geography offers a base line to study our earth to its best possible extent. Every human activity is related to the geography of a particular area. For example, to visit a place for vacation, we need to know its geography. So be smart, be geography... ;)!!


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