Geography 111:
Introduction to Physical and Environmental Geography Geog 111 Main Page and Course Description Geog 111 Syllabus Geog 111 Course Schedule and Lecture Outlines Geog 111 Course Project

Geog 111 Lecture Outline: Introduction to Earth's Physical Environment
Update: 8/22/05

Introduction to Earth's Physical Environment

1. Defining Geography

What geography studies: the earth

Geo-graphy: Greek words for "earth description"

Websters: "The descriptive science dealing with the surface of the earth, its divisions into continents and countries, and the climate, plants, animals, natural resources, inhabitants, and industries of the various divisions. The physical features, especially the surface features, of a region, area, or place."

Public perception of geography: where stuff is on the earth

Geographers interested in much more than just WHERE things are: geographers want to know WHY things are WHERE the are

Three big categories of geographers

1) Human geographers

World Languages: patterns of where and why

2) Physical geographers: patterns of where and why

3) Environmental geographers: patterns where and why

All approach the world from a spatial perspective: how things vary from place to place: areal differentiation

This course will introduce you to two of the three major categories of geography

2. Introduction to Earth's Physical Environment

2a. The Solar System

Earth: one of the nine planets in our solar system

Earth's origins: the Big Bang

McKnight figure 1.5b: Elliptical Orbits

2b. Size and Shape of Earth

McKnight fig 1.6: Earth size: radius: 4000 miles

McKnight fig 1.7 earth shape

2c. The Geographic Grid

McKnight fig 1.8: Geographic Grid

Earth Coordinate Systems

McKnight fig 1.9: basis of Latitude/Longitude

McKnight fig 1.10: Great and Small Circles

Latitude: distance measured 90 degrees north and 90 degrees south of the equator

McKnight fig 1.11 measuring latitude

McKnight fig 1.12 parallels (latitude)

Longitude: distance measured 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west from an arbitrary meridian

McKnight fig 1.17: the geographic grid or graticule

2d. Earth Movements

Two basic Earth movements are vital

McKnight fig 1.18: Earth's Rotation on its Axis

McKnight fig 1.19: Earth's Revolution around the Sun

2f. Earth's Seasons

McKnight fig 1.20: Plane of the Ecliptic

Plane that passes through the Sun and through every point of Earth's orbit around the sun

The Earth's rotation axis is not perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic

Different amounts of energy reaches the earth in different places

McKnight fig 1.20: Plane of the Ecliptic

Combine rotation, revolution, inclination, and polarity: these differences in the amount of solar energy reaching particular places on the earth - insolation - changes over the year and leads to variations in climate we call seasons

The daily and seasonal variations in energy which hit a particular location on earth drive many important physical phenomena on the earth, and it is these physical phenomena which, over time, have played a large role in shaping the physical landscape of the Earth

3. Classifying the Natural World: Environmental Spheres, Ecosystems, and Biomes

3a. The Environmental Spheres

Biotic (living) and abiotic (non living) things and conditions:

The Four Earthly Spheres

The four spheres are not discrete and separate, but intermingled

3b. Ecosystems and Biomes

Ecosystem: a group of environmental characteristics which define a particular area; the totality of interactions among organisms and the environment in the area of consideration;elements from all the earthly spheres

Many ways to classify ecosystems

Biomes: large areas of the earth can be categorized as relatively distinctive, with particular climate, animals, plants: a large, recognizable assemblage of plants and animals in functional interaction with its environment

Major World Biomes

McKnight fig 11.27: Major World Biomes

McKnight fig 11.27: Major World Biomes

4. Natural Cycles

Natural cycles are cycles of matter in the natural world: where molecules are formed and re-formed by chemical and biological reactions, manifested as physical changes in the matter

4a. The Hydrologic Cycle

McKnight fig 9.5: The Hydrologic Cycle

4b. The Carbon Cycle

McKnight fig 10.4: Carbon Cycle

Important: can't change one part of a system without having some effect on another part of the same system, and other cycles and systems

One of the reasons we don't have a sense of the effects of our modification of these natural systems is that they are often out of sync with our particular time and location

5. Time and Space and Environmental Change

5a. Time and Environmental Change

Middleton table 1.2: Geologic Timescales and Important Events

Animation) Geologic Time Scale

Earth age: 4600 million years

Time scale chosen to study natural systems effects understanding

Dynamic equilibrium: input and output of matter in natural systems is balanced, but there are shorter term fluctuations

Middleton fig. 1.9: Time scale and Oxford England Temperatures

Feedback in a natural system

Thresholds: a change in a system may not occur until a threshold is reached

Change in natural the environment

5b. Spatial Scales and Environmental Change

Spatial scale also effects our understanding of environmental change

Role of thresholds and feedback: some areas more sensitive to change

Environmental issues we will discuss this semester have arisen as a consequence of human activity in conflict with environmental systems

Conclusions: The State of our Knowledge

What we know about natural systems in the environment - how the environment works

Solid general understanding of natural systems

What is missing in many cases is an understanding of long term change in natural systems

What is also missing is a thorough understanding of the effects of human activity on natural systems

These are the vital human issues: thus we have to link human systems to the natural systems and this is the realm of human-environmental geography and environmental studies

Next: an overview of Human Environmental Interactions

For next time:

E-mail: Geog 111 Main Page and Course Description krygier teaching page. krygier top page.

OWU Home
OWU Geology and Geography Home