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Geog 111 Lecture Outline: Introduction to Landform Study
Update: 10/8/05


To understand landforms

The Earth's atmosphere

The Earth's hydrosphere

Next: An Introduction to Landform Study

Landforms shaped by

1. Earth and its Interior

Physical geographers focus on the surface of the earth: part of the lithosphere

Geologists: more concern with the interior of the earth and related processes

What we know about the interior of the Earth

McKnight Fig 13.1: Earth and its Interior

The earth's crust: diverse mix of different rock types

At the base of the crust is a narrow zone of material: Moho

The earth's mantle

McKnight Fig. 13.2: Earth's Mantle

Zones in Earth's mantle: more spheres!

McKnight Fig 13.1: Earth and its Interior

The outer core

The inner core

2. Composition of the Earth's Crust

90+ chemical elements in the crust

Most are bonded together with other elements to form compounds we call minerals

Rock: aggregated mineral particles

McKnight Fig 13.4 Bedrock

2a. Igneous Rocks


Common characteristic: crystalline structure

One way to distinguish igneous rocks is by the conditions under which they solidified

McKnight Fig 13.5a: Igneous Rocks

extrusive igneous rocks: characteristics

intrusive igneous rocks: cool beneath Earth's surface at a slow rate

All rocks started out as igneous: but transformed by physical processes into two other major types of rock: sedimentary and metamorphic

2b. Sedimentary Rocks

Various physical processes (chemical or mechanical) break up rocks into fragments

Sediment: small particles of rock and organic material deposited by water, wind, or ice

Two factors are involved in turning sediments into sedimentary rock:

McKnight Fig 13.8: Pressure and Cementation

Weight (pressure) on sediments and effects

Cementation: cementing agents (silica, calcium carbonate, iron oxide) and effects

Variations in sedimentary depositing: leads to layering

Stratification: horizontal layering: characteristic of sedimentary rocks

Types of sedimentary rock: based on how they formed

  • organic: accumulated remains of animals and plants

    2c. Metamorphic Rock

    Metamorphic rocks: origins

    McKnight Fig 13.12a: Igneous and Metamorphic Rock

    Common metamorphic rocks

    McKnight Fig 13.15: The Rock Cycle

    McKnight Fig 13.16: US Major rock types at Surface

    3. Additional Critical Concepts for Landform Study

    Topography: surface configuration of the earth

    Landform: an individual topographic feature

    Geomorphology: the study of the characteristics, origins, and development of landforms

    Scale of Analysis:

    Geologic Time: boggling (blurb on the Magnitude of Geologic Time, p. 374-5)

    4. The Process of Studying Landforms

    4a. Knowing Where particular landforms are

    4b. Knowing What the characteristics of the landforms are

    Structure: the nature, arrangement, and orientation of the materials making up the landform being studied; essentially the geologic characteristics of the landform

    Slope: angular characteristics of the landform

    Drainage: how water moves over or through the landform

    4c. Knowing Why the landform came to be

    Process: the actions that have combined to produce a landform

    McKnight Fig 13.22: Internal vs External processes

    Internal processes: operate from within the earth

    External processes: operate from the earth's surface or above


    1. Earth and its Interior

    2. Composition of the Earth's Crust

    3. Additional Critical Concepts for Landform Study

    4. The Process of Studying Landforms

    Next: review internal processes

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