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Earth Science Vocab


the process in which weathered particles are picked up and moved from one place to another.


part of the erosion process in which sediment is placed in a new location.

Erosion occurs in 3 major ways

water, wind, ice

mass wasting

the downhill movement of masses of rock and soil.


major type of mass wasting of debris. Happens in mountains and valleys after heavy rains.

Mount St. Helens

large mudflow occurred after eruption in 1980.


a slide of loose debris that moves as a single unit. Can occur on highways/roads where construction has made slopes unstable.


the slowest form of mass wasting. Moves at a rate of 1 - 10 mm per year.

drainage basin

the area of land in which water drains into a stream or system.

Mississippi River Drainage basin

water flows into the Mississippi, and then drains into the Gulf of Mexico.


a ridge from which water drains to one side or the other. Can run along high mountains or can simply be the highest line of land and can be hard to see. Are borders of drainage basins.

Continental Divide

run from Alaska to Mexico. Most water ends up draining into the Pacific Ocean.


an area of land on either side of a stream that is underwater when the stream floods. Can be kilometers wide.


curves and bends that form a twisting, looping pattern in a stream channel.

alluvial fan

is the fan-shaped deposit of sediment at the base of a mountain. Forms where a stream leaves a steep valley and enters a flatter plain.


an area of land formed by the buildup of sediment at the end, or mouth, of a river.

stream channel

is the physical confine of a stream (river) consisting of a bed and stream banks.

water table

The highest part in the ground that is saturated, or completely filled with water.


When the rock underground rock consists of limestone, the ground water can dissolve the limestone and carry it away, producing open spaces.


large caves


is a basin that forms when the roof of a cave becomes so thin that it suddenly falls in.

long shore drift

is the zig-zag movement of sand along a beach. Sand is pushed at an angle.

long shore current

is the movement of water along a shore as waves strike the shore at an angle.


is a ridge of sand built up by action of waves and currents.


A sandbar that has built up above the water surface and is joined to the land at one end.

barrier island

is a long, narrow island that develops parallel to a coast.


is a mound of sand built up by wind.


deposits of fine wind- blown sediment near dunes.
It forms good soil for growing crops.
Covers 10% of the land surface of the Earth.

desert pavement

when wind blows away all the smallest particles from a mixture sand, silt and gravel leaves behind a strong surface.


A large of mass of ice that moves over land.
Forms in a cold region when more snow falls than melts each year.

Alpine Glacier

Form in mountains and flow down through valleys.

Continental glacier

called ice sheets.

Glacier Movement

flowing and sliding.


ice near the surface is brittle and cracks often form in it. Deep inside , ice doesn't break due to pressure on top.


the weight of a glacier and heat from Earth cause ice at the bottom of a glacier to melt.

glacial till

The sediment left directly on the ground surface by a retreating glacier.


A deposit of till left behind by a retreating glacier.

lateral moraine

The ridges of till deposited at the sides of a glacier.

end moraine

The till that marks the farthest advance of a glacier forms a deposit.

ground moraine

The blanket of till that a glacier deposits from its bottom layer.

kettle lake

A bowl shaped depression that was formed by a block of ice from a glacier and then became filled with water.

Alluvial Fan picture

Delta picture

Kettle lake land-formation picture

Path of a glacier

long shore drift image

long shore current image

mass wasting creep image

mass wasting slump image

continental divide image

Northern divide image

Spit image

barrier island image

sandbar image

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