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EDUC 305.01A - Physical Geography - Exam 1

Physical Geography
spatial analysis of the physical components and natural processes that combine to form the environment
where something is relative or absolute
describes the location
Human-environment Interaction
how humans adapt to and modify the environment
the flow of geographical variables from one locality to another
an area that shares one or more characteristics
any portion of the universe that can be isolated from the rest for observation and measurement. Systems contain matter and energy.
Four major Earth systems
atmosphere: gases that surround the Earth including N2, O2, Ar, CO2, water vapor;
hydrosphere: solid & liquid water on and in Earth but excludes water locked up as part of a solid mineral structure;
biosphere: organisms and undecayed organic matter;
geosphere: non-living solid matter other than ice
Positive feedback
input increases production of the system
Negative feedback
input decreases production of the system
great circles
planes pass through center of Earth
small circles
planes don't reach center of Earth
equator as reference, northern and southern hemispheres, parallels, low, middle and high at 35 and 55 degrees
Prime Meridian, east and west, meridians are lines of longitude
map scale
Relates the size and/or distance between features on a map to the actual features in the real world
ex. One Inch = 2000 Feet
Graphic Scale
ex. picture of 0|----------|5 miles
1:24000 or 1/24000
Small scale
Large geographic areas
Limited level of detail
Large scale
Small geographic areas
Greater level of detail
lines connecting points of equal value on a map
Map projections
- 3-dimensional Earth on a 2-dimensional surface
- Inevitable distortion: shape or size, or both
- Projections preserve either shape or size, but not both
- Mercator
- Corrects the relative shape of landmasses
- Distorts the size of landmasses near the poles
- Lines of latitude are at right angles
- Albers Equal-Area
- Corrects the relative size of landmasses
- Distorts the shape of landmasses near the poles and equator
- Lines of latitude are curved
Remote sensing
measuring properties of the environment without direct contact
Satellite images
Sun-synchronous orbit
- keeps pace with Sun's westward progress
Geostationary orbit
- permanently remains in one place above Earth
Global Positioning Systems
geographic grid:
24 satellites orbit Earth every 12 hours
Geographic Information Systems
System for storing, analyzing, and manipulating spatially referenced data such as vegetation, soils, road networks locations
data layers
- Each layer is assigned a variety of detailed attributes
- Each layer exists as a distinct unit
- For analysis or display, layers are overlaid or combined
subsolar point
- Spring and Fall Equinoxes
Subsolar point at Equator
- Summer Solstice
Subsolar point at Tropic of Cancer
- Winter Solstice
Subsolar point at Tropic of Capricorn
causes of the seasons
Caused by Revolution and Tilt Combined
Length of day
the tilt of the earth and the angle of the sun's rays.
Angle of sun relative to Earth's surface
- Low latitudes have higher Sun angle
- High latitudes have lower Sun angle
Radiation leaving Sun and leaving Earth
The "hotter" Sun
- Greater amount of radiation
- Mostly shortwave
The "cooler" Earth
- Smaller amount of radiation
- Mostly longwave
Effect of angle of incidence
Gases in atmosphere
CO2, O2, water vapor, Ar
Greenhouse effect
- Atmosphere traps longwave radiation
- Redirects some radiation back to the surface as counter-radiation
- Effectively warms the surface
Effects of particulates
Layers in atmosphere
troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere
lowest (0-12 km)
1) Heated by Earth
2) dense gases
3) air mixes readily
4) most weather
Environmental lapse rate
air cools 6.4º C per 1000 m (3.5º F/1000 ft) change in elevation
Stratosphere (12-50 km)
1) contains ozone layer
2) top of ozone layer heats most
3) temp increases to top of stratosphere
Ozone layer
Changes in density of atmosphere
Maritime vs. continental effects on temp
Urban heat island
Low and high pressure systems
low pressure systems form where air is rising
1) called cyclones
2) center of system rises most, with lowest pressure
3) surface air spirals in to replace rising air
4) air moves counterclockwise
5) air is often warm

high pressure systems form where air is falling
1) called anticyclones
2) center of system has highest pressure
3) surface air spirals out
4) air moves clockwise
5) air is often cool at start, warms as descends
Coriolis effect
result of Earth spinning
1) ground moves
at different
speeds at
2) objects have
momentum in
direction of
Earth's spin
Global air circulation
breaks up into 6 bands or zones
a. Coriolis force prevents stationary model
b. Intertropical Convergence creates convection cells from 0-30º latitude
Intertropical Convergence
Cause, location, low pressure
Subtropical high
at 30º
1) upper atmosphere air falls
2) marks one boundary of Ferrel cell
Cause, location, high pressure
Subpolar low
at 60º
1) area where Polar cell and Ferrel cell converge
2) air rises
Cause, location, low pressure
Position of jet stream
occur near the boundaries between the major atmospheric circulation cells (that is, the polar, Ferrel, and Hadley cells)
Polar high
Migration of circulation cells
boundaries of all circulation cells shift during year
a. produces wet and dry seasons in many places
b. produces Monsoons
(near the equator)
1. Amount of water held in the air
2. 3 ways to look at humidity
a. maximum humidity - how much water a body of air could possibly hold at a given temp
1) warm air holds more water than cold air

b. specific humidity - how much water the body of air actually holds
c. relative humidity - a comparison of the amount of water in the air (specific humidity) to the amount of water that could possibly be in the air (maximum humidity)
Maximum, absolute, and relative
Effect of temperature
Latent Heat
Adiabatic heating and cooling
happen because air expands or contracts
a. as air expands, temp drops
b. as air compresses, temp rises
2. air expands if uplifted to higher elevations
3. air compresses if sinks to lower elevations
Dry adiabatic lapse rate
if air is unsaturated, temp drops steadily as rises and expands
Wet adiabatic lapse rate
Causes of uplift of air
Air masses
Maritime versus continental
a. Maritime - form over water, moist
b. Continental - form over land, dry
Tropical, polar, arctic
a. Tropical - warm
b. Polar - cold
c. Arctic - extremely cold
where air masses meet
Cold fronts
1) steep wedge of moving cold air rapidly uplifts warm air
2) rapid cooling of uplifted warm air
3) thunderstorms, intense rain, but of short duration
Warm fronts
1) warm air gradually rises over wedge of cold air
2) cloudy, with steady rain for hours or days
Midlatitude cyclones
a. a well-organized low-pressure system that migrates across a region while it spins
1) Wintertime brings strong temperature contrasts
2) Buildup of cold air forces polar front south
3) Forms the undulating jet stream and Rossby waves
4) Creates areas of frontal lifting and low-pressure
Köppen climate classification
- Most widely used classification system
- Stems from the recognized relationship between major vegetation regions and regional climate characteristics
- System's description of world climates is based on:
> Average monthly temperature
> Average monthly precipitation
> Total annual precipitation
Basic variables
Climate versus weather
- Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a specific place and time on Earth's surface
- Climate is the long-term average values of weather elements, such as temperature and precipitation
Inferring past climate
- Palynologists collect and study pollen records
- Dendrochronology studies tree ring patterns
Milankovitch cycles
a. axial tilt
1) 22-24.5 degrees (cold-warm)
2) 41,000 year period
b. eccentricity of orbit
1) becomes more or less elliptical (cold-warm)
2) 2% change in distance to sun
3) 100,000 year period
c. precession of equinoxes
1) rotation of orbital axis (affects which pole gets more energy when Earth is closest to Sun)
2) 26,000 year period
Obliquity (tilt)
the earth's axis tilted at 22.1 and 24.5 degrees
the earth does not orbit around the sun in a perfect circle
Continental and mountain
Previous glacial climates
Extent of ice
Glacial lakes
Human impacts on climate
CO2, ozone layer, higher amounts of sun absorption
CO2 record in atmosphere