Introduction to Physical Geography


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Introduction to Physical Geography

  1. 1. Introduction toPhysical Geography- A modern science with ancient roots -Bernd Eversmann
  2. 2. About this course• About 10 lessons of 90 Minutes each• Not designed as a monologue: Please be on time, switch offcellphones and participate actively: Your questions andcontributions are very much welcome• Objective of the course: Get a deeper understanding of howour planet works and how the foundations laid out by thePhysical Geography of the Earth influences us humans.
  3. 3. One of your contributions• As your contribution to this course, you will be expected tostay current with world news related to physical geography. Inparticular, you will keep a Physical Geo Journal withsummaries of relevant news stories or similar material.• Your journal should contain at least 5 entries at the end of thecourse. For each entry, you will summarize three news storiesor other material related to the physical geography of theregion at hand. Each entry should be a paragraph long and inyour own words. Stories should come from reputable sources.You will need to include the reference(s) for each news story.
  4. 4. Today:• Definition of the subject• A brief look at history• The spherical earth and early maps• Modern Geography• Physical and Human Geography• Systems theory
  5. 5. GeographyFrom the greek wordsgeos and graphein,literally: describing theearthDefinition:Geography is the science thatstudies the lands, the features,the inhabitants, and thephenomena of the Earth(The American HeritageDictionary/ of the EnglishLanguage).
  6. 6. Perspectives of GeographyThe three unique perspectives of geography—its spatial viewpoint, its synthesisof related fields, and its representation of spatial processes and information—are diagrammed as three dimensions occupying the sides of a cube.Source: Strahler 2010, p.4)
  7. 7. Questions Physical Geographyaims to answer...
  8. 8. A brief look at History• History: very different for the various cultural groups:Babylon, Graeco-Roman World, China, Islam, ...• Cartography (we‘ll look at that shortly)From a european perspective:• Europe: The age of discovery• Enlightenment• The quantitative revolution, ...Recommended reading:
  9. 9. A brief History of Physical Geography• Uniformitarianism (late 18th century): Catastrophic forces orcontinuing uniformity of existing processes responsible for thepresent condition of the earth?• Evolution: „On the Origin of Species by Means of NaturalSelection ...“ (Charles Darwin 1859)• Exploration and Survey: Basic data collection in all geographicfields after 1900• Conservation became a concern from the 1850s onwards• The Quantitative Revolution: From observation to analysis andmodeling (After 1950)• The study of Human/Land Relationships
  10. 10. Spherical Earth and MeridiansWhereas a number of previous Greek philosophers presumedthe earth to be spherical, Aristotle (384–322 BCE) is the one tobe credited with proving the Earths sphericity.Source: WikipediaYour Homework:What arguments did Aristotle and others (later) use to provethat the earth is a spherical body?
  11. 11. Measuring the Earth• Eratosthenes (276-194 BC): First person to use the termGeographyEratosthenes will always be remembered for thecalculation of the Earths circumference circa 240BC, using trigonometry and knowledge of the angleof elevation of the Sun at noon in Alexandria andSyene (now Aswan, Egypt). The calculation is basedon the assumption that the Earth is spherical andthat the Sun is so far away that its rays can be takenas parallel.
  12. 12. The age of Discovery
  13. 13. Early Maps IReconstructed world map by Hecataeus of Miletus, ca. 500 BCE
  14. 14. Early Maps IIThe Ptolemy world map is a map of the known world to Western society in the 2nd century CE. It was basedon the description contained in Ptolemys book Geographia, written ca. 150 CE.Perhaps the most significant contribution of Ptolemy and his maps is the first uses of longitudinal andlatitudinal lines and the specifying of terrestrial locations by celestial observations.
  15. 15. Early Maps IIITabula Rogeriana drawn by arab cartographer Muhammed Al-Idrisi for theNorman King Roger II of Sicily in 1154 (upside down)
  16. 16. Early Maps IVThe Chinese Yu Ji Tu (Map of theTracks of Yu the Great), a mapcarved into stone in the year1137 during the Song Dynasty,located in the Stele Forest ofmodern-day Xian, China. Yu theGreat refers to the Chinese deitydescribed in the Chinesegeographical work of the YuGong, a chapter of the Classic ofHistory. Needham and Chavannesassert that the original map musthave predated the 12th century.Source: Wikipedia (History ofGeography)
  17. 17. Modern GeographyAn all-encompassing discipline that seeks to understand theEarth and all of its human and natural complexities– where objects are– how they have changed and come to be– how they influence each other
  18. 18. 4 Traditions of Geography• Spatial Tradition (also called Locational Tradition)• Area Studies Tradition (also called Regional Tradition)• Man-Land Tradition (Human-Environmental)• Earth Science Tradition(Pattison 1963)
  19. 19. Natural or Social Science?• Geography has been called "the world discipline" and "thebridge between the human and the physical science".Natural ScienceNatural ScienceSocial ScienceSocial ScienceRocks, Minerals, SoilsLandformsAtmosphereClimate & WeatherWaterThe environmentRivers and Other Water BodiesPlantsAnimalsOceansPopulationSettlementsUrban systemsAgriculturalSystemsHuman MigrationSocial TraditionsPolitical SystemsReligionRecreationalactivitiesTransportationEconomic Activities
  20. 20. A holistic approach
  21. 21. Physical Geography• Physical geography is that branch of natural science whichdeals with the study of processes and patterns in the naturalenvironment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere,and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or builtenvironment, the domain of human geography (Wikipedia)• The main purpose of Physical Geography is to explain thespatial characteristics of the various natural phenomenaassociated with the Earths hydrosphere, biosphere,atmosphere, and lithosphere (• Modern research in physical geography is ofteninterdisciplinary and uses the systems approach.
  22. 22. Environmental SpheresSource: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008Spheres or „great systems“. Are they open or closed?
  23. 23. Tools of the Phyiscal Geographer• Fieldwork• Maps andCartography• GIS, GPS andRemote Sensing• MathematicalModeling• Statistics