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2 The Physical Environment.docx

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Walter Peace

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The Physical Environment
Niagara Falls Then and Now
-since the end of the last Ice Age (12000 ya), Niagara Falls has retreated about 8km up the Niagara River
-since Father Louis Hennepin saw the falls in 1678, retreat = 300m
-explanation for the retreat/recession geologic composition of Niagara Escarpment
The Physical Environment
-“why is Canada‟s physical geography so essential to an understanding of its regional geography?”
-physical landscapes differ in terms of:
-physiographic region: an area with distinct surface landform features (geomorphology) and underlying rock
structure (geology)
-geomorphology: the study of landforms and the process(es) of their genesis (from Greek root words: geo
earth; and morpho form)
-three basic rock types
1) Igneous: rocks formed when minerals crystallize during the cooling of molten liquids (ex: granite)
2) Sedimentary: rocks formed through the layering of mineral particles (ex: limestone)
3) Metamorphic: existing rocks are altered through heat/pressure (ex: shale transformed into slate)
Landform Processes
-erosional processes (water, ice, wind)
-depositional processes (water, ice, wind)
-challenges imagining/understanding the ability of these processes to alter the physical landscape (force and
Canada‟s Physiographic Regions
-geographical evolution of North America featured three major developments
1) Formation of the Shield
-early Pre-Cambian era
-600 million-3.5 billion years ago
-metamorphic and igneous rocks
-„core‟ of North America
2) Formation of mountains
-Appalachian Uplands eastern North America; Paleozoic era
-Arctic Uplands north; Paleozoic era
-Western Cordillera west coast; Cenozoic era
-these periods of „orogenesis‟ between 250 and 600 million years ago
3) Epeiric seas
-shallow, sub-tropical seas covering the interior of North America during Ordovician and Silurian periods
-deposition of sediments Interior Plains, Hudson Bay Lowlands, and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
Canadian Shield
-p 36-38
-underlies more than half of Canada
-har, crystalline rocks (metamorphic), mostly granite
-rocks of western Slave Province, NWT, dated 4.06 billion years ago
-image/identity of Canada prototypical Canadian landscape

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-rocks, lakes, forests
Western Cordillera
-p 38-39
-Pacific Ocean „Ring of Fire‟ (plate tectonics)
-volcanic eruptions and earthquakes common here
-16% of Canada‟s land mass
-2 parallel systems of mountains
-Rocky Mountains
-Coast Range Mountains
-separated by Intermontane Plateau
Interior Plains
-p 39-40
-20% of Canada‟s land mass
-sedimentary rocks
-low „relief‟ (difference between the highest and lowest points) flat landscape
-elevation increases from east to west
Hudson Bay Lowlands
-p 41-42
-3.5% of Canada‟s land mass
-low-lying, poorly drained landscape (muskeg)
-typical of lowlands
-abundance of water
-underlain by sedimentary rocks
-difficult to build settlements
Arctic Lands (Achipelago)
-p 42-43
-10% of Canada‟s land mass
-pre-Cambrian crystalline (igneous) rocks overlain by Paleozoic sedimentary rock
-Ellesmere Island
-top of the world
-location was very different in the past (was closer to the equator) climate allowed trees
-rough, not flat landscape
-Pangaela: original continent (before they split up to what we know today)
-India was separate from Asia, eventually collided creation of Himalayan Mountains
Appalachian Uplands
-p 43-44
-2% of Canada‟s land mass
-very old, heavily-eroded mountains (Taconic Mountains original mountains)
-geologically complex (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks) as a result of 2 periods of orogenesis
(440 mya and 350 mya)
-continues into the US
Great Lakes St. Lawrence Lowlands
-p 44-45
-<2% of Canada‟s land mass
-smallest physiographic region (110,000 sq km)
-most heavily populated region (more than half of Canadians)
-underlain by Paleozoic sedimentary rocks
-Niagara Escarpment
-given Canada‟s enormous size, there is considerable variation in physical environments
-all of Canadian landscape influenced by glaciation
-links between physical and human geographies of Canada
Physical Environment: Ice Age
The Pleistocene Epoch
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