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CA (160,000)
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GEOG (300)
Chapter 2

GEO2010 Chapter 2 Notes.docx

Course Code
GEOG 2010A/B
Suzanne Greaves

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Chapter 2:
Physical Geography
Physical Variations Within Canada
Physiography: study of landforms, their underlying geology, and the
processes that shape these landforms: geomorphology
Physical geography has distinct and unique regional patterns across
Physiographic regions are one aspect of this physical diversity
Climate, soils, and natural vegetation are another aspect and provide
basis for biodiversity
Impact of human activity is changing the natural environment and, in the
case of air, soil, and water pollution, there are long-term negative
implications for all life forms
Physical geography has a powerful impact on Canadians by making
certain areas more attractive for settlement and urban / industrial
development. This relationship between the natural environment and the
human world forms the basis of the core / periphery model
5 basic elements: geology, physiography (shape of the surface), climate,
vegetation, soil
The Nature of Landforms
Denudation: process of breaking down and removing loose material found
at the surface of the earth. In this way, erosion and weathering lead to a
reduction of elevation and relief in landforms
o Ex: Appalachian Uplands are prime example of denudation of an
ancient mountain chain
Weathering: decomposition of rock and particles in situ
Erosion: displacement of loose material by geomorphic processes such as
wind, water, and ice by downward movement in response to gravity
Deposition: Deposit of material on the earth’s surface by various
processes such as ice, water, and wind
Earth’s crust consists of 3 types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and
Igneous Rocks: rock formed when the earth’s surface first cooled or when
magma or lava that has reached the earth’s surface cool
o Cools from molten state and is very hard / resisting to weathering
and erosion, tends to contain minerals
Sedimentary Rocks: rocks formed from the layer accumulation in
sequence of sediment deposited in the bottom of an ocean
o Made up of particles of pre-existing rock, created when existing
rock is exposed to process of weathering and then erosion,
deposited in layers and then subjected to increasing heat / pressure
and compacted together (fossil fuels, but no minerals)

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o Ex: Alberta Badlands are unique type of terrain found only in
Alberta, horizontal in original form
o Strata: layers of sedimentary rock
Metamorphic Rocks: rocks formed from igneous and sedimentary rocks by
means of heat and pressure
o Changes its very nature due to extreme heat and pressure, also
contains minerals
Faulting: breaking of the earth’s crust as a result of differential movement
of the earth’s crust (associated with earthquakes)
Folding: bending of the earth’s crust
Fault Line: crack or break in the earth’s crust
Continental Drift: movement of the earth’s crust (plate tectonics)
Major Elements of North America
Canadian Shield igneous and metamorphic, core of North American
continent, oldest portion, mostly built on this stable area
Platform Rocks sedimentary, represent the interior plains of North
America (Western Canada, Southwestern Ontario & Quebec), largely
undisturbed, fairly flat
Folded Belts igneous and metamorphic, mountains
o Western are youngest on the continent, still growing and getting
higher, being created by collision of two plates in Earth’s crust
o Appalachians are folded mountains, oldest, rounded hills covered
by vegetation
o Innuitian are very isolated, next to no population, covered by snow
and ice middle age
Coastal Plain Arctic coastline near mouth of Mackenzie River, made up
of material that has been weathered and eroded from Canadian Shield
and mountains
Physiographic Regions
Physiographic Region: large geographic area characterized by a single
o Extends over a large, contiguous area with similar relief features
o Its landform has been shaped by a common set of geomorphic
o It possesses a common geological structure and history
Canada has 7 physiographic regions
Pleistocene Epoch: minor division of the Geological Time Chart nearly 2
million years ago. The glaciation of the Pleistocene Epoch was not
continuous but consisted of several glacial advances interrupted by
interglacial stages during which the ice retreated and a comparatively mild
climate prevailed
Glaciation has been a dramatic force in shaping the landscape that we
see in Canada

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Last Glaciation was in Wisconsin were ice retreated from Southern
Ontario between 10 15,000 years ago (went as far south as Missouri
and Ohio River)
o All of the surface was covered by ice ice doesn’t always move
from North to South, just depends on the condition at time
o Glaciation begin when there is more snow / ice accumulating than
will melt in the next season
o Ice at the bottom of the pile becomes plastic in nature (more
Continental glaciers covered Eastern Canada, near the centre glaciers
were 4 km thick (anything in its path is obliterated)
Glacier is a massive erosive tool carrying material away
Alpine glaciers on the West, form high up in the mountains as snow / ice
accumulate those glaciers push their way down the mountain valley
Southern hemisphere has much less land than water, northern
Hemisphere is where you find all the land mass
Canada experienced one of the most significant surface shaping impacts
by glaciation
Largest glaciers in Canada are in the mountains of Ellesmere Island
The Canadian Shield
Largest physiographic region of Canada, rugged and dotted by vast
multitude of small lakes and rivers
Glacial Erosion: scraping and plucking action of moving ice on the surface
of the land
Till: unsorted glacial deposits
Ice Age: geological period of severe cold accompanied by the formation of
continental ice sheets
Drumlins: landforms created by the deposit of glacial till and shaped by the
movement of the ice sheet
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