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Chapter 1

GG 101 Chapter 1 notes

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John Johnston

Introduction to Physical Geography Chapter 1 Chapter 1: Essentials of Geography  Physical geography: deals with powerful Earth systems that influence our lives and the many ways humans alter Earth’s systems o Explains the operations of Earth systems from a spatial perspective and gives you the tools to understand what is happening all across the globe  Physical geographers analyze systems to study the environment  They must consider location, key them of geographic inquiry, latitude, longitude, and time coordinates that inscribe Earths surface and the new technologies in use to measure them The science of geography  Geography is the science that studies the relationship among natural systems, geographic areas, society, cultural activities, and the interdependence of all these over space  Spatial is the nature and character of physical space, its measurement, and the distribution of things within it  The standards of geographic science are simplified by using five important spatial themes: location, region, human earth relationship, movement, and space  Location o Answers the question where? – The specific planetary address of a location o Absolute and relative location on earth  Region o Areas having uniform characteristics; how they form and change and their relation to other regions  Human Earth relationships o Human environment connections include resource exploitation, hazard perception, and environmental pollution and modification  Movement o Communication, circulation, migration, and diffusion across earths surface represent movement in our interdependent world  Place o No two places on Earth are exactly alike Geographic Analysis  Spatial analysis: within the 5 geographic themes, geography is governed by a method rather than a specific body of knowledge o Using this method, geography synthesizes (brings together) knowledge from many fields, integrating information to form a whole-Earth concept o The language of geography reflects this spatial view: space, territory, zone, pattern, distribution, place, location, region, sphere, province, and distance o Geogrpahers analyze the differences and similarities among places and location  Process is a set of action or mechanisms that operate in some special order, is central to geographic analysis  Geographers use spatial analysis to examine how earths processes interact over space or area  Physical geography is the spatial analysis of all physical elements and process systems that make up the environment: energy, air, water, weather, climate, landforms, soils, animals, plants, and microorganisms  Scientific method is a methodology important to physical geography The Geographic Continuum  We all depend on Earths systems to provide oxygen, water and nutrients, energy, and materials to support life Earth Systems Concepts  Systems analysis techniques began with studies of energy and temperature (thermodynamics) Systems Theory  A system is any ordered, interrelated set of things and their attributes, linked by flows of energy and matter, as distinct from the surrounding environment outside the system  Open system o Inputs of energy and matter flow into the system, and outputs of energy and matter flow from the system o In an open system, inputs of energy and matter undergo conversions and are stored as the system operates. Outputs include energy, matter, and heat energy (waste) that flow from the system o Within the system, the parts function in an interrelated manner, acting togethers in a way that gives each system its operational character o Earth is an open system in terms of energy, because solar energy enters freely and heat energy leaves, going back into space o Most natural systems are open in terms of energy  Closed system o A closed system is a system that is shut off from the surrounding environment so that it is self-contained o Although closed systems are rarely found in nature, Earth is essentially a closed system in terms of physical matter and resources – air, water, and material resources o The only exception are the slow escape of lightweight gases such as hydrogen from the atmosphere into space and the input of frequent but tiny meteors and cosmic and meteoric dust o Because earth is a closed material system, makes recycling refforts inevitable if we want a sustainable global economy  System feedback o As a system operates, it generates outputs that influence its own operations. Theses outputs function as “information” that is returned to various points in the system via pthways, or feedback loops o Feedback information can guide further system operations o Negative feedback is when the feedback information discourages continued change in the system in response to an initial change o Negative feedback informs and causes self-regulation in a natural system, stabilizing and maintaining the system o Positive feedback is information that encourages more change in the system o Positive feedback stimulates further system changes in response to an initial change o Unchecked positive feedback in a system can create a runaway condition o Global climate change creates an example of positive feedback as meltponds increase on ice sheets, glaciers, and ice shelves worldwide  Meltponds are darker and reflect less sunlight  They absorb more solar energy, which in turn, melts more ice, which forms more meltponds, and so forth  System equilibrium o An energy and material system that remain balanced over time, in which condition as constant of recur, is in a steady-state condition o When the rates of inputs and outputs in the system are equal and the amounts of en
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