Essay should be based on book by Knight, P.G. and Parsons, T. (2003)
How to do your essays, exams and coursework in geography and related
Running Head: GEOGRAPHY
Physical geography also called physiography or geosystems entails the study of features found on the earth’s surface and the atmosphere such as glaciers, climate, the interaction between the sun and the earth, lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and oceans. Physical geography is comprised of two large fields for instance; earth sciences and geography. The main purpose of this branch of geography is that it attempts to explain the characteristics of natural phenomenon found in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere and biosphere.
There are several arguments that qualify physical geography as a plural and contested discipline as it will be elucidated in this paper. Physical geography is focused on propagation of significant research methodologies in the study of the earth and other environmental features. It specializes in the publication of new research findings and procedures e.g. climatology, biogeography and geomorphology on soil sciences in addition to identifying new research methods.
Generally geography as a discipline is branched into two; human geography and physical geography where physical geography encompasses geographical traditions such as the earth sciences. In this broad categorization, physical geographers specialize on the analysis of surface features found on the lithosphere, landscapes and the forces behind their formation and finally climate and climatic changes. In the study of the earth’s surface all the four spheres of the earth for instance the biosphere, lithosphere and the hydrosphere are comprehensively described ( Sack, 2010, p 62). Human geography attempts to explain the cultural or built environment.
Physical geography also consists of other diverse elements including the study of seasons, the atmospheric components, the sun and earths and the forces behind their functioning, storms, cyclones, atmospheric pressure, climatic zones, soils, microclimate, hydrological cycles, flora and fauna, rivers and streams, erosion, glaciers, weathering, deserts, natural hazards, ice sheets, ecosystems and coastal terrains (Petersen & Gabler, 2011, p 423). In the attempt to study the natural earth processes and how they affect the nature of man’s life, we discover that the elements mentioned above directly affect human settlement and population.
Physical geography uses systems approach because it is an interdisciplinary therefore analyzing the various subfields of physiography will be essential in adding weight to our argument on why only this branch of geography is referred to as a plural and contested discipline. In the study of plurality of physical geography, we identify the several fields classified under geosystems. Geomorphology is the study of the earth surface and the processes that shape it. It deals with the present and past features therefore geomorphologists have the responsibility of describing new features as they happen. It has several other sub fields so as to cover the various landforms found on the earth’s surface. Desert and fluvial geomorphology are integrated into one because the two share core land formation processes. These forces include tectonic forces and climatic changes.
Geomorphology aims at explaining the history of landforms and the dynamics behind pedology (Somerville & Walter, 2006, p 45). Pedology is a branch of soil science that deals with the study of soil composition, nature and structure. Geomorphology employs field observations, numerical modeling and physical experiments in order to make future predictions on landforms and other land dynamics through a process called geomorphometry.
The second field that signifies the plurality of physical geography is hydrology. It is a branch concerned with water quality and hydrological cycle. It dwells its study on water bodies such as aquifers, rivers, glaciers, lakes, seas and oceans. Hydrology has a cordial connection with engineering which has led to the quantitative development in its research methods (Craghan, 2004, p 102). It also uses the systems approach because it is an earth science. Hydrology also has other sub branches that deal with the study of specific water bodies and their interaction with other spheres of the earth. These fields are ecohydrology and limnology.
The study of cyrosphere and other glacial phenomenon involving the analysis of ice is called glaciology. Cyrosphere as a branch of physical geography groups the ice sheets and glaciers into sub groups for easy study. Here aspects such as the impact of ice on landscapes are looked at. In addition the interaction between climate and ice sheets is established through systematic research. Glaciology has other sub fields such as glacial geology and snow hydrology which specify the study on factors and processes into study of the influence of glacier on the earth’s surface and the influence of snow on the hydrological cycle respectively.
Biogeography is another branch of physical geography but also has other sub fields classified as paleobiography, zoogeography, phytogeography, island biogeography and phylogeography (Craghan, 2004, p 212). On itself biogeography is a general term for describing a science that deals with distribution of plant and animal species and how geographic features influence their distribution on the earth’s surface. This field is mainly descriptive and entails a study on changes in landforms and how it affected the evolution of human beings. Island biogeography and tectonic forces are influential factors that determine distribution of flora and fauna.
Climatology is a branch of physical geography that specializes in the study of climate (Hess, 2010, p 34). Climate is the average weather condition of a place over a specified long period of time. Climatology deals with micro and macro climatic conditions and how they are influence natural environments. This field is also sub divided broadly into paleoclimatology and tropical cyclone rainfall climatology.
Meteorology is an interdisciplinary study of the weather conditions in the atmosphere. It focuses on forecasting weather conditions over a short period of time. Most of these studies are conducted in meteorological stations which are specifically conditioned to facilitate collection of information on weather processes. The science of meteorology has been existent since eighteen century. Though the techniques used in traditional weather forecast were crude and mainly dependent on experience, today it has been advanced by use of technology.
Pedology entails the study of soils. It is a branch of soil science that studies soils as they appear in their natural environments. The other branch of soil science is edaphology. The study of soil morphology, pedogenesis and soil classification is handled under the umbrella of pedology. Pedology is classified as a physical science because it attempts to establish interactions between soil life and climate. Mineral materials in the soil determine biogeochemical cycles which affect the landscape through soil laterization.
Palaeogeography examines preserved stratigraphic material records. It is a cross disciplinary study that determines the formation of continents and interconnects them with geological times. It is evident that geology determines the positioning of continents through the study of fossils at the edges of continents. It is believed that the world was a large mass of land that broke apart and disintegrated into various land masses. Such theories have been empathized by the jig saw fit which tries to establish the connection of continents by studying their paleomagnetism. This has led to discovery of tectonic movements such as plate tectonic, supercontinents and continental drift which is strongly supported by palaeogeographic theories e.g. Wilson cycle.
Quaternary science focuses on the study of history that dates back to 2.6 million years. It deals with the study of ice ages and their correlation with the present world that has been affected by global warming. This field tries to bring together all environmental aspects that affect the climatic changes the world that has greatly affected the climatic state of the earth. Such studies include interstadial proxies that define the reconstruction of landscapes. This field is closely related to landscape ecologies. Landscape ecology is a subfield of ecology. It describes how landscapes affect distribution of energy and populations.
Environmental geography analyses interaction of human beings and the natural environments. It demands for knowledge on geology, hydrology, meteorology, geomorphology and biogeography. In the end we observe that all the sub branches of physical geography are related in one way or the other.
Oceanography as a branch of physical geography studies the relationship between land and the oceans (John & Smithson, 2006, p 433). It incorporates geology, coastal geomorphology, human geography on the coastal strips and oceanography. Oceanography deals with explaining the soil processes along the coast. Weathering processes, sedimentation, wave action, and human interaction with the natural coastal feature form the weight of oceanography. Geomorphology defines most of the coastal geography while putting special emphasis on coastal landforms and their influence on sea levels (De Blij & Muller & Williams 2004, p 599).
It is true to state that physical geography is much contested and associated with pluralism because it is widely broken down to cover the specific areas of interests as discussed above. This pluralism can be deduced to the fact that there are many things to be covered under the physical geography therefore sub dividing it into sub-groups is the easiest way to cover most of its sub fields. Even after the classification, it is still hard to cover all the things found in our immediate environments.
Physical geography is referred to as a contested disciple because it tries to cover a wide scope through summaries which makes it contentious. A discipline is any area of study which can be researched on. Geography has therefore elicited various scholarly works which bring in a lot of contention on classification of landforms or physical features. This means that it is hard for someone to determine the specific classifications for every physical feature we see in the ecosystem.
In conclusion, various researches have depicted that physical geography unlike other earth and physical sciences encompasses many inter-disciplinary (Huggett, 2009, p 189). With the social sciences it is possible to conduct a research on a specific field and publish it but for a physical geographer the research is often expressed as a scientific paper due to its pluralism.
Craghan, M. (2004). Physical Geography: A Self-Teaching Guide. New York: John Wiley & Sons
De Blij, H & Muller, P & Williams, R. (2004). Physical geography: the global environment, Volume 1. Michigan: Oxford University Press
Hess, D. (2010). Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation. Pysical Geography. Illinois: Prentice Hall
Huggett, R. (2009). Physical geography: the key concepts. New York: Taylor & Francis
Sack, D (2010). Physical Geography. Seattle: Forgotten Books
Petersen, J & Gabler, R. (2011). Physical Geography. Manhattan: Cengage Learning,
Somerville, M & Walter, B. (2006). Physical geography. Edition6. Michigan: Oxford University
John, B & Smithson, P. (2006). Fundamentals of physical geography. Michigan: Rowman & Littlefield