physical geography

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‘Physical geography focuses upon the character of, and processes shaping, the land-surface of the Earth and its envelope, emphasizes the spatial variations that occur and the temporal changes necessary to understand the contemporary environments of the Earth. Its purpose is to understand how the Earth's physical environment is the basis for, and is affected by, human activity. Physical geography was conventionally subdivided into geomorphology, climatology, hydrology and biogeography, but is now more holistic in systems analysis of recent environmental and Quaternary change. It uses expertise in mathematical and statistical modelling and in remote sensing, develops research to inform environmental management and environmental design, and benefits from collaborative links with many other disciplines such as biology (especially ecology), geology and engineering’ (K. Gregory2002). Between 1850 and 1950, the main ideas that had a strong influence on the discipline were uniformitarianism, evolution, exploration and survey, and conservation (G. P. Marsh1864). In the 1960s, ‘a new type of physical geography began to emerge that accentuated a concern with dynamic processes of earth systems. This new approach, which has evolved to the present, is founded on basic physical, chemical, and biological principles and employs statistical and mathematical analysis. It has become known as the “process approach” to physical geography…Over the past fifteen years, physical geographers, who have always acknowledged that the systems they study are complex, have turned to emerging ideas in the natural sciences about nonlinear dynamical systems and complexity to explore the relevance of these ideas for understanding physical-geographic phenomena’ (Rhoads (2004) AAAG94, 4). ‘Advances in remote sensing, geographical information systems and information technology have enabled a more global approach; a second new development has been the advent of a more culturally-based approach throughout many branches of physical geography. By 2000 a series of issues can be identified including the increasingly holistic trend, greater awareness of a global approach and of environmental change problems, and of the timely opportunities which can arise from closer links with human geography and with other disciplines’ (Gregory (2001) Fennia 179, 1).

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.

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