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Introduction t0 Geology and Geomorphology

Introduction t0 Geology and Geomorphology

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Published by: opulithe on Aug 31, 2009
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An Introduction to Geomorphology
(from Greek:
, "earth";
, "form"; and
,"knowledge") is the study of landformsand the processes that shape them. Geomorphologists seek tounderstand whylandscapeslook the way they do: to understand landform history and dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, andnumericalmodeling. Geomorphology is practiced withingeology,geodesy,geography,archaeology, andcivilandenvironmental engineering. Early studies in geomorphology are the foundation for   pedology, one of two main branches of soil science. Landforms evolve in response to a combination of natural andanthropogenicprocesses. Thelandscape is built up throughtectonic upliftandvolcanism.Denudationoccurs byerosionandmass wasting, which produces sediment that is transported anddepositedelsewhere within the landscape or off the coast. Landscapes are also lowered by subsidence, either due to tectonics or physicalchanges in underlying sedimentary deposits. These processes are each influenced differently byclimate,ecology, and human activity. Practical applications of geomorphology include measuring the effects of climate change, hazardassessments includinglandslideprediction and mitigation,river control and restoration, coastal  protection, and assessing the presence of water onMars.
Perhaps the earliest one to devise a theory of geomorphology was the polymathChinesescientist andstatesmanShen Kuo(1031-1095AD). This was based on his observation of marine fossilshells in a geological stratumof a mountain hundreds of miles from thePacific Ocean. Noticing bivalveshells running in a horizontal span along the cut section of a cliffside, he theorized that the cliff was oncethe pre-historic location of a seashore that had shifted hundreds of miles over the centuries. Heinferred that the land was reshaped and formed bysoil erosionof the mountains and by deposition of silt, after observing strange natural erosions of theTaihang Mountainsand the Yandang Mountain near Wenzhou. Furthermore, he promoted the theory of gradualclimate changeover centuries of  time once ancient petrified bambooswere found to be preserved underground in the dry, northernclimate zone of 
, which is now modern dayYan'an,Shaanxiprovince. The first geomorphic model was the
geographical cycle
or the
cycle of erosion
, developed byWilliam Morris Davisbetween 1884 and 1899. The cycle was inspired by theories of uniformitarianismwhich were first formulated byJames Hutton(1726-1797). Concerningvalley forms, the cycle was depicted as a sequence by which a river would cut a valley more and moredeeply, but then erosion of side valleyswould eventually flatten out the terrain again, now at a lower elevation. The cycle could be started over byupliftof the terrain. The model is today considered toomuch of a simplification to be especially useful in practice.Walther Penck developed an alternative model in the 1920s, based on ratios of uplift and erosion, butit was also too weak to explain a variety of landforms.G. K. Gilbertwas an important earlyAmericangeomorphologist.
Modern geomorphology focuses on the quantitative analysis of interconnected processes, such as thecontribution of solar energy, the rates of steps of thehydrologic cycle, plate movement rates from
geophysicsto compute the age and expected fate of landforms and theweatheringanderosionof the land. The use of more precise measurement technique has also enabled processes like erosion to beobserved directly, rather than merely surmised from other evidence. Computer simulationis alsovaluable for testing that a particular model yields results with properties similar to real terrain.Primary surface processes responsible for most topographic features includewind,waves, weathering,mass wasting,ground water ,surface water ,glaciers,tectonism, andvolcanism.
Rivers and streams are not only conduits of water, but also of sediment. The water, as it flows over the channel bed, is able to mobilize sediment and transport it downstream, either as bedload,suspended loador dissolved load. The rate of sediment transport depends on the availability of sediment itself and on the river'sdischarge.As rivers flow across the landscape, they generally increase in size, merging with other rivers. Thenetwork of rivers thus formed is adrainage systemand is often dendritic, but may adopt other  patterns depending on the regional topography and underlying geology.
Soil,regolith, androck move downslope under the force of gravityvia creep, slides, flows, topples, and falls. Suchmass wastingoccurs on both terrestrial and submarine slopes, and has been observedonEarth,Mars, andVenus.
Glaciers, while geographically restricted, are effective agents of landscape change. The gradualmovement of icedown a valley causesabrasionand pluckingof the underlyingrock . Abrasion  produces fine sediment, termedglacial flour . The debris transported by the glacier, when the glacier recedes, is termed amoraine. Glacial erosion is responsible for U-shaped valleys, as opposed to theV-shaped valleys of fluvial origin.
This results from chemical dissolution of rock and from the mechanical wearing of rock by plantroots, ice expansion, and the abrasive action of sediment. Weathering provides the source of thesediment transported by fluvial, glacial, aeolian, or  bioticprocesses.
Different geomorphological processes dominate at different spatial and temporal scales. To helpcategorize landscape scales some geomorphologists use the followingtaxonomy:
1st -Continent,oceanbasin, climatic zone (~10,000,000 km²)
2nd - Shield, e.g.Baltic shield, or mountain range(~1,000,000 km²)
3rd - Isolatedsea,Sahel(~100,000 km²)
4th - Massif, e.g.Massif Centralor Group of related landforms, e.g.,Weald(~10,000 km²)
5th - River valley,Cotswolds(~1,000 km²)
6th - Individualmountainor volcano, small valleys (~100 km²)
7th - Hillslopes, stream channels,estuary(~10 km²)
8th -gully, barchannel(~1 km²)
9th - Meter-sized features
An Introduction to Geology
The spectacular eruption of a volcano, the terror brought by an earthquake, the magnificent sceneryof a mountain valley, the destruction created by a landslide-all is subjects for the
. Thestudy of geology deals with many fascinating and practical questions about our physicalenvironment. What forces produce mountains? Will
soon be another great earthquake in Chinaor Kenya? What was the Ice Age like? Will
 be another? What created this cave and the stoneicicles hanging from its ceiling? Should we look for water here? Is strip mining appropriate in thisarea? Will oil be found if a well is drilled at this location? What if the landfill is located in the oldquarry?
The Science of Geology
This course introduces you the landscape architect to the science of geology, a word that literallymeans "the study of Earth, its form and the changes it has undergone and is undergoing." UnravelingEarth's
secret is
not an easy task because our planet is not a static, unchanging mass of 
. It is adynamic body possessing a long and complex history.The science of geology is divided into two broad areas-
physical and historical
Physical geology
examines Earth’s minerals and seeks to understand the hundreds of processesthat operate beneath or upon its surface.The aim of 
historical geology
, in contrast, is to understand Earth's origin and how it changedthrough time. Historical geology strives to establish the chronology of physical and biologicalchanges of the past 4.5 billion years.The study of physical geology logically precedes the study of Earth history because we must first un-derstand how Earth works before attempting to unravel its past.
Historical Notes About Geology
The nature of our Earth-its materials and processes-has been a focus of study since early times. Writ-ings about fossils, gems, earthquakes, and volcanoes date back to the Greeks, more than 2300 yearsago. The most influential Greek philosopher was Aristotle, but unfortunately his explanations of thenatural world were not derived from keen observations and experiments, as modern science is.Instead, they were his opinions, based on the limited knowledge of his day. Aristotle believed thatrocks were created under the "influence" of the stars and that earthquakes occurred when air in theground was heated by central fires and escaped explosively! When confronted with a fossil
Geologic Time
Although Hutton, Lyell and others recognized that geologic time is exceedingly long, they had nomethod to determine with accuracy the age of Earth.However, in1896, radioactivity was discovered.Using radioactivity for dating was first attempted in 1905 and has been refined ever since.

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