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AS LEVEL PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY


MANAGING PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS

COURSE STRUCTURE
We will study up to 4 modules, each one concentrated on a different type of physical environment.
1)
2)
3)
4)
The structure of each module is EXACTLY the SAME

EXAM STRUCTURE
You only need to answer questions ___________________________________________________environments in the exam
For ____________________________________ you will answer two___________________________________, each made up of
__________mark,
______________ mark, and
____________ mark question.
For __________of the environments you must write an _________________________________


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WHAT PROCESSES OPERATE IN PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS?

The main processes operating in physical environments are

1) WEATHERING
Weathering is important for landscape evolution as it breaks down rock and facilitates erosion and transport by rivers, the
sea, and glaciers. Weathering operates at different rates depending on factors including the climate and local geology.
Weathering

Weathering can be broken into either two or three categories:

Chemical Weathering: The break down of rocks caused by a change in their chemical make-up.

Physical or Mechanical Weathering: The break down of rocks caused by physical processes with no change in the rocks
chemical make up.

Biological Weathering: Biological is sometimes included within physical weathering. Biological weathering is when flora
and fauna break down the rock e.g. growing roots systems or burrowing animals.

PHYSICAL/ MECHANICAL WEATHERING 4 TYPES

TYPE OF WEATHERING EXPLANATION
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Freeze thaw

Occurs when water in joints/ cracks in the rock freezes
at 0 degrees and expands by 10%, exerting a pressure
of up to 2100 kg/cm
2
. Rocks can only withstand a
maximum pressure of about 500 kg/cm
2
.
It is most effective in environments where moisture is
plentiful and there are frequent fluctuations above and
below freezing point, such as upland or periglacial
environments
Insolation Weathering

Insolation weathering is common in desert environments
Air temperatures can reach over 40
o
C, but surface temperatures can
exceed 80
o
C during the day in the summer months, then drop to near
freezing at night (there is no cloud cover to trap the heat).

This means the rock surfaces expand and contract daily. The mechanical
fracture and breakdown of the rock caused by heating and cooling is
known as insolation weathering. It can occur in a number of different
ways, determined by rock type, structure, chemical composition and
colour.
o Granular disintegration occurs as a result of the large
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temperature range, which causes the minerals in the rick to
expand and contract at different rates. The light and dark
minerals (e.g. granite contains black mica and white quartz
crystals) within the rock heat and cool at different rates which
leads to stresses within the rock and eventual disintegration
o Exfoliation is the peeling of surface rock layers caused by
insolation weathering. Exfoliation occurs due to the outer layers
of rock heating up and expanding faster than inner layers of rock,
as rock is not a very good conductor of hear. Later contraction
exerts pressure on the rock and as a result the rock appears to
peel. This is sometimes referred to as onion-skin weathering.
o Block disintegration occurs due to heating and cooling of well
jointed rocks and as a result large blocks break away.


Salt Crystal Growth

Salt weathering occurs when the salt in rocks crystallises out of solution.
This mainly occurs in hot desert environments.

The high temperatures draw saline groundwater to the surface.
Evaporation of the water on the surface leaves behind salt crystals. The
growth of salt crystals between pores and joints in the rock creates
stresses in the rock, causing it to disintegrate this can lead to either
granular disintegration or block disintegration e.g. the crystals of sodium
sulphate can expand by 300% in areas of high insolation. This is a major
cause of wreathing in desert areas, particularly in porous, sedimentary
rocks like limestone.

Salt weathering is more important in desert environment than in more
humid environments, this is because, where moisture is available, the
salts are dissolved by rainwater and removed in solution by streams and
rivers. However, in the drier desert environments salts such as sodium
chloride are not removed and therefore accumulate in inland drainage
basins.

Pressure release

Pressure release (also known as dilation and unloading) refers to the
process where overlying rocks removed by erosion cause the underlying
ones to expand and fracture parallel to the surface, creating sheet joints of
pseudo-bedding planes parallel to the surface.
These fractures (cracks) formed will consequently be affected by
weathering. As a result large rock sheets may break off (slabs of rocks
called exfoliation sheets) creating a rounded appearance (exfoliation
domes) to the landscape.


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CHEMICAL WEATHERING 4 TYPES
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Carbonation or solution

Occurs on rocks with calcium carbonate e.g. chalk and limestone.
Rainfall and dissolved carbon dioxide forms a weak carbonic acid.
Calcium carbonate reacts with the acid water and forms calcium
bicarbonate, or calcium hydrogen carbonate, which is soluble and
removed by percolating water.
Areas that have standing rainwater are going to experience higher rates
of carbonation, therefore its is less likely to happen in dry countries and
on steep slopes. The dissolved rock then gets washed away.
Hydrolysis

Occurs on rocks which contain orthoclase feldspar e.g. granite. Orthoclase
reacts with acid water and forms kalonite (or kaolin or china clay), silicic
acid and potassium hydroxyl. The acid and hydroxyl are removed in the
solution leaving china clay behind as the end product. Other minerals in
the granite, such as quartz and mica, remain in the kaolin.
A more simple explanation - Hydrogen in water reacts with minerals in the
rocks. Instead of dissolving the rock, the water actually combines with the
rock. One example of hydrolysis is feldspar found in igneous rocks such as
granites can be turned into a form of clay.
Hydration

Certain minerals in rocks are able to absorb water into their structure,
causing them to expand.
This not only exerts pressure because of the growing size but causes the
chemical structure to change. e.g. anhyrdrate is changed to gypsum
Oxidation

This occurs when iron compounds within rock, reacts with oxygen to
produce a reddish-brown coating.
BIOLOGICAL WEATHERING
BIOLOGICAL

IBiological weathering is a combination of both mechanical and chemical processes.
Chemical form - The decay of leaves and other vegetation creates a number of organic,
humic, acids which are carried down through the soil by water. These acids are then able to
attack the rocks beneath. Even the tiniest bacteria, algae and lichens produce
chemicals that help break down the rock on which they live, so they can get the nutrients
they need.
Physical forms - Many animals, such as these Piddock shells, bore into rocks for protection
either by scraping away the grains. As tree roots grow in the rocks they exert pressure and
break the rock apart.
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FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE & TYPE OF WEATHERING WHICH OCCURS
Geology: The type of rock, is extremely important in affecting rates of weathering.
Rocks with cracks (joints and bedding planes) are more likely to experience increased rates of physical and
chemical weathering. Cracks allow water to get in.
Chemical composition and mineral structure
o e.g. limestone consists of calcium carbonate and is therefore susceptible to carbonation solution , whereas
granite with orthoclase feldspar is prone to hydrolysis.
o In sedimentary rocks the nature of the cement is crucial: iron oxide based cements are prone to oxidation,
whereas quartz cements are very resistant
Soft rocks are much more vulnerable to weathering than strong rocks.
Also the chemical composition of rocks is also important. For example limestone's that have large amounts of
calcium carbonate are more vulnerable to carbonation.

Vegetation:
Areas of land that have vegetation are more likely to experience rapid biological weathering.
However, they are also likely to insulate the rock from large temperature ranges, reducing some physical
weathering.
Vegetation will intercept rainwater, reducing rates of some chemical weathering.
Vegetation can hold rain water in-situ though increasing chemical weathering and some mosses contain chemicals
that can increase chemical weathering.

Climate:
Climate is very important because hot temperatures increase the rates of chemical reaction, therefore increasing
chemical weathering.
Areas with high diurnal temperature ranges will see an increase in some types of physical weathering.
Wet areas are going to see an increase in chemical weathering (Chemical weathering increases with moisture
and heat)
Wet and warm areas are also likely to see an increase in the amount of vegetation, increasing biological
weathering.
Frost shattering increases as the number of freeze thaw cycles increases

Peltiers diagram shows how weathering is related to moisture availability and average annual temperature. According to
Vant Hoffs Law, the rate of chemical weathering increases two to three times for every increase of temperature of 10oC
(up to 60oC)

Comment on how this diagram works, what does it
tell us about the relationship between rainfall and
temperature and the types of weathering which
occur as these two variables change?
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Relief: A steep relief can increase some forms of physical weathering, but can slow chemical weathering. Most forms of
chemical weathering need rain to be stationary, but steep slopes encourage fast surface run-off. However, a steep slope
will cause weathered rocks to fall away quicker exposing fresh rock beneath to be weathered.
Aspect: This is the direction a slope is facing. The direction it faces can affect the amount of sunshine it receives. If a slope
is facing the sun it might have more vegetation growing on it, increasing biological weathering. If it is not facing the sun it
might have less vegetation increasing the rates of chemical weathering and physical weathering.

Humans: Humans can influence rates of weathering in many ways, they can add chemicals to water courses, they can
deforest or forest areas, they can introduce animals or remove animals.

Why is weathering more rapid in tropical areas than temperate areas?
Briefly tropical areas tend to experience more weathering because of :
Large amounts of rainfall increasing chemical weathering
Large amounts of vegetation increasing biological weathering
They are nearer to the equator so there are high temperatures and faster rates of chemical reaction
Some areas (high areas and desert areas) have higher diurnal temperature range.


TYPE OF
WEATHERING
Does that type of weathering operate in the following environments PICTURE/
DIAGRAM
Cold Arid River Coastal
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P
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Freeze thaw
Yes, but only
where
temperatures
fluctuate above
and below
freezing (e.g.
peri glacial) If
temperatures
permanently
below freezing
this processes
cannot operate
Due to a high diurnal
temperature range in some
deserts water that has found its
way into pores and joints in rock
freezes at night. Water confined
in cracks can expand as much as 9
percent when it freezes and this
exerts pressure on the structure
of the rock, with the outcome
disintegration and scree. This
type of weathering is only
possible where there is a supply
of moisture and where
temperatures fluctuate above and
below 0C. It is common in both
the Namib Desert of South East
Africa as well as in the arid
environments of south east USA.
Yes, this process
will affect the
slopes either side
of the river
channel (especially
in the upper
course). The
resulting scree will
add material into
the river which can
then be used as
tools of erosion
Yes, this is a
sub-aerial
process which
acts on
exposed cliffs
in coastal
environments

Salt crystal
growth

Disintegration
Pressure
release

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Carbonation
solution

Hydrolysis
Hydration
Oxidation
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TASKS:
1) Define the term weathering
2) briefly describe how:
a. freeze thaw operates
b. carbonation solution operates
3) Describe the relationship between chemical weathering and climate from the diagram above; then suggest
reasons why there are two zones of moderate mechanical weathering
4) Copy and complete the following table (you can, if you like, do this in a different format e.g. spider diagram, or
notes)
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2) EROSION

Erosion is the wearing away of rocks and other deposits on the earths surface by the act of moving water, ice or wind.
Erosion will often occur after rock has been disintegrated or altered through weathering.

FLUVIAL EROSION Erosion by rivers



































EROSION COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS

Velocity
The velocity of a river or stream affects the way it flows. In
general, fluid flow is either laminar (where flow lines remain
parallel) or turbulent (where such lines cross each other).
Higher velocities result in turbulent flow, whereas slow
moving rivers are characterized by laminar flow. Clearly, the
type of flow has a strong effect on the interaction between
the water and the bedrock, and hence on the erosional and
depositional powers of a stream. However, keep in mind the
velocity is not the only factors affecting the type of flow.
Other factors include the roughness of the stream bottom
and the depth of the stream channel.
Discharge: the discharge of the stream is the volume of
water that flows past a certain point in a specified unit of
time.
Discharge (m
3
/second) = cross sectional area of the stream
(m
2
) x stream velocity (m/sec)
The discharge controls the nature and amount of load of a
stream; a stream with a large discharge can carry a greater
amount of particles, as well as larger sized particles
compared to a stream with a low discharge. Discharge affects
the competence and capacity of a stream. Competence is the
ability of a stream to carry large particles, whereas capacity
is a measure of the number of particles the stream can carry
Size and shape of the channel: streams with narrow channels that
are V shaped in cross section are those in which erosion prevails,
whereas those with wider channels that are U shaped in cross section
have more lateral erosion and more significant amounts of deposits
Stream gradient: one of the most important
factors. Steep gradients result in fast flowing
streams with strong erosional capacities.
Whereas, gentle gradients result in slower
streams which may have depositional features.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE OF FLUVIAL EROSION
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HYDRAULIC ACTION
water is forced into cracks
in the rock, this
compresses the air inside.
When the wave retreats,
the compressed air blasts
out. It can force the rock
apart
CORRASION loose rocks
and sediments are thrown
against the cliff by waves. It
wears the cliff away and
chips off bits of rock
ATTRITION loose
sediment knocked off the
cliff by hydraulic action and
abrasion is swirled around
by the waves. It constantly
collides with other
sediment, and gradually
gets worn down into
smaller and rounder
sediment
CORROSION sea water
dissolves minerals in the
rock (this happens
particularly along chalk
and limestone coasts,
where calcium carbonate is
dissolved)




FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE OF COASTAL EROSION



ROCK TYPES
Some rocks is more easily eroded (e.g. clay and shale).
These rocks tend to form wide beaches. Other rocks
are very resistant to erosion (e.g. limestone and chalk).
These rocks tend to form steep-cliffs or rocky outcrops
(headlands)
TYPE OF WAVE
The amount of energy a wave has will also determine
the amount of erosion that will take place. Destructive
waves have a steep angle of break and are high in
energy. They degrade the beach due to the scouring
action of the strong backwash.
ROCK STRUCTURE
Where rocks are parallel to the coastline, the coastline is
CONCORDANT and the resistance of the rock type forming the
coastline will determine the amount of erosion. Where the
rocks outcrop at right angles to the coast, the coastline is
known as DISCORDANT and differential erosion may occur due
to bands of hard and soft rock forming headlands and bays.
SHAPE OF THE COASTLINE
Where there are rocky outcrops
(headlands) these are exposed to the full
force of the seas energy. However,
headlands can also protect surrounding
bays (inlets in the coastline) which can be
sheltered from erosion)
FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE OF COASTAL EROSION
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EROSION - GLACIAL ENVIRONMENTS
Landscapes that experience glaciation undergo considerable modification as result of the erosion caused by the
moving masses of ice. Erosion in cold, glacial environments can be by
1) Abrasion (directly by the ice)
2) Crushing
3) Plucking
4) Erosion by meltwater (indirect erosion)
ABRASION
Abrasion involves the wearing down of rock surfaces by the
grinding effect of rock fragments frozen to the base of
glaciers (a bit like sand papering action)
It produces smoothed bedrock surdaces that often exhibit
parallel sets of scratches (1-10 mm diameter) called
striations
Abrasion forms fine sized silted particles (0.1 mm) known as
rock flour which causes the milky appearance of meltwater
streams








The rate of abrasion increases as glacial pressure and ice
velocity increase (i.e. bigger glaciers will erode more than
small ones, and glaciers moving faster will erode more than
slow moving glaciers). However, if the pressure becomes
too great at the based of the glacier, the ice will begin the
melt (the pressure changes the melting point of the ice)
releasing the abrading rock fragments from their icy bond,
which, in turn, reduces the rate of abrasion.
The thermal regime of the glacier exerts a strong
influence on the nature of erosion. For instance, the rate
of erosion between polar glaciers will be negligible owing
to the lack of basal sliding. However, the greater the
adhesion of cold ice to the bedrock creates more effective
conditions for plucking. The most effective erosion
probably occurs beneath polythermal glaciers since both
abrasion and plucking operate here.
Basal rock debris abrasion can
only occur if rock debris is present
at the ice/rock interface. Clean ice
cannot scour its rock bed and the
rate of abrasion increases with
basal debris connection,
furthermore, the abrading rock
fragments must be harder than the
bedrock surface beneath
FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE OF ABRASION BY ICE
EROSION
Removal of rock flour in order to sustain
abrasion rock flour needs to be flushed
away from the glacial sole by a constant
supply of meltwater, otherwise the ice/
rock interface would clog up with fine
debris reducing the contact between
abrading clasts and the underlying rock
surface.

Ice velocity
abrasion is greater
beneath fast glaciers
since more debris
passes a given point
per unit of time

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CRUSHING - Crushing occurs when the pressure exerted by basal
rock fragments crushes the bedrock surface beneath to leave
cresentic fractures called chattermarks




PLUCKING - Plucking is the removal of well jointed or loosened
blocks of bedrock by an overriding glacier. Blocks freeze onto the
glacier sole and are then pulled clear of the rockmass as the ice
moves forward. Once plucked the blocks become the grinding tools
that cause abrasion Plucking is particularly effective where a
glacier flows over rock that has already been weakened by frost
weathering.

MELTWATER EROSION - The streams of meltwater that flow along the base of
the glacier erode rock in the same way as surface streams, through the
combined action of abrasion, hydraulic action, attrition and solution. However,
there is one important difference, water at the base of the glacier is squeezed by
the enormous weight of ice above (hydrostatic pressure). This causes meltwater
streams to flow much faster, hence, the erosive potential of meltwater streams is
significantly greater than surface rivers.























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EROSION HOT, ARID ENVIRONMENTS
Aeolian erosion (wind erosion)
1) Deflation is the process by which wind picks up and removes unconsolidated material, the loose and
fine regolith. Deflation operates through the progressive removal of small material until only the larger
material is left behind, forming a stony desert surface (known as a desert pavement)
2) Wind corrosion is erosion caused by the abrasive action of wind-borne particles driven against the
rocks. The particles act like sandpaper and, over time, carve the rock into different shapes and
landforms, such as sculptured rocks like ventifacts and zeugans. It is the larger particles that are more
corrosive but, because the grains of sand are heavy; the sand blasting effect of wind abrasion is largely
confined to a couple of meters above the surface of the ground.
3) Attrition takes place as grains of sand carried by the wind collide with each other and beome smaller
and rounder as they do so.









SOIL EROSION (can occur in different environments, especially on slopes)
SPLASH EROSION occurs when raindrops hit bare soil. The explosive impact breaksup soil aggregates
so that individual particles are splashed onto the soil surface. These praticles can rise as high as 60cm
above the ground and can move up to 1.5 meters from the point of impact. The particles block the
spaces between soil aggregates, so that the soil forms a crust that reduces infiltration and increases
runoff
Sheet erosion the removal of soil in thin layers by raindrop impact and shallow surface flow. It results
in the loss of the finest particles which contain the most nutrients, soil loss is gradual, but the
cumulative impact can account for large soil losses
Rill erosion shallow drainage lines which develop when water concentrates in gullies (like ploughed
fields)
Gully erosion gullies are channels more than 30cm, which occur whn water flows concentrate and
channel through the soil
TUNNEL EROSION occurs when surface water moves into the soil and cracks or channels or through
rabbit burrows and old tree root cavities, as more water flows through them the tunnel is eroded and
expands, leading to roof collapse and potholes/ gullies.










FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE OF AEOLIAN EROSION
Strength and duration of the wind
Vegetation cover
Wind direction
Structure and composition of the rocks
Particle size and the material carried
Moisture content of the soil
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3) SLOPE PROCESSES/ MASS MOVEMENT

Mass movement The downhill transfer of slope materials as a coherent body.
Include any large-scale movement of the earths surface, which are not accompanied by
a moving agent such as river, glacier or ocean wave.
They include small movements, such as soil creep and frost heave (which cause very
little damage to people and property) to large, fast movements such as avalanches and
landslides (which can be extremely hazardous). They vary from dry movements, such as
rock falls, to very fluid movements such as mud flows.

Mass movement is the downward movement of soil and rock under the influence of gravity. It is most
frequent on slopes above 25 degrees and with little vegetation and rainfall over 900mm and often
occurs after rainstorms when soil becomes waterlogged and heavy.
Mass movements is a major form of natural land degregation in some regions. Types of mass movement
include soil creep, earth flow, slumps, landslides and avalanches.
Processes operating on slopes have a major impact on fluvial (river) landscapes. Slope processes
transfer material downslope to the river. In doing so they reduce the angle of the slope. The material
carried downslope may be transported by the river and the larger material used to erode the river
channel and bed.



















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TASK: for each of the slope processes listed below, see if you can find an appropriate photograph or diagram to aid
your understanding.

SLOW MOVEMENTS:
1) Soil Creep - Individual particles are pushed or heaved to the surface by wetting, heating or freezing of
water.
2) Rain splash erosion - On flat surfaces raindrops compact the soil and dislodge the particles equally in
all directions. On steep slopes, the downward component is more effective than the upward motion due
to gravity and so erosion downslope increases with slope angle. In contrast, solifluction is a form of
accelerated soil creep that can prodce braided channels. The term solifluciton means moving soil an is
affected by freeing and thawing in cold environments)

FLOW MOVEMENTS:
1) Surface wash - Occurs when the soils infiltration capacity is exceeded and can lead to the formation of
gullies. In Britain this commonly occurs in winter as water drains across saturated or frozen ground,
following prolonged or heavy downpours or the melting of snow.
2) Throughflow - Water moving down through the soil. It is channelled into natural pipes in the soil (very
small channels of water in the soil). This gives it sufficient energy to transport material, and added to its
solute load, may amount to a considerable volume
3) Sheetwash - The unchannelled flow of water over the soil surface. On most slopes, sheetwash is divided
into areas of high velocity separated by areas of lower velocity. It is capable of transporting material
dislodged by rainsplash. Sheetwash occurs on footpaths and moorlands.

FAST MASS MOVEMENTS:
1) slides sliding material maintains its shape and cohesion until it impacts the bottom of the slope and
leads to large, slumped terraces. Slides range in scale.
2) Falls rock falls occur on steep slopes (>70 degrees). The initial cause of the fall may be weathering e.g.
freeze thaw or disintegration, or erosion acting on lines of weakeness in the rock. Once rocks are
detached they fall under the influence of gravity. If the fall is short, it produces relatively straight scree
(talus); or if it is long it forms concave scree e.g. Wastwater, Lake District. Falls lead to scree slopes and
large slumped terraces. In upland areas falls and slides are important sediment source for rivers.
3) Slumps occur on weaker rocks (e.g. clay) and have a rotational movement along a curved slip plane.
The clays absorb water and becomes saturated, exceeding its liquid limit. It then flows along a slip
plane. Frequently the base of a cliff has been undercut and weakened by erosion, therefore reducing its
strength






FACTORS AFFECTING THE RATE THAT SLOPE PROCESSES OPERATE

Factors increasing mass movement include erosion or excavation undermining the foot of a slope, weight
loads of buildings and embankments, and loss of stabalising roots through the removal of vegetation.

CLIMATE slopes vary with climate. In general, slopes in temperate environments are rounder, due
to chemical weathering, whereas slopes in arid environments are jagged or straight because of
mechanical weathering and over land run off.
ROCK TYPE AND STRUCTURE in the north and west of Britain the rock type is mainly old, hard,
resistant rocks such as granite, basalt and carboniferous limestone, which lead to the formation of
upland rugged areas. To the south and east of Britain, the rock type is younger, weaker rocks, such as
chalk and clay, which form subdued, low lying landscapes.
ASPECT in the UK, north-facing slopes remain in the shade. During cold, periglacial times,
temperatures rarely rose above freezing. By contrast, south facing slopes experienced many cycles of
freeze thaw. Solifluction and overland run off lower the level of the slope, and streams remove the
debris from the valley. The result is an asymmetric slope.