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Table 1-1 A Hierarchical Classification of Terrestrial Geomorphological Features by Scale Orde r 1 2 3 4 Approximate Spatial Scale (km2) 107 106

104 102 Characteristic Units (with examples) Continents, ocean basins Physiographic provinces, shields, depositional plains Medium-scale tectonic units (sedimentary basins, mountain massifs, domal uplifts) Smaller tectonics units (fault blocks, volcanoes, troughs, sedimentary subbasins, individual mountain zones) Large-scale erosional/depositional units (deltas, major valleys, piedmonts) Medium-scale erosional/depositional units or landforms (floodplains, alluvial fans, moraines, smaller valleys and canyons) Small-scale erosional/depositional units or landforms (ridges, terraces, sand dunes) Larger geomorphic process units (hillslopes, sections of stream channels) Medium-scale geomorphic process units (pools and riffles, river bars, solution pits) Microscale geomorphic process units (fluvial and eolian ripples, glacial striations) Approximate Time Scales of Persistence (years) 108-109 108 107-108 107

5 6

10-102 10-1-10

106 105-106

7 8 9 10

10-2 10-4 10-6 10-8

104-105 103 102

Table 1-2 Fundamental Concepts of Geomorphology Concept Uniformitariani sm Gradualism Description Similar geomorphic processes that operate today operated throughout geologic time. Relatively frequent, modest-sized processes dominate in the progressive changing of the landscapes over long time periods. Erosional agents on a planetary surface produce an orderly sequence of landforms as a function of time Landscapes reflect the influence of certain climatic processes by developing a characteristic assemblage of landforms. Most of the Earths topography is no older than Pleistocene. Alternatives Unusual processes without modern analogs occurred in the geologic past. Cataclysmic processes and changes are most important in landscape evolution. Some landscapes arise from disolderly processes. Geologic structure predominates over climate in influencing landform assemblages. In stable tectonic areas, extensive landscapes of Tertiary, or even Mesozoic, age are preserved. Relict landscape elements persist despite Pleistocene


Morphoclimatic Zonation

Youthfulness of Topography

Legacy of the Pleistocene

The geologic and climatic changes of the Pleistocene were critical in the shaping of

most landscapes. Modernism Geomorphology is primarily concerned with present-day processes that shape present day landscapes. It is necessary to search for simplicity in geomorphological systems.


changes and comprise palimpsests. Geomorphology attains its maximum usefulness by historical extension, analyzing ancient conditions. Complexity of geomorphic systems is more common than simplicity.

Table 1-3 Terminology of Geomorphic Systems Term Cascade Usage A type of system through which energy and mass flow from one subsystem to another. Output to one system acts as input to itself. The effect can be self-enhancing (positive feedback) or self-regulating (negative feedback). A balance between form and process. Example Movement of water and sediment through a drainage basin. As river bar is eroded. It becomes more streamlined in shape, which reduces erosion (negative feedback). Hillslopes form as a balance between rock resistance and erosional processes. A landslide can occur only when the driving forces exceed the resisting forces. Polygonal ground may form from desiccation, freezing, or volcanism. Rivers maintain an equilibrium of channel form as they continue long-term degradation. Soil clay content increase by weathering until it reaches constant value.




A condition that must be achieved for a system to pass from one state to another. The derivation of similar final states in different ways from diverse origins. An equilibrium state maintained by a balance of fluctuations around a constantly changing system condition. An equilibrium state maintained around a time invariant system condition


Dynamic Equilibrium

Steady State

Table 1-4 Widespread Planation Surface Nama Gondwana Post-Gondwana or Kretacic African or Moorland Post-African or Rolling Widespread Youngest Age Jurassic Early to Mid-cretaceous Late Cretaceous to Early Cenozoic Miocene Pliocene Queternary Comments Related to Pangea and its breakup Related to Pangea and its breakup Extensive surface created by stripping weathered material from older surface Undulating surface developed above younger valleys Global surface common near coastal areas Latest valley formation

Table 2-1 PUCE units and associated characteristics Stage in terrain classification Map scale Terrain factors used for description Terrain factors suitable for quantitative expression Factors Terrain province 1:250,000 Geology Properties of geologic materials Method and scale Air photointerpretation or geological maps 1:1,000,000 Airphoto and/or ground study 1:10,000

Terrain pattern

1:250,000 plus block diagram

Terrain unit


Terrain component

Usually not mapped but described

Geomorphology; basic char. Of soil, rock, vegetation common among constituent terrain units, drainage pattern Physiographic unit; principal characteristics of soil, rock, and vegetation Physiographic component, lithology, soil type, vegetive association

Relief amplitudes, stream frequencies

Dimensions of physiographic unit (relief amplitude, length, width) Dimensions of physiographic component (relief amplitude length, width, slopes) Dimentions of vegetation (height, diameter, spacing) Dimentions of vegetation (height, diameter, spacing) Dimensions of surface obstacles including rock outcrops and termitaria Properties of earthern materials throughout profile (depth, particle size gradiation, consistence strength, permeability, suction, mineralogy) Quantities of earthern materials

Airphoto and/or ground study 1:10,000 Measure on site

Measure on site

Measure on site

Measure on site

Measured in the field or through laboratory procedures

Measured or estimated on site

Table 2-2 Landform units and associated characteristics Stage in terrain classificati on Major landforms Map scale Terrain factors used for description Terrain factors suitable for quantitative expression Factors 1:250,00 0 Geology or major surficial geol, categories (i.e., glacial fluvial) Geomorphology/geolo gy; basic characteristic of rock and soil (parent materials) Soil types, texture, depth, stoniness, erosion, ground water, topographic slopes Properties of geologic materials Method and scale Air photointerpretation (1:70,000 or satellite) or geologic maps (1:1,000,000) Air photointerpretation and ground surveys 1:60,000-1:20,000 Air photointerpretation, ground surveys, and laboratory procedures. 1:12,000-1:4,800



Stream pattern, density relief amplitudes

Subunits (see text)


Properties of earthern materials throughout profile (depth, particle size, gradation, wetness, strength, permeability, mineralogy, organic matter) Quality and quantity of groundwater resources Dimensions of topographic relief (amplitude, length, width, slope)

Air photointerpretation and ground surveys Air photinterpretation and ground surveys