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Geography as a Discipline




The Origin and Evolution of the Earth



Interior of the Earth



Distribution of Oceans and Continents




Minerals and Rocks



Geomorphic Processes



Landforms and their Evolution



Composition and Structure of Atmosphere



Solar Radiation, Heat Balance and Temperature



Atmospheric Circulation and Weather Systems



Water in the Atmosphere



World Climate and Climate Change




Water (Oceans)



Movements of Ocean Water







Life on the Earth



Biodiversity and Conservation




This unit deals with

Geography as an integrating discipline; as a science of spatial


Branches of geography; importance of physical geography



ou have studied geography as one of the

components of your social studies course
upto the secondary stage. You are
already aware of some of the phenomena of
geographical nature in the world and its
different parts. Now, you will study Geography
as an independent subject and learn about the
physical environment of the earth, human
activities and their interactive relationships.
Therefore, a pertinent question you can ask at
this stage is Why should we study
geography? We live on the surface of the earth.
Our lives are affected by our surroundings in
many ways. We depend on the resources to
sustain ourselves in the surrounding areas.
Primitive societies subsisted on natural means
of subsistence, i.e. edible plants and animals.
With the passage of time, we developed
technologies and started producing our food
using natural resources such as land, soil and
water. We adjusted our food habits and
clothing according to the prevailing weather
conditions. There are variations in the natural
resource base, technological development,
adaptation with and modification of physical
environment, social organisations and cultural
development. As a student of geography, you
should be curious to know about all the
phenomena which vary over space. You learn
about the diverse lands and people. You
should also be interested in understanding the
changes which have taken place over time.
Geography equips you to appreciate diversity
and investigate into the causes responsible for
creating such variations over time and space.
You will develop skills to understand the globe
converted into maps and have a visual sense



of the earths surface. The understanding and

the skills obtained in modern scientific
techniques such as GIS and computer
cartography equip you to meaningfully
contribute to the national endeavour for
Now the next question which you may like
to ask is What is geography? You know that
earth is our home. It is also the home of many
other creatures, big and small, which live on
the earth and sustain. The earths surface is
not uniform. It has variations in its physical
features. There are mountains, hills, valleys,
plains, plateaus, oceans, lakes, deserts and
wilderness. There are variations in its social
and cultural features too. There are villages,
cities, roads, railways, ports, markets and
many other elements created by human beings
across the entire period of their cultural
This variation provides a clue to the
understanding of the relationship between the
physical environment and social/cultural
features. The physical environment has
provided the stage, on which human societies
enacted the drama of their creative skills with
the tools and techniques which they invented
and evolved in the process of their cultural
development. Now, you should be able to
attempt the answer of the question posed
earlier as to What is geography? In very
simple words, it can be said that geography
is the description of the earth. The term
geography was first coined by Eratosthenese,
a Greek scholar (276-194 BC.). The word has
been derived from two roots from Greek
language geo (earth) and graphos (description).


Put together, they mean description of the earth.

The earth has always been seen as the abode
of human beings and thus, scholars defined
geography as, the description of the earth as
the abode of human beings. You are aware of
the fact that reality is always multifaceted and
the earth is also multi-dimensional, that is
why many disciplines from natural sciences
such as geology, pedology, oceanography,
botany, zoology and meteorology and a
number of sister disciplines in social sciences
such as economics, history, sociology, political
science, anthropology, etc. study different
aspects of the earths surface. Geography is
different from other sciences in its subject
matter and methodology but at the same time,
it is closely related to other disciplines.
Geography derives its data base from all the
natural and social sciences and attempts their
We have noted that there exist variations
over the surface of the earth in its physical as
well as cultural environment. A number of
phenomena are similar and many are dissimilar.
It was, therefore, logical to perceive geography
as the study of areal differentiation. Thus,
geography was perceived to study all those
phenomena which vary over space.
Geographers do not study only the variations
in the phenomena over the earths surface
(space) but also study the associations with
the other factors which cause these variations.
For example, cropping patterns differ from
region to region but this variation in cropping
pattern, as a phenomenon, is related to
variations in soils, climates, demands in the
market, capacity of the farmer to invest and
technological inputs available to her/him.
Thus, the concern of geography is to find out
the causal relationship between any two
phenomena or between more than one
A geographer explains the phenomena in
a frame of cause and effect relationship, as it
does not only help in interpretation but also
foresees the phenomena in future.
The geographical phenomena, both the
physical and human, are not static but highly
dynamic. They change over time as a result of
the interactive processes between ever

changing earth and untiring and ever-active

human beings. Primitive human societies were
directly dependent on their immediate
environment. Geography, thus, is concerned
with the study of Nature and Human
interactions as an integrated whole. Human
is an integral part of nature and nature has
the imprints of human. Nature has influenced
different aspects of human life. Its imprints can
be noticed on food, clothing, shelter and
occupation. Human beings have come to terms
with nature through adaptation and
modification. As you already know, the present
society has passed the stage of primitive
societies, which were directly dependent on
their immediate physical environment for
sustenance. Present societies have modified
their natural environment by inventing and
using technology and thus, have expanded the
horizon of their operation by appropriating and
utilising the resources provided by nature. With
the gradual development of technology, human
beings were able to loosen the shackles of their
physical environment. Technology helped in
reducing the harshness of labour, increased
labour efficiency and provided leisure to
human beings to attend to the higher needs of
life. It also increased the scale of production
and the mobility of labour.
The interaction between the physical
environment and human beings has been very
succinctly described by a poet in the following
dialogue between human and nature (God).
You created the soil, I created the cup, you
created night, I created the lamp. You created
wilderness, hilly terrains and deserts; I
created flower beds and gardens. Human
beings have claimed their contribution using
natural resources. With the help of technology,
human beings moved from the stage of
necessity to a stage of freedom. They have put
their imprints everywhere and created new
possibilities in collaboration with nature. Thus,
we now find humanised nature and
naturalised human beings and geography
studies this interactive relationship. The space
got organised with the help of the means of
transportation and communication network.
The links (routes) and nodes (settlements of all
types and hierarchies) integrated the space and


gradually, it got organised. As a social science

discipline, geography studies the spatial
organisation and spatial integration.
Geography as a discipline is concerned with
three sets of questions:
(i) Some questions are related to the
identification of the patterns of natural
and cultural features as found over the
surface of the earth. These are the
questions about what?
(ii) Some questions are related to the
distribution of the natural and human/
cultural features over the surface of the
earth. These are the questions about
Taken together, both these questions take
care of distributional and locational aspects of
the natural and cultural features. These
questions provided inventorised information of
what features and where located. It was a very
popular approach during the colonial period.
These two questions did not make geography
a scientific discipline till the third question was
added. The third question is related to the
explanation or the causal relationships
between features and the processes and
phenomena. This aspect of geography is related
to the question, why?
Geography as a discipline is related to
space and takes note of spatial characteristics
and attributes. It studies the patterns of
distribution, location and concentration of
phenomena over space and interprets them
providing explanations for these patterns. It
takes note of the associations and inter relationships between the phenomena over
space and interprets them providing
explanations for these patterns. It also takes
note of the associations and inter-relationships
between the phenomena resulting from the
dynamic interaction between human beings
and their physical environment.




Geography is a discipline of synthesis. It

attempts spatial synthesis, and history
attempts temporal synthesis. Its approach is
holistic in nature. It recognises the fact that
the world is a system of interdependencies. The

present world is being perceived as a global

village. The distances have been reduced by
better means of transportation increasing
accessibility. The audio-visual media and
information technology have enriched the data
base. Technology has provided better chances
of monitoring natural phenomena as well as
the economic and social parameters.
Geography as an integrating discipline has
interface with numerous natural and social
sciences. All the sciences, whether natural or
social, have one basic objective, of
understanding the reality. Geography
attempts to comprehend the associations of
phenomena as related in sections of reality.
Figure 1.1 shows the relationship of geography
with other sciences. Every discipline, concerned
with scientific knowledge is linked with
geography as many of their elements vary over
space. Geography helps in understanding the
reality in totality in its spatial perspective.
Geography, thus, not only takes note of the
differences in the phenomena from place to
place but integrates them holistically which
may be different at other places. A geographer
is required to have a broad understanding of
all the related fields, to be able to logically
integrate them. This integration can be
understood with some examples. Geography
influences historical events. Spatial distance
itself has been a very potent factor to alter the
course of history of the world. Spatial depth
provided defence to many countries,
particularly in the last century. In traditional
warfare, countries with large size in area, gain
time at the cost of space. The defence provided
by oceanic expanse around the countries of
the new world has protected them from wars
being imposed on their soil. If we look at the
historical events world over, each one of them
can be interpreted geographically.
In India, Himalayas have acted as great
barriers and provided protection but the
passes provided routes to the migrants and
invaders from Central Asia. The sea coast has
encouraged contact with people from East and
Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa. Navigation
technology helped European countries to
colonise a number of countries of Asia and
Africa, including India as they got accessibility


through oceans. The geographical factors have

modified the course of history in different parts
of the world.
Every geographical phenomenon undergoes
change through time and can be explained
temporally. The changes in landforms, climate,
vegetation, economic activities occupations and
cultural developments have followed a definite
historical course. Many geographical features
result from the decision making process by
different institutions at a particular point of
time. It is possible to convert time in terms of
space and space in terms of time. For example,
it can be said that place A is 1,500 km from
place B or alternately, it can also be said that
place A is two hours away (if one travels by
plane) or seventeen hours away (if one travels
by a fast moving train). It is for this reason,
time is an integral part of geographical studies
as the fourth dimension. Please mention other
three dimensions?
Figure1.1 amply depicts the linkages of
geography with different natural and social
sciences. This linkage can be put under two
Physical Geography and Natural Sciences
All the branches of physical geography, as
shown in Figure 1.1, have interface with natural
sciences. The traditional physical geography
is linked with geology, meteorology, hydrology
and pedology, and thus, geomorphology,
climatology, oceanography and soil geography
respectively have very close link with the
natural sciences as these derive their data from
these sciences. Bio-Geography is closely related
to botany, zoology as well as ecology as human
beings are located in different locational niche.
A geographer should have some proficiency
in mathematics and art, particularly in drawing
maps. Geography is very much linked with the
study of astronomical locations and deals with
latitudes and longitudes. The shape of the earth
is Geoid but the basic tool of a geographer is a
map which is two dimensional representation
of the earth. The problem of converting geoids
into two dimensions can be tackled by
projections constructed graphically or
mathematically. The cartographic and
quantitative techniques require sufficient
proficiency in mathematics, statistics and

econometrics. Maps are prepared through

artistic imagination. Making sketches, mental
maps and cartographic work require
proficiency in arts.
Geography and Social Sciences
Each social science sketched in Figure 1.1 has
interface with one branch of geography. The
relationships between geography and history
have already been outlined in detail. Every
discipline has a philosophy which is the raison
detre for that discipline. Philosophy provides
roots to a discipline and in the process of its
evolution, it also experiences distinct historical
processes. Thus, the history of geographical
thought as mother branch of geography is
included universally in its curricula. All the
social science disciplines, viz. sociology,
political science, economics and demography
study different aspects of social reality. The
branches of geography, viz. social, political,
economic and population and settlements are
closely linked with these disciplines as each
one of them has spatial attributes. The core
concern of political science is territory, people
and sovereignty while political geography is
also interested in the study of the state as a
spatial unit as well as people and their political
behaviour. Economics deals with basic
attributes of the economy such as production,
distribution, exchange and consumption. Each
of these attributes also has spatial aspects and
here comes the role of economic geography to
study the spatial aspects of production,
distribution, exchange and consumption.
Likewise, population geography is closely
linked with the discipline of demography.
The above discussion shows that
geography has strong interface with natural
and social sciences. It follows its own
methodology of study which makes it distinct
from others. It has osmotic relationship with
other disciplines. While all the disciplines have
their own individual scope, this individuality
does not obstruct the flow of information as in
case of all cells in the body that have individual
identity separated by membranes but the flow
of blood is not obstructed. Geographers use
data obtained from sister disciplines and

Figure 1.1 : Geography and its relation with other subjects



attempt synthesis over space. Maps are very

effective tools of geographers in which the
tabular data is converted into visual form to
bring out the spatial pattern.




Please study Figure 1.1 for recapitulation. It has

very clearly brought out that geography is an
interdisciplinary subject of study. The study of
every subject is done according to some
approach. The major approaches to study
geography have been (i) Systematic and
(ii) Regional. The systematic geography approach
is the same as that of general geography. This
approach was introduced by Alexander Von
Humboldt, a German geographer (1769-1859)
while regional geography approach was
developed by another German geographer and a
contemporary of Humboldt, Karl Ritter
In systematic approach (Figure 1.2), a
phenomenon is studied world over as a whole,
and then the identification of typologies or
spatial patterns is done. For example, if one is
interested in studying natural vegetation, the
study will be done at the world level as a first
step. The typologies such as equatorial rain
forests or softwood conical forests or monsoon
forests, etc. will be identified, discussed and
delimited. In the regional approach, the world
is divided into regions at different hierarchical
levels and then all the geographical phenomena
in a particular region are studied. These
regions may be natural, political or designated
region. The phenomena in a region are studied
in a holistic manner searching for unity in
Dualism is one of the main characteristics
of geography which got introduced from the
very beginning. This dualism depended on the
aspect emphasised in the study. Earlier scholars
laid emphasis on physical geography. But
human beings are an integral part of the earths
surface. They are part and parcel of nature. They
also have contributed through their cultural
development. Thus developed human
geography with emphasis on human activities.




1. Physical Geography
(i) Geomorphology is devoted to the study
of landforms, their evolution and related
(ii) Climatology encompasses the study of
structure of atmosphere and elements
of weather and climates and climatic
types and regions.
(iii) Hydrology studies the realm of water
over the surface of the earth including
oceans, lakes, rivers and other water
bodies and its effect on different life
forms including human life and their
(iv) Soil Geography is devoted to study the
processes of soil formation, soil types,
their fertility status, distribution and
2. Human Geography
(i) Social/Cultural Geography encompasses the study of society and its
spatial dynamics as well as the cultural
elements contributed by the society.
(ii) Population and Settlement Geography
(Rural and Urban). It studies population
growth, distribution, density, sex ratio,
migration and occupational structure
etc. Settlement geography studies the
characteristics of rural and urban
(iii) Economic Geography studies economic
activities of the people including
agriculture, industry, tourism, trade,
and transport, infrastructure and
services, etc.
(iv) Historical Geography studies the
historical processes through which the
space gets organised. Every region has
undergone some historical experiences
before attaining the present day status.
The geographical features also
experience temporal changes and these
form the concerns of historical


Figure 1.2 : Branches of geography based on systematic approach

(v) Political Geography looks at the space

from the angle of political events and
studies boundaries, space relations
between neighbouring political units,
delimitation of constituencies, election
scenario and develops theoretical
framework to understand the political
behaviour of the population.

3. Biogeography
The interface between physical geography
and human geography has lead to the
development of Biogeography which
(i) Plant Geography which studies the
spatial pattern of natural vegetation in
their habitats.


(ii) Zoo Geography which studies the

spatial patterns and geographic
characteristics of animals and their
(iii) Ecology /Ecosystem deals with the
scientific study of the habitats
characteristic of species.
(iv) Environmental Geography concerns
world over leading to the realisation of
environmental problems such as land
gradation, pollution and concerns for
conservation has resulted in the
introduction of this new branch in


1. Regional Studies/Area Studies
Comprising Macro, Meso and Micro
Regional Studies
2. Regional Planning
Comprising Country/Rural and Town/
Urban Planning
3. Regional Development
4. Regional Analysis
There are two aspects which are common
to every discipline, these are:
(i) Philosophy
(a) Geographical Thought
(b) Land and Human Interaction/
Human Ecology
(ii) Methods and Techniques
(a) Cartography including Computer
(b) Quantitative Techniques/Statistical

(c) Field Survey Methods

(d) Geo-informatics comprising
techniques such as Remote
Sensing, GIS, GPS, etc.
The above classification gives a
comprehensive format of the branches of
geography. Generally geography curricula is
taught and learnt in this format but this
format is not static. Any discipline is bound
to grow with new ideas, problems, methods
and techniques. For example, what was once
manual cartography has now been
transformed into computer cartography.
Technology has enabled scholars to handle
large quantum of data. The internet provides
extensive information. Thus, the capacity to
attempt analysis has increased tremendously.
GIS has further opened vistas of knowledge.
GPS has become a handy tool to find out exact
locations. Technologies have enhanced the
capacity of attempting synthesis with sound
theoretical understanding.
You will learn some preliminary aspects of
these techniques in your book, Practical work
in Geography Part I (NCERT, 2006). You will
continue to improve upon your skills and
learn about their application.




This chapter appears in the book entitled

Fundamentals of Physical Geography. The
contents of the book clearly reflect its scope.
It is therefore, appropriate to know the
importance of this branch of geography.

Figure 1.3 : Branches of geography based on regional approach



Physical geography includes the study of

lithosphere (landforms, drainage, relief and
physiography), atmosphere (its composition,
structure, elements and controls of weather
and climate; temperature, pressure, winds,
precipitation, climatic types, etc.), hydrosphere
(oceans, seas, lakes and associated features
with water realm) and biosphere ( life forms
including human being and macro-organism
and their sustaining mechanism, viz. food
chain, ecological parameters and ecological
balance). Soils are formed through the process
of pedogenesis and depend upon the parent
rocks, climate, biological activity and time.
Time provides maturity to soils and helps in
the development of soil profiles. Each element
is important for human beings. Landforms
provide the base on which human activities are
located. The plains are utilised for agriculture.
Plateaus provide forests and minerals.
Mountains provide pastures, forests, tourist
spots and are sources of rivers providing water
to lowlands. Climate influences our house
types, clothing and food habits. The climate
has a profound effect on vegetation, cropping
pattern, livestock farming and some
industries, etc. Human beings have developed
technologies which modify climatic elements
in a restricted space such as air conditioners
and coolers. Temperature and precipitation
ensure the density of forests and quality of
grassland. In India, monsoonal rainfall sets the
agriculture rhythm in motion. Precipitation
recharges the ground water aquifers which
later provides water for agriculture and
domestic use. We study oceans which are the
store house of resources. Besides fish and other

sea-food, oceans are rich in mineral resources.

India has developed the technology for
collecting manganese nodules from oceanic
bed. Soils are renewable resources, which
influence a number of economic activities such
as agriculture. The fertility of the soil is both
naturally determined and culturally induced.
Soils also provide the basis for the biosphere
accommodating plants, animals and micro
What is Geography?
Geography is concerned with the description
and explanation of the areal differentiation of
the earths surface.
Richard Hartshorne
Geography studies the differences of
phenomena usually related in different parts
of the earths surface.

The study of physical geography is

emerging as a discipline of evaluating and
managing natural resources. In order to
achieve this objective, it is essential to
understand the intricate relationship between
physical environment and human beings.
Physical environment provides resources, and
human beings utilise these resources and
ensure their economic and cultural
development. Accelerated pace of resource
utilisation with the help of modern technology
has created ecological imbalance in the world.
Hence, a better understanding of physical
environment is absolutely essential for
sustainable development.


Multiple choice questions.



Which one of the following scholars coined the term Geography?

(a) Herodotus

(c) Galileo

(b) Erathosthenese

(d) Aristotle

Which one of the following features can be termed as physical feature?

(a) Port

(c) Plain

(b) Road

(d) Water park



(iii) Make correct pairs from the following two columns and mark the correct





1. Meteorology

A. Population Geography

2. Demography

B. Soil Geography

3. Sociology

C. Climatology

4. Pedology

D. Social Geography

(a) 1B,2C,3A,4D

(c) 1D,2B,3C,4A

(b) 1A,2D,3B,4C

(d) 1C,2A,3D,4B

Which one of the following questions is related to cause-effect relationship?

(a) Why

(c) What

(b) Where

(d) When

Which one of the following disciplines attempts temporal synthesis?

(a) Sociology

(c) Anthropology

(b) Geography

(d) History

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What important cultural features do you observe while going to school?

Are they similar or dissimilar? Should they be included in the study of
geography or not? If yes, why?


You have seen a tennis ball, a cricket ball, an orange and a pumpkin.
Which one amongst these resembles the shape of the earth? Why have
you chosen this particular item to describe the shape of the earth?


Do you celebrate Van Mahotsava in your school? Why do we plant so many

trees? How do the trees maintain ecological balance?


You have seen elephants, deer, earthworms, trees and grasses. Where do
they live or grow? What is the name given to this sphere? Can you describe
some of the important features of this sphere?


How much time do you take to reach your school from your house? Had
the school been located across the road from your house, how much time
would you have taken to reach school? What is the effect of the distance
between your residence and the school on the time taken in commuting?
Can you convert time into space and vice versa?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


You observe every day in your surroundings that there is variation in

natural as well as cultural phenomena. All the trees are not of the same
variety. All the birds and animals you see, are different. All these different
elements are found on the earth. Can you now argue that geography is
the study of areal differentiation?


You have already studied geography, history, civics and economics as

parts of social studies. Attempt an integration of these disciplines
highlighting their interface.



Project Work
Select forest as a natural resource.

Prepare a map of India showing the distribution of different types of forests.

Write about the economic importance of forests for the country.
Prepare a historical account of conservation of forests in India with focus
on Chipko movements in Rajasthan and Uttaranchal.

This unit deals with

Origin and evolution of the earth; Interior of the earth; Wegeners

continental drift theory and plate tectonics; earthquakes and





Starry nights have always attracted us since

the childhood. You may also have thought of
these stars and had numerous questions in
your mind. Questions such as how many stars
are there in the sky? How did they come into
existence? Can one reach the end of the sky?
May be many more such questions are still
there in your mind. In this chapter, you will
learn how these twinkling little stars were
formed. With that you will eventually also read
the story of origin and evolution of the earth.

argument. At a later date, the arguments

considered of a companion to the sun to have
been coexisting. These arguments are called
binary theories. In 1950, Otto Schmidt in
Russia and Carl Weizascar in Germany
somewhat revised the nebular hypothesis,
though differing in details. They considered that
the sun was surrounded by solar nebula
containing mostly the hydrogen and helium
along with what may be termed as dust. The
friction and collision of particles led to
formation of a disk-shaped cloud and the
planets were formed through the process of


Modern Theories

o you remember the nursery rhyme

Twinkle, Twinkle little star?



Early Theories
A large number of hypotheses were put forth
by different philosophers and scientists
regarding the origin of the earth. One of the
earlier and popular arguments was by German
philosopher Immanuel Kant. Mathematician
Laplace revised it in 1796. It is known as
Nebular Hypothesis. The hypothesis considered
that the planets were formed out of a cloud of
material associated with a youthful sun, which
was slowly rotating. Later in 1900, Chamberlain
and Moulton considered that a wandering star
approached the sun. As a result, a cigar-shaped
extension of material was separated from the
solar surface. As the passing star moved away,
the material separated from the solar surface
continued to revolve around the sun and it
slowly condensed into planets. Sir James Jeans
and later Sir Harold Jeffrey supported this

However, scientists in later period took up the

problems of origin of universe rather than that
of just the earth or the planets. The most
popular argument regarding the origin of the
universe is the Big Bang Theory. It is also called
expanding universe hypothesis. Edwin
Hubble, in 1920, provided evidence that the
universe is expanding. As time passes, galaxies
move further and further apart. You can
experiment and find what does the expanding
universe mean. Take a balloon and mark some
points on it to represent the galaxies. Now, if
you start inflating the balloon, the points
marked on the balloon will appear to be moving
away from each other as the balloon expands.
Similarly, the distance between the galaxies is
also found to be increasing and thereby, the
universe is considered to be expanding.
However, you will find that besides the increase
in the distances between the points on the



balloon, the points themselves are expanding.

This is not in accordance with the fact.
Scientists believe that though the space
between the galaxies is increasing, observations
do not support the expansion of galaxies. So,
the balloon example is only partially correct.

The expansion of universe means increase

in space between the galaxies. An alternative
to this was Hoyles concept of steady state. It
considered the universe to be roughly the same
at any point of time. However, with greater
evidence becoming available about the
expanding universe, scientific community at
present favours argument of expanding
The Star Formation

Figure 2.1 : The Big Bang

The Big Bang Theory considers the

following stages in the development of the
(i) In the beginning, all matter forming the
universe existed in one place in the form
of a tiny ball (singular atom) with an
unimaginably small volume, infinite
temperature and infinite density.
(ii) At the Big Bang the tiny ball exploded
violently. This led to a huge expansion.
It is now generally accepted that the
event of big bang took place 13.7 billion
years before the present. The expansion
continues even to the present day. As it
grew, some energy was converted into
matter. There was particularly rapid
expansion within fractions of a second
after the bang. Thereafter, the
expansion has slowed down. Within first
three minutes from the Big Bang event,
the first atom began to form.
(iii) Within 300,000 years from the Big
Bang, temperature dropped to 4,500 K
and gave rise to atomic matter. The
universe became transparent.

The distribution of matter and energy was not

even in the early universe. These initial density
differences gave rise to differences in
gravitational forces and it caused the matter
to get drawn together. These formed the bases
for development of galaxies. A galaxy contains
a large number of stars. Galaxies spread over
vast distances that are measured in thousands
of light-years. The diameters of individual
galaxies range from 80,000-150,000 light
years. A galaxy starts to form by accumulation
of hydrogen gas in the form of a very large
cloud called nebula. Eventually, growing
nebula develops localised clumps of gas. These
clumps continue to grow into even denser
gaseous bodies, giving rise to formation of
stars. The formation of stars is believed to have
taken place some 5-6 billion years ago.
A light year is a measure of distance and
not of time. Light travels at a speed of
300,000 km/second. Considering this,
the distances the light will travel in one
year is taken to be one light year. This
equals to 9.46110 12 km. The mean
distance between the sun and the earth
is 149,598,000 km. In terms of light
years, it is 8.311 minutes of a year.

Formation of Planets
The following are considered to be the stages
in the development of planets :
(i) The stars are localised lumps of gas
within a nebula. The gravitational force
within the lumps leads to the formation
of a core to the gas cloud and a huge
rotating disc of gas and dust develops
around the gas core.





In the next stage, the gas cloud starts

getting condensed and the matter
around the core develops into smallrounded objects. These small-rounded
objects by the process of cohesion develop
into what is called planetesimals.
Larger bodies start forming by collision,
and gravitational attraction causes the
material to stick together. Planetesimals
are a large number of smaller bodies.
In the final stage, these large number
of small planetesimals accrete to form
a fewer large bodies in the form of


Our Solar system consists of nine planets. The
tenth planet 2003 UB313 has also been recently
sighted. The nebula from which our Solar
system is supposed to have been formed,
started its collapse and core formation some
time 5-5.6 billion years ago and the planets
were formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Our
solar system consists of the sun (the star), 9
planets, 63 moons, millions of smaller bodies
like asteroids and comets and huge quantity
of dust-grains and gases.
Out of the nine planets, mercury, venus,
earth and mars are called as the inner planets
as they lie between the sun and the belt of
asteroids the other five planets are called the outer
planets. Alternatively, the first four are called
Terrestrial, meaning earth-like as they are made
up of rock and metals, and have relatively high
densities. The rest five are called Jovian or Gas
Giant planets. Jovian means jupiter-like. Most

of them are much larger than the terrestrial

planets and have thick atmosphere, mostly of
helium and hydrogen. All the planets were formed
in the same period sometime about 4.6 billion
years ago. Some data regarding our solar system
are given in the box below.
Why are the inner planets rocky while
others are mostly in gaseous form?

The difference between terrestrial and jovian

planets can be attributed to the following
(i) The terrestrial planets were formed in
the close vicinity of the parent star
where it was too warm for gases to
condense to solid particles. Jovian
planets were formed at quite a distant
(ii) The solar wind was most intense nearer
the sun; so, it blew off lots of gas and
dust from the terrestrial planets. The
solar winds were not all that intense to
cause similar removal of gases from the
Jovian planets.
(iii) The terrestrial planets are smaller and
their lower gravity could not hold the
escaping gases.
The Moon
The moon is the only natural satellite of the
earth. Like the origin of the earth, there have
been attempts to explain how the moon was
formed. In 1838, Sir George Darwin suggested
that initially, the earth and the moon formed a
single rapidly rotating body. The whole mass

The Solar System








































about 18 about 17


* Distance from the sun in astronomical unit i.e. average mean distance of the earth is 149,598,000 km = 1
@ Density in gm/cm3
# Radius: Equatorial radius 6378.137 km = 1


became a dumb-bell-shaped body and

eventually it broke. It was also suggested that
the material forming the moon was separated
from what we have at present the depression
occupied by the Pacific Ocean.
However, the present scientists do not
accept either of the explanations. It is now
generally believed that the formation of moon,
as a satellite of the earth, is an outcome of giant
impact or what is described as the big splat.
A body of the size of one to three times that of
mars collided into the earth sometime shortly
after the earth was formed. It blasted a large
part of the earth into space. This portion of
blasted material then continued to orbit the
earth and eventually formed into the present
moon about 4.44 billion years ago.




Do you know that the planet earth initially was

a barren, rocky and hot object with a thin
atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. This is
far from the present day picture of the earth.
Hence, there must have been some events
processes, which may have caused this change
from rocky, barren and hot earth to a beautiful
planet with ample amount of water and
conducive atmosphere favouring the existence
of life. In the following section, you will find
out how the period, between the 4,600 million
years and the present, led to the evolution of
life on the surface of the planet.
The earth has a layered structure. From
the outermost end of the atmosphere to the
centre of the earth, the material that exists is
not uniform. The atmospheric matter has the
least density. From the surface to deeper
depths, the earths interior has different zones
and each of these contains materials with
different characteristics.
How was the layered structure of the
earth developed?

Development of Lithosphere
The earth was mostly in a volatile state during
its primordial stage. Due to gradual increase
in density the temperature inside has
increased. As a result the material inside


started getting separated depending on their

densities. This allowed heavier materials (like
iron) to sink towards the centre of the earth
and the lighter ones to move towards the
surface. With passage of time it cooled further
and solidified and condensed into a smaller size.
This later led to the development of the outer
surface in the form of a crust. During the
formation of the moon, due to the giant impact,
the earth was further heated up. It is through
the process of differentiation that the earth
forming material got separated into different
layers. Starting from the surface to the central
parts, we have layers like the crust, mantle,
outer core and inner core. From the crust to the
core, the density of the material increases. We
shall discuss in detail the properties of each of
this layer in the next chapter.
Evolution of Atmosphere and Hydrosphere
The present composition of earths atmosphere
is chiefly contributed by nitrogen and oxygen.
You will be dealing with the composition and
structure of the earths atmosphere in Chapter 8.
There are three stages in the evolution of
the present atmosphere. The first stage is
marked by the loss of primordial atmosphere.
In the second stage, the hot interior of the earth
contributed to the evolution of the atmosphere.
Finally, the composition of the atmosphere was
modified by the living world through the
process of photosynthesis.
The early atmosphere, with hydrogen and
helium, is supposed to have been stripped off
as a result of the solar winds. This happened
not only in case of the earth, but also in all the
terrestrial planets, which were supposed to
have lost their primordial atmosphere through
the impact of solar winds.
During the cooling of the earth, gases and
water vapour were released from the interior
solid earth. This started the evolution of the
present atmosphere. The early atmosphere
largely contained water vapour, nitrogen,
carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and very
little of free oxygen. The process through which
the gases were outpoured from the interior is
called degassing. Continuous volcanic
eruptions contributed water vapour and gases



Geological Time Scale




(From 65
million years
to the

65 - 245

245 - 570



Age/ Years
Before Present

Life/ Major Events


0 - 10,000
10,000 - 2 million
2 - 5 million
5 - 24 million


24 - 37 Ma
37 - 58 Million
57 - 65 Million

Modern Man
Homo Sapiens
Early Human Ancestor
Ape: Flowering Plants
and Trees
Anthropoid Ape
Rabbits and Hare
Small Mammals :
Rats Mice


65 - 144 Million
144 - 208 Million
208 - 245 Million

Extinction of Dinosaurs
Age of Dinosaurs
Frogs and turtles


245 - 286 Million


286 - 360 Million


360 - 408 Million

408 - 438 Million


438 - 505 Million

505 - 570 Million

Reptile dominate-replace
First Reptiles:
Vertebrates: Coal beds
First trace of life on land:
First Fish
No terrestrial Life :
Marine Invertebrate
Soft-bodied arthropods
Blue green Algae:
Unicellular bacteria
Oceans and Continents
form Ocean and
Atmosphere are rich in
Carbon dioxide


Origin of

570 - 2,500 Million

2,500 - 3,800 Million
570 Million
- 4,800

5,000 13,700

Big Bang

to the atmosphere. As the earth cooled, the

water vapour released started getting
condensed. The carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere got dissolved in rainwater and the
temperature further decreased causing more
condensation and more rains. The rainwater
falling onto the surface got collected in the
depressions to give rise to oceans. The earths
oceans were formed within 500 million years
from the formation of the earth. This tells us

3,800 - 4,800 Million

5,000 Million

Origin of the sun

12,000 Million

Origin of the universe

13,700 Million

that the oceans are as old as 4,000 million

years. Sometime around 3,800 million years
ago, life began to evolve. However, around
2,500-3,000 million years before the present,
the process of photosynthesis got evolved. Life
was confined to the oceans for a long time.
Oceans began to have the contribution of
oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.
Eventually, oceans were saturated with oxygen,
and 2,000 million years ago, oxygen began to
flood the atmosphere.



Origin of Life

living substance. The record of life that existed

on this planet in different periods is found in
rocks in the form of fossils. The microscopic
structures closely related to the present form
of blue algae have been found in geological
formations that are much older than these were
some 3,000 million years ago. It can be
assumed that life began to evolve sometime
3,800 million years ago. The summary of
evolution of life from unicellular bacteria to the
modern man is given in the Geological Time
Scale on page 18.

The last phase in the evolution of the earth

relates to the origin and evolution of life. It is
undoubtedly clear that the initial or even the
atmosphere of the earth was not conducive for
the development of life. Modern scientists refer
to the origin of life as a kind of chemical
reaction, which first generated complex organic
molecules and assembled them. This
assemblage was such that they could duplicate
themselves converting inanimate matter into


Multiple choice questions.


Which one of the following figures represents the age of the earth?
(a) 4.6 million years
(b) 13.7 billion years






(c) 4.6 billion years

(d) 13.7 trillion years

Which one of the following has the longest duration?

(a) Eons

(c) Era

(b) Period

(d) Epoch

Which one of the following is not related to the formation or modification

of the present atmosphere?
(a) Solar winds

(c) Degassing

(b) Differentiation

(d) Photosynthesis

Which one of the following represents the inner planets?


Planets between the sun and the earth


Planets between the sun and the belt of asteroids


Planets in gaseous state


Planets without satellite(s)

Life on the earth appeared around how many years before the present?
(a) 13.7 billion

(c) 4.6 billion

(b) 3.8 million

(d) 3.8 billion

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


Why are the terrestrial planets rocky?

What is the basic difference in the arguments related to the origin of the
earth given by :

Kant and Laplace


Chamberlain and Moulton




What is meant by the process of differentiation?


What was the nature of the earth surface initially?


What were the gases which initially formed the earths atmosphere?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Write an explanatory note on the Big Bang Theory.

List the stages in the evolution of the earth and explain each stage in

Project Work
Collect information about the project Stardust (website:
and along the following lines.

Which is the agency that has launched this project?


Why are scientists interested in collecting Stardust?


Where from has the Stardust been collected?





hat do you imagine about the nature

of the earth? Do you imagine it to be
a solid ball like cricket ball or a
hollow ball with a thick cover of rocks i.e.
lithosphere? Have you ever seen photographs
or images of a volcanic eruption on the
television screen? Can you recollect the
emergence of hot molten lava, dust, smoke, fire
and magma flowing out of the volcanic crater?
The interior of the earth can be understood only
by indirect evidences as neither any one has nor
any one can reach the interior of the earth.
The configuration of the surface of the earth
is largely a product of the processes operating
in the interior of the earth. Exogenic as well as
endogenic processes are constantly shaping
the landscape. A proper understanding of the
physiographic character of a region remains
incomplete if the effects of endogenic processes
are ignored. Human life is largely influenced
by the physiography of the region. Therefore,
it is necessary that one gets acquainted with
the forces that influence landscape
development. To understand why the earth
shakes or how a tsunami wave is generated, it
is necessary that we know certain details of the
interior of the earth. In the previous chapter,
you have noted that the earth-forming
materials have been distributed in the form of
layers from the crust to the core. It is interesting
to know how scientists have gathered
information about these layers and what are
the characteristics of each of these layers. This
is exactly what this chapter deals with.




The earths radius is 6,370 km. No one can

reach the centre of the earth and make
observations or collect samples of the material.
Under such conditions, you may wonder how
scientists tell us about the earths interior and
the type of materials that exist at such depths.
Most of our knowledge about the interior of
the earth is largely based on estimates and
inferences. Yet, a part of the information is
obtained through direct observations and
analysis of materials.
Direct Sources
The most easily available solid earth material
is surface rock or the rocks we get from mining
areas. Gold mines in South Africa are as deep
as 3 - 4 km. Going beyond this depth is not
possible as it is very hot at this depth. Besides
mining, scientists have taken up a number of
projects to penetrate deeper depths to explore
the conditions in the crustal portions. Scientists
world over are working on two major projects
such as Deep Ocean Drilling Project and
Integrated Ocean Drilling Project. The
deepest drill at Kola, in Arctic Ocean, has so
far reached a depth of 12 km. This and many
deep drilling projects have provided large
volume of information through the analysis of
materials collected at different depths.
Volcanic eruption forms another source of
obtaining direct information. As and when the
molten material (magma) is thrown onto the
surface of the earth, during volcanic eruption
it becomes available for laboratory analysis.
However, it is difficult to ascertain the depth of
the source of such magma.


Indirect Sources
Analysis of properties of matter indirectly
provides information about the interior. We
know through the mining activity that
temperature and pressure increase with the
increasing distance from the surface towards
the interior in deeper depths. Moreover, it is
also known that the density of the material also
increases with depth. It is possible to find the
rate of change of these characteristics. Knowing
the total thickness of the earth, scientists have
estimated the values of temperature, pressure
and the density of materials at different depths.
The details of these characteristics with
reference to each layer of the interior are
discussed later in this chapter.
Another source of information are the
meteors that at times reach the earth. However,
it may be noted that the material that becomes
available for analysis from meteors, is not from
the interior of the earth. The material and the
structure observed in the meteors are similar
to that of the earth. They are solid bodies
developed out of materials same as, or similar
to, our planet. Hence, this becomes yet another
source of information about the interior of the
The other indirect sources include
gravitation, magnetic field, and seismic activity.
The gravitation force (g) is not the same at
different latitudes on the surface. It is greater
near the poles and less at the equator. This is
because of the distance from the centre at the
equator being greater than that at the poles.
The gravity values also differ according to the
mass of material. The uneven distribution of
mass of material within the earth influences
this value. The reading of the gravity at different
places is influenced by many other factors.
These readings differ from the expected values.
Such a difference is called gravity anomaly.
Gravity anomalies give us information about
the distribution of mass of the material in the
crust of the earth. Magnetic surveys also
provide information about the distribution of
magnetic materials in the crustal portion, and
thus, provide information about the
distribution of materials in this part. Seismic
activity is one of the most important sources of


information about the interior of the earth.

Hence, we shall discuss it in some detail.
The study of seismic waves provides a complete
picture of the layered interior. An earthquake
in simple words is shaking of the earth. It is a
natural event. It is caused due to release of
energy, which generates waves that travel in
all directions.
Why does the earth shake?
The release of energy occurs along a fault. A
fault is a sharp break in the crustal rocks.
Rocks along a fault tend to move in opposite
directions. As the overlying rock strata press
them, the friction locks them together. However,
their tendency to move apart at some point of
time overcomes the friction. As a result, the
blocks get deformed and eventually, they slide
past one another abruptly. This causes a
release of energy, and the energy waves travel
in all directions. The point where the energy is
released is called the focus of an earthquake,
alternatively, it is called the hypocentre. The
energy waves travelling in different directions
reach the surface. The point on the surface,
nearest to the focus, is called epicentre. It is
the first one to experience the waves. It is a point
directly above the focus.
Earthquake Waves
All natural earthquakes take place in the
lithosphere. You will learn about different
layers of the earth later in this chapter. It is
sufficient to note here that the lithosphere refers
to the portion of depth up to 200 km from the
surface of the earth. An instrument called
seismograph records the waves reaching the
surface. A curve of earthquake waves recorded
on the seismograph is given in Figure 3.1. Note
that the curve shows three distinct sections
each representing different types of wave
patterns. Earthquake waves are basically of two
types body waves and surface waves. Body
waves are generated due to the release of energy
at the focus and move in all directions travelling
through the body of the earth. Hence, the name



body waves. The body waves interact with the

surface rocks and generate new set of waves
called surface waves. These waves move along
the surface. The velocity of waves changes as
they travel through materials with different
densities. The denser the material, the higher
is the velocity. Their direction also changes as
they reflect or refract when coming across
materials with different densities.

propagation. As a result, it creates density

differences in the material leading to stretching
and squeezing of the material. Other three
waves vibrate perpendicular to the direction of
propagation. The direction of vibrations of
S-waves is perpendicular to the wave direction
in the vertical plane. Hence, they create troughs
and crests in the material through which they
pass. Surface waves are considered to be the
most damaging waves.
Emergence of Shadow Zone

Figure 3.1 : Earthquake Waves

There are two types of body waves. They

are called P and S-waves. P-waves move faster
and are the first to arrive at the surface. These
are also called primary waves. The P-waves
are similar to sound waves. They travel
through gaseous, liquid and solid materials.
S-waves arrive at the surface with some time
lag. These are called secondary waves. An
important fact about S-waves is that they can
travel only through solid materials. This
characteristic of the S-waves is quite
important. It has helped scientists to
understand the structure of the interior of the
earth. Reflection causes waves to rebound
whereas refraction makes waves move in
different directions. The variations in the
direction of waves are inferred with the help of
their record on seismograph. The surface
waves are the last to report on seismograph.
These waves are more destructive. They cause
displacement of rocks, and hence, the collapse
of structures occurs.

Earthquake waves get recorded in seismographs located at far off locations. However,
there exist some specific areas where the waves
are not reported. Such a zone is called the
shadow zone. The study of different events
reveals that for each earthquake, there exists
an altogether different shadow zone. Figure 3.2
(a) and (b) show the shadow zones of P and
S-waves. It was observed that seismographs
located at any distance within 105 from the
epicentre, recorded the arrival of both P and
S-waves. However, the seismographs located
beyond 145 from epicentre, record the arrival
of P-waves, but not that of S-waves. Thus, a
zone between 105 and 145 from epicentre was
identified as the shadow zone for both the types
of waves. The entire zone beyond 105 does not
receive S-waves. The shadow zone of S-wave is
much larger than that of the P-waves. The
shadow zone of P-waves appears as a band
around the earth between 105 and 145 away
from the epicentre. The shadow zone of S-waves
is not only larger in extent but it is also a little
over 40 per cent of the earth surface. You can
draw the shadow zone for any earthquake
provided you know the location of the epicentre.
(See the activity box on page 28 to know how to
locate the epicentre of a quake event).
Types of Earthquakes

Propagation of Earthquake Waves

Different types of earthquake waves travel in
different manners. As they move or propagate,
they cause vibration in the body of the rocks
through which they pass. P-waves vibrate
parallel to the direction of the wave. This exerts
pressure on the material in the direction of the

(i) The most common ones are the tectonic

earthquakes. These are generated due to
sliding of rocks along a fault plane.
(ii) A special class of tectonic earthquake is
sometimes recognised as volcanic
earthquake. However, these are confined
to areas of active volcanoes.



(v) The earthquakes that occur in the areas

of large reservoirs are referred to as
reservoir induced earthquakes.
Measuring Earthquakes
The earthquake events are scaled either
according to the magnitude or intensity of the
shock. The magnitude scale is known as the
Richter scale. The magnitude relates to the
energy released during the quake. The
magnitude is expressed in absolute numbers,
0-10. The intensity scale is named after
Mercalli, an Italian seismologist. The intensity
scale takes into account the visible damage
caused by the event. The range of intensity scale
is from 1-12.


Figure 3.2 (a) and (b) : Earthquake Shadow Zones

(iii) In the areas of intense mining activity,

sometimes the roofs of underground
mines collapse causing minor tremors.
These are called collapse earthquakes.
(iv) Ground shaking may also occur due to
the explosion of chemical or nuclear
devices. Such tremors are called explosion



Earthquake is a natural hazard. The following

are the immediate hazardous effects of
(i) Ground Shaking
(ii) Differential ground settlement
(iii) Land and mud slides
(iv) Soil liquefaction
(v) Ground lurching
(vi) Avalanches
(vii) Ground displacement
(viii) Floods from dam and levee failures
(ix) Fires
(x) Structural collapse
(xi) Falling objects
(xii) Tsunami
The first six listed above have some bearings
upon landforms, while others may be
considered the effects causing immediate
concern to the life and properties of people in
the region. The effect of tsunami would occur
only if the epicentre of the tremor is below
oceanic waters and the magnitude is
sufficiently high. Tsunamis are waves
generated by the tremors and not an
earthquake in itself. Though the actual quake
activity lasts for a few seconds, its effects are
devastating provided the magnitude of the
quake is more than 5 on the Richter scale.



Frequency of Earthquake Occurrences


The earthquake is a natural hazard. If a tremor

of high magnitude takes place, it can cause
heavy damage to the life and property of
people. However, not all the parts of the globe
necessarily experience major shocks. We shall
be discussing the distribution of earthquakes
and volcanoes with some details in the next

The Crust



It is the outermost solid part of the earth. It is

brittle in nature. The thickness of the crust
varies under the oceanic and continental areas.
Oceanic crust is thinner as compared to the
continental crust. The mean thickness of
oceanic crust is 5 km whereas that of the
continental is around 30 km. The continental
crust is thicker in the areas of major mountain
systems. It is as much as 70 km thick in the
Himalayan region.
It is made up of heavier rocks having
density of 3 g/cm3. This type of rock found in
the oceanic crust is basalt. The mean density
of material in oceanic crust is 2.7 g/cm3.
The Mantle

A view of the damaged Aman Setu at the LOC

in Uri, due to an earthquake

chapter. Note that the quakes of high

magnitude, i.e. 8+ are quite rare; they occur
once in 1-2 years whereas those of tiny types
occur almost every minute.

The portion of the interior beyond the crust is

called the mantle. The mantle extends from
Mohos discontinuity to a depth of 2,900 km.
The upper portion of the mantle is called
asthenosphere. The word astheno means
weak. It is considered to be extending upto 400
km. It is the main source of magma that finds



been released out in the recent past. The layer

below the solid crust is mantle. It has higher
density than that of the crust. The mantle
contains a weaker zone called asthenosphere.
It is from this that the molten rock materials
find their way to the surface. The material in
the upper mantle portion is called magma.
Once it starts moving towards the crust or it
reaches the surface, it is referred to as lava.
The material that reaches the ground includes
lava flows, pyroclastic debris, volcanic bombs,
ash and dust and gases such as nitrogen
compounds, sulphur compounds and minor
amounts of chlorene, hydrogen and argon.

Figure 3.4 : The interior of the earth

its way to the surface during volcanic

eruptions. It has a density higher than the
crusts (3.4 g/cm 3 ). The crust and the
uppermost part of the mantle are called
lithosphere. Its thickness ranges from 10-200 km.
The lower mantle extends beyond the
asthenosphere. It is in solid state.

Volcanoes are classified on the basis of nature

of eruption and the form developed at the
surface. Major types of volcanoes are as follows:
Shield Volcanoes
Barring the basalt flows, the shield volcanoes
are the largest of all the volcanoes on the earth.
The Hawaiian volcanoes are the most famous

The Core
As indicated earlier, the earthquake wave
velocities helped in understanding the
existence of the core of the earth. The coremantle boundary is located at the depth of
2,900 km. The outer core is in liquid state while
the inner core is in solid state. The density of
material at the mantle core boundary is around
5 g/cm3 and at the centre of the earth at 6,300
km, the density value is around 13g/cm3. The
core is made up of very heavy material mostly
constituted by nickel and iron. It is sometimes
referred to as the nife layer.



Shield Volcano


You may have seen photographs or pictures of

volcanoes on a number of occasions. A volcano
is a place where gases, ashes and/or molten
rock material lava escape to the ground. A
volcano is called an active volcano if the
materials mentioned are being released or have

Cinder Cone



examples. These volcanoes are mostly made

up of basalt, a type of lava that is very fluid
when erupted. For this reason, these volcanoes
are not steep. They become explosive if
somehow water gets into the vent; otherwise,
they are characterised by low-explosivity. The
upcoming lava moves in the form of a fountain
and throws out the cone at the top of the vent
and develops into cinder cone.

more than 50 m. Individual flows may extend

for hundreds of km. The Deccan Traps from
India, presently covering most of the
Maharashtra plateau, are a much larger flood
basalt province. It is believed that initially the
trap formations covered a much larger area
than the present.

Composite Volcanoes

These volcanoes occur in the oceanic areas.

There is a system of mid-ocean ridges more
than 70,000 km long that stretches through
all the ocean basins. The central portion of this
ridge experiences frequent eruptions. We shall
be discussing this in detail in the next chapter.

These volcanoes are characterised by

eruptions of cooler and more viscous lavas
than basalt. These volcanoes often result in
explosive eruptions. Along with lava, large
quantities of pyroclastic material and ashes
find their way to the ground. This material
accumulates in the vicinity of the vent openings
leading to formation of layers, and this makes
the mounts appear as composite volcanoes.

Composite Volcano

Mid-Ocean Ridge Volcanoes

Intrusive Forms
The lava that is released during volcanic
eruptions on cooling develops into igneous
rocks. The cooling may take place either on
reaching the surface or also while the lava is
still in the crustal portion. Depending on the
location of the cooling of the lava, igneous rocks
are classified as volcanic rocks (cooling at the
surface) and plutonic rocks (cooling in the
crust). The lava that cools within the crustal
portions assumes different forms. These forms
are called intrusive forms. Some of the forms
are shown in Figure 3.5.

These are the most explosive of the earths
volcanoes. They are usually so explosive that
when they erupt they tend to collapse on
themselves rather than building any tall
structure. The collapsed depressions are called
calderas. Their explosiveness indicates that
the magma chamber supplying the lava is not
only huge but is also in close vicinity.
Flood Basalt Provinces
These volcanoes outpour highly fluid lava that
flows for long distances. Some parts of the
world are covered by thousands of sq. km of
thick basalt lava flows. There can be a series of
flows with some flows attaining thickness of

Figure 3.5 : Volcanic Landforms



A large body of magmatic material that cools
in the deeper depth of the crust develops in the
form of large domes. They appear on the surface
only after the denudational processes remove
the overlying materials. They cover large areas,
and at times, assume depth that may be several
km. These are granitic bodies. Batholiths are
the cooled portion of magma chambers.

conduit from below. It resembles the surface

volcanic domes of composite volcano, only
these are located at deeper depths. It can be
regarded as the localised source of lava that
finds its way to the surface. The Karnataka
plateau is spotted with domal hills of granite
rocks. Most of these, now exfoliated, are
examples of lacoliths or batholiths.

These are large dome-shaped intrusive bodies
with a level base and connected by a pipe-like

As and when the lava moves upwards, a

portion of the same may tend to move in a
horizontal direction wherever it finds a weak

Lapolith, Phacolith and Sills

Activity : Locating an Epicentre

For this you will need
Data from 3 seismograph stations about the time of arrival of P-waves, S-waves.
1. Find the time of arrival of P and S-waves of the given quake for the three stations for which
you have the data.
2. Compute the time lag between the arrival of P and S-waves for each station; it is called time
lag. (Note that it is directly related to the distance of the seismograph from the focus.)
A. Basic rule : For every second of time lag, the earthquake is roughly 8 km away from you.
3. Using the rule quoted above, convert the time lag into distance ( # seconds of time lag * 8)
for each station.
4. On a map locate the seismograph stations.
5. Draw circles, taking the seismograph stations as the centre, with the radius equal to the
distance you have calculated in the previous step. (Do not forget to convert distance as per
the map scale.)
6. These circles will intersect each other in a point. This point is the location of the epicentre.
In normal practice, the epicentres are located using computer models. They take into account
the structure of the earths crust. The locations with accuracy within a few hundred metres
can be achieved. The procedure outlined here is a much simplified version of what is normally
done, although the principle is the same.
In the following diagram, the epicentre is located using this procedure. It also contains a
table giving necessary data. Why dont you try for yourself ?

Arrival time of
Hour Min. Sec.
Hour Min. Sec.






















Scale of the map 1cm = 40km



plane. It may get rested in different forms. In

case it develops into a saucer shape, concave
to the sky body, it is called lapolith. A wavy
mass of intrusive rocks, at times, is found at
the base of synclines or at the top of anticline
in folded igneous country. Such wavy materials
have a definite conduit to source beneath in
the form of magma chambers (subsequently
developed as batholiths). These are called the
The near horizontal bodies of the
intrusive igneous rocks are called sill or
sheet, depending on the thickness of the
material. The thinner ones are called sheets

while the thick horizontal deposits are

called sills.
When the lava makes its way through cracks
and the fissures developed in the land, it
solidifies almost perpendicular to the ground.
It gets cooled in the same position to develop a
wall-like structure. Such structures are called
dykes. These are the most commonly found
intrusive forms in the western Maharashtra area.
These are considered the feeders for the eruptions
that led to the development of the Deccan traps.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following earthquake waves is more destructive?
(a) P-waves

(c) Surface waves

(b) S-waves

(d) None of the above

(ii) Which one of the following is a direct source of information about the
interior of the earth?
(a) Earthquake waves

(c) Gravitational force

(b) Volcanoes

(d) Earth magnetism

(iii) Which type of volcanic eruptions have caused Deccan Trap formations?
(a) Shield

(c) Composite

(b) Flood

(d) Caldera

(iv) Which one of the following describes the lithosphere:


(a) upper and lower mantle

(c) crust and core

(b) crust and upper mantle

(d) mantle and core

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What are body waves?

Name the direct sources of information about the interior of the earth.


Why do earthquake waves develop shadow zone?


Briefly explain the indirect sources of information of the interior of the

earth other than those of seismic activity.

3. Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


What are the effects of propagation of earthquake waves on the rock mass
through which they travel?


What do you understand by intrusive forms? Briefly describe various

intrusive forms.



In the previous chapter, you have studied the

interior of the earth. You are already familiar
with the world map. You know that continents
cover 29 per cent of the surface of the earth
and the remainder is under oceanic waters.
The positions of the continents and the ocean
bodies, as we see them in the map, have not
been the same in the past. Moreover, it is now
a well-accepted fact that oceans and
continents will not continue to enjoy their
present positions in times to come. If this is
so, the question arises what were their positions
in the past? Why and how do they change their
positions? Even if it is true that the continents
and oceans have changed and are changing
their positions, you may wonder as to how
scientists know this. How have they determined
their earlier positions? You will find the answers
to some of these and related questions in this

Observe the shape of the coastline of the Atlantic
Ocean. You will be surprised by the symmetry
of the coastlines on either side of the ocean. No
wonder, many scientists thought of this
similarity and considered the possibility of the
two Americas, Europe and Africa, to be once
joined together. From the known records of the
history of science, it was Abraham Ortelius, a
Dutch map maker, who first proposed such a
possibility as early as 1596. Antonio Pellegrini
drew a map showing the three continents together.
However, it was Alfred Wegenera German
meteorologist who put forth a comprehensive
argument in the form of the continental drift




theory in 1912. This was regarding the

distribution of the oceans and the continents.
According to Wegener, all the continents
formed a single continental mass, a mega ocean
surrounded by the same. The super continent
was named PANGAEA, which meant all earth.
The mega-ocean was called PANTHALASSA,
meaning all water. He argued that, around 200
million years ago, the super continent,
Pangaea, began to split. Pangaea first broke
into two large continental masses as Laurasia
and Gondwanaland forming the northern and
southern components respectively. Subsequently, Laurasia and Gondwanaland
continued to break into various smaller
continents that exist today. A variety of evidence
was offered in support of the continental drift.
Some of these are given below.
Evidence in Support of the Continental Drift
The Matching of Continents (Jig-Saw-Fit)
The shorelines of Africa and South America
facing each other have a remarkable and
unmistakable match. It may be noted that a
map produced using a computer programme
to find the best fit of the Atlantic margin was
presented by Bullard in 1964. It proved to be
quite perfect. The match was tried at 1,000fathom line instead of the present shoreline.
Rocks of Same Age Across the Oceans
The radiometric dating methods developed in
the recent period have facilitated correlating the
rock formation from different continents across



the vast ocean. The belt of ancient rocks of

2,000 million years from Brazil coast matches
with those from western Africa. The earliest
marine deposits along the coastline of South
America and Africa are of the Jurassic age.
This suggests that the ocean did not exist prior
to that time.
It is the sedimentary rock formed out of
deposits of glaciers. The Gondawana system
of sediments from India is known to have its
counter parts in six different landmasses of the
Southern Hemisphere. At the base the system
has thick tillite indicating extensive and
prolonged glaciation. Counter parts of this
succession are found in Africa, Falkland Island,
Madagascar, Antarctica and Australia besides
India. Overall resemblance of the Gondawana
type sediments clearly demonstrates that these
landmasses had remarkably similar histories.
The glacial tillite provides unambiguous
evidence of palaeoclimates and also of drifting
of continents.
Placer Deposits
The occurrence of rich placer deposits of gold
in the Ghana coast and the absolute absence
of source rock in the region is an amazing fact.
The gold bearing veins are in Brazil and it is
obvious that the gold deposits of the Ghana
are derived from the Brazil plateau when the
two continents lay side by side.
Distribution of Fossils
When identical species of plants and animals
adapted to living on land or in fresh water are
found on either side of the marine barriers, a
problem arises regarding accounting for such
distribution. The observations that Lemurs
occur in India, Madagascar and Africa led some
to consider a contiguous landmass Lemuria
linking these three landmasses. Mesosaurus
was a small reptile adapted to shallow brackish
water. The skeletons of these are found only
in two localities : the Southern Cape province
of South Africa and Iraver formations of Brazil.
The two localities presently are 4,800 km apart
with an ocean in between them.

Force for Drifting

Wegener suggested that the movement
responsible for the drifting of the continents
was caused by pole-fleeing force and tidal force.
The polar-fleeing force relates to the rotation
of the earth. You are aware of the fact that the
earth is not a perfect sphere; it has a bulge at
the equator. This bulge is due to the rotation
of the earth. The second force that was
suggested by Wegenerthe tidal forceis due
to the attraction of the moon and the sun that
develops tides in oceanic waters. Wegener
believed that these forces would become
effective when applied over many million years.
However, most of scholars considered these
forces to be totally inadequate.
Post-Drift Studies
It is interesting to note that for continental drift,
most of the evidence was collected from the
continental areas in the form of distribution of
flora and fauna or deposits like tillite. A number
of discoveries during the post-war period
added new information to geological literature.
Particularly, the information collected from the
ocean floor mapping provided new dimensions
for the study of distribution of oceans and
Convectional Current Theory
Arthur Holmes in 1930s discussed the
possibility of convection currents operating in
the mantle portion. These currents are
generated due to radioactive elements causing
thermal differences in the mantle portion.
Holmes argued that there exists a system of
such currents in the entire mantle portion. This
was an attempt to provide an explanation to
the issue of force, on the basis of which
contemporary scientists discarded the
continental drift theory.
Mapping of the Ocean Floor
Detailed research of the ocean configuration
revealed that the ocean floor is not just a vast
plain but it is full of relief. Expeditions to map
the oceanic floor in the post-war period
provided a detailed picture of the ocean relief
and indicated the existence of submerged



mountain ranges as well as deep trenches,

mostly located closer to the continent margins.
The mid-oceanic ridges were found to be most
active in terms of volcanic eruptions. The dating
of the rocks from the oceanic crust revealed
the fact that the latter is much younger than
the continental areas. Rocks on either side of
the crest of oceanic ridges and having equidistant locations from the crest were found to
have remarkable similarities both in terms of
their constituents and their age.
Ocean Floor Configuration
In this section we shall note a few things related
to the ocean floor configuration that help us in
the understanding of the distribution of
continents and oceans. You will be studying
the details of ocean floor relief in Chapter
13. The ocean floor may be segmented into
three major divisions based on the depth
as well as the forms of relief. These divisions
are continental margins, deep-sea basins and
mid-ocean ridges.

Figure 4.1 : Ocean Floor

Continental Margins
These form the transition between continental
shores and deep-sea basins. They include
continental shelf, continental slope, continental
rise and deep-oceanic trenches. Of these, the
deep-sea trenches are the areas which are of
considerable interest in so far as the
distribution of oceans and continents is

Abyssal Plains
These are extensive plains that lie between the
continental margins and mid-oceanic ridges.
The abyssal plains are the areas where the
continental sediments that move beyond the
margins get deposited.
Mid-Oceanic Ridges
This forms an interconnected chain of
mountain system within the ocean. It is the
longest mountain-chain on the surface of the
earth though submerged under the oceanic
waters. It is characterised by a central rift
system at the crest, a fractionated plateau and
flank zone all along its length. The rift system
at the crest is the zone of intense volcanic
activity. In the previous chapter, you have been
introduced to this type of volcanoes as midoceanic volcanoes.
Distribution of Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Study the maps showing the distribution of
seismic activity and volcanoes given in Figure
4.2. You will notice a line of dots in the central
parts of the Atlantic Ocean almost parallel to
the coastlines. It further extends into the Indian
Ocean. It bifurcates a little south of the Indian
subcontinent with one branch moving into
East Africa and the other meeting a similar line
from Myanmar to New Guiana. You will notice
that this line of dots coincides with the midoceanic ridges. The shaded belt showing
another area of concentration coincides with
the Alpine-Himalayan system and the rim of
the Pacific Ocean. In general, the foci of the
earthquake in the areas of mid-oceanic ridges
are at shallow depths whereas along the
Alpine-Himalayan belt as well as the rim of the
Pacific, the earthquakes are deep-seated ones.
The map of volcanoes also shows a similar
pattern. The rim of the Pacific is also called rim
of fire due to the existence of active volcanoes in
this area.




As mentioned above, the post-drift studies

provided considerable information that was not



Figure 4. 2 : Distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes

available at the time Wegener put forth his

concept of continental drift. Particularly, the
mapping of the ocean floor and palaeomagnetic
studies of rocks from oceanic regions revealed
the following facts :
(i) It was realised that all along the midoceanic ridges, volcanic eruptions are
common and they bring huge amounts of
lava to the surface in this area.
(ii) The rocks equidistant on either sides of the
crest of mid-oceanic ridges show
remarkable similarities in terms of period
of formation, chemical compositions and
magnetic properties. Rocks closer to the
mid-oceanic ridges are normal polarity and
are the youngest. The age of the rocks
increases as one moves away from the
(iii) The ocean crust rocks are much younger
than the continental rocks. The age of rocks
in the oceanic crust is nowhere more than
200 million years old. Some of the continental
rock formations are as old as 3,200 million

(iv) The sediments on the ocean floor are

unexpectedly very thin. Scientists were
expecting, if the ocean floors were as old
as the continent, to have a complete
sequence of sediments for a period of much
longer duration. However, nowhere was the
sediment column found to be older than
200 million years.
(v) The deep trenches have deep-seated
earthquake occurrences while in the midoceanic ridge areas, the quake foci have
shallow depths.
These facts and a detailed analysis of magnetic
properties of the rocks on either sides of the
mid-oceanic ridge led Hess (1961) to propose
his hypothesis, known as the sea floor
spreading. Hess argued that constant
eruptions at the crest of oceanic ridges cause
the rupture of the oceanic crust and the new
lava wedges into it, pushing the oceanic crust
on either side. The ocean floor, thus spreads.
The younger age of the oceanic crust as well
as the fact that the spreading of one ocean does
not cause the shrinking of the other, made Hess



Figure 4. 3 : Sea floor spreading

think about the consumption of the oceanic

crust. He further maintained that the ocean
floor that gets pushed due to volcanic
eruptions at the crest, sinks down at the
oceanic trenches and gets consumed.
The basic concept of sea floor spreading has
been depicted in Figure 4.3.

Since the advent of the concept of sea floor
spreading, the interest in the problem of
distribution of oceans and continents was
revived. It was in 1967, McKenzie and Parker
and also Morgan, independently collected the
available ideas and came out with another

The motions of the continents during the past 540

million years. 1. Africa; 2. South America;
3. Antarctica; 4. Australia; 5. India; 6. China; 7. North
America; 8. Europe; 9. and 10. Siberia (Emilani, 1992)

Figure 4.4 : Position of continents through geological past



concept termed Plate Tectonics. A tectonic

plate (also called lithospheric plate) is a
massive, irregularly-shaped slab of solid rock,
generally composed of both continental and
oceanic lithosphere. Plates move horizontally
over the asthenosphere as rigid units. The
lithosphere includes the crust and top mantle
with its thickness range varying between 5-100
km in oceanic parts and about 200 km in the
continental areas. A plate may be referred to
as the continental plate or oceanic plate
depending on which of the two occupy a larger
portion of the plate. Pacific plate is largely an
oceanic plate whereas the Eurasian plate may be
called a continental plate. The theory of plate
tectonics proposes that the earths lithosphere is
divided into seven major and some minor plates.
Young Fold Mountain ridges, trenches, and/or
faults surround these major plates (Figure 4.5).
The major plates are as follows :
(i) Antarctica and the surrounding oceanic

(ii) North American (with western Atlantic

floor separated from the South American
plate along the Caribbean islands) plate
(iii) South American (with western Atlantic
floor separated from the North American
plate along the Caribbean islands) plate
(iv) Pacific plate
(v) India-Australia-New Zealand plate
(vi) Africa with the eastern Atlantic floor plate
(vii) Eurasia and the adjacent oceanic plate.
Some important minor plates are listed
(i) Cocos plate : Between Central America
and Pacific plate
(ii) Nazca plate : Between South America
and Pacific plate
(iii) Arabian plate : Mostly the Saudi Arabian
(iv) Philippine plate : Between the Asiatic and
Pacific plate

Figure 4.5 : Major and minor plates of the world


(v) Caroline plate : Between the Philippine

and Indian plate (North of New Guinea)

(vi) Fuji plate : North-east of Australia.
These plates have been constantly moving
over the globe throughout the history of the
earth. It is not the continent that moves as
believed by Wegener. Continents are part of a
plate and what moves is the plate. Moreover, it
may be noted that all the plates, without
exception, have moved in the geological past,
and shall continue to move in the future period
as well. Wegener had thought of all the
continents to have initially existed as a super
continent in the form of Pangaea. However,
later discoveries reveal that the continental
masses, resting on the plates, have been
wandering all through the geological period,
and Pangaea was a result of converging of
different continental masses that were parts
of one or the other plates. Scientists using the
palaeomagnetic data have determined the
positions held by each of the present continental
landmass in different geological periods.
Position of the Indian sub-continent (mostly
Peninsular India) is traced with the help of the
rocks analysed from the Nagpur area.
There are three types of plate boundaries:


Transform Boundaries
Where the crust is neither produced nor
destroyed as the plates slide horizontally past
each other. Transform faults are the planes of
separation generally perpendicular to the midoceanic ridges. As the eruptions do not take
all along the entire crest at the same time, there
is a differential movement of a portion of the
plate away from the axis of the earth. Also, the
rotation of the earth has its effect on the
separated blocks of the plate portions.
How do you think the rate of plate
movement is determined?

Rates of Plate Movement

The strips of normal and reverse magnetic field
that parallel the mid-oceanic ridges help
scientists determine the rates of plate
movement. These rates vary considerably. The
Arctic Ridge has the slowest rate (less than 2.5
cm/yr), and the East Pacific Rise near Easter
Island, in the South Pacific about 3,400 km
west of Chile, has the fastest rate (more than
15 cm/yr).
Force for the Plate Movement

Divergent Boundaries
Where new crust is generated as the plates pull
away from each other. The sites where the
plates move away from each other are called
spreading sites. The best-known example of
divergent boundaries is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
At this, the American Plate(s) is/are separated
from the Eurasian and African Plates.
Convergent Boundaries
Where the crust is destroyed as one plate dived
under another. The location where sinking of
a plate occurs is called a subduction zone.
There are three ways in which convergence can
occur. These are: (i) between an oceanic and
continental plate; (ii) between two oceanic
plates; and (iii) between two continental

At the time that Wegener proposed his theory

of continental drift, most scientists believed
that the earth was a solid, motionless body.
However, concepts of sea floor spreading and
the unified theory of plate tectonics have
emphasised that both the surface of the earth
and the interior are not static and motionless
but are dynamic. The fact that the plates move
is now a well-accepted fact. The mobile rock
beneath the rigid plates is believed to be
moving in a circular manner. The heated
material rises to the surface, spreads and
begins to cool, and then sinks back into deeper
depths. This cycle is repeated over and over to
generate what scientists call a convection cell
or convective flow. Heat within the earth comes
from two main sources: radioactive decay and
residual heat. Arthur Holmes first considered



this idea in the 1930s, which later influenced

Harry Hess thinking about seafloor spreading.
The slow movement of hot, softened mantle
that lies below the rigid plates is the driving
force behind the plate movement.




The Indian plate includes Peninsular India

and the Australian continental portions. The
subduction zone along the Himalayas forms
the northern plate boundary in the form of
continent continent convergence. In the east,
it extends through Rakinyoma Mountains of
Myanmar towards the island arc along the
Java T rench. The eastern margin is a
spreading site lying to the east of Australia in
the form of an oceanic ridge in SW Pacific. The
Western margin follows Kirthar Mountain of
Pakistan. It further extends along the Makrana
coast and joins the spreading site from the
Red Sea rift southeastward along the Chagos
Archipelago. The boundary between India
and the Antarctic plate is also marked by
oceanic ridge (divergent boundary) running
in roughly W-E direction and merging into the
spreading site, a little south of New Zealand.
India was a large island situated off the
Australian coast, in a vast ocean. The Tethys
Sea separated it from the Asian continent till
about 225 million years ago. India is supposed
to have started her northward journey about
200 million years ago at the time when Pangaea
broke. India collided with Asia about 40-50
million years ago causing rapid uplift of the
Himalayas. The positions of India since about
71 million years till the present are shown in
the Figure 4.6. It also shows the position of
the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian
plate. About 140 million years before the
present, the subcontinent was located as
south as 50oS. latitude. The two major plates
were separated by the Tethys Sea and the
Tibetan block was closer to the Asiatic
landmass. During the movement of the Indian

Figure 4.6 : Movement of the Indian plate

plate towards the Asiatic plate, a major event

that occurred was the outpouring of lava and
formation of the Deccan Traps. This started
somewhere around 60 million years ago and
continued for a long period of time. Note that
the subcontinent was still close to the equator.
From 40 million years ago and thereafter, the
event of formation of the Himalayas took place.
Scientists believe that the process is still
continuing and the height of the Himalayas is
rising even to this date.




Multiple choice questions.

(i) Who amongst the following was the first to consider the possibility of
Europe, Africa and America having been located side by side.
(a) Alfred Wegener

(c) Abraham Ortelius

(b) Antonio Pellegrini

(d) Edmond Hess

(ii) Polar fleeing force relates to:

(a) Revolution of the Earth

(c) Rotation of the earth

(b) Gravitation

(d) Tides

(iii) Which one of the following is not a minor plate?


(a) Nazca

(c) Philippines

(b) Arabia

(d) Antarctica

Which one of the following facts was not considered by those while
discussing the concept of sea floor spreading?
(a) Volcanic activity along the mid-oceanic ridges.
(b) Stripes of normal and reverse magnetic field observed in rocks of ocean
(c) Distribution of fossils in different continents.
(d) Age of rocks from the ocean floor.


Which one of the following is the type of plate boundary of the Indian plate
along the Himalayan mountains?
(a) Ocean-continent convergence
(b) Divergent boundary
(c) Transform boundary
(d) Continent-continent convergence



Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What were the forces suggested by Wegener for the movement of the


How are the convectional currents in the mantle initiated and maintained?


What is the major difference between the transform boundary and the
convergent or divergent boundaries of plates?


What was the location of the Indian landmass during the formation of the
Deccan Traps?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


What are the evidences in support of the continental drift theory?


Bring about the basic difference between the drift theory and Plate


What were the major post-drift discoveries that rejuvenated the interest
of scientists in the study of distribution of oceans and continents?

Project Work
Prepare a collage related to damages caused by an earthquake.

This unit deals with

Rocks and minerals major types of rocks and their


Landforms and their evolution

Geomorphic processes weathering, mass wasting, erosion

and deposition; soils formation



he earth is composed of various kinds

of elements. These elements are in solid
form in the outer layer of the earth and
in hot and molten form in the interior.
About 98 per cent of the total crust of the
earth is composed of eight elements like
oxygen, silicon, aluminium, iron, calcium,
sodium, potassium and magnesium (Table 5.1),
and the rest is constituted by titanium,
hydrogen, phosphorous, manganese, sulphur,
carbon, nickel and other elements.
Table 5.1 : The Major Elements of the Earths Crust
Sl. No.


By Weight(%)

The elements in the earths crust are rarely

found exclusively but are usually combined with
other elements to make various substances.
These substances are recognised as minerals.
Thus, a mineral is a naturally occurring
inorganic substance, having an orderly
atomic structure and a definite chemical
composition and physical properties. A
mineral is composed of two or more
elements. But, sometimes single element
minerals like sulphur, copper, silver, gold,
graphite etc. are found.



Though the number of elements making

up the lithosphere are limited they are
combined in many different ways to make up
many varieties of minerals. There are at least
2,000 minerals that have been named and
identified in the earth crust; but almost all the
commonly occurring ones are related to six
major mineral groups that are known as major
rock forming minerals.
The basic source of all minerals is the hot
magma in the interior of the earth. When
magma cools, crystals of minerals appear and
a systematic series of minerals are formed in
sequence to solidify so as to form rocks.
Minerals such as coal, petroleum and natural
gas are organic substances found in solid,
liquid and gaseous forms respectively.
A brief information about some important
minerals in terms of their nature and physical
characteristics is given below :

(i) Exter nal crystal for m deter mined by internal arrangement of
the molecules cubes, octahedrons, hexagonal prisms, etc.
(ii) Cleavage tendency to break in
relatively plane surfaces result
of internal arrangement of the
molecules may cleave in one or
more directions and at any angle
to each other.



(iii) Fracture internal molecular

arrangement so complex there are
no planes of molecules; the crystal
will break in an irregular manner,
not along planes of cleavage.
(iv) Lustre appearance of a material
without regard to colour; each
mineral has a distinctive lustre like
metallic, silky, glossy etc.
(v) Colour some minerals have
characteristic colour determined
by their molecular structure
malachite, azurite, chalcopyrite etc.,
and some minerals are coloured by
impurities. For example, because
of impurities quartz may be white,
green, red, yellow etc.
(vi) Streak colour of the ground powder
of any mineral. It may be of the
same colour as the mineral or may
differ malachite is green and gives
green streak, fluorite is purple or
green but gives a white streak.
(vii) Transparency transparent: light
rays pass through so that objects
can be seen plainly; translucent
light rays pass through but will
get diffused so that objects cannot
be seen; opaque light will not pass
at all.
(viii) Structure particular arrangement of the individual crystals;
fine, medium or coarse grained;
fibrous separable, divergent,
(ix) Hardness relative resistance
being scratched; ten minerals are
selected to measure the degree of
hardness from 1-10. They are:
1. talc; 2. gypsum; 3. calcite;
4. fluorite; 5. apatite; 6. feldspar;
7. quartz; 8. topaz; 9. corundum;
10. diamond. Compared to this for
example, a fingernail is 2.5 and
glass or knife blade is 5.5.
(x) Specific gravity the ratio between
the weight of a given object and
the weight of an equal volume of
water; object weighed in air and
then weighed in water and divide
weight in air by the difference of the
two weights.




Silicon and oxygen are common elements in
all types of feldspar and sodium, potassium,
calcium, aluminium etc. are found in specific
feldspar variety. Half of the earths crust is
composed of feldspar. It has light cream to
salmon pink colour. It is used in ceramics and
glass making.
It is one of the most important components of
sand and granite. It consists of silica. It is a
hard mineral virtually insoluble in water. It is
white or colourless and used in radio and radar.
It is one of the most important components of
Pyroxene consists of calcium, aluminum,
magnesium, iron and silica. Pyroxene forms
10 per cent of the earths crust. It is commonly
found in meteorites. It is in green or black
Aluminium, calcium, silica, iron, magnesium
are the major elements of amphiboles. They
form 7 per cent of the earths crust. It is in
green or black colour and is used in asbestos
industry. Hornblende is another form of
It comprises of potassium, aluminium,
magnesium, iron, silica etc. It forms 4 per cent
of the earths crust. It is commonly found in
igneous and metamorphic rocks. It is used in
electrical instruments.
Magnesium, iron and silica are major elements
of olivine. It is used in jewellery. It is usually a
greenish crystal, often found in basaltic rocks.
Besides these main minerals, other minerals
like chlorite, calcite, magnetite, haematite,
bauxite and barite are also present in some
quantities in the rocks.



Metallic Minerals

Igneous Rocks

These minerals contain metal content and can

be sub-divided into three types:
(i) Precious metals : gold, silver, platinum
(ii) Ferrous metals : iron and other metals
often mixed with iron to form various
kinds of steel.
(iii) Non-ferrous metals : include metals
like copper, lead, zinc, tin, aluminium

As igneous rocks form out of magma and lava

from the interior of the earth, they are known
as primary rocks. The igneous rocks (Ignis
in Latin means Fire) are formed when magma
cools and solidifies. You already know what
magma is. When magma in its upward
movement cools and turns into solid form it is
called igneous rock. The process of cooling and
solidification can happen in the earths crust
or on the surface of the earth.
Igneous rocks are classified based on
texture. Texture depends upon size and
arrangement of grains or other physical
conditions of the materials. If molten material
is cooled slowly at great depths, mineral grains
may be very large. Sudden cooling (at the
surface) results in small and smooth grains.
Intermediate conditions of cooling would result
in intermediate sizes of grains making up
igneous rocks. Granite, gabbro, pegmatite,
basalt, volcanic breccia and tuff are some of
the examples of igneous rocks.

Non-Metallic Minerals
These minerals do not contain metal content.
Sulphur, phosphates and nitrates are examples
of non-metallic minerals. Cement is a mixture
of non-metallic minerals.

The earths crust is composed of rocks. A
rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals.
Rock may be hard or soft and in varied
colours. For example, granite is hard, soapstone
is soft. Gabbro is black and quartzite can be
milky white. Rocks do not have definite
composition of mineral constituents.
Feldspar and quartz are the most common
minerals found in rocks.
Petrology is science of rocks. A petrologist
studies rocks in all their aspects viz.,
mineral composition, texture, structure,
origin, occurrence, alteration and
relationship with other rocks.

As there is a close relation between rocks

and landforms, rocks and soils, a geographer
requires basic knowledge of rocks. There are
many different kinds of rocks which are
grouped under three families on the basis of
their mode of formation. They are: (i) Igneous
Rocks solidified from magma and lava;
(ii) Sedimentary Rocks the result of
deposition of fragments of rocks by exogenous
processes; (iii) Metamorphic Rocks formed out
of existing rocks undergoing recrystallisation.

Sedimentary Rocks
The word sedimentary is derived from the Latin
word sedimentum, which means settling. Rocks
(igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) of the
earths surface are exposed to denudational
agents, and are broken up into various sizes
of fragments. Such fragments are transported
by different exogenous agencies and
deposited. These deposits through compaction
turn into rocks. This process is called
lithification. In many sedimentary rocks, the
layers of deposits retain their characteristics
even after lithification. Hence, we see a number
of layers of varying thickness in sedimentary
rocks like sandstone, shale etc.
Depending upon the mode of formation,
sedimentary rocks are classified into three major
groups: (i) mechanically formed sandstone,
conglomerate, limestone, shale, loess etc. are
examples; (ii) organically formed geyserite,
chalk, limestone, coal etc. are some examples;
(iii) chemically formed chert, limestone, halite,
potash etc. are some examples.



Metamorphic Rocks
The word metamorphic means change of form.
These rocks form under the action of pressure,
volume and temperature (PVT) changes.
Metamorphism occurs when rocks are forced
down to lower levels by tectonic processes or
when molten magma rising through the crust
comes in contact with the crustal rocks or the
underlying rocks are subjected to great
amounts of pressure by overlying rocks.
Metamorphism is a process by which already
consolidated rocks undergo recrystallisation
and reorganisation of materials within original
Mechanical disruption and reorganisation
of the original minerals within rocks due to
breaking and crushing without any
appreciable chemical changes is called dynamic
metamorphism. The materials of rocks
chemically alter and recrystallise due to
thermal metamorphism. There are two types
of thermal metamorphism contact metamorphism and regional metamorphism. In
contact metamorphism the rocks come in
contact with hot intruding magma and lava
and the rock materials recrystallise under high
temperatures. Quite often new materials form
out of magma or lava are added to the rocks.
In regional metamorphism, rocks undergo
recrystallisation due to deformation caused by
tectonic shearing together with high
temperature or pressure or both. In the process
of metamorphism in some rocks grains or
minerals get arranged in layers or lines. Such
an arrangement of minerals or grains in
metamorphic rocks is called foliation or
lineation. Sometimes minerals or materials of
different groups are arranged into alternating
thin to thick layers appearing in light and dark
shades. Such a structure in metamorphic
rocks is called banding and rocks displaying
banding are called banded rocks. Types of
metamorphic rocks depend upon original
rocks that were subjected to metamorphism.
Metamorphic rocks are classified into two

major groups foliated rocks and non-foliated

rocks. Gneissoid, granite, syenite, slate, schist,
marble, quartzite etc. are some examples of
metamorphic rocks.

Rocks do not remain in their original form for
long but may undergo transformation. Rock
cycle is a continuous process through which
old rocks are transformed into new ones.
Igneous rocks are primary rocks and other
rocks (sedimentary and metamorphic) form
from these primary rocks. Igneous rocks can
be changed into metamorphic rocks. The
fragments derived out of igneous and
metamorphic rocks form into sedimentary

Fig 5.1 : Rock Cycle

rocks. Sedimentary rocks themselves can turn

into fragments and the fragments can be a
source for formation of sedimentary rocks. The
crustal rocks (igneous, metamorphic and
sedimentary) once formed may be carried
down into the mantle (interior of the earth)
through subduction process (parts or whole
of crustal plates going down under another
plate in zones of plate convergence) and the
same melt down due to increase in
temperature in the interior and turn into
molten magma, the original source for
igneous rocks (Figure 5.1).




Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following are the two main constituents of granite?
(a) Iron and nickel

(c) Silica and aluminium

(b) Iron and silver

(d) Iron Oxide and potassium

(ii) Which one of the following is the salient feature of metamorphic rocks?
(a) Changeable

(c) Crystalline

(b) Quite

(d) Foliation

(iii) Which one of the following is not a single element mineral?

(a) Gold
(b) Silver

(c) Mica
(d) Graphite

(iv) Which one of the following is the hardest mineral?



(c) Quartz

(b) Diamond

(d) Feldspar

Which one of the following is not a sedimentary rock?

(a) Tillite

(c) Breccia

(b) Borax

(d) Marble

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.



(a) Topaz

What do you mean by rocks? Name the three major classes of rocks.


What is an igneous rock? Describe the method of formation and

characteristics of igneous rock.


What is meant by sedimentary rock? Describe the mode of formation of

sedimentary rock.


What relationship explained by rock cycle between the major type of rock?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Define the term mineral and name the major classes of minerals with
their physical characteristics.


Describe the nature and mode of origin of the chief types of rock at the
earths crust. How will you distinguish them?


What are metamorphic rocks? Describe the types of metamorphic rock

and how are they formed?

Project Work
Collect different rock samples and try to recognise them from their physical
characteristics and identify their family.



fter learning about how the earth was

born, how it evolved its crust and other
inner layers, how its crustal plates
moved and are moving, and other information
on earthquakes, the forms of volcanism and
about the rocks and minerals the crust is
composed of, it is time to know in detail about
the surface of the earth on which we live. Let
us start with this question.
Why is the surface of the earth uneven?

First of all, the earths crust is dynamic. You

are well aware that it has moved and moves
vertically and horizontally. Of course, it moved
a bit faster in the past than the rate at which it
is moving now. The differences in the internal
forces operating from within the earth which
built up the crust have been responsible for
the variations in the outer surface of the crust.
The earths surface is being continuously
subjected to external forces induced basically
by energy (sunlight). Of course, the internal
forces are still active though with different
intensities. That means, the earths surface is
being continuously subjected to by external
forces originating within the earths atmosphere
and by internal forces from within the earth.
The external forces are known as exogenic
forces and the internal forces are known as
endogenic forces. The actions of exogenic
forces result in wearing down (degradation) of
relief/elevations and filling up (aggradation) of
basins/depressions, on the earths surface. The
phenomenon of wearing down of relief
variations of the surface of the earth through
erosion is known as gradation. The endogenic

forces continuously elevate or build up parts

of the earths surface and hence the exogenic
processes fail to even out the relief variations
of the surface of the earth. So, variations remain
as long as the opposing actions of exogenic and
endogenic forces continue. In general terms,
the endogenic forces are mainly land building
forces and the exogenic processes are mainly
land wearing forces. The surface of the earth is
sensitive. Humans depend on it for their
sustenance and have been using it extensively
and intensively. So, it is essential to understand
its nature in order to use it effectively without
disturbing its balance and diminishing its
potential for the future. Almost all organisms
contribute to sustain the earths environment.
However, humans have caused over use of
resources. Use we must, but must also leave it
potential enough to sustain life through the
future. Most of the surface of the earth had and
has been shaped over very long periods of time
(hundreds and thousands of years) and
because of its use and misuse by humans its
potential is being diminished at a fast rate. If
the processes which shaped and are shaping
the surface of the earth into varieties of forms
(shapes) and the nature of materials of which
it is composed of, are understood, precautions
can be taken to minimise the detrimental effects
of human use and to preserve it for posterity.

You would like to know the meaning of
geomorphic processes. The endogenic and
exogenic forces causing physical stresses and
chemical actions on earth materials and



bringing about changes in the configuration

of the surface of the earth are known as
geomorphic processes. Diastrophism and
volcanism are endogenic geomorphic
processes. These have already been discussed
in brief in the preceding unit. Weathering, mass
wasting, erosion and deposition are exogenic
geomorphic processes. These exogenic
processes are dealt with in detail in this chapter.
Any exogenic element of nature (like water,
ice, wind, etc.,) capable of acquiring and
transporting earth materials can be called a
geomorphic agent. When these elements of
nature become mobile due to gradients, they
remove the materials and transport them over
slopes and deposit them at lower level.
Geomorphic processes and geomorphic agents
especially exogenic, unless stated separately,
are one and the same.
A process is a force applied on earth
materials affecting the same. An agent is a
mobile medium (like running water, moving ice
masses, wind, waves and currents etc.) which
removes, transports and deposits earth
materials. Running water, groundwater,
glaciers, wind, waves and currents, etc., can
be called geomorphic agents.
Do you think it is essential to distinguish
geomorphic agents and geomorphic

Gravity besides being a directional force

activating all downslope movements of matter
also causes stresses on the earths materials.
Indirect gravitational stresses activate wave and
tide induced currents and winds. Without
gravity and gradients there would be no
mobility and hence no erosion, transportation
and deposition are possible. So, gravitational
stresses are as important as the other
geomorphic processes. Gravity is the force that
is keeping us in contact with the surface and it
is the force that switches on the movement of
all surface material on earth. All the movements
either within the earth or on the surface of the
earth occur due to gradients from higher
levels to lower levels, from high pressure to low
pressure areas etc.

The energy emanating from within the earth is
the main force behind endogenic geomorphic
processes. This energy is mostly generated by
radioactivity, rotational and tidal friction and
primordial heat from the origin of the earth.
This energy due to geothermal gradients and
heat flow from within induces diastrophism
and volcanism in the lithosphere. Due to
variations in geothermal gradients and heat flow
from within, crustal thickness and strength,
the action of endogenic forces are not uniform
and hence the tectonically controlled original
crustal surface is uneven.
All processes that move, elevate or build up
portions of the earths crust come under
diastrophism. They include: (i) orogenic
processes involving mountain building
through severe folding and affecting long and
narrow belts of the earths crust; (ii) epeirogenic
processes involving uplift or warping of large
parts of the earths crust; (iii) earthquakes
involving local relatively minor movements;
(iv) plate tectonics involving horizontal
movements of crustal plates.
In the process of orogeny, the crust is
severely deformed into folds. Due to epeirogeny,
there may be simple deformation. Orogeny is
a mountain building process whereas
epeirogeny is continental building process.
Through the processes of orogeny, epeirogeny,
earthquakes and plate tectonics, there can be
faulting and fracturing of the crust. All these
processes cause pressure, volume and
temperature (PVT) changes which in turn
induce metamorphism of rocks.
Epeirogeny and orogeny, cite the

Volcanism includes the movement of molten
rock (magma) onto or toward the earths
surface and also formation of many intrusive
and extrusive volcanic forms. Many aspects of
volcanism have already been dealt in detail



under volcanoes in the Unit II and under

igneous rocks in the preceding chapter in this
What do the words volcanism and
volcanoes indicate?

The exogenic processes derive their energy
from atmosphere determined by the ultimate
energy from the sun and also the gradients
created by tectonic factors.

processes and their respective driving forces.

It should become clear from this chart that for
each process there exists a distinct driving force
or energy.
As there are different climatic regions on
the earths surface owing to thermal gradients
created by latitudinal, seasonal and land and
water spread variations, the exogenic
geomorphic processes vary from region to
region. The density, type and distribution of
vegetation which largely depend upon

Why do you think that the slopes or

gradients are created by tectonic factors?

Gravitational force acts upon all earth

materials having a sloping surface and tend to
produce movement of matter in down slope
direction. Force applied per unit area is called
stress. Stress is produced in a solid by pushing
or pulling. This induces deformation. Forces
acting along the faces of earth materials are
shear stresses (separating forces). It is this
stress that breaks rocks and other earth
materials. The shear stresses result in angular
displacement or slippage. Besides the
gravitational stress earth materials become
subjected to molecular stresses that may be
caused by a number of factors amongst which
temperature changes, crystallisation and
melting are the most common. Chemical
processes normally lead to loosening of bonds
between grains, dissolving of soluble minerals
or cementing materials. Thus, the basic reason
that leads to weathering, mass movements,
erosion and deposition is development of
stresses in the body of the earth materials.
As there are different climatic regions on
the earths surface the exogenic geomorphic
processes vary from region to region.
Temperature and precipitation are the two
important climatic elements that control
various processes.
All the exogenic geomorphic processes are
covered under a general term, denudation. The
word denude means to strip off or to uncover.
Weathering, mass wasting/movements, erosion
and transportation are included in denudation.
The flow chart (Figure 6.1) gives the denudation

Figure 6.1 : Denudational processes and their

driving forces

precipitation and temperature exert influence

indirectly on exogenic geomorphic processes.
Within different climatic regions there may be
local variations of the effects of different climatic
elements due to altitudinal differences, aspect
variations and the variation in the amount of
insolation received by north and south facing
slopes as compared to east and west facing
slopes. Further, due to differences in wind
velocities and directions, amount and kind of
precipitation, its intensity, the relation between
precipitation and evaporation, daily range of
temperature, freezing and thawing frequency,
depth of frost penetration, the geomorphic
processes vary within any climatic region.
What is the sole driving force behind all
the exogenic processes?

Climatic factors being equal, the intensity

of action of exogenic geomorphic processes
depends upon type and structure of rocks. The
term structure includes such aspects of rocks
as folds, faults, orientation and inclination of
beds, presence or absence of joints, bedding
planes, hardness or softness of constituent
minerals, chemical susceptibility of mineral
constituents; the permeability or impermeability



etc. Different types of rocks with differences in

their structure offer varying resistances to
various geomorphic processes. A particular
rock may be resistant to one process and nonresistant to another. And, under varying
climatic conditions, particular rocks may
exhibit different degrees of resistance to
geomorphic processes and hence they operate
at differential rates and give rise to differences
in topography. The effects of most of the
exogenic geomorphic processes are small and
slow and may be imperceptible in a short time
span, but will in the long run affect the rocks
severely due to continued fatigue.
Finally, it boils down to one fact that the
differences on the surface of the earth though
originally related to the crustal evolution
continue to exist in some form or the other due
to differences in the type and structure of earth
materials, differences in geomorphic processes
and in their rates of operation.
Some of the exogenic geomorphic processes
have been dealt in detail here.

Weathering is action of elements of weather and
climate over earth materials. There are a
number of processes within weathering which
act either individually or together to affect the
earth materials in order to reduce them to
fragmental state.
Weathering is defined as mechanical
disintegration and chemical decomposition of rocks through the actions of
various elements of weather and climate.

As very little or no motion of materials

takes place in weathering, it is an in-situ or
on-site process.
Is this little motion which can occur
sometimes due to weathering synonymous
with transportation? If not, why?

Weathering processes are conditioned by

many complex geological, climatic, topographic
and vegetative factors. Climate is of particular
importance. Not only weathering processes
differ from climate to climate, but also the depth
of the weathering mantle (Figure 6.2).

Figure 6.2 : Climatic regimes and depth of weathering

mantles (adapted and modified from Strakhov, 1967)

Mark the latitude values of different
climatic regimes in Figure 6.2 and
compare the details.

There are three major groups of weathering

processes : (i) chemical; (ii) physical or
mechanical; (iii) biological weathering processes.
Very rarely does any one of these processes ever
operate completely by itself, but quite often a
dominance of one process can be seen.
Chemical Weathering Processes
A group of weathering processes viz; solution,
carbonation, hydration, oxidation and
reduction act on the rocks to decompose,
dissolve or reduce them to a fine clastic state
through chemical reactions by oxygen, surface
and/or soil water and other acids. Water and
air (oxygen and carbon dioxide) along with
heat must be present to speed up all chemical
reactions. Over and above the carbon dioxide
present in the air, decomposition of plants and
animals increases the quantity of carbon
dioxide underground. These chemical
reactions on various minerals are very much
similar to the chemical reactions in a laboratory.
When something is dissolved in water or acids,
the water or acid with dissolved contents is



called solution. This process involves removal

of solids in solution and depends upon
solubility of a mineral in water or weak acids.
On coming in contact with water many solids
disintegrate and mix up as suspension in
water. Soluble rock forming minerals like
nitrates, sulphates, and potassium etc. are
affected by this process. So, these minerals are
easily leached out without leaving any residue
in rainy climates and accumulate in dry
regions. Minerals like calcium carbonate and
calcium magnesium bicarbonate present in
limestones are soluble in water containing
carbonic acid (formed with the addition of
carbon dioxide in water), and are carried away
in water as solution. Carbon dioxide produced
by decaying organic matter along with soil
water greatly aids in this reaction. Common
salt (sodium chloride) is also a rock forming
mineral and is susceptible to this process of
Carbonation is the reaction of carbonate and
bicarbonate with minerals and is a common
process helping the breaking down of
feldspars and carbonate minerals. Carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere and soil air is
absorbed by water, to form carbonic acid that
acts as a weak acid. Calcium carbonates and
magnesium carbonates are dissolved in
carbonic acid and are removed in a solution
without leaving any residue resulting in cave
Why are clay minerals easily erodible?

Many clay minerals swell and contract during

wetting and drying and a repetition of this
process results in cracking of overlying
materials. Salts in pore spaces undergo rapid
and repeated hydration and help in rock
fracturing. The volume changes in minerals
due to hydration will also help in physical
weathering through exfoliation and granular
Oxidation and Reduction
In weathering, oxidation means a combination
of a mineral with oxygen to form oxides or
hydroxides. Oxidation occurs where there is
ready access to the atmosphere and
oxygenated waters. The minerals most
commonly involved in this process are iron,
manganese, sulphur etc. In the process of
oxidation rock breakdown occurs due to the
disturbance caused by addition of oxygen. Red
colour of iron upon oxidation turns to brown
or yellow. When oxidised minerals are placed
in an environment where oxygen is absent,
reduction takes place. Such conditions exist
usually below the water table, in areas of
stagnant water and waterlogged ground. Red
colour of iron upon reduction turns to greenish
or bluish grey.
These weathering processes are interrelated. Hydration, carbonation and oxidation
go hand in hand and hasten the weathering
Can we give iron rusting as an example
of oxidation? How essential is water in
chemical weathering processes? Can
chemical weathering processes dominate
in water scarce hot deserts?

Hydration is the chemical addition of water.
Minerals take up water and expand; this
expansion causes an increase in the volume of
the material itself or rock. Calcium sulphate
takes in water and turns to gypsum, which is
more unstable than calcium sulphate. This
process is reversible and long, continued
repetition of this process causes fatigue in the
rocks and may lead to their disintegration.

Physical Weathering Processes

Physical or mechanical weathering processes
depend on some applied forces. The applied
forces could be: (i) gravitational forces such as
overburden pressure, load and shearing stress;
(ii) expansion forces due to temperature
changes, crystal growth or animal activity;
(iii) water pressures controlled by wetting and


drying cycles. Many of these forces are applied

both at the surface and within different earth
materials leading to rock fracture. Most of the
physical weathering processes are caused by
thermal expansion and pressure release. These
processes are small and slow but can cause
great damage to the rocks because of
continued fatigue the rocks suffer due to
repetition of contraction and expansion.
Unloading and Expansion
Removal of overlying rock load because of
continued erosion causes vertical pressure
release with the result that the upper layers of
the rock expand producing disintegration of
rock masses. Fractures will develop roughly
parallel to the ground surface. In areas of
curved ground surface, arched fractures tend
to produce massive sheets or exfoliation slabs
of rock. Exfoliation sheets resulting from
expansion due to unloading and pressure
release may measure hundreds or even
thousands of metres in horizontal extent. Large,
smooth rounded domes called exfoliation
domes (Figure 6.3) result due to this process.

Figure 6.3 : A large exfoliation dome in granite rock

near bhongir (Bhuvanagiri) town in Andhra Pradesh

Temperature Changes and Expansion

Various minerals in rocks possess their own
limits of expansion and contraction. With rise
in temperature, every mineral expands and
pushes against its neighbour and as
temperature falls, a corresponding contraction
takes place. Because of diurnal changes in the


temperatures, this internal movement among

the mineral grains of the superficial layers of
rocks takes place regularly. This process is
most effective in dry climates and high
elevations where diurnal temperature changes
are drastic. As has been mentioned earlier
though these movements are very small they
make the rocks weak due to continued fatigue.
The surface layers of the rocks tend to expand
more than the rock at depth and this leads to
the formation of stress within the rock resulting
in heaving and fracturing parallel to the
surface. Due to differential heating and
resulting expansion and contraction of surface
layers and their subsequent exfoliation from
the surface results in smooth rounded surfaces
in rocks. In rocks like granites, smooth
surfaced and rounded small to big boulders
called tors form due to such exfoliation.
What is the difference between exfoliation
domes and exfoliated tors?

Freezing, Thawing and Frost Wedging

Frost weathering occurs due to growth of ice
within pores and cracks of rocks during
repeated cycles of freezing and melting. This
process is most effective at high elevations in
mid-latitudes where freezing and melting is
often repeated. Glacial areas are subject to frost
wedging daily. In this process, the rate of
freezing is important. Rapid freezing of water
causes its sudden expansion and high pressure.
The resulting expansion affects joints, cracks
and small inter granular fractures to become
wider and wider till the rock breaks apart.
Salt Weathering
Salts in rocks expand due to thermal action,
hydration and crystallisation. Many salts like
calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and
barium have a tendency to expand. Expansion
of these salts depends on temperature and
their thermal properties. High temperature
ranges between 30 and 50 oC of surface
temperatures in deserts favour such salt
expansion. Salt crystals in near-surface pores



cause splitting of individual grains within

rocks, which eventually fall off. This process of
falling off of individual grains may result in
granular disintegration or granular foliation.
Salt crystallisation is most effective of all
salt-weathering processes. In areas with
alternating wetting and drying conditions salt
crystal growth is favoured and the neighbouring
grains are pushed aside. Sodium chloride and
gypsum crystals in desert areas heave up
overlying layers of materials and with the result
polygonal cracks develop all over the heaved
surface. With salt crystal growth, chalk breaks
down most readily, followed by limestone,
sandstone, shale, gneiss and granite etc.




Biological weathering is contribution to or

removal of minerals and ions from the
weathering environment and physical changes
due to growth or movement of organisms.
Burrowing and wedging by organisms like
earthworms, termites, rodents etc., help in
exposing the new surfaces to chemical attack
and assists in the penetration of moisture and
air. Human beings by disturbing vegetation,
ploughing and cultivating soils, also help in
mixing and creating new contacts between air,
water and minerals in the earth materials.
Decaying plant and animal matter help in the
production of humic, carbonic and other acids
which enhance decay and solubility of some
elements. Algae utilise mineral nutrients for
growth and help in concentration of iron and
manganese oxides. Plant roots exert a
tremendous pressure on the earth materials
mechanically breaking them apart.




This has already been explained under

physical weathering processes of unloading,
thermal contraction and expansion and salt
weathering. Exfoliation is a result but not a
process. Flaking off of more or less curved
sheets of shells from over rocks or bedrock
results in smooth and rounded surfaces
(Figure 6.4). Exfoliation can occur due to
expansion and contraction induced by

Fig.6.4 : Exfoliation (Flacking) and granular


temperature changes. Exfoliation domes and

tors result due to unloading and thermal
expansion respectively.




Weathering processes are responsible for

breaking down the rocks into smaller
fragments and preparing the way for formation
of not only regolith and soils, but also erosion
and mass movements. Biomes and biodiversity is basically a result of forests
(vegetation) and forests depend upon the depth
of weathering mantles. Erosion cannot be
significant if the rocks are not weathered. That
means, weathering aids mass wasting, erosion
and reduction of relief and changes in
landforms are a consequence of erosion.
Weathering of rocks and deposits helps in the
enrichment and concentrations of certain
valuable ores of iron, manganese, aluminium,
copper etc., which are of great importance for
the national economy. Weathering is an
important process in the formation of soils.
When rocks undergo weathering, some
materials are removed through chemical
or physical leaching by groundwater and
thereby the concentration of remaining
(valuable) materials increases. Without
such a weathering taking place, the
concentration of the same valuable
material may not be sufficient and
economically viable to exploit, process and
refine. This is what is called enrichment.


These movements transfer the mass of rock
debris down the slopes under the direct
influence of gravity. That means, air, water or
ice do not carry debris with them from place to
place but on the other hand the debris may
carry with it air, water or ice. The movements
of mass may range from slow to rapid,
affecting shallow to deep columns of materials
and include creep, flow, slide and fall. Gravity
exerts its force on all matter, both bedrock and
the products of weathering. So, weathering is
not a pre-requisite for mass movement though
it aids mass movements. Mass movements are
very active over weathered slopes rather than
over unweathered materials.
Mass movements are aided by gravity and
no geomorphic agent like running water,
glaciers, wind, waves and currents participate
in the process of mass movements. That means
mass movements do not come under erosion
though there is a shift (aided by gravity) of
materials from one place to another. Materials
over the slopes have their own resistance to
disturbing forces and will yield only when force
is greater than the shearing resistance of the
materials. Weak unconsolidated materials,
thinly bedded rocks, faults, steeply dipping
beds, vertical cliffs or steep slopes, abundant
precipitation and torrential rains and scarcity
of vegetation etc., favour mass movements.
Several activating causes precede mass
movements. They are : (i) removal of support
from below to materials above through natural
or artificial means; (ii) increase in gradient and
height of slopes; (iii) overloading through
addition of materials naturally or by artificial
filling; (iv) overloading due to heavy rainfall,
saturation and lubrication of slope materials;
(v) removal of material or load from over the
original slope surfaces; (vi) occurrence of
earthquakes, explosions or machinery;
(vii) excessive natural seepage; (viii) heavy
drawdown of water from lakes, reservoirs and
rivers leading to slow outflow of water from
under the slopes or river banks; (ix) indiscriminate removal of natural vegetation.
Heave (heaving up of soils due to frost
growth and other causes), flow and slide are


the three forms of movements. Figure 6.5 shows

the relationships among different types of mass
movements, their relative rates of movement
and moisture limits.

Figure 6.5 : Relationships among different types of

mass movements, their relative rates of movement
and moisture limits (after Whitehead, 2001)

Mass movements can be grouped under

three major classes: (i) slow movements;
(ii) rapid movements; (iii) landslides.
Slow Movements
Creep is one type under this category which
can occur on moderately steep, soil covered
slopes. Movement of materials is extremely
slow and imperceptible except through
extended observation. Materials involved can
be soil or rock debris. Have you ever seen fence
posts, telephone poles lean downslope from
their vertical position and in their linear
alignment? If you have, that is due to the creep
effect. Depending upon the type of material
involved, several types of creep viz., soil creep,
talus creep, rock creep, rock-glacier creep etc.,
can be identified. Also included in this group
is solifluction which involves slow downslope
flowing soil mass or fine grained rock debris
saturated or lubricated with water. This process
is quite common in moist temperate areas
where surface melting of deeply frozen ground
and long continued rain respectively, occur
frequently. When the upper portions get
saturated and when the lower parts are
impervious to water percolation, flowing occurs
in the upper parts.


Rapid Movements
These movements are mostly prevalent in
humid climatic regions and occur over gentle
to steep slopes. Movement of water-saturated
clayey or silty earth materials down low-angle
terraces or hillsides is known as earthflow.
Quite often, the materials slump making steplike terraces and leaving arcuate scarps at their
heads and an accumulation bulge at the toe.
When slopes are steeper, even the bedrock
especially of soft sedimentary rocks like shale
or deeply weathered igneous rock may slide
Another type in this category is mudflow.
In the absence of vegetation cover and with
heavy rainfall, thick layers of weathered
materials get saturated with water and either
slowly or rapidly flow down along definite
channels. It looks like a stream of mud within
a valley. When the mudflows emerge out of
channels onto the piedmont or plains, they can
be very destructive engulfing roads, bridges
and houses. Mudflows occur frequently on the
slopes of erupting or recently erupted volcanoes.
Volcanic ash, dust and other fragments turn
into mud due to heavy rains and flow down as
tongues or streams of mud causing great
destruction to human habitations.
A third type is the debris avalanche, which
is more characteristic of humid regions with
or without vegetation cover and occurs in
narrow tracks on steep slopes. This debris
avalanche can be much faster than the
mudflow. Debris avalanche is similar to snow


discontinuities in the rock, the degree of

weathering and the steepness of the slope.
Depending upon the type of movement of
materials several types are identified in this
Slump is slipping of one or several units of
rock debris with a backward rotation with
respect to the slope over which the movement
takes place (Figure 6.6). Rapid rolling or sliding

Figure 6.6 : Slumping of debris with backward rotation

of earth debris without backward rotation of

mass is known as debris slide. Debris fall is
nearly a free fall of earth debris from a vertical
or overhanging face. Sliding of individual rock
masses down bedding, joint or fault surfaces
is rockslide. Over steep slopes, rock sliding is
very fast and destructive. Figure 6.7 shows
landslide scars over steep slopes. Slides occur
as planar failures along discontinuities like
bedding planes that dip steeply. Rock fall is
free falling of rock blocks over any steep slope
keeping itself away from the slope. Rock falls
occur from the superficial layers of the rock

In Andes mountains of South America

and the Rockies mountains of North
America, there are a few volcanoes which
erupted during the last decade and very
devastating mudflows occurred down
their slopes during eruption as well as
after eruption.

These are known as relatively rapid and
perceptible movements. The materials involved
are relatively dry. The size and shape of the
detached mass depends on the nature of

Figure 6.7 : Landslide scars in Shiwalik Himalayan ranges

near river Sarada at India-Nepal border, Uttar Pradesh



face, an occurrence that distinguishes it from

rockslide which affects materials up to a
substantial depth.
Between mass wasting and mass
movements, which term do you feel is
most appropriate? Why? Can solifluction
be included under rapid flow movements?
Why it can be and cant be?

In our country, debris avalanche and

landslides occur very frequently in the
Himalayas. There are many reasons for
this. One, the Himalayas are tectonically
active. They are mostly made up of
sedimentary rocks and unconsolidated
and semi-consolidated deposits. The
slopes are very steep. Compared to the
Himalayas, the Nilgiris bordering
Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala and the
Western Ghats along the west coast are
relatively tectonically stable and are
mostly made up of very hard rocks; but,
still, debris avalanches and landslides
occur though not as frequently as in the
Himalayas, in these hills. Why? Many
slopes are steeper with almost vertical
cliffs and escarpments in the Western
Ghats and Nilgiris. Mechanical weathering
due to temperature changes and ranges
is pronounced. They receive heavy
amounts of rainfall over short periods.
So, there is almost direct rock fall quite
frequently in these places along with
landslides and debris avalanches.




Erosion involves acquisition and transportation

of rock debris. When massive rocks break into
smaller fragments through weathering and
any other process, erosional geomorphic
agents like running water, groundwater,
glaciers, wind and waves remove and
transport it to other places depending upon
the dynamics of each of these agents. Abrasion
by rock debris carried by these geomorphic
agents also aids greatly in erosion. By erosion,
relief degrades, i.e., the landscape is worn
down. That means, though weathering aids

erosion it is not a pre-condition for erosion to

take place. Weathering, mass-wasting and
erosion are degradational processes. It is
erosion that is largely responsible for
continuous changes that the earths surface is
undergoing. As indicated in Figure 6.1,
denudational processes like erosion and
transportation are controlled by kinetic energy.
The erosion and transportation of earth
materials is brought about by wind, running
water, glaciers, waves and ground water. Of
these the first three agents are controlled by
climatic conditions.
Can you compare the three climatically
controlled agents?

They represent three states of matter

gaseous (wind), liquid (running water) and
solid (glacier) respectively. The erosion can be
defined as application of the kinetic energy
associated with the agent to the surface of the
land along which it moves. Kinetic energy is
computed as KE = 1/2 mv2 where m is the mass
and v is the velocity. Hence the energy
available to perform work will depend on the
mass of the material and the velocity with
which it is moving. Obviously then you will find
that though the glaciers move at very low
velocities due to tremendous mass are more
effective as the agents of erosion and wind,
being in gaseous state, are less effective.
The work of the other two agents of erosionwaves and ground water is not controlled by
climate. In case of waves it is the location along
the interface of litho and hydro sphere
coastal region that will determine the work
of waves, whereas the work of ground water is
determined more by the lithological character
of the region. If the rocks are permeable and
soluble and water is available only then karst
topography develops. In the next chapter we
shall be dealing with the landforms produced
by each of the agents of erosion.
Deposition is a consequence of erosion. The
erosional agents loose their velocity and hence
energy on gentler slopes and the materials
carried by them start to settle themselves. In
other words, deposition is not actually the work
of any agent. The coarser materials get



deposited first and finer ones later. By

deposition depressions get filled up. The same
erosional agents viz., running water, glaciers,
wind, waves and groundwater act as
aggradational or depositional agents also.
What happens to the surface of the earth
due to erosion and deposition is elaborated in
the next chapter on landforms and their
There is a shift of materials in mass
movements as well as in erosion from one
place to the other. So, why cant both be
treated as one and the same? Can there
be appreciable erosion without rocks
undergoing weathering?

Soil and Soil Contents
You see plants growing in soils. You play in
the ground and come into contact with soil.
You touch and feel soil and soil your clothes
while playing. Can you describe it?
A pedologist who studies soils defines soil
as a collection of natural bodies on the earths
surface containing living matter and
supporting or capable of supporting plants.
Soil is a dynamic medium in which many
chemical, physical and biological activities go
on constantly. Soil is a result of decay, it is also
the medium for growth. It is a changing and
developing body. It has many characteristics
that fluctuate with the seasons. It may be
alternatively cold and warm or dry and moist.
Biological activity is slowed or stopped if the
soil becomes too cold or too dry. Organic matter
increases when leaves fall or grasses die. The
soil chemistry, the amount of organic matter,
the soil flora and fauna, the temperature and
the moisture, all change with the seasons as
well as with more extended periods of time.
That means, soil becomes adjusted to
conditions of climate, landform and vegetation
and will change internally when these
controlling conditions change.
Process of Soil Formation
Soil formation or pedogenesis depends first on
weathering. It is this weathering mantle (depth

of the weathered material) which is the basic

input for soil to form. First, the weathered
material or transported deposits are colonised
by bacteria and other inferior plant bodies like
mosses and lichens. Also, several minor
organisms may take shelter within the mantle
and deposits. The dead remains of organisms
and plants help in humus accumulation. Minor
grasses and ferns may grow; later, bushes and
trees will start growing through seeds brought
in by birds and wind. Plant roots penetrate
down, burrowing animals bring up particles,
mass of material becomes porous and spongelike with a capacity to retain water and to permit
the passage of air and finally a mature soil, a
complex mixture of mineral and organic
products forms.
Is weathering solely responsible for soil
formation? If not, why?

Pedology is soil science. A pedologist is a


Soil-forming Factors
Five basic factors control the formation of soils:
(i) parent material; (ii) topography; (iii) climate;
(iv) biological activity; (v) time. In fact soil
forming factors act in union and affect the
action of one another.
Parent Material
Parent material is a passive control factor in
soil formation. Parent materials can be any insitu or on-site weathered rock debris (residual
soils) or transported deposits (transported
soils). Soil formation depends upon the texture
(sizes of debris) and structure (disposition of
individual grains/particles of debris) as well
as the mineral and chemical composition of the
rock debris/deposits.
Nature and rate of weathering and depth of
weathering mantle are important consideration
under parent materials. There may be
differences in soil over similar bedrock and
dissimilar bedrocks may have similar soils
above them. But when soils are very young
and have not matured these show strong links


with the type of parent rock. Also, in case of

some limestone areas, where the weathering
processes are specific and peculiar, soils will
show clear relation with the parent rock.
Topography like parent materials is another
passive control factor. The influence of
topography is felt through the amount of
exposure of a surface covered by parent
materials to sunlight and the amount of
surface and sub-surface drainage over and
through the parent materials. Soils will be thin
on steep slopes and thick over flat upland
areas. Over gentle slopes where erosion is slow
and percolation of water is good, soil formation
is very favourable. Soils over flat areas may
develop a thick layer of clay with good
accumulation of organic matter giving the soil
dark colour. In middle latitudes, the south
facing slopes exposed to sunlight have different
conditions of vegetation and soils and the north
facing slopes with cool, moist conditions have
some other soils and vegetation.
Climate is an important active factor in soil
formation. The climatic elements involved in soil
development are : (i) moisture in terms of its
intensity, frequency and duration of
precipitation - evaporation and humidity;
(ii) temperature in terms of seasonal and
diurnal variations.
Precipitation gives soil its moisture content
which makes the chemical and biological
activities possible. Excess of water helps in the
downward transportation of soil components
through the soil (eluviation) and deposits the
same down below (illuviation). In climates like
wet equatorial rainy areas with high rainfall,
not only calcium, sodium, magnesium,
potassium etc. but also a major part of silica is
removed from the soil. Removal of silica from
the soil is known as desilication. In dry climates,
because of high temperature, evaporation
exceeds precipitation and hence ground water
is brought up to the surface by capillary action
and in the process the water evaporates leaving
behind salts in the soil. Such salts form into a
crust in the soil known as hardpans. In tropical


climates and in areas with intermediate

precipitation conditions, calcium carbonate
nodules (kanker) are formed.
Temperature acts in two ways increasing
or reducing chemical and biological activity.
Chemical activity is increased in higher
temperatures, reduced in cooler temperatures
(with an exception of carbonation) and stops
in freezing conditions. That is why, tropical soils
with higher temperatures show deeper profiles
and in the frozen tundra regions soils contain
largely mechanically broken materials.
Biological Activity
The vegetative cover and organisms that occupy
the parent materials from the beginning and also
at later stages help in adding organic matter,
moisture retention, nitrogen etc. Dead plants
provide humus, the finely divided organic matter
of the soil. Some organic acids which form
during humification aid in decomposing the
minerals of the soil parent materials.
Intensity of bacterial activity shows up
differences between soils of cold and warm
climates. Humus accumulates in cold climates
as bacterial growth is slow. With undecomposed
organic matter because of low bacterial activity,
layers of peat develop in sub-arctic and tundra
climates. In humid tropical and equatorial
climates, bacterial growth and action is intense
and dead vegetation is rapidly oxidised leaving
very low humus content in the soil. Further,
bacteria and other soil organisms take gaseous
nitrogen from the air and convert it into a
chemical form that can be used by plants. This
process is known as nitrogen fixation.
Rhizobium, a type of bacteria, lives in the root
nodules of leguminous plants and fixes nitrogen
beneficial to the host plant. The influence of large
animals like ants, termites, earthworms, rodents
etc., is mechanical, but, it is nevertheless
important in soil formation as they rework the
soil up and down. In case of earthworms, as
they feed on soil, the texture and chemistry of
the soil that comes out of their body changes.
Time is the third important controlling factor
in soil formation. The length of time the soil
forming processes operate, determines



Is it necessary to separate the process of

soil formation and the soil forming control
Why are time, topography and parent
material considered as passive control
factors in soil formation?

maturation of soils and profile development. A

soil becomes mature when all soil-forming
processes act for a sufficiently long time
developing a profile. Soils developing from
recently deposited alluvium or glacial till are
considered young and they exhibit no horizons
or only poorly developed horizons. No specific
length of time in absolute terms can be fixed
for soils to develop and mature.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following processes is a gradational process?
(a) Deposition

(c) Volcanism

(b) Diastrophism

(d) Erosion

(ii) Which one of the following materials is affected by hydration process?

(a) Granite

(c) Quartz

(b) Clay

(d) Salts

(iii) Debris avalanche can be included in the category of:


(c) Rapid flow mass movements

(b) Slow flow mass movements

(d) Subsidence

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.



(a) Landslides

It is weathering that is responsible for bio-diversity on the earth. How?

What are mass movements that are real rapid and perceptible? List.


What are the various mobile and mighty exogenic geomorphic agents and
what is the prime job they perform?


Is weathering essential as a pre-requisite in the formation of soils? Why?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Our earth is a playfield for two opposing groups of geomorphic processes.



Exogenic geomorphic processes derive their ultimate energy from the suns
heat. Explain.


Are physical and chemical weathering processes independent of each

other? If not, why? Explain with examples.


How do you distinguish between the process of soil formation and soilforming factors? What is the role of climate and biological activity as two
important control factors in the formation of soils?

Project Work
Depending upon the topography and materials around you, observe and record
climate, possible weathering process and soil contents and characteristics.





fter weathering processes have had

their actions on the earth materials
making up the surface of the earth, the
geomorphic agents like running water, ground
water, wind, glaciers, waves perform erosion.
It is already known to you that erosion causes
changes on the surface of the earth. Deposition
follows erosion and because of deposition too,
changes occur on the surface of the earth.
As this chapter deals with landforms and
their evolution first start with the question,
what is a landform? In simple words, small to
medium tracts or parcels of the earths surface
are called landforms.
If landform is a small to medium sized part
of the surface of the earth, what is a landscape?
Several related landforms together make
up landscapes, (large tracts of earths surface).
Each landform has its own physical shape, size,
materials and is a result of the action of certain
geomorphic processes and agent(s). Actions
of most of the geomorphic processes and
agents are slow, and hence the results take a
long time to take shape. Every landform has a
beginning. Landforms once formed may
change in their shape, size and nature slowly
or fast due to continued action of geomorphic
processes and agents.
Due to changes in climatic conditions and
vertical or horizontal movements of landmasses, either the intensity of processes or the
processes themselves might change leading to
new modifications in the landforms. Evolution
here implies stages of transformation of either
a part of the earths surface from one landform
into another or transformation of individual
landforms after they are once formed. That

means, each and every landform has a history

of development and changes through time. A
landmass passes through stages of
development somewhat comparable to the
stages of life youth, mature and old age.
What are the two important aspects of
the evolution of landforms?

The evolutionary history of the continually

changing surface of the earth is essential to be
understood in order to use it effectively without
disturbing its balance and diminishing its
potential for the future. Geomorphology deals
with the reconstruction of the history of the
surface of the earth through a study of its
forms, the materials of which it is made up of
and the processes that shape it.
Changes on the surface of the earth owe
mostly to erosion by various geomorphic
agents. Of course, the process of deposition too,
by covering the land surfaces and filling the
basins, valleys or depressions, brings changes
in the surface of the land. Deposition follows
erosion and the depositional surfaces too are
ultimately subjected to erosion. Running water,
ground-water, glaciers, wind and waves are
powerful erosional and depositional agents
shaping and changing the surface of the earth
aided by weathering and mass wasting
processes. These geomorphic agents acting
over long periods of time produce systematic
changes leading to sequential development of
landforms. Each geomorphic agent produces
its own assemblage of landforms. Not only this,
each geomorphic process and agent leave their
distinct imprints on the landforms they


produce. You know that most of the

geomorphic processes are imperceptible
functions and can only be seen and measured
through their results. What are the results?
These results are nothing but landforms and
their characteristics. Hence, a study of
landforms, will reveal to us the process and
agent which has made or has been making
those landforms.
Most of the geomorphic processes are
imperceptible. Cite a few processes which
can be seen and a few which cant be

As the geomorphic agents are capable of

erosion and deposition, two sets erosional
or destructional and depositional or
constructional of landforms are produced
by them. Many varieties of landforms develop
by the action of each of the geomorphic agents
depending upon especially the type and
structure i.e. folds, faults, joints, fractures,
hardness and softness, permeability and
impermeability, etc. come under structure of
rocks. There are some other independent
controls like (i) stability of sea level; (ii) tectonic
stability of landmasses; (iii) climate, which
influence the evolution of landforms. Any
disturbance in any of these three controlling
factors can upset the systematic and
sequential stages in the development and
evolution of landforms.
In the following pages, under each of the
geomorphic regimes i.e. running water;
groundwater, glaciers, waves, and winds, first
a brief discussion is presented as to how
landmasses are reduced in their relief through
erosion and then, development of some of the
erosional and depositional landforms is dealt

In humid regions, which receive heavy rainfall
running water is considered the most
important of the geomorphic agents in
bringing about the degradation of the land
surface. There are two components of running
water. One is overland flow on general land
surface as a sheet. Another is linear flow as


streams and rivers in valleys. Most of the

erosional landforms made by running water
are associated with vigorous and youthful
rivers flowing along gradients. With time,
stream channels over steep gradients turn
gentler due to continued erosion, and as a
consequence, lose their velocity, facilitating
active deposition. There may be depositional
forms associated with streams flowing over
steep slopes. But these phenomena will be on
a small scale compared to those associated
with rivers flowing over medium to gentle
slopes. The gentler the river channels in
gradient or slope, the greater is the deposition.
When the stream beds turn gentler due to
continued erosion, downward cutting becomes
less dominant and lateral erosion of banks
increases and as a consequence the hills and
valleys are reduced to plains.
Is complete reduction of relief of a high
land mass possible?

Overland flow causes sheet erosion.

Depending upon irregularities of the land
surface, the overland flow may concentrate into
narrow to wide paths. Because of the sheer
friction of the column of flowing water, minor
or major quantities of materials from the
surface of the land are removed in the direction
of flow and gradually small and narrow rills
will form. These rills will gradually develop into
long and wide gullies; the gullies will further
deepen, widen, lengthen and unite to give rise
to a network of valleys. In the early stages,
down-cutting dominates during which
irregularities such as waterfalls and cascades
will be removed. In the middle stages, streams
cut their beds slower, and lateral erosion of
valley sides becomes severe. Gradually, the
valley sides are reduced to lower and lower
slopes. The divides between drainage basins
are likewise lowered until they are almost
completely flattened leaving finally, a lowland
of faint relief with some low resistant remnants
called monadnocks standing out here and
there. This type of plain forming as a result of
stream erosion is called a peneplain (an almost
plain). The characteristics of each of the stages
of landscapes developing in running water
regimes may be summarised as follows:



Streams are few during this stage with poor
integration and flow over original slopes
showing shallow V-shaped valleys with no
floodplains or with very narrow floodplains
along trunk streams. Streams divides are broad
and flat with marshes, swamp and lakes.
Meanders if present develop over these broad
upland surfaces. These meanders may
eventually entrench themselves into the
uplands. Waterfalls and rapids may exist where
local hard rock bodies are exposed.
During this stage streams are plenty with good
integration. The valleys are still V-shaped but
deep; trunk streams are broad enough to have
wider floodplains within which streams may
flow in meanders confined within the valley.
The flat and broad inter stream areas and
swamps and marshes of youth disappear and
the stream divides turn sharp. Waterfalls and
rapids disappear.
Smaller tributaries during old age are few with
gentle gradients. Streams meander freely over
vast floodplains showing natural levees, oxbow
lakes, etc. Divides are broad and flat with lakes,
swamps and marshes. Most of the landscape
is at or slightly above sea level.

Figure 7.1 : The Valley of Kaveri river near Hogenekal,

Dharmapuri district, Tamilnadu in the form of gorge

Valleys start as small and narrow rills; the rills
will gradually develop into long and wide
gullies; the gullies will further deepen, widen
and lengthen to give rise to valleys. Depending
upon dimensions and shape, many types of
valleys like V-shaped valley, gorge, canyon,
etc. can be recognised. A gorge is a deep valley
with very steep to straight sides (Figure 7.1) and
a canyon is characterised by steep step-like
side slopes (Figure 7.2) and may be as deep as
a gorge. A gorge is almost equal in width at its
top as well as its bottom. In contrast, a canyon

Figure 7.2 : An entrenched meander loop of river Colorado

in USA showing step-like side slopes of its valley
typical of a canyon

is wider at its top than at its bottom. In fact, a

canyon is a variant of gorge. Valley types depend
upon the type and structure of rocks in which
they form. For example, canyons commonly
form in horizontal bedded sedimentary rocks
and gorges form in hard rocks.



Potholes and Plunge Pools

River Terraces

Over the rocky beds of hill-streams more or less

circular depressions called potholes form
because of stream erosion aided by the abrasion
of rock fragments. Once a small and shallow
depression forms, pebbles and boulders get
collected in those depressions and get rotated
by flowing water and consequently the
depressions grow in dimensions. A series of such
depressions eventually join and the stream
valley gets deepened. At the foot of waterfalls
also, large potholes, quite deep and wide, form
because of the sheer impact of water and
rotation of boulders. Such large and deep holes
at the base of waterfalls are called plunge pools.
These pools also help in the deepening of valleys.
Waterfalls are also transitory like any other
landform and will recede gradually and bring
the floor of the valley above waterfalls to the
level below.

River terraces are surfaces marking old valley

floor or floodplain levels. They may be bedrock
surfaces without any alluvial cover or alluvial
terraces consisting of stream deposits. River
terraces are basically products of erosion as
they result due to vertical erosion by the stream
into its own depositional floodplain. There can
be a number of such terraces at different
heights indicating former river bed levels. The
river terraces may occur at the same elevation
on either side of the rivers in which case they
are called paired terraces (Figure 7.3).




In streams that flow rapidly over steep

gradients, normally erosion is concentrated on
the bottom of the stream channel. Also, in the
case of steep gradient streams, lateral erosion
on the sides of the valleys is not much when
compared to the streams flowing on low and
gentle slopes. Because of active lateral erosion,
streams flowing over gentle slopes, develop
sinuous or meandering courses. It is common
to find meandering courses over floodplains
and delta plains where stream gradients are
very gentle. But very deep and wide meanders
can also be found cut in hard rocks. Such
meanders are called incised or entrenched
meanders (Figure 7.2). Meander loops develop
over original gentle surfaces in the initial stages
of development of streams and the same loops
get entrenched into the rocks normally due to
erosion or slow, continued uplift of the land
over which they start. They widen and deepen
over time and can be found as deep gorges and
canyons in hard rock areas. They give an
indication on the status of original land
surfaces over which streams have developed.
What are the differences between incised
meanders and meanders over flood and
delta plains?

Figure 7.3 : Paired and unpaired river terraces

When a terrace is present only on one side

of the stream and with none on the other side
or one at quite a different elevation on the other
side, the terraces are called non-paired
terraces. Unpaired terraces are typical in areas
of slow uplift of land or where the water column
changes are not uniform along both the banks.
The terraces may result due to (i) receding water
after a peak flow; (ii) change in hydrological
regime due to climatic changes; (iii) tectonic
uplift of land; (iv) sea level changes in case of
rivers closer to the sea.

Alluvial Fans
Alluvial fans (Figure 7.4) are formed when
streams flowing from higher levels break into
foot slope plains of low gradient. Normally very
coarse load is carried by streams flowing over
mountain slopes. This load becomes too heavy
for the streams to be carried over gentler


gradients and gets dumped and spread as a

broad low to high cone shaped deposit called
alluvial fan. Usually, the streams which flow
over fans are not confined to their original
channels for long and shift their position across
the fan forming many channels called
distributaries. Alluvial fans in humid areas
show normally low cones with gentle slope from


as a low cone. Unlike in alluvial fans, the

deposits making up deltas are very well sorted
with clear stratification. The coarsest materials
settle out first and the finer fractions like silts
and clays are carried out into the sea. As the
delta grows, the river distributaries continue
to increase in length (Figure 7.5) and delta
continues to build up into the sea.
Floodplains, Natural Levees and Point Bars

Figure 7.4 : An alluvial fan deposited by a hill stream

on the way to Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir

head to toe and they appear as high cones with

steep slope in arid and semi-arid climates.
Deltas are like alluvial fans but develop at a
different location. The load carried by the rivers
is dumped and spread into the sea. If this load
is not carried away far into the sea or distributed
along the coast, it spreads and accumulates

Figure 7.5 : A satellite view of part of Krishna river

delta, Andhra Pradesh

Deposition develops a floodplain just as

erosion makes valleys. Floodplain is a major
landform of river deposition. Large sized
materials are deposited first when stream
channel breaks into a gentle slope. Thus,
normally, fine sized materials like sand, silt and
clay are carried by relatively slow moving
waters in gentler channels usually found in the
plains and deposited over the bed and when
the waters spill over the banks during flooding
above the bed. A river bed made of river
deposits is the active floodplain. The floodplain
above the bank is inactive floodplain. Inactive
floodplain above the banks basically contain
two types of deposits flood deposits and
channel deposits. In plains, channels shift
laterally and change their courses occasionally
leaving cut-off courses which get filled up
gradually. Such areas over flood plains built
up by abandoned or cut-off channels contain
coarse deposits. The flood deposits of spilled
waters carry relatively finer materials like silt
and clay. The flood plains in a delta are called
delta plains.
Natural levees and point bars (Figure 7.6)
are some of the important landforms found
associated with floodplains. Natural levees are
found along the banks of large rivers. They are
low, linear and parallel ridges of coarse deposits
along the banks of rivers, quite often cut into
individual mounds. During flooding as the
water spills over the bank, the velocity of the
water comes down and large sized and high
specific gravity materials get dumped in the
immediate vicinity of the bank as ridges. They
are high nearer the banks and slope gently
away from the river. The levee deposits are
coarser than the deposits spread by flood
waters away from the river. When rivers shift
laterally, a series of natural levees can form.


Figure 7.6 : Natural levee and point bars

Point bars are also known as meander bars.

They are found on the convex side of meanders
of large rivers and are sediments deposited in
a linear fashion by flowing waters along the
bank. They are almost uniform in profile and in
width and contain mixed sizes of sediments. If
there more than one ridge, narrow and elongated
depressions are found in between the point bars.
Rivers build a series of them depending upon
the water flow and supply of sediment. As the
rivers build the point bars on the convex side,
the bank on the concave side will erode actively.


Meander is not a landform but is only a

type of channel pattern. This is because of
(i) propensity of water flowing over very gentle
gradients to work laterally on the banks;
(ii) unconsolidated nature of alluvial deposits
making up the banks with many irregularities
which can be used by water exerting pressure
laterally; (iii) coriolis force acting on the fluid
water deflecting it like it deflects the wind. When
the gradient of the channel becomes extremely
low, water flows leisurely and starts working
laterally. Slight irregularities along the banks
slowly get transformed into a small curvature
in the banks; the curvature deepens due to
deposition on the inside of the curve and
erosion along the bank on the outside. If there
is no deposition and no erosion or undercutting,
the tendency to meander is reduced. Normally,
in meanders of large rivers, there is active
deposition along the convex bank and
undercutting along the concave bank.

In what way do natural levees differ from

point bars?

In large flood and delta plains, rivers rarely flow
in straight courses. Loop-like channel patterns
called meanders develop over flood and delta
plains (Figure 7.7).

Figure 7.7 : A satellite scene showing meandering

Burhi Gandak river near Muzaffarpur, Bihar, showing
a number of oxbow lakes and cut-offs

Figure 7.8 : Meander growth and cut-off loops and

slip-off and undercut banks



The concave bank is known as cut-off bank

which shows up as a steep scarp and the
convex bank presents a long, gentle profile and
is known as slip-off bank (Figure 7.8). As
meanders grow into deep loops, the same may
get cut-off due to erosion at the inflection points
and are left as ox-bow lakes.

is more in the valley, channel bars and islands

of sand, gravel and pebbles develop on the floor
of the channel and the water flow is divided
into multiple threads. These thread-like streams
of water rejoin and subdivide repeatedly to give
a typical braided pattern (Figure 7.9).

Braided Channels
When rivers carry coarse material, there can be
selective deposition of coarser materials causing
formation of a central bar which diverts the flow
towards the banks; and this flow increases
lateral erosion on the banks. As the valley
widens, the water column is reduced and more
and more materials get deposited as islands
and lateral bars developing a number of
separate channels of water flow. Deposition
and lateral erosion of banks are essential for
the for mation of braided patter n. Or,
alternatively, when discharge is less and load

Figure 7.9 : Satellite scenes showing braided channel

segments of Gandak (left) and Son (right) rivers
Arrows show the direction of flow

Figure 7.10 : Various karst features


Here the interest is not on groundwater as a
resource. Our focus is on the work of
groundwater in the erosion of landmasses and
evolution of landforms. The surface water
percolates well when the rocks are permeable,
thinly bedded and highly jointed and cracked.
After vertically going down to some depth, the
water under the ground flows horizontally
through the bedding planes, joints or through
the materials themselves. It is this downward
and horizontal movement of water which
causes the rocks to erode. Physical or
mechanical removal of materials by moving
groundwater is insignificant in developing
landforms. That is why, the results of the work
of groundwater cannot be seen in all types of
rocks. But in rocks like limestones or dolomites
rich in calcium carbonate, the surface water
as well as groundwater through the chemical
process of solution and precipitation
deposition develop varieties of landforms. These
two processes of solution and precipitation are
active in limestones or dolomites occurring
either exclusively or interbedded with other
rocks. Any limestone or dolomitic region
showing typical landforms produced by the
action of groundwater through the processes
of solution and deposition is called Karst
topography after the typical topography
developed in limestone rocks of Karst region
in the Balkans adjacent to Adriatic sea.
The karst topography is also characterised
by erosional and depositional landforms.

Pools, Sinkholes, Lapies and
Limestone Pavements
Small to medium sized round to sub-rounded
shallow depressions called swallow holes form
on the surface of limestones through solution.
Sinkholes are very common in limestone/karst
areas. A sinkhole is an opening more or less
circular at the top and funnel-shapped towards
the bottom with sizes varying in area from a
few sq. m to a hectare and with depth from a
less than half a metre to thirty metres or more.
Some of these form solely through solution
action (solution sinks) and others might start


as solution forms first and if the bottom of a

sinkhole forms the roof of a void or cave
underground, it might collapse leaving a large
hole opening into a cave or a void below
(collapse sinks). Quite often, sinkholes are
covered up with soil mantle and appear as
shallow water pools. Anybody stepping over
such pools would go down like it happens in
quicksands in deserts. The term doline is
sometimes used to refer the collapse sinks.
Solution sinks are more common than collapse
sinks. Quite often the surface run-off simply
goes down swallow and sink holes and flow as
underground streams and re-emerge at a
distance downstream through a cave opening.
When sink holes and dolines join together
because of slumping of materials along their
margins or due to roof collapse of caves, long,
narrow to wide trenches called valley sinks or
Uvalas form. Gradually, most of the surface of
the limestone is eaten away by these pits and
trenches, leaving it extremely irregular with a
maze of points, grooves and ridges or lapies.
Especially, these ridges or lapies form due to
differential solution activity along parallel to
sub-parallel joints. The lapie field may
eventually turn into somewhat smooth
limestone pavements.
In areas where there are alternating beds of
rocks (shales, sandstones, quartzites) with
limestones or dolomites in between or in areas
where limestones are dense, massive and
occurring as thick beds, cave formation is
prominent. Water percolates down either
through the materials or through cracks and
joints and moves horizontally along bedding
planes. It is along these bedding planes that
the limestone dissolves and long and narrow
to wide gaps called caves result. There can be
a maze of caves at different elevations
depending upon the limestone beds and
intervening rocks. Caves normally have an
opening through which cave streams are
discharged. Caves having openings at both the
ends are called tunnels.
Depositional Landforms
Many depositional forms develop within the
limestone caves. The chief chemical in limestone


is calcium carbonate which is easily soluble in

carbonated water (carbon dioxide absorbed
rainwater). This calcium carbonate is deposited
when the water carrying it in solution
evaporates or loses its carbon dioxide as it
trickles over rough rock surfaces.
Stalactites, Stalagmites and Pillars
Stalactites hang as icicles of different
diameters. Normally they are broad at their
bases and taper towards the free ends showing
up in a variety of forms. Stalagmites rise up
from the floor of the caves. In fact, stalagmites
form due to dripping water from the surface or
through the thin pipe, of the stalactite,
immediately below it (Figure 7.11).


Masses of ice moving as sheets over the land
(continental glacier or pidmont glacier if a vast
sheet of ice is spread over the plains at the foot
of mountains) or as linear flows down the
slopes of mountains in broad trough-like
valleys (mountain and valley glaciers) are called
glaciers (Figure 7.12). The movement of glaciers

Figure 7.12 : A glacier in its valley

is slow unlike water flow. The movement could

be a few centimetres to a few metres a day or
even less or more. Glaciers move basically
because of the force of gravity.
We have many glaciers in our country
moving down the slopes and valleys in
Himalayas. Higher reaches of Uttaranchal,
Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and
Kashmir, are places to see some of them.
Do you know where one can see river
Bhagirathi is basically fed by meltwaters
from under the snout (Gaumukh) of the
Gangotri glacier. In fact, Alkapuri glacier
feeds waters to Alakananda river. Rivers
Alkananda and Bhagirathi join to make
river Ganga near Deoprayag.

Figure 7.11 : Stalactites and stalagmites in a limestone cave

Stalagmites may take the shape of a

column, a disc, with either a smooth, rounded
bulging end or a miniature crater like
depression. The stalagmite and stalactites
eventually fuse to give rise to columns and
pillars of different diameters.

Erosion by glaciers is tremendous because

of friction caused by sheer weight of the ice.
The material plucked from the land by glaciers
(usually large-sized angular blocks and
fragments) get dragged along the floors or sides
of the valleys and cause great damage through
abrasion and plucking. Glaciers can cause
significant damage to even un-weathered rocks
and can reduce high mountains into low hills
and plains.


As glaciers continue to move, debris gets

removed, divides get lowered and eventually
the slope is reduced to such an extent that
glaciers will stop moving leaving only a mass
of low hills and vast outwash plains along with
other depositional features. Figures 7.13 and
7.14 show various glacial erosional and
depositional forms described in the text.

Cirques are the most common of landforms in
glaciated mountains. The cirques quite often
are found at the heads of glacial valleys. The
accumulated ice cuts these cirques while
moving down the mountain tops. They are
deep, long and wide troughs or basins with
very steep concave to vertically dropping high
walls at its head as well as sides. A lake of water
can be seen quite often within the cirques after


the glacier disappears. Such lakes are called

cirque or tarn lakes. There can be two or more
cirques one leading into another down below
in a stepped sequence.
Horns and Serrated Ridges
Horns form through head ward erosion of the
cirque walls. If three or more radiating glaciers
cut headward until their cirques meet, high,
sharp pointed and steep sided peaks called
horns form. The divides between cirque side
walls or head walls get narrow because of
progressive erosion and turn into serrated or
saw-toothed ridges sometimes referred to as
artes with very sharp crest and a zig-zag
The highest peak in the Alps, Matterhorn
and the highest peak in the Himalayas,
Everest are in fact horns formed through
headward erosion of radiating cirques.

Figure 7.13 : Some glacial erosional and depositional forms (adapted and modified from Spencer, 1962)



Glacial Valleys/Troughs
Glaciated valleys are trough-like and U-shaped
with broad floors and relatively smooth, and
steep sides. The valleys may contain littered
debris or debris shaped as moraines with
swampy appearance. There may be lakes
gouged out of rocky floor or formed by debris
within the valleys. There can be hanging valleys
at an elevation on one or both sides of the main
glacial valley. The faces of divides or spurs of
such hanging valleys opening into main glacial
valleys are quite often truncated to give them
an appearance like triangular facets. Very deep
glacial troughs filled with sea water and
making up shorelines (in high latitudes) are
called fjords/fiords.
What are the basic differences between
glacial valleys and river valleys?

Depositional Landforms
The unassorted coarse and fine debris dropped
by the melting glaciers is called glacial till. Most
of the rock fragments in till are angular to subangular in form. Streams form by melting ice
at the bottom, sides or lower ends of glaciers.

Some amount of rock debris small enough to

be carried by such melt-water streams is
washed down and deposited. Such glaciofluvial deposits are called outwash deposits.
Unlike till deposits, the outwash deposits are
roughly stratified and assorted. The rock
fragments in outwash deposits are somewhat
rounded at their edges. Figure 7.14 shows a
few depositional landforms commonly found
in glaciated areas.
They are long ridges of deposits of glacial till.
Terminal moraines are long ridges of debris
deposited at the end (toe) of the glaciers. Lateral
moraines form along the sides parallel to the
glacial valleys. The lateral moraines may join a
terminal moraine forming a horse-shoe shaped
ridge. There can be many lateral moraines on
either side in a glacial valley. These moraines
partly or fully owe their origin to glacio-fluvial
waters pushing up materials to the sides of
glaciers. Many valley glaciers retreating rapidly
leave an irregular sheet of till over their valley
floors. Such deposits varying greatly in thickness
and in surface topography are called ground
moraines. The moraine in the centre of the

Figure 7.14 : A panoramic diagram of glacial landscape with various depositional landforms
(adapted and modified from Spencer, 1962)


glacial valley flanked by lateral moraines is

called medial moraine. They are imperfectly
formed as compared to lateral moraines.
Sometimes medial moraines are indistinguishable
from ground moraines.
When glaciers melt in summer, the water flows
on the surface of the ice or seeps down along
the margins or even moves through holes in
the ice. These waters accumulate beneath the
glacier and flow like streams in a channel
beneath the ice. Such streams flow over the
ground (not in a valley cut in the ground) with
ice forming its banks. Very coarse materials like
boulders and blocks along with some minor
fractions of rock debris carried into this stream
settle in the valley of ice beneath the glacier
and after the ice melts can be found as a
sinuous ridge called esker.
Outwash Plains
The plains at the foot of the glacial mountains
or beyond the limits of continental ice sheets
are covered with glacio-fluvial deposits in the
form of broad flat alluvial fans which may join
to form outwash plains of gravel, silt, sand and
Distinguish between river alluvial plains
and glacial outwash plains.

Drumlins are smooth oval shaped ridge-like
features composed mainly of glacial till with
some masses of gravel and sand. The long axes
of drumlins are parallel to the direction of ice
movement. They may measure up to 1 km in
length and 30 m or so in height. One end of
the drumlins facing the glacier called the stoss
end is blunter and steeper than the other end
called tail. The drumlins form due to dumping
of rock debris beneath heavily loaded ice
through fissures in the glacier. The stoss end
gets blunted due to pushing by moving ice.
Drumlins give an indication of direction of
glacier movement.


What is the difference between till and





Coastal processes are the most dynamic and

hence most destructive. So, dont you think it
is important to know about the coastal
processes and forms?
Some of the changes along the coasts take
place very fast. At one place, there can be
erosion in one season and deposition in
another. Most of the changes along the coasts
are accomplished by waves. When waves break,
the water is thrown with great force onto the
shore, and simultaneously, there is a great
churning of sediments on the sea bottom.
Constant impact of breaking waves drastically
affects the coasts. Storm waves and tsunami
waves can cause far-reaching changes in a
short period of time than normal breaking
waves. As wave environment changes, the
intensity of the force of breaking waves changes.
Do you know about the generating forces
behind waves and currents? If not, refer
to the chapter on movements in ocean

Other than the action of waves, the coastal

landforms depend upon (i) the configuration
of land and sea floor; (ii) whether the coast is
advancing (emerging) seaward or retreating
(submerging) landward. Assuming sea level to
be constant, two types of coasts are considered
to explain the concept of evolution of coastal
landforms: (i) high, rocky coasts (submerged
coasts); (ii) low, smooth and gently sloping
sedimentary coasts (emerged coasts).


Along the high rocky coasts, the rivers appear
to have been drowned with highly irregular
coastline. The coastline appears highly
indented with extension of water into the land
where glacial valleys (fjords) are present. The
hill sides drop off sharply into the water. Shores
do not show any depositional landforms
initially. Erosion features dominate.


Along high rocky coasts, waves break with

great force against the land shaping the hill
sides into cliffs. With constant pounding by
waves, the cliffs recede leaving a wave-cut
platform in front of the sea cliff. Waves
gradually minimise the irregularities along the
The materials which fall off, and removed
from the sea cliffs, gradually break into smaller
fragments and roll to roundness, will get
deposited in the offshore. After a considerable
period of cliff development and retreat when
coastline turns somewhat smooth, with the
addition of some more material to this deposit
in the offshore, a wave-built terrace would
develop in front of wave-cut terrace. As the
erosion along the coast takes place a good
supply material becomes available to longshore
currents and waves to deposit them as beaches
along the shore and as bars (long ridges of sand
and/or shingle parallel to the coast) in the
nearshore zone. Bars are submerged features
and when bars show up above water, they are
called barrier bars. Barrier bar which get keyed
up to the headland of a bay is called a spit.
When barrier bars and spits form at the mouth
of a bay and block it, a lagoon forms. The
lagoons would gradually get filled up by
sediments from the land giving rise to a coastal


Along low sedimentary coasts the rivers appear
to extend their length by building coastal
plains and deltas. The coastline appears
smooth with occasional incursions of water in
the form of lagoons and tidal creeks. The land
slopes gently into the water. Marshes and
swamps may abound along the coasts.
Depositional features dominate.
When waves break over a gently sloping
sedimentary coast, the bottom sediments get
churned and move readily building bars,
barrier bars, spits and lagoons. Lagoons
would eventually turn into a swamp which
would subsequently turn into a coastal plain.
The maintenance of these depositional features
depends upon the steady supply of materials.


Storm and tsunami waves cause drastic

changes irrespective of supply of sediments.
Large rivers which bring lots of sediments build
deltas along low sedimentary coasts.
The west coast of our country is a high
rocky retreating coast. Erosional forms
dominate in the west coast. The east
coast of India is a low sedimentary coast.
Depositional forms dominate in the east

What are the various differences between

a high rocky coast and a low sedimentary
coast in terms of processes and

Cliffs, Terraces, Caves and Stacks
Wave-cut cliffs and terraces are two forms
usually found where erosion is the dominant
shore process. Almost all sea cliffs are steep
and may range from a few m to 30 m or even
more. At the foot of such cliffs there may be a
flat or gently sloping platform covered by rock
debris derived from the sea cliff behind. Such
platforms occurring at elevations above the
average height of waves is called a wave-cut
terrace. The lashing of waves against the base
of the cliff and the rock debris that gets
smashed against the cliff along with lashing
waves create hollows and these hollows get
widened and deepened to form sea caves. The
roofs of caves collapse and the sea cliffs recede
further inland. Retreat of the cliff may leave
some remnants of rock standing isolated as
small islands just off the shore. Such resistant
masses of rock, originally parts of a cliff or hill
are called sea stacks. Like all other features,
sea stacks are also temporary and eventually
coastal hills and cliffs will disappear because
of wave erosion giving rise to narrow coastal
plains, and with onrush of deposits from over
the land behind may get covered up by
alluvium or may get covered up by shingle or
sand to form a wide beach.


Beaches and Dunes
Beaches are characteristic of shorelines that are
dominated by deposition, but may occur as
patches along even the rugged shores. Most of
the sediment making up the beaches comes
from land carried by the streams and rivers or
from wave erosion. Beaches are temporary
features. The sandy beach which appears so
permanent may be reduced to a very narrow
strip of coarse pebbles in some other season.
Most of the beaches are made up of sand sized
materials. Beaches called shingle beaches
contain excessively small pebbles and even
Just behind the beach, the sands lifted and
winnowed from over the beach surfaces will be
deposited as sand dunes. Sand dunes forming
long ridges parallel to the coastline are very
common along low sedimentary coasts.


develop attached to headlands/hills. The

barriers, bars and spits at the mouth of the
bay gradually extend leaving only a small
opening of the bay into the sea and the bay
will eventually develop into a lagoon. The
lagoons get filled up gradually by sediment
coming from the land or from the beach itself
(aided by wind) and a broad and wide coastal
plain may develop replacing a lagoon.
Do you know, the coastal off-shore bars
offer the first buffer or defence against
storm or tsunami by absorbing most of
their destructive force. Then come the
barriers, beaches, beach dunes and
mangroves, if any, to absorb the
destructive force of storm and tsunami
waves. So, if we do anything which
disturbs the sediment budget and the
mangroves along the coast, these coastal
forms will get eroded away leaving human
habitations to bear first strike of storm
and tsunami waves.

Bars, Barriers and Spits

A ridge of sand and shingle formed in the sea
in the off-shore zone (from the position of low
tide waterline to seaward) lying approximately
parallel to the coast is called an off-shore bar.
An off-shore bar which is exposed due to
further addition of sand is termed a barrier
bar. The off-shore bars and barriers commonly
form across the mouth of a river or at the
entrance of a bay. Sometimes such barrier bars
get keyed up to one end of the bay when they
are called spits (Figure 7.15). Spits may also

Figure 7.15 : A satellite picture of a part of Godavari

river delta showing a spit

Wind is one of the two dominant agents in hot
deserts. The desert floors get heated up too
much and too quickly because of being dry
and barren. The heated floors heat up the air
directly above them and result in upward
movements in the hot lighter air with
turbulence, and any obstructions in its path
sets up eddies, whirlwinds, updrafts and
downdrafts. Winds also move along the desert
floors with great speed and the obstructions
in their path create turbulence. Of course, there
are storm winds which are very destructive.
Winds cause deflation, abrasion and impact.
Deflation includes lifting and removal of dust
and smaller particles from the surface of rocks.
In the transportation process sand and silt act
as effective tools to abrade the land surface.
The impact is simply sheer force of momentum
which occurs when sand is blown into or
against a rock surface. It is similar to sandblasting operation. The wind action creates a
number of interesting erosional and
depositional features in the deserts.
In fact, many features of deserts owe their


formation to mass wasting and running water

as sheet floods. Though rain is scarce in deserts,
it comes down torrentially in a short period of
time. The desert rocks devoid of vegetation,
exposed to mechanical and chemical
weathering processes due to drastic diurnal
temperature changes, decay faster and the
torrential rains help in removing the weathered
materials easily. That means, the weathered
debris in deserts is moved by not only wind
but also by rain/sheet wash. The wind moves
fine materials and general mass erosion is
accomplished mainly through sheet floods or
sheet wash. Stream channels in desert areas
are broad, smooth and indefinite and flow for
a brief time after rains.

Pediments and Pediplains
Landscape evolution in deserts is primarily
concerned with the formation and extension of
pediments. Gently inclined rocky floors close
to the mountains at their foot with or without
a thin cover of debris, are called pediments.
Such rocky floors form through the erosion of
mountain front through a combination of
lateral erosion by streams and sheet flooding.
Erosion starts along the steep margins of
the landmass or the steep sides of the
tectonically controlled steep incision features
over the landmass. Once, pediments are formed
with a steep wash slope followed by cliff or free
face above it, the steep wash slope and free face
retreat backwards. This method of erosion is
termed as parallel retreat of slopes through
backwasting. So, through parallel retreat of
slopes, the pediments extend backwards at the
expense of mountain front, and gradually, the
mountain gets reduced leaving an inselberg
which is a remnant of the mountain. Thats how
the high relief in desert areas is reduced to low
featureless plains called pediplains.
Plains are by far the most prominent landforms
in the deserts. In basins with mountains and
hills around and along, the drainage is towards
the centre of the basin and due to gradual


deposition of sediment from basin margins, a

nearly level plain forms at the centre of the
basin. In times of sufficient water, this plain is
covered up by a shallow water body. Such
types of shallow lakes are called as playas
where water is retained only for short duration
due to evaporation and quite often the playas
contain good deposition of salts. The playa
plain covered up by salts is called alkali flats.
Deflation Hollows and Caves
Weathered mantle from over the rocks or bare
soil, gets blown out by persistent movement
of wind currents in one direction. This process
may create shallow depressions called
deflation hollows. Deflation also creates
numerous small pits or cavities over rock
surfaces. The rock faces suffer impact and
abrasion of wind-borne sand and first shallow
depressions called blow outs are created, and
some of the blow outs become deeper and
wider fit to be called caves.
Mushroom, Table and Pedestal Rocks
Many rock-outcrops in the deserts easily
susceptible to wind deflation and abrasion are
worn out quickly leaving some remnants of
resistant rocks polished beautifully in the
shape of mushroom with a slender stalk and a
broad and rounded pear shaped cap above.
Sometimes, the top surface is broad like a table
top and quite often, the remnants stand out
like pedestals.
List the erosional features carved out by
wind action and action of sheet floods.

Depositional Landforms
Wind is a good sorting agent. Depending upon
the velocity of wind, different sizes of grains are
moved along the floors by rolling or saltation
and carried in suspension and in this process
of transportation itself, the materials get sorted.
When the wind slows or begins to die down,
depending upon sizes of grains and their
critical velocities, the grains will begin to settle.
So, in depositional landforms made by wind,
good sorting of grains can be found. Since



wind is there everywhere and wherever there

is good source of sand and with constant wind
directions, depositional features in arid regions
can develop anywhere.
Sand Dunes
Dry hot deserts are good places for sand dune
formation. Obstacles to initiate dune formation

Figure 7.16 : Various types of sand dunes

Arrows indicate wind direction

are equally important. There can be a great

variety of dune forms (Figure 7.16).
Crescent shaped dunes called barchans with
the points or wings directed away from wind
direction i.e., downwind, form where the wind
direction is constant and moderate and where
the original surface over which sand is moving
is almost uniform. Parabolic dunes form when
sandy surfaces are partially covered with
vegetation. That means parabolic dunes are
reversed barchans with wind direction being
the same. Seif is similar to barchan with a small
difference. Seif has only one wing or point. This
happens when there is shift in wind conditions.
The lone wings of seifs can grow very long and
high. Longitudinal dunes form when supply
of sand is poor and wind direction is constant.
They appear as long ridges of considerable
length but low in height. Transverse dunes
are aligned perpendicular to wind direction.
These dunes form when the wind direction is
constant and the source of sand is an
elongated feature at right angles to the wind
direction. They may be very long and low in
height. When sand is plenty, quite often, the
regular shaped dunes coalesce and lose their
individual characteristics. Most of the dunes
in the deserts shift and a few of them will get
stabilised especially near human habitations.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) In which of the following stages of landform development, downward cutting
is dominated?
(a) Youth stage

(c) Early mature stage

(b) Late mature stage

(d) Old stage

(ii) A deep valley characterised by steep step-like side slopes is known as

(a) U-shaped valley

(c) Blind valley

(b) Gorge

(d) Canyon

(iii) In which one of the following regions the chemical weathering process is
more dominant than the mechanical process?
(a) Humid region
(b) Limestone region

(c) Arid region

(d) Glacier region







A small to medium sized shallow depression


A landform whose opening is more or less circular at the top and

funnel shaped towards bottom


A landform forms due to dripping water from surface


An irregular surface with sharp pinnacles, grooves and ridges

A deep, long and wide trough or basin with very steep concave high walls
at its head as well as in sides is known as:
(a) Cirque

(c) Lateral Moraine

(b) Glacial valley

(d) Esker

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What do incised meanders in rocks and meanders in plains of alluvium

Explain the evolution of valley sinks or uvalas.


Underground flow of water is more common than surface run-off in

limestone areas. Why?


Glacial valleys show up many linear depositional forms.

locations and names.


Which one of the following sentences best defines the term Lapies ?

Give their

How does wind perform its task in desert areas? Is it the only agent
responsible for the erosional features in the deserts?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Running water is by far the most dominating geomorphic agent in shaping

the earths surface in humid as well as in arid climates. Explain.


Limestones behave differently in humid and arid climates. Why? What is

the dominant and almost exclusive geomorphic process in limestone areas
and what are its results?


How do glaciers accomplish the work of reducing high mountains into low
hills and plains?

Project Work
Identify the landforms, materials and processes around your area.

This unit deals with

Atmosphere compositions and structure; elements of weather

and climate

Insolation angle of incidence and distribution; heat budget

of the earth heating and cooling of atmosphere (conduction,
convection, terrestrial radiation, advection); temperature factors
controlling temperature; distribution of temperature horizontal
and vertical; inversion of temperature

Pressure pressure belts; winds-planetary seasonal and local,

air masses and fronts; tropical and extra tropical cyclones

Precipitation evaporation; condensation dew, frost, fog,

mist and cloud; rainfall types and world distributon

World climates classification (Koeppen), greenhouse effect,

global warming and climatic changes




an a person live without air? We eat

food two - three times a day and drink
water more frequently but breathe
every few seconds. Air is essential to the
survival of all organisms. Some organisms like
humans may survive for some time without
food and water but cant survive even a few
minutes without breathing air. That shows the
reason why we should understand the
atmosphere in greater detail. Atmosphere is a
mixture of different gases and it envelopes the
earth all round. It contains life-giving gases like
oxygen for humans and animals and carbon
dioxide for plants. The air is an integral part of
the earths mass and 99 per cent of the total
mass of the atmosphere is confined to the
height of 32 km from the earths surface. The
air is colourless and odourless and can be felt
only when it blows as wind.
Can you imagine what will happen
to us in the absence of ozone in the




The atmosphere is composed of gases, water

vapour and dust particles. Table 8.1 shows
details of various gases in the air, particularly
in the lower atmosphere. The proportion of
gases changes in the higher layers of the
atmosphere in such a way that oxygen will be
almost in negligible quantity at the height of
120 km. Similarly, carbon dioxide and water
vapour are found only up to 90 km from the
surface of the earth.



Table 8.1 : Permanent Gases of the Atmosphere

Carbon dioxide


Percentage by Volume

Carbon dioxide is meteorologically a very
important gas as it is transparent to the
incoming solar radiation but opaque to the
outgoing terrestrial radiation. It absorbs a part
of terrestrial radiation and reflects back some
part of it towards the earths surface. It is
largely responsible for the green house effect.
The volume of other gases is constant but the
volume of carbon dioxide has been rising in
the past few decades mainly because of the
burning of fossil fuels. This has also increased
the temperature of the air. Ozone is another
important component of the atmosphere found
between 10 and 50 km above the earths
surface and acts as a filter and absorbs the
ultra-violet rays radiating from the sun and
prevents them from reaching the surface of the
Water Vapour
Water vapour is also a variable gas in the
atmosphere, which decreases with altitude. In
the warm and wet tropics, it may account for



four per cent of the air by volume, while in the

dry and cold areas of desert and polar regions,
it may be less than one per cent of the air. Water
vapour also decreases from the equator
towards the poles. It also absorbs parts of the
insolation from the sun and preserves the
earths radiated heat. It thus, acts like a blanket
allowing the earth neither to become too cold
nor too hot. Water vapour also contributes to
the stability and instability in the air.
Dust Particles
Atmosphere has a sufficient capacity to keep
small solid particles, which may originate from
different sources and include sea salts, fine soil,
smoke-soot, ash, pollen, dust and disintegrated
particles of meteors. Dust particles are
generally concentrated in the lower layers of
the atmosphere; yet, convectional air currents
may transport them to great heights. The
higher concentration of dust particles is found
in subtropical and temperate regions due to
dry winds in comparison to equatorial and
polar regions. Dust and salt particles act as
hygroscopic nuclei around which water vapour
condenses to produce clouds.



The zone separating the tropsophere from

stratosphere is known as the tropopause. The
air temperature at the tropopause is about
minus 800C over the equator and about minus
45oC over the poles. The temperature here is
nearly constant, and hence, it is called the
tropopause. The stratosphere is found above
the tropopause and extends up to a height of
50 km. One important feature of the
stratosphere is that it contains the ozone layer.
This layer absorbs ultra-violet radiation and
shields life on the earth from intense, harmful
form of energy.
The mesosphere lies above the stratosphere,
which extends up to a height of 80 km. In this
layer, once again, temperature starts
decreasing with the increase in altitude and
reaches up to minus 100C at the height of 80
km. The upper limit of mesosphere is known
as the mesopause. The ionosphere is located
between 80 and 400 km above the mesopause.
It contains electrically charged particles known
as ions, and hence, it is known as ionosphere.
Radio waves transmitted from the earth are
reflected back to the earth by this layer.
Temperature here starts increasing with height.
The uppermost layer of the atmosphere above


The atmosphere consists of different layers with

varying density and temperature. Density is
highest near the surface of the earth and
decreases with increasing altitude. The column
of atmosphere is divided into five different
layers depending upon the temperature
condition. They are: troposphere, stratosphere,
mesosphere, ionosphere and exosphere.
The troposphere is the lowermost layer of
the atmosphere. Its average height is 13 km
and extends roughly to a height of 8 km near
the poles and about 18 km at the equator.
Thickness of the troposphere is greatest at the
equator because heat is transported to great
heights by strong convectional currents. This
layer contains dust particles and water vapour.
All changes in climate and weather take place
in this layer. The temperature in this layer
decreases at the rate of 1C for every 165m of
height. This is the most important layer for all
biological activity.

Figure 8.1 : Structure of atmosphere



the ionosphere is known as the exosphere. This

is the highest layer but very little is known about
it. Whatever contents are there, these are
extremely rarefied in this layer, and it gradually
merges with the outer space. Although all
layers of the atmosphere must be exercising
influence on us, geographers are concerned
with the first two layers of the atmosphere.

Elements of Weather and Climate

The main elements of atmosphere which are
subject to change and which influence human
life on earth are temperature, pressure, winds,
humidity, clouds and precipitation. These
elements have been dealt in detail in Chapters
9, 10 and 11.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following gases constitutes the major portion of the
(a) Oxygen

(c) Argon

(b) Nitrogen

(d) Carbon dioxide

(ii) Atmospheric layer important for human beings is:

(a) Stratosphere

(c) Troposphere

(b) Mesosphere

(d) Ionosphere

(iii) Sea salt, pollen, ash, smoke soot, fine soil these are associated with:




(c) Water vapour

(b) Dust particles

(d) Meteors

Oxygen gas is in negligible quantity at the height of atmosphere:

(a) 90 km

(c) 100 km

(b) 120 km

(d) 150 km

Which one of the following gases is transparent to incoming solar radiation

and opaque to outgoing terrestrial radiation?
(a) Oxygen

(c) Helium

(b) Nitrogen

(d) Carbon dioxide

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.



(a) Gases

What do you understand by atmosphere?

What are the elements of weather and climate?


Describe the composition of atmosphere.


Why is troposphere the most important of all the layers of the atmosphere?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Describe the composition of the atmosphere.

Draw a suitable diagram for the structure of the atmosphere and label it
and describe it.




o you feel air around you? Do you

know that we live at the bottom of a
huge pile of air? We inhale and exhale
but we feel the air when it is in motion. It means
air in motion is wind. You have already learnt
about the fact that earth is surrounded by air
all around. This envelop of air is atmosphere
which is composed of numerous gases. These
gases support life over the earths surface.
The earth receives almost all of its energy
from the sun. The earth in turn radiates back
to space the energy received from the sun. As
a result, the earth neither warms up nor does
it get cooled over a period of time. Thus, the
amount of heat received by different parts of
the earth is not the same. This variation causes
pressure differences in the atmosphere. This
leads to transfer of heat from one region to the
other by winds. This chapter explains the
process of heating and cooling of the
atmosphere and the resultant temperature
distribution over the earths surface.

The earths surface receives most of its energy
in short wavelengths. The energy received by
the earth is known as incoming solar radiation
which in short is termed as insolation.
As the earth is a geoid resembling a sphere,
the suns rays fall obliquely at the top of the
atmosphere and the earth intercepts a very
small portion of the suns energy. On an
average the earth receives 1.94 calories per sq.
cm per minute at the top of its atmosphere.

The solar output received at the top of the

atmosphere varies slightly in a year due to the
variations in the distance between the earth and
the sun. During its revolution around the sun,
the earth is farthest from the sun (152 million
km on 4th July). This position of the earth is
called aphelion. On 3rd January, the earth is
the nearest to the sun (147 million km). This
position is called perihelion. Therefore, the
annual insolation received by the earth on 3rd
January is slightly more than the amount
received on 4th July. However, the effect of this
variation in the solar output is masked by
other factors like the distribution of land and
sea and the atmospheric circulation. Hence, this
variation in the solar output does not have
great effect on daily weather changes on the
surface of the earth.
Variability of Insolation at
the Surface of the Earth
The amount and the intensity of insolation vary
during a day, in a season and in a year. The factors
that cause these variations in insolation are : (i)
the rotation of earth on its axis; (ii) the angle of
inclination of the suns rays; (iii) the length of the
day; (iv) the transparency of the atmosphere; (v)
the configuration of land in terms of its aspect.
The last two however, have less influence.
The fact that the earths axis makes an angle
of 66 with the plane of its orbit round the sun
has a greater influence on the amount of
insolation received at different latitudes. Note the
variations in the duration of the day at different
latitudes on solstices given in Table 9.1.



The second factor that determines the

amount of insolation received is the angle of

colour of the sky are the result of scattering of

light within the atmosphere.

Table 9.1 : Length of the Day in Hours and Minutes on Winter and Summer Solstices in the Northern Hemisphere





December 22

12h 00m

10h 48m

9h 8m

5h 33m

June 21

12 h

13h 12m

14h 52m

18h 27m

6 months

inclination of the rays. This depends on the

latitude of a place. The higher the latitude the
less is the angle they make with the surface of
the earth resulting in slant sun rays. The area
covered by vertical rays is always less than the
slant rays. If more area is covered, the energy
gets distributed and the net energy received
per unit area decreases. Moreover, the slant rays
are required to pass through greater depth of
the atmosphere resulting in more absorption,
scattering and diffusion.

Spatial Distribution of Insolation

at the Earths Surface
The insolation received at the surface varies
from about 320 Watt/m2 in the tropics to about
70 Watt/m2 in the poles. Maximum insolation
is received over the subtropical deserts, where
the cloudiness is the least. Equator receives
comparatively less insolation than the tropics.
Generally, at the same latitude the insolation
is more over the continent than over the oceans.
In winter, the middle and higher latitudes
receive less radiation than in summer.


Figure 9.1 : Summer Solstice

The Passage of Solar Radiation

through the Atmosphere
The atmosphere is largely transparent to short
wave solar radiation. The incoming solar
radiation passes through the atmosphere
before striking the earths surface. Within the
troposphere water vapour, ozone and other
gases absorb much of the near infrared
Very small-suspended particles in the
troposphere scatter visible spectrum both to
the space and towards the earth surface. This
process adds colour to the sky. The red colour
of the rising and the setting sun and the blue





There are different ways of heating and cooling

of the atmosphere.
The earth after being heated by insolation
transmits the heat to the atmospheric layers near
to the earth in long wave form. The air in contact
with the land gets heated slowly and the upper
layers in contact with the lower layers also get
heated. This process is called conduction.
Conduction takes place when two bodies of
unequal temperature are in contact with one
another, there is a flow of energy from the warmer
to cooler body. The transfer of heat continues until
both the bodies attain the same temperature or
the contact is broken. Conduction is important
in heating the lower layers of the atmosphere.
The air in contact with the earth rises
vertically on heating in the form of currents
and further transmits the heat of the
atmsphere. This process of vertical heating of
the atmosphere is known as convection. The
convective transfer of energy is confined only
to the troposphere.
The transfer of heat through horizontal
movement of air is called advection. Horizontal
movement of the air is relatively more important



than the vertical movement. In middle latitudes,

most of dirunal (day and night) variation in
daily weather are caused by advection alone.
In tropical regions particularly in northern
India during summer season local winds called
loo is the outcome of advection process.
Terrestrial Radiation
The insolation received by the earth is in short
waves forms and heats up its surface. The earth
after being heated itself becomes a radiating
body and it radiates energy to the atmosphere
in long wave form. This energy heats up the
atmosphere from below. This process is known
as terrestrial radiation.
The long wave radiation is absorbed by the
atmospheric gases particularly by carbon
dioxide and the other green house gases. Thus,
the atmosphere is indirectly heated by the
earths radiation.
The atmosphere in turn radiates and
transmits heat to the space. Finally the amount
of heat received from the sun is returned to
space, thereby maintaining constant temperature
at the earths surface and in the atmosphere.
Heat Budget of the Planet Earth
Figure 9.2 depicts the heat budget of the planet
earth. The earth as a whole does not

accumulate or loose heat. It maintains its

temperature. This can happen only if the
amount of heat received in the form of insolation
equals the amount lost by the earth through
terrestrial radiation.
Consider that the insolation received at the
top of the atmosphere is 100 per cent. While
passing through the atmosphere some amount
of energy is reflected, scattered and absorbed.
Only the remaining part reaches the earth
surface. Roughly 35 units are reflected back
to space even before reaching the earths
surface. Of these, 27 units are reflected back
from the top of the clouds and 2 units from the
snow and ice-covered areas of the earth. The
reflected amount of radiation is called the
albedo of the earth.
The remaining 65 units are absorbed, 14
units within the atmosphere and 51 units by
the earths surface. The earth radiates back
51 units in the form of terrestrial radiation.
Of these, 17 units are radiated to space
directly and the remaining 34 units are
absorbed by the atmosphere (6 units
absorbed directly by the atmosphere, 9 units
through convection and turbulence and 19
units through latent heat of condensation).
48 units absorbed by the atmosphere
(14 units from insolation +34 units from

Figure 9.2 : Heat budget of the earth



terrestrial radiation) are also radiated back

into space. Thus, the total radiation
returning from the earth and the atmosphere
respectively is 17+48=65 units which
balance the total of 65 units received from
the sun. This is termed the heat budget or
heat balance of the earth.
This explains, why the earth neither warms
up nor cools down despite the huge transfer of
heat that takes place.
Variation in the Net Heat Budget at the
Earths Surface
As explained earlier, there are variations in the
amount of radiation received at the earths
surface. Some part of the earth has surplus
radiation balance while the other part has
Figure 9.3 depicts the latitudinal variation
in the net radiation balance of the earth the
atmosphere system. The figure shows that
there is a surplus of net radiation balance
between 40 degrees north and south and the
regions near the poles have a deficit. The
surplus heat energy from the tropics is
redistributed pole wards and as a result the
tropics do not get progressively heated up due
to the accumulation of excess heat or the high
latitudes get permanently frozen due to excess

Figure 9.3 : Latitudinal variation in net

radiation balance

The interaction of insolation with the
atmosphere and the earths surface creates

heat which is measured in terms of

temperature. While heat represents the
molecular movement of particles comprising a
substance, the temperature is the measurement
in degrees of how hot (or cold) a thing (or a
place) is.
Factors Controlling Temperature Distribution
The temperature of air at any place is influenced
by (i) the latitude of the place; (ii) the altitude
of the place; (iii) distance from the sea, the airmass circulation; (iv) the presence of warm and
cold ocean currents; (v) local aspects.
The latitude : The temperature of a place
depends on the insolation received. It has been
explained earlier that the insolation varies
according to the latitude hence the
temperature also varies accordingly.
The altitude : The atmosphere is indirectly
heated by terrestrial radiation from below.
Therefore, the places near the sea-level record
higher temperature than the places situated
at higher elevations. In other words, the
temperature generally decreases with
increasing height. The rate of decrease of
temperature with height is termed as the
normal lapse rate. It is 6.5C per 1,000 m.
Distance from the sea : Another factor that
influences the temperature is the location of a
place with respect to the sea. Compared to land,
the sea gets heated slowly and loses heat
slowly. Land heats up and cools down quickly.
Therefore, the variation in temperature over the
sea is less compared to land. The places
situated near the sea come under the
moderating influence of the sea and land
breezes which moderate the temperature.
Air-mass and Ocean currents : Like the land
and sea breezes, the passage of air masses also
affects the temperature. The places, which
come under the influence of warm air-masses
experience higher temperature and the places
that come under the influence of cold airmasses experience low temperature. Similarly,



the places located on the coast where the warm

ocean currents flow record higher temperature
than the places located on the coast where the
cold currents flow.
Distribution of Temperature
The global distribution of temperature can well
be understood by studying the temperature
distribution in January and July. The
temperature distribution is generally shown
on the map with the help of isotherms. The
Isotherms are lines joining places having equal
temperature. Figure 9.4 (a) and (b) show the
distribution of surface air temperature in the
month of January and July.
In general the effect of the latitude on
temperature is well pronounced on the map,
as the isotherms are generally parallel to the
latitude. The deviation from this general trend
is more pronounced in January than in July,
especially in the northern hemisphere. In the

northern hemisphere the land surface area is

much larger than in the southern hemisphere.
Hence, the effects of land mass and the ocean
currents are well pronounced. In January the
isotherms deviate to the north over the ocean
and to the south over the continent. This can
be seen on the North Atlantic Ocean. The
presence of warm ocean currents, Gulf Stream
and North Atlantic drift, make the Northern
Atlantic Ocean warmer and the isotherms bend
towards the north. Over the land the
temperature decreases sharply and the
isotherms bend towards south in Europe.
It is much pronounced in the Siberian
plain. The mean January temperature along
60 E longitude is minus 20 C both at 80 N
and 50 N latitudes. The mean monthly
temperature for January is over 27 C, in
equatorial oceans over 24 C in the tropics
and 2 C - 0 C in the middle latitudes
and 18 C to 48 C in the Eurasian
continental interior.

Figure 9.4 (a) : The distribution of surface air temperature in the month of January



Figure 9.4 (b) : The distribution of surface air temperature in the month of July

Figure 9.5 : The range of temperature between January and July



The effect of the ocean is well pronounced

in the southern hemisphere. Here the isotherms
are more or less parallel to the latitudes and
the variation in temperature is more gradual
than in the northern hemisphere. The isotherm
of 20 C, 10 C, and 0 C runs parallel to 35 S,
45 S and 60 S latitudes respectively.
In July the isotherms generally run
parallel to the latitude. The equatorial oceans
record warmer temperature, more than 27C.
Over the land more than 30C is noticed in

the subtropical continental region of Asia,

along the 30 N latitude. Along the 40 N runs
the isotherm of 10 C and along the 40 S the
temperature is 10 C.
Figure 9.5 shows the range of
temperature between January and July. The
highest range of temperature is more than 60
C over the north-eastern part of Eurasian
continent. This is due to continentality. The
least range of temperature, 3C, is found
between 20 S and 15 N.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) The sun is directly overhead at noon on 21st June at:
(a) The equator

(c) 23.5 N

(b) 23.5 S

(d) 66.5 N

(ii) In which one of the following cities, are the days the longest?
(a) Tiruvanantpuram

(c) Hyderabad

(b) Chandigarh

(d) Nagpur

(iii) The atmosphere is mainly heated by the:

(a) Short wave solar radiation (c) Long wave terrestrial radiation
(b) Reflected solar radiation

Make correct pairs from the following two columns.

(i) Insolation


(d) Scattered solar radiation

(a) The difference between the mean

temperature of the warmest and the coldest

(ii) Albedo

(b) The lines joining the places of equal


(iii) Isotherm


(iv) Annual range

(d) The percentage of visible light reflected by

an object

The incoming solar radiation

The main reason that the earth experiences highest temperatures in the
subtropics in the northern hemisphere rather than at the equator is :

Subtropical areas tend to have less cloud cover than equatorial



Subtropical areas have longer day hours in the summer than the


Subtropical areas have an enhanced green house effect compared

to equatorial areas.


Subtropical areas are nearer to the oceanic areas than the equatorial





Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


How does the unequal distribution of heat over the planet earth in space
and time cause variations in weather and climate?


What are the factors that control temperature distribution on the surface
of the earth?


In India, why is the day temperature maximum in May and why not after
the summer solstice?


Why is the annual range of temperature high in the Siberian plains?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


How do the latitude and the tilt in the axis of rotation of the earth affect
the amount of radiation received at the earths surface?


Discuss the processes through which the earth-atmosphere system

maintains heat balance.


Compare the global distribution of temperature in January over the

northern and the southern hemisphere of the earth.

Project Work
Select a meteorological observatory located in your city or near your town. Tabulate
the temperature data as given in the climatological table of observatories :

Note the altitude, latitude of the observatory and the period for which the
mean is calculated.
Define the terms related to temperature as given in the table.


Calculate the daily mean monthly temperature.


Draw a graph to show the daily mean maximum, the daily mean minimum
and the mean temperature.


Calculate the annual range of temperature.


Find out in which months the daily range of temperature is the highest
and the lowest.


List out the factors that determine the temperature of the place and
explain the possible causes for temperature variation in the months of
January, May, July and October.

New Delhi (Safdarjung)


2835 N

Based on observations

1951 - 1980

Altitude above mean sea level

216 m


Mean of

Mean of














Daily mean monthly temperature



= 14.2OC

= 32.75OC

Annual range of temperature

Mean Max. Temperature in May - Mean Temperature in January
Annual range of temperature = 32.75C 14.2C = 18.55C




arlier Chapter 9 described the uneven

distribution of temperature over the
surface of the earth. Air expands when
heated and gets compressed when cooled. This
results in variations in the atmospheric
pressure. The result is that it causes the
movement of air from high pressure to low
pressure, setting the air in motion. You already
know that air in horizontal motion is wind.
Atmospheric pressure also determines when
the air will rise or sink. The wind redistributes
the heat and moisture across the planet,
thereby, maintaining a constant temperature
for the planet as a whole. The vertical rising of
moist air cools it down to form the clouds and
bring precipitation. This chapter has been
devoted to explain the causes of pressure
differences, the forces that control the
atmospheric circulation, the turbulent pattern
of wind, the formation of air masses, the
disturbed weather when air masses interact
with each other and the phenomenon of violent
tropical storms.

Do you realise that our body is subjected to a
lot of air pressure. As one moves up the air
gets varified and one feels breathless.
The weight of a column of air contained in
a unit area from the mean sea level to the top
of the atmosphere is called the atmospheric
pressure. The atmospheric pressure is
expressed in units of mb and Pascals. The
widely used unit is kilo Pascal written as hPa.
At sea level the average atmospheric pressure
is 1,013.2 mb or 1,013.2 hPa. Due to gravity

the air at the surface is denser and hence has

higher pressure. Air pressure is measured with
the help of a mercury barometer or the aneroid
barometer. Consult your book, Practical Work
in Geography Part I (NCERT, 2006) and
learn about these instruments. The pressure
decreases with height. At any elevation it varies
from place to place and its variation is the
primary cause of air motion, i.e. wind which
moves from high pressure areas to low
pressure areas.
Vertical Variation of Pressure
In the lower atmosphere the pressure
decreases rapidly with height. The decrease
amounts to about 1 mb for each 10 m increase
in elevation. It does not always decrease at the
same rate. Table 10.1 gives the average
pressure and temperature at selected levels of
elevation for a standard atmosphere.
Table 10.1 : Standard Pressure and Temperature at
Selected Levels
Sea Level

Pressure in mb

Temperature C



1 km



5 km


17. 3

10 km



The vertical pressure gradient force is much

larger than that of the horizontal pressure
gradient. But, it is generally balanced by a
nearly equal but opposite gravitational force.
Hence, we do not experience strong upward



Horizontal Distribution of Pressure

Small differences in pressure are highly
significant in terms of the wind direction and

purposes of comparison. The sea level pressure

distribution is shown on weather maps.
Figure 10.1 shows the patterns of isobars
corresponding to pressure systems. Lowpressure system is enclosed by one or more
isobars with the lowest pressure in the centre.
High-pressure system is also enclosed by one
or more isobars with the highest pressure in
the centre.
World Distribution of Sea Level Pressure

Figure 10.1 : Isobars, pressure and wind systems in

Northern Hemisphere

velocity. Horizontal distribution of pressure is

studied by drawing isobars at constant levels.
Isobars are lines connecting places having
equal pressure. In order to eliminate the effect
of altitude on pressure, it is measured at any
station after being reduced to sea level for

The world distribution of sea level pressure in

January and July has been shown in Figures
10.2 and 10.3. Near the equator the sea level
pressure is low and the area is known as
equatorial low. Along 30 N and 30o S are
found the high-pressure areas known as the
subtropical highs. Further pole wards along
60o N and 60o S, the low-pressure belts are
termed as the sub polar lows. Near the poles
the pressure is high and it is known as the polar
high. These pressure belts are not permanent

Figure 10.2 : Distribution of pressure (in millibars) January



Figure 10.3 : Distribution of pressure (in millibars) July

in nature. They oscillate with the apparent

movement of the sun. In the northern
hemisphere in winter they move southwards
and in the summer northwards.
Forces Affecting the Velocity
and Direction of Wind
You already know that the air is set in motion
due to the differences in atmospheric pressure.
The air in motion is called wind. The wind
blows from high pressure to low pressure. The
wind at the surface experiences friction. In
addition, rotation of the earth also affects the
wind movement. The force exerted by the
rotation of the earth is known as the Coriolis
force. Thus, the horizontal winds near the
earth surface respond to the combined effect
of three forces the pressure gradient force,
the frictional force and the Coriolis force. In
addition, the gravitational force acts

Pressure Gradient Force

The differences in atmospheric pressure
produces a force. The rate of change of pressure
with respect to distance is the pressure
gradient. The pressure gradient is strong where
the isobars are close to each other and is weak
where the isobars are apart.
Frictional Force
It affects the speed of the wind. It is greatest at
the surface and its influence generally extends
upto an elevation of 1 - 3 km. Over the sea
surface the friction is minimal.
Coriolis Force
The rotation of the earth about its axis affects
the direction of the wind. This force is called
the Coriolis force after the French physicist who
described it in 1844. It deflects the wind to the
right direction in the northern hemisphere and



to the left in the southern hemisphere. The

deflection is more when the wind velocity is
high. The Coriolis force is directly proportional
to the angle of latitude. It is maximum at the
poles and is absent at the equator.
The Coriolis force acts perpendicular to the
pressure gradient force. The pressure gradient
force is perpendicular to an isobar. The higher
the pressure gradient force, the more is the
velocity of the wind and the larger is the
deflection in the direction of wind. As a result of
these two forces operating perpendicular to each
other, in the low-pressure areas the wind blows
around it. At the equator, the Coriolis force is
zero and the wind blows perpendicular to the
isobars. The low pressure gets filled instead of
getting intensified. That is the reason why tropical
cyclones are not formed near the equator.

The wind circulation around a low is

called cyclonic circulation. Around a high
it is called anti cyclonic circulation. The
direction of winds around such systems
changes according to their location in
different hemispheres (Table 10.2).
The wind circulation at the earths surface
around low and high on many occasions is
closely related to the wind circulation at higher
level. Generally, over low pressure area the air
will converge and rise. Over high pressure area
the air will subside from above and diverge at
the surface (Figure10.5). Apart from
convergence, some eddies, convection
currents, orographic uplift and uplift along
fronts cause the rising of air, which is essential
for the formation of clouds and precipitation.

Pressure and Wind

The velocity and direction of the wind are the
net result of the wind generating forces. The
winds in the upper atmosphere, 2 - 3 km above
the surface, are free from frictional effect of the
surface and are controlled by the pressure
gradient and the Coriolis force. When isobars
are straight and when there is no friction, the
pressure gradient force is balanced by the
Coriolis force and the resultant wind blows
parallel to the isobar. This wind is known as
the geostrophic wind (Figure 10.4).

Figure 10.4 : Geostropic Wind

Figure 10.5 : Convergence and divergence of winds

General circulation of the atmosphere

The pattern of planetary winds largely depends
on : (i) latitudinal variation of atmospheric
heating; (ii) emergence of pressure belts; (iii)
the migration of belts following apparent path
of the sun; (iv) the distribution of continents
and oceans; (v) the rotation of earth. The pattern
of the movement of the planetary winds is
called the general circulation of the
atmosphere. The general circulation of the
atmosphere also sets in motion the ocean water
circulation which influences the earths

Table 10.2 : Pattern of Wind Direction in Cyclones and Anticyclones

Pressure System

Pressure Condition
at the Centre

Pattern of Wind Direction

Northern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere











climate. A schematic description of the general

circulation is shown in Figure 10.6.

The general circulation of the atmosphere

also affects the oceans. The large-scale winds
of the atmosphere initiate large and slow
moving currents of the ocean. Oceans in turn
provide input of energy and water vapour into
the air. These interactions take place rather
slowly over a large part of the ocean.
General Atmospheric Circulation and
its Effects on Oceans

Figure 10. 6 : Simplified general circulation

of the atmosphere

The air at the Inter Tropical Convergence

Zone (ITCZ) rises because of convection caused
by high insolation and a low pressure is
created. The winds from the tropics converge
at this low pressure zone. The converged air
rises along with the convective cell. It reaches
the top of the troposphere up to an altitude of
14 km. and moves towards the poles. This
causes accumulation of air at about 30o N and
S. Part of the accumulated air sinks to the
ground and forms a subtropical high. Another
reason for sinking is the cooling of air when it
reaches 30o N and S latitudes. Down below
near the land surface the air flows towards the
equator as the easterlies. The easterlies from
either side of the equator converge in the Inter
Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Such
circulations from the surface upwards and
vice-versa are called cells. Such a cell in the
tropics is called Hadley Cell. In the middle
latitudes the circulation is that of sinking cold
air that comes from the poles and the rising
warm air that blows from the subtropical high.
At the surface these winds are called westerlies
and the cell is known as the Ferrel cell. At polar
latitudes the cold dense air subsides near the
poles and blows towards middle latitudes as
the polar easterlies. This cell is called the polar
cell. These three cells set the pattern for the
general circulation of the atmosphere. The
transfer of heat energy from lower latitudes to
higher latitudes maintains the general

Warming and cooling of the Pacific Ocean

is most important in terms of general
atmospheric circulation. The warm water
of the central Pacific Ocean slowly drifts
towards South American coast and
replaces the cool Peruvian current. Such
appearance of warm water off the coast
of Peru is known as the El Nino. The El
Nino event is closely associated with the
pressure changes in the Central Pacific
and Australia. This change in pressure
condition over Pacific is known as the
southern oscillation. The combined
phenomenon of southern oscillation and
El Nino is known as ENSO. In the years
when the ENSO is strong, large-scale
variations in weather occur over the
world. The arid west coast of South
America receives heavy rainfall, drought
occurs in Australia and sometimes in
India and floods in China. This
phenomenon is closely monitored and is
used for long range forecasting in major
parts of the world.

Seasonal Wind
The pattern of wind circulation is modified in
different seasons due to the shifting of regions
of maximum heating, pressure and wind belts.
The most pronounced effect of such a shift is
noticed in the monsoons, especially over
southeast Asia. You would be studying the
details of monsoon in the book India : Physical
Environment (NCERT, 2006). The other local
deviations from the general circulation system
are as follows.
Local Winds
Differences in the heating and cooling of earth
surfaces and the cycles those develop daily or
annually can create several common, local or
regional winds.



Land and Sea Breezes

As explained earlier, the land and sea absorb
and transfer heat differently. During the day the
land heats up faster and becomes warmer than
the sea. Therefore, over the land the air rises
giving rise to a low pressure area, whereas the
sea is relatively cool and the pressure over sea
is relatively high. Thus, pressure gradient from
sea to land is created and the wind blows from
the sea to the land as the sea breeze. In the night
the reversal of condition takes place. The land
loses heat faster and is cooler than the sea. The
pressure gradient is from the land to the sea
and hence land breeze results (Figure 10.7).

as the valley breeze. During the night the

slopes get cooled and the dense air descends
into the valley as the mountain wind. The cool
air, of the high plateaus and ice fields draining
into the valley is called katabatic wind. Another
type of warm wind occurs on the leeward side
of the mountain ranges. The moisture in these
winds, while crossing the mountain ranges
condense and precipitate. When it descends
down the leeward side of the slope the dry air
gets warmed up by adiabatic process. This dry
air may melt the snow in a short time.
Air Masses
When the air remains over a homogenous area
for a sufficiently longer time, it acquires the
characteristics of the area. The homogenous
regions can be the vast ocean surface or vast
plains. The air with distinctive characteristics
in terms of temperature and humidity is called
an airmass. It is defined as a large body of air
having little horizontal variation in temperature
and moisture. The homogenous surfaces, over
which air masses form, are called the source
The air masses are classified according to
the source regions. There are five major source
regions. These are: (i) Warm tropical and
subtropical oceans; (ii) The subtropical hot
deserts; (iii) The relatively cold high latitude
oceans; (iv) The very cold snow covered
continents in high latitudes; (v) Permanently
ice covered continents in the Arctic and
Antarctica. Accordingly, following types of airmasses are recognised: (i) Maritime tropical
(mT); (ii) Continental tropical (cT); (iii) Maritime
polar (mP); (iv) Continental polar (cP);
(v) Continental arctic (cA). Tropical air masses
are warm and polar air masses are cold.

Figure 10.7 : Land and sea breezes

Mountain and Valley Winds

In mountainous regions, during the day the
slopes get heated up and air moves upslope
and to fill the resulting gap the air from the
valley blows up the valley. This wind is known

When two different air masses meet, the

boundary zone between them is called a front.
The process of formation of the fronts is known
as frontogenesis. There are four types of
fronts: (a) Cold; (b) Warm; (c) Stationary;
(d) Occluded [(Figure10.8 (a), (b), (c)]. When the
front remains stationary, it is called a
stationary front. When the cold air moves


Figure 10.8 : Vertical Sections of : (a) Warm Front;

(b) Cold Front; (c) Occluded Front

towards the warm air mass, its contact zone is

called the cold front, whereas if the warm air
mass moves towards the cold air mass, the
contact zone is a warm front. If an air mass is
fully lifted above the land surface, it is called
the occluded front. The fronts occur in middle
latitudes and are characterised by steep gradient
in temperature and pressure. They bring
abrupt changes in temperature and cause the
air to rise to form clouds and cause precipitation.


anticlockwise cyclonic circulation. The cyclonic

circulation leads to a well developed extra
tropical cyclone, with a warm front and a cold
front. The plan and cross section of a well
developed cyclone is given in Figure 10.9.
There are pockets of warm air or warm sector
wedged between the forward and the rear cold
air or cold sector. The warm air glides over the
cold air and a sequence of clouds appear over
the sky ahead of the warm front and cause
precipitation. The cold front approaches the
warm air from behind and pushes the warm
air up. As a result, cumulus clouds develop
along the cold front. The cold front moves faster
than the warm front ultimately overtaking the
warm front. The warm air is completely lifted
up and the front is occluded and the cyclone
The processes of wind circulation both at
the surface and aloft are closely interlinked.
The extra tropical cyclone differs from the
tropical cyclone in number of ways. The extra
tropical cyclones have a clear frontal system

Extra Tropical Cyclones

The systems developing in the mid and high
latitude, beyond the tropics are called the
middle latitude or extra tropical cyclones. The
passage of front causes abrupt changes in the
weather conditions over the area in the middle
and high latitudes.
Extra tropical cyclones form along the polar
front. Initially, the front is stationary. In the
northern hemisphere, warm air blows from the
south and cold air from the north of the front.
When the pressure drops along the front, the
warm air moves northwards and the cold air
move towards, south setting in motion an

Figure 10. 9 : Extra tropical cyclones


which is not present in the tropical cyclones.

They cover a larger area and can originate over
the land and sea. Whereas the tropical cyclones
originate only over the seas and on reaching
the land they dissipate. The extra tropical
cyclone affects a much larger area as
compared to the tropical cyclone. The wind
velocity in a tropical cyclone is much higher
and it is more destructive. The extra tropical
cyclones move from west to east but tropical
cyclones, move from east to west.
Tropical Cyclones
Tropical cyclones are violent storms that
originate over oceans in tropical areas and
move over to the coastal areas bringing about
large scale destruction caused by violent
winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges.
This is one of the most devastating natural
calamities. They are known as Cyclones in the
Indian Ocean, Hurricanes in the Atlantic,
Typhoons in the Western Pacific and South
China Sea, and Willy-willies in the Western
Tropical cyclones originate and intensify
over warm tropical oceans. The conditions
favourable for the formation and intensification
of tropical storms are: (i) Large sea surface with
temperature higher than 27 C; (ii) Presence
of the Coriolis force; (iii) Small variations in the
vertical wind speed; (iv) A pre-existing weaklow-pressure area or low-level-cyclonic
circulation; (v) Upper divergence above the sea
level system.
The energy that intensifies the storm, comes
from the condensation process in the towering
cumulonimbus clouds, surrounding the
centre of the storm. With continuous supply
of moisture from the sea, the storm is further
strengthened. On reaching the land the
moisture supply is cut off and the storm
dissipates. The place where a tropical cyclone
crosses the coast is called the landfall of the
cyclone. The cyclones, which cross 20o N
latitude generally, recurve and they are more


A schematic representation of the vertical

structure of a mature tropical cyclonic storm
is shown in Figure 10.10.
A mature tropical cyclone is characterised
by the strong spirally circulating wind around
the centre, called the eye. The diameter of the
circulating system can vary between 150 and
250 km.
The eye is a region of calm with subsiding
air. Around the eye is the eye wall, where there
is a strong spiralling ascent of air to greater
height reaching the tropopause. The wind
reaches maximum velocity in this region,
reaching as high as 250 km per hour.
Torrential rain occurs here. From the eye wall
rain bands may radiate and trains of cumulus
and cumulonimbus clouds may drift into the
outer region. The diameter of the storm over
the Bay of Bengal, Arabian sea and Indian
ocean is between 600 - 1200 km. The system
moves slowly about 300 - 500 km per day.
The cyclone creates storm surges and they
inundate the coastal low lands. The storm
peters out on the land.

Figure 10.10 : Vertical section of the tropical cyclone

(after Rama Sastry)



Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

Other severe local storms are thunderstorms
and tornadoes. They are of short duration,
occurring over a small area but are violent.
Thunderstor ms are caused by intense
convection on moist hot days. A thunderstorm
is a well-grown cumulonimbus cloud
producing thunder and lightening. When the
clouds extend to heights where sub-zero
temperature prevails, hails are formed and they
come down as hailstorm. If there is insufficient
moisture, a thunderstorm can generate duststorms. A thunderstorm is characterised by
intense updraft of rising warm air, which
causes the clouds to grow bigger and rise to

greater height. This causes precipitation. Later,

downdraft brings down to earth the cool air
and the rain. From severe thunderstorms
sometimes spiralling wind descends like a
trunk of an elephant with great force, with very
low pressure at the centre, causing massive
destruction on its way. Such a phenomenon is
called a tornado. Tornadoes generally occur
in middle latitudes. The tornado over the sea
is called water sprouts.
These violent storms are the manifestation
of the atmospheres adjustments to varying
energy distribution. The potential and heat
energies are converted into kinetic energy in
these storms and the restless atmosphere again
returns to its stable state.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) If the surface air pressure is 1,000 mb, the air pressure at 1 km above the
surface will be:
(a) 700 mb

(c) 900 mb

(b) 1,100 mb

(d) 1,300 mb

(ii) The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone normally occurs:

(a) near the Equator

(b) near the Tropic of Cancer

(c) near the Tropic of Capricorn

(d) near the Arctic Circle

(iii) The direction of wind around a low pressure in northern hemisphere is:



(a) clockwise

(c) anti-clock wise

(b) perpendicular to isobars

(d) parallel to isobars

Which one of the following is the source region for the formation of air
(a) the Equatorial forest

(c) the Siberian Plain

(b) the Himalayas

(d) the Deccan Plateau

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What is the unit used in measuring pressure? Why is the pressure measured
at station level reduced to the sea level in preparation of weather maps?


While the pressure gradient force is from north to south, i.e. from the
subtropical high pressure to the equator in the northern hemisphere,
why are the winds north easterlies in the tropics.


What are the geotrophic winds?


Explain the land and sea breezes.



Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Discuss the factors affecting the speed and direction of wind.


Draw a simplified diagram to show the general circulation of the

atmosphere over the globe. What are the possible reasons for the formation
of subtropical high pressure over 30o N and S latitudes?


Why does tropical cyclone originate over the seas? In which part of the
tropical cyclone do torrential rains and high velocity winds blow and why?

Project Work

Collect weather information over media such as newspaper, TV and radio

for understanding the weather systems.


Read the section on weather in any newspaper, preferably, one having a

map showing a satellite picture. Mark the area of cloudiness. Attempt to
infer the atmospheric circulation from the distribution of clouds. Compare
the forecast given in the newspaper with the TV coverage, if you have
access to TV. Estimate, how many days in a week was the forecast were




ou have already learnt that the air

contains water vapour. It varies from
zero to four per cent by volume of the
atmosphere and plays an important role in the
weather phenomena. Water is present in the
atmosphere in three forms namely gaseous,
liquid and solid. The moisture in the
atmosphere is derived from water bodies
through evaporation and from plants through
transpiration. Thus, there is a continuous
exchange of water between the atmosphere, the
oceans and the continents through the
processes of evaporation, transpiration,
condensation and precipitation.
Water vapour present in the air is known
as humidity. It is expressed quantitatively in
different ways. The actual amount of the water
vapour present in the atmosphere is known as
the absolute humidity. It is the weight of water
vapour per unit volume of air and is expressed
in terms of grams per cubic metre. The ability
of the air to hold water vapour depends entirely
on its temperature. The absolute humidity
differs from place to place on the surface of the
earth. The percentage of moisture present in
the atmosphere as compared to its full capacity
at a given temperature is known as the relative
humidity. With the change of air temperature,
the capacity to retain moisture increases or
decreases and the relative humidity is also
affected. It is greater over the oceans and least
over the continents.
The air containing moisture to its full
capacity at a given temperature is said to be
saturated. It means that the air at the given
temperature is incapable of holding any
additional amount of moisture at that stage.
The temperature at which saturation occurs
in a given sample of air is known as dew point.






The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere

is added or withdrawn due to evaporation and
condensation respectively. Evaporation is a
process by which water is transformed from
liquid to gaseous state. Heat is the main cause
for evaporation. The temperature at which the
water starts evaporating is referred to as the
latent heat of vapourisation.
Increase in temperature increases water
absorption and retention capacity of the given
parcel of air. Similarly, if the moisture content
is low, air has a potentiality of absorbing and
retaining moisture. Movement of air replaces
the saturated layer with the unsaturated layer.
Hence, the greater the movement of air, the
greater is the evaporation.
The transformation of water vapour into
water is called condensation. Condensation is
caused by the loss of heat. When moist air is
cooled, it may reach a level when its capacity
to hold water vapour ceases. Then, the excess
water vapour condenses into liquid form. If it
directly condenses into solid form, it is known
as sublimation. In free air, condensation results
from cooling around very small particles
termed as hygroscopic condensation nuclei.
Particles of dust, smoke and salt from the ocean
are particularly good nuclei because they
absorb water. Condensation also takes place
when the moist air comes in contact with some
colder object and it may also take place when
the temperature is close to the dew point.
Condensation, therefore, depends upon the
amount of cooling and the relative humidity of
the air. Condensation is influenced by the
volume of air, temperature, pressure and
humidity. Condensation takes place: (i) when



the temperature of the air is reduced to dew

point with its volume remaining constant; (ii)
when both the volume and the temperature are
reduced; (iv) when moisture is added to the air
through evaporation. However, the most
favourable condition for condensation is the
decrease in air temperature.
After condensation the water vapour or the
moisture in the atmosphere takes one of the
following forms dew, frost, fog and clouds.
Forms of condensation can be classified on the
basis of temperature and location.
Condensation takes place when the dew point
is lower than the freezing point as well as
higher than the freezing point.
When the moisture is deposited in the form of
water droplets on cooler surfaces of solid
objects (rather than nuclei in air above the
surface) such as stones, grass blades and plant
leaves, it is known as dew. The ideal conditions
for its formation are clear sky, calm air, high
relative humidity, and cold and long nights.
For the formation of dew, it is necessary that
the dew point is above the freezing point.

condition when fog is mixed with smoke, is

described as smog. The only difference between
the mist and fog is that mist contains more
moisture than the fog. In mist each nuceli
contains a thicker layer of moisture. Mists are
frequent over mountains as the rising warm
air up the slopes meets a cold surface. Fogs
are drier than mist and they are prevalent where
warm currents of air come in contact with cold
currents. Fogs are mini clouds in which
condensation takes place around nuclei
provided by the dust, smoke, and the salt
Cloud is a mass of minute water droplets or
tiny crystals of ice formed by the condensation
of the water vapour in free air at considerable
elevations. As the clouds are formed at some
height over the surface of the earth, they take
various shapes. According to their height,
expanse, density and transparency or
opaqueness clouds are grouped under four
types : (i) cirrus; (ii) cumulus; (iii) stratus;
(iv) nimbus.

Frost forms on cold surfaces when
condensation takes place below freezing point
(00C), i.e. the dew point is at or below the
freezing point. The excess moisture is deposited
in the form of minute ice crystals instead of
water droplets. The ideal conditions for the
formation of white frost are the same as those
for the formation of dew, except that the air
temperature must be at or below the freezing
Fog and Mist
When the temperature of an air mass
containing a large quantity of water vapour falls
all of a sudden, condensation takes place within
itself on fine dust particles. So, the fog is a cloud
with its base at or very near to the ground.
Because of the fog and mist, the visibility
becomes poor to zero. In urban and industrial
centres smoke provides plenty of nuclei which
help the formation of fog and mist. Such a

Cirrus clouds are formed at high altitudes

(8,000 - 12,000m). They are thin and detatched
clouds having a feathery appearance. They are
always white in colour.
Cumulus clouds look like cotton wool. They
are generally formed at a height of 4,000 7,000 m. They exist in patches and can be seen
scattered here and there. They have a flat base.
As their name implies, these are layered clouds
covering large portions of the sky. These clouds
are generally formed either due to loss of heat
or the mixing of air masses with different
Nimbus clouds are black or dark gray. They
form at middle levels or very near to the surface



of the earth. These are extremely dense and

opaque to the rays of the sun. Sometimes, the
clouds are so low that they seem to touch the
ground. Nimbus clouds are shapeless masses
of thick vapour.

Figure 11.1

The process of continuous condensation in free
air helps the condensed particles to grow in
size. When the resistance of the air fails to hold
them against the force of gravity, they fall on to
the earths surface. So after the condensation
of water vapour, the release of moisture is
known as precipitation. This may take place
in liquid or solid form. The precipitation in the
form of water is called rainfall, when the
temperature is lower than the 00C, precipitation
takes place in the form of fine flakes of snow
and is called snowfall. Moisture is released in
the form of hexagonal crystals. These crystals
form flakes of snow. Besides rain and snow,
other forms of precipitation are sleet and hail,
though the latter are limited in occurrence and
are sporadic in both time and space.
Sleet is frozen raindrops and refrozen
melted snow-water. When a layer of air with
the temperature above freezing point overlies
a subfreezing layer near the ground,
precipitation takes place in the form of sleet.
Raindrops, which leave the warmer air,
encounter the colder air below. As a result, they
solidify and reach the ground as small pellets
of ice not bigger than the raindrops from which
they are formed.
Sometimes, drops of rain after being
released by the clouds become solidified into
small rounded solid pieces of ice and which
reach the surface of the earth are called
hailstones. These are formed by the rainwater
passing through the colder layers. Hailstones
have several concentric layers of ice one over
the other.
Types of Rainfall

Figure 11.2

Identify these cloud types which are

shown in Figure 11.1 and 11.2.

On the basis of origin, rainfall may be classified

into three main types the convectional,
orographic or relief and the cyclonic or frontal.
Conventional Rain

A combination of these four basic types can

give rise to the following types of clouds: high
clouds cirrus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus;
middle clouds altostratus and altocumulus;
low clouds stratocumulus and nimbostratus
and clouds with extensive vertical
development cumulus and cumulonimbus.

The, air on being heated, becomes light and

rises up in convection currents. As it rises, it
expands and loses heat and consequently,
condensation takes place and cumulous
clouds are formed. With thunder and lightening,
heavy rainfall takes place but this does not last



long. Such rain is common in the summer or

in the hotter part of the day. It is very common
in the equatorial regions and interior parts of
the continents, particularly in the northern
Orographic Rain
When the saturated air mass comes across a
mountain, it is forced to ascend and as it rises,
it expands; the temperature falls, and the
moisture is condensed. The chief characteristic
of this sort of rain is that the windward slopes
receive greater rainfall. After giving rain on the
windward side, when these winds reach the
other slope, they descend, and their
temperature rises. Then their capacity to take
in moisture increases and hence, these leeward
slopes remain rainless and dry. The area
situated on the leeward side, which gets less
rainfall is known as the rain-shadow area. It
is also known as the relief rain.
Cyclonic Rain
You have already read about extra tropical
cyclones and cyclonic rain in Chapter 10.
Please consult Chapter 10 to understand
cyclonic rainfall.
World Distribution of Rainfall
Different places on the earths surface receive
different amounts of rainfall in a year and that
too in different seasons.
In general, as we proceed from the equator
towards the poles, rainfall goes on decreasing
steadily. The coastal areas of the world receive
greater amounts of rainfall than the interior of

the continents. The rainfall is more over the

oceans than on the landmasses of the world
because of being great sources of water.
Between the latitudes 350 and 400 N and S of
the equator, the rain is heavier on the eastern
coasts and goes on decreasing towards the
west. But, between 450 and 650 N and S of
equator, due to the westerlies, the rainfall is
first received on the western margins of the
continents and it goes on decreasing towards
the east. Wherever mountains run parallel to
the coast, the rain is greater on the coastal
plain, on the windward side and it decreases
towards the leeward side.
On the basis of the total amount of annual
precipitation, major precipitation regimes of the
world are identified as follows.
The equatorial belt, the windward slopes
of the mountains along the western coasts in
the cool temperate zone and the coastal areas
of the monsoon land receive heavy rainfall of
over 200 cm per annum. Interior continental
areas receive moderate rainfall varying from
100 - 200 cm per annum. The coastal areas of
the continents receive moderate amount of
rainfall. The central parts of the tropical land
and the eastern and interior parts of the
temperate lands receive rainfall varying
between 50 - 100 cm per annum. Areas lying
in the rain shadow zone of the interior of the
continents and high latitudes receive very low
rainfall-less than 50 cm per annum. Seasonal
distribution of rainfall provides an important
aspect to judge its effectiveness. In some
regions rainfall is distributed evenly
throughout the year such as in the equatorial
belt and in the western parts of cool temperate


Multiple choice questions.


Which one of the following is the most important constituent of the

atmosphere for human beings?
(a) Water vapour

(c) Dust particle

(b) Nitrogen

(d) Oxygen



(ii) Which one of the following process is responsible for transforming liquid
into vapour?
(a) Condensation

(c) Evaporation

(b) Transpiration

(d) Precipitation

(iii) The air that contains moisture to its full capacity :



(c) Absolute humidity

(b) Specific humidity

(d) Saturated air

Which one of the following is the highest cloud in the sky?

(a) Cirrus

(c) Nimbus

(b) Stratus

(d) Cumulus

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.



(a) Relative humidity

Name the three types of precipitation.

Explain relative humidity.


Why does the amount of water vapour decreases rapidly with altitude?


How are clouds formed? Classify them.

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Discuss the salient features of the world distribution of precipitation.

What are forms of condensation? Describe the process of dew and frost

Project Work
Browse through the newspaper from 1st June to 31st December and note the news
about extreme rainfall in different parts of the country.




related them to the distribution of vegetation

and used these values for classifying the
climates. It is an empirical classification based
on mean annual and mean monthly
temperature and precipitation data. He
introduced the use of capital and small letters
to designate climatic groups and types.
Although developed in 1918 and modified over
a period of time, Koeppens scheme is still
popular and in use.
Koeppen recognised five major climatic
groups, four of them are based on temperature
and one on precipitation. Table 12.1 lists the
climatic groups and their characteristics
according to Koeppen. The capital letters : A,C,
D and E delineate humid climates and B dry
The climatic groups are subdivided into
types, designated by small letters, based on
seasonality of precipitation and temperature
characteristics. The seasons of dryness are
indicated by the small letters : f, m, w and s,
where f corresponds to no dry season,

he world climate can be studied by

organising information and data on
climate and synthesising them in
smaller units for easy understanding,
description and analysis. Three broad
approaches have been adopted for classifying
climate. They are empirical, genetic and
applied. Empirical classification is based on
observed data, particularly on temperature
and precipitation. Genetic classification
attempts to organise climates according to their
causes. Applied classification is for specific





The most widely used classification of climate

is the empirical climate classification scheme
developed by V. Koeppen. Koeppen identified
a close relationship between the distribution
of vegetation and climate. He selected certain
values of temperature and precipitation and

Table 12.1 : Climatic Groups According to Koeppen



A - Tropical

Average temperature of the coldest month is 18 C or higher

B - Dry Climates

Potential evaporation exceeds precipitation

C - Warm Temperate

The average temperature of the coldest month of the (Mid-latitude) climates

years is higher than minus 3C but below 18C

D - Cold Snow Forest Climates

The average temperature of the coldest month is minus 3 C or below

E - Cold Climates

Average temperature for all months is below 10 C

H - High Land

Cold due to elevation



islands of East Indies. Significant amount of

rainfall occurs in every month of the year as
thunder showers in the afternoon. The
temperature is uniformly high and the annual
range of temperature is negligible. The
maximum temperature on any day is around
30C while the minimum temperature is
around 20C. Tropical evergreen forests with
dense canopy cover and large biodiversity are
found in this climate.

m - monsoon climate, w- winter dry season and

s - summer dry season. The small letters a, b,
c and d refer to the degree of severity of
temperature. The B- Dry Climates are
subdivided using the capital letters S for steppe
or semi-arid and W for deserts. The climatic
types are listed in Table 12.2. The distribution
of climatic groups and types is shown in
Table 12.1.

Table 12.2 : Climatic Types According to Koeppen

A-Tropical Humid

B-Dry Climate

temperate (Midlatitude) Climates
D-Cold Snowforest Climates
E-Cold Climates


Letter Code


Tropical wet


No dry season

Tropical monsoon


Monsoonal, short dry season

Tropical wet and dry


Winter dry season

Subtropical steppe


Low-latitude semi arid or dry

Subtropical desert


Low-latitude arid or dry

Mid-latitude steppe


Mid-latitude semi arid or dry

Mid-latitude desert


Mid-latitude arid or dry

Humid subtropical


No dry season, warm summer



Dry hot summer

Marine west coast


No dry season, warm and cool summer

Humid continental


No dry season, severe winter



Winter dry and very severe



No true summer

Polar ice cap


Perennial ice


Highland with snow cover

Group A : Tropical Humid Climates

Tropical Monsoon Climate (Am)

Tropical humid climates exist between Tropic

of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The sun
being overhead throughout the year and the
presence of Inter Tropical Convergence Zone
(INTCZ) make the climate hot and humid.
Annual range of temperature is very low and
annual rainfall is high. The tropical group is
divided into three types, namely (i) Af- Tropical
wet climate; (ii) Am - Tropical monsoon climate;
(iii) Aw- Tropical wet and dry climate.

Tropical monsoon climate (Am) is found over

the Indian sub-continent, North Eastern part
of South America and Northern Australia.
Heavy rainfall occurs mostly in summer. Winter
is dry. The detailed climatic account of this
climatic type is given in the book on India:
Physical Environment.

Tropical Wet Climate (Af)

Tropical wet climate is found near the equator.
The major areas are the Amazon Basin in South
America, western equatorial Africa and the

Tropical Wet and Dry Climate (Aw)

Tropical wet and dry climate occurs north and
south of Af type climate regions. It borders with
dry climate on the western part of the continent
and Cf or Cw on the eastern part. Extensive
Aw climate is found to the north and south of
the Amazon forest in Brazil and adjoining parts



of Bolivia and Paraguay in South America,

Sudan and south of Central Africa. The annual
rainfall in this climate is considerably less than
that in Af and Am climate types and is variable
also. The wet season is shorter and the dry
season is longer with the drought being more
severe. Temperature is high throughout the
year and diurnal ranges of temperature are the
greatest in the dry season. Deciduous forest and
tree-shredded grasslands occur in this climate.

often causing famine. Rain occurs in short

intense thundershowers in deserts and is
ineffective in building soil moisture. Fog is
common in coastal deserts bordering cold
currents. Maximum temperature in the summer
is very high. The highest shade temperature of
58 C was recorded at Al Aziziyah, Libya on
13 September 1922. The annual and diurnal
ranges of temperature are also high.
Warm Temperate (Mid-Latitude) Climates-C

Dry Climates : B
Dry climates are characterised by very low
rainfall that is not adequate for the growth of
plants. These climates cover a very large area
of the planet extending over large latitudes from
15 - 60 north and south of the equator. At
low latitudes, from 15 - 30, they occur in the
area of subtropical high where subsidence and
inversion of temperature do not produce
rainfall. On the western margin of the
continents, adjoining the cold current,
particularly over the west coast of South
America, they extend more equatorwards and
occur on the coast land. In middle latitudes,
from 35 - 60 north and south of equator, they
are confined to the interior of continents where
maritime-humid winds do not reach and to
areas often surrounded by mountains.
Dry climates are divided into steppe or
semi-arid climate (BS) and desert climate (BW).
They are further subdivided as subtropical
steppe (BSh) and subtropical desert (BWh) at
latitudes from 15 - 35 and mid-latitude
steppe (BSk) and mid-latitude desert (BWk) at
latitudes between 35 - 60.
Subtropical Steppe (BSh) and Subtropical
Desert (BWh) Climates
Subtropical steppe (BSh) and subtropical
desert (BWh) have common precipitation and
temperature characteristics. Located in the
transition zone between humid and dry
climates, subtropical steppe receives slightly
more rainfall than the desert, adequate enough
for the growth of sparse grasslands. The rainfall
in both the climates is highly variable. The
variability in the rainfall affects the life in the
steppe much more than in the desert, more

Warm temperate (mid-latitude) climates extend

from 30 - 50 of latitude mainly on the eastern
and western margins of continents. These
climates generally have warm summers with
mild winters. They are grouped into four types:
(i) Humid subtropical, i.e. dry in winter and
hot in summer (Cwa); (ii) Mediterranean (Cs);
(iii) Humid subtropical, i.e. no dry season and
mild winter (Cfa); (iv) Marine west coast climate
Humid Subtropical Climate (Cwa)
Humid subtropical climate occurs poleward of
Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, mainly in
North Indian plains and South China interior
plains. The climate is similar to Aw climate
except that the temperature in winter is warm.
Mediterranean Climate (Cs)
As the name suggests, Mediterranean climate
occurs around Mediterranean sea, along the
west coast of continents in subtropical latitudes
between 30 - 40 latitudes e.g. Central
California, Central Chile, along the coast in
south eastern and south western Australia.
These areas come under the influence of sub
tropical high in summer and westerly wind in
winter. Hence, the climate is characterised by
hot, dry summer and mild, rainy winter. Monthly
average temperature in summer is around
25 C and in winter below 10C. The annual
precipitation ranges between 35 - 90 cm.
Humid Subtropical (Cfa) Climate
Humid subtropical climate lies on the eastern
parts of the continent in subtropical latitudes.
In this region the air masses are generally



unstable and cause rainfall throughout the

year. They occur in eastern United States of
America, southern and eastern China,
southern Japan, northeastern Argentina,
coastal south Africa and eastern coast of
Australia. The annual averages of precipitation
vary from 75-150 cm. Thunderstorms in
summer and frontal precipitation in winter are
common. Mean monthly temperature in
summer is around 27C, and in winter it varies
from 5-12 C. The daily range of temperature
is small.

Cold Climate with Dry Winters (Dw)

Marine West Coast Climate (Cfb)

Polar Climates (E)

Marine west coast climate is located poleward

from the Mediterranean climate on the west
coast of the continents. The main areas are:
Northwestern Europe, west coast of North
America, north of California, southern Chile,
southeastern Australia and New Zealand. Due
to marine influence, the temperature is
moderate and in winter, it is warmer than for
its latitude. The mean temperature in summer
months ranges from 15-20C and in winter
4-10C. The annual and daily ranges of
temperature are small. Precipitation occurs
throughout the year. Precipitation varies
greatly from 50-250cm.

Polar climates exist poleward beyond 70

latitude. Polar climates consist of two types:
(i) Tundra (ET); (ii) Ice Cap (EF).

Cold climate with dry winter occurs mainly

over Northeastern Asia. The development of
pronounced winter anti cyclone and its
weakening in summer sets in monsoon like
reversal of wind in this region. Poleward
summer temperatures are lower and winter
temperatures are extremely low with many
locations experiencing below freezing point
temperatures for up to seven months in a year.
Precipitation occurs in summer. The annual
precipitation is low from 12-15 cm.

Tundra Climate (ET)

The tundra climate (ET) is so called after the
types of vegetation, like low growing mosses,
lichens and flowering plants. This is the region
of permafrost where the sub soil is permanently
frozen. The short growing season and water
logging support only low growing plants.
During summer, the tundra regions have very
long duration of day light.
Ice Cap Climate (EF)

Cold Snow Forest Climates (D)

Cold snow forest climates occur in the large
continental area in the northern hemisphere
between 40-70 north latitudes in Europe,
Asia and North America. Cold snow forest
climates are divided into two types: (i) Df- cold
climate with humid winter; (ii) Dw- cold climate
with dry winter. The severity of winter is more
pronounced in higher latitudes.

The ice cap climate (EF) occurs over interior

Greenland and Antartica. Even in summer, the
temperature is below freezing point. This area
receives very little precipitation. The snow and
ice get accumulated and the mounting pressure
causes the deformation of the ice sheets and
they break. They move as icebergs that float in
the Arctic and Antarctic waters. Plateau Station
, Antarctica ,79S, portray this climate.

Cold Climate with Humid Winters (Df)

Highland Climates (H)

Cold climate with humid winter occurs

poleward of marine west coast climate and mid
latitude steppe. The winters are cold and
snowy. The frost free season is short. The
annual ranges of temperature are large. The
weather changes are abrupt and short.
Poleward, the winters are more severe.

Highland climates are governed by topography.

In high mountains, large changes in mean
temperature occur over short distances.
Precipitation types and intensity also vary
spatially across high lands. There is vertical
zonation of layering of climatic types with
elevation in the mountain environment.



The earlier chapters on climate summarised
our understanding of climate as it prevails now.
The type of climate we experience now might
be prevailing over the last 10,000 years with
minor and occasionally wide fluctuations. The
planet earth has witnessed many variations in
climate since the beginning. Geological records
show alteration of glacial and inter-glacial
periods. The geomorphological features,
especially in high altitudes and high latitudes,
exhibit traces of advances and retreats of
glaciers. The sediment deposits in glacial lakes
also reveal the occurrence of warm and cold
periods. The rings in the trees provide clues
about wet and dry periods. Historical records
describe the vagaries in climate. All these
evidences indicate that change in climate is a
natural and continuous process.
India also witnessed alternate wet and dry
periods. Archaeological findings show that the
Rajasthan desert experienced wet and cool
climate around 8,000 B.C. The period 3,0001,700 B.C. had higher rainfall. From about
2,000-1,700 B.C., this region was the centre
of the Harappan civilisation. Dry conditions
accentuated since then.
In the geological past, the earth was warm
some 500-300 million years ago, through the
Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian periods.
During the Pleistocene epoch, glacial and
inter-glacial periods occurred, the last major
peak glacial period was about 18,000 years
ago. The present inter-glacial period started
10,000 years ago.
Climate in the recent past
Variability in climate occurs all the time. The
nineties decade of the last century witnessed
extreme weather events. The 1990s recorded
the warmest temperature of the century and
some of the worst floods around the world. The
worst devastating drought in the Sahel region,
south of the Sahara desert, from 1967-1977
is one such variability. During the 1930s,
severe drought occurred in southwestern Great
Plains of the United States, described as the
dust bowl. Historical records of crop yield or

crop failures, of floods and migration of people

tell about the effects of changing climate. A
number of times Europe witnessed warm, wet,
cold and dry periods, the significant episodes
were the warm and dry conditions in the tenth
and eleventh centuries, when the Vikings
settled in Greenland. Europe witnessed Little
Ice Age from 1550 to about 1850. From about
1885-1940 world temperature showed an
upward trend. After 1940, the rate of increase
in temperature slowed down.
Causes of Climate Change
The causes for climate change are many. They
can be grouped into astronomical and
terrestrial causes. The astronomical causes are
the changes in solar output associated with
sunspot activities. Sunspots are dark and
cooler patches on the sun which increase and
decrease in a cyclical manner. According to
some meteorologists, when the number of
sunspots increase, cooler and wetter weather
and greater storminess occur. A decrease in
sunspot numbers is associated with warm and
drier conditions. Yet, these findings are not
statistically significant.
An another astronomical theory is
Millankovitch oscillations, which infer cycles
in the variations in the earths orbital
characteristics around the sun, the wobbling
of the earth and the changes in the earths axial
tilt. All these alter the amount of insolation
received from the sun, which in turn, might
have a bearing on the climate.
Volcanism is considered as another cause
for climate change. Volcanic eruption throws
up lots of aerosols into the atmosphere. These
aerosols remain in the atmosphere for a
considerable period of time reducing the suns
radiation reaching the Earths surface. After the
recent Pinatoba and El Cion volcanic
eruptions, the average temperature of the earth
fell to some extent for some years.
The most important anthropogenic effect
on the climate is the increasing trend in the
concentration of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere which is likely to cause global



Global Warming
Due to the presence of greenhouse gases, the
atmosphere is behaving like a greenhouse. The
atmosphere also transmits the incoming solar
radiation but absorbs the vast majority of long
wave radiation emitted upwards by the earths
surface. The gases that absorb long wave
radiation are called greenhouse gases. The
processes that warm the atmosphere are often
collectively referred to as the greenhouse effect.
The term greenhouse is derived from the
analogy to a greenhouse used in cold
areas for preserving heat. A greenhouse
is made up of glass. The glass which is
transparent to incoming short wave solar
radiation is opaque to outgoing long wave
radiation. The glass, therefore, allows in
more radiation and prevents the long
wave radiation going outside the glass
house, causing the temperature inside
the glasshouse structure warmer than
outside. When you enter a car or a bus,
during summers, where windows are
closed, you feel more heat than outside.
Likewise during winter the vehicles with
closed doors and windows remain warmer
than the temperature outside. This is
another example of the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gases(GHGs)
The primary GHGs of concern today are carbon
dioxide (CO2), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs),
methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone
(O3). Some other gases such as nitric oxide (NO)
and carbon monoxide (CO) easily react with
GHGs and affect their concentration in the
The effectiveness of any given GHG
molecule will depend on the magnitude of the
increase in its concentration, its life time in the
atmosphere and the wavelength of radiation
that it absorbs. The chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) are highly effective. Ozone which
absorbs ultra violet radiation in the
stratosphere is very effective in absorbing
terrestrial radiation when it is present in the
lower troposphere. Another important point to
be noted is that the more time the GHG
molecule remains in the atmosphere, the longer

it will take for earths atmospheric system to

recover from any change brought about by the
The largest concentration of GHGs in the
atmosphere is carbon dioxide. The emission
of CO 2 comes mainly from fossil fuel
combustion (oil, gas and coal). Forests and
oceans are the sinks for the carbon dioxide.
Forests use CO 2 in their growth. So,
deforestation due to changes in land use, also
increases the concentration of Co2. The time
taken for atmospheric CO2 to adjust to changes
in sources to sinks is 20-50 years. It is rising
at about 0.5 per cent annually. Doubling of
concentration of CO2 over pre-industrial level
is used as an index for estimating the changes
in climate in climatic models.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are products
of human activity. Ozone occurs in the
stratosphere where ultra-violet rays convert
oxygen into ozone. Thus, ultra violet rays do
not reach the earths surface. The CFCs which
drift into the stratosphere destroy the ozone.
Large depletion of ozone occurs over Antarctica.
The depletion of ozone concentration in the
stratosphere is called the ozone hole. This
allows the ultra violet rays to pass through the
International efforts have been initiated for
reducing the emission of GHGs into the
atmosphere. The most important one is the
Kyoto protocol proclaimed in 1997. This
protocol went into effect in 2005, ratified by
141 nations. Kyoto protocol bounds the 35
industrialised countries to reduce their
emissions by the year 2012 to 5 per cent less
than the levels prevalent in the year 1990.
The increasing trend in the concentration
of GHGs in the atmosphere may, in the long
run, warm up the earth. Once the global
warming sets in, it will be difficult to reverse it.
The effect of global warming may not be
uniform everywhere. Nevertheless, the adverse
effect due to global warming will adversely affect
the life supporting system. Rise in the sea level
due to melting of glaciers and ice-caps and
thermal expansion of the sea may inundate
large parts of the coastal area and islands,
leading to social problems. This is another
cause for serious concern for the world


community. Efforts have already been initiated

to control the emission of GHGs and to arrest
the trend towards global warming. Let us hope
the world community responds to this challenge
and adopts a lifestyle that leaves behind a
livable world for the generations to come.
One of the major concerns of the world
today is global warming. Let us look at how
much the planet has warmed up from the
temperature records.
Temperature data are available from the
middle of the 19th century mostly for western
Europe. The reference period for this study is
1961-90. The temperature anomalies for the
earlier and later periods are estimated from the
average temperature for the period 1961-90.
The annual average near -surface air
temperature of the world is approximately
14C. The time series show anomalies of

Write an explanatory note

on global warming.


annual near surface temperature over land

from 1856-2000, relative to the period
1961-90 as normal for the globe.
An increasing trend in temperature was
discernible in the 20th century. The greatest
warming of the 20th century was during the
two periods, 1901-44 and 1977-99. Over each
of these two periods, global temperatures rose
by about 0.4C. In between, there was a slight
cooling, which was more marked in the
Northern Hemisphere.
The globally averaged annual mean
temperature at the end of the 20th century was
about 0.6C above that recorded at the end of
the 19th century. The seven warmest years
during the 1856-2000 were recorded in the
last decade. The year 1998 was the warmest
year, probably not only for the 20th century
but also for the whole millennium.




Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following is suitable for Koeppens A type of climate?

High rainfall in all the months

(b) Mean monthly temperature of the coldest month more than freezing

Mean monthly temperature of all the months more than 18o C


Average temperature for all the months below 10 C

(ii) Koeppens system of classification of climates can be termed as :

(a) Applied

(b) Systematic

(c) Genetic

(d) Empirical

(iii) Most of the Indian Peninsula will be grouped according to Koeppens system
(a) Af

(b) BSh

(c) Cfb

(d) Am

(iv) Which one of the following years is supposed to have recorded the warmest
temperature the world over?
(a) 1990

(b) 1998

(c) 1885

(d) 1950

(v) Which one of the following groups of four climates represents humid











Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


Which two climatic variables are used by Koeppen for classification of the


How is the genetic system of classification different from the empirical



Which types of climates have very low range of temperature?


What type of climatic conditions would prevail if the sun spots increase?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


Make a comparison of the climatic conditions between the A and B

types of climate.


What type of vegetation would you find in the C and A type(s) of climate?


What do you understand by the term Greenhouse Gases? Make a list of

greenhouse gases.

Project Work
Collect information about Kyoto declaration related to global climate changes.

This unit deals with

Hydrological Cycle

Oceans submarine relief; distribution of temperature and

salinity; movements of ocean water-waves, tides and currents



an we think of life without water? It is

said that the water is life. Water is an
essential component of all life forms that
exist over the surface of the earth. The creatures
on the earth are lucky that it is a water planet,
otherwise we all would have no existence. Water
is a rare commodity in our solar system. There
is no water on the sun or anywhere else in the
solar system. The earth, fortunately has an
abundant supply of water on its surface. Hence,
our planet is called the Blue Planet.

Water is a cyclic resource. It can be used and
re-used. Water also undergoes a cycle from

the ocean to land and land to ocean. The

hydrological cycle describes the movement of
water on, in, and above the earth. The water
cycle has been working for billions of years
and all the life on earth depends on it. Next to
air, water is the most important element
required for the existence of life on earth. The
distribution of water on earth is quite uneven.
Many locations have plenty of water while
others have very limited quantity. The
hydrological cycle, is the circulation of water
within the earths hydrosphere in different
forms i.e. the liquid, solid and the gaseous
phases. It also refers to the continuous
exchange of water between the oceans,

Figure 13.1 : Hydrological Cycle



Table 13.1 : Water on the Earths surface


Cubic km )

of the Total





Ice Caps
and Glaciers






Soil Moisture






and Rivers






Table 13.2 : Components and Processes

of the Water Cycle


Water storage
in oceans


Water in the


Water storage in
ice and snow

Snowmelt runoff
to streams

Surface runoff

Stream flow freshwater

storage infiltration

Groundwater storage

discharge springs

atmosphere, landsurface and subsurface and

the organisms.
Table 13.1 shows distribution of water on
the surface of the earth. About 71 per cent of
the planetary water is found in the oceans. The
remaining is held as freshwater in glaciers and
icecaps, groundwater sources, lakes, soil
moisture, atmosphere, streams and within life.
Nearly 59 per cent of the water that falls on
land returns to the atmosphere through
evaporation from over the oceans as well as
from other places. The remainder runs-off on
the surface, infiltrates into the ground or a part
of it becomes glacier (Figure 13.1).
It is to be noted that the renewable water
on the earth is constant while the demand is
increasing tremendously. This leads to water

crisis in different parts of the world spatially

and temporally. The pollution of river waters
has further aggravated the crisis. How can you
intervene in improving the water quality and
augmenting the available quantity of water?




The oceans are confined to the great

depressions of the earths outer layer. In this
section, we shall see the nature of the ocean
basins of the earth and their topography. The
oceans, unlike the continents, merge so
naturally into one another that it is hard to
demarcate them. The geographers have divided
the oceanic part of the earth into four oceans,
namely the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian and
the Arctic. The various seas, bays, gulfs and
other inlets are parts of these four large oceans.
A major portion of the ocean floor is found
between 3-6 km below the sea level. The land
under the waters of the oceans, that is, the
ocean floor exhibits complex and varied
features as those observed over the land
(Figure 13.2). The floors of the oceans are
rugged with the worlds largest mountain
ranges, deepest trenches and the largest plains.
These features are formed, like those of the
continents, by the factors of tectonic, volcanic
and depositional processes.
Divisions of the Ocean Floors
The ocean floors can be divided into four major
divisions: (i) the Continental Shelf; (ii) the
Continental Slope; (iii) the Deep Sea Plain;
(iv) the Oceanic Deeps. Besides, these divisions
there are also major and minor relief features
in the ocean floors like ridges, hills, sea
mounts, guyots, trenches, canyons, etc.
Continental Shelf
The continental shelf is the extended margin
of each continent occupied by relatively
shallow seas and gulfs. It is the shallowest part
of the ocean showing an average gradient of
1 or even less. The shelf typically ends at a
very steep slope, called the shelf break.
The width of the continental shelves vary
from one ocean to another. The average width



of continental shelves is about 80 km. The

shelves are almost absent or very narrow along
some of the margins like the coasts of Chile,
the west coast of Sumatra, etc. On the contrary,
the Siberian shelf in the Arctic Ocean, the
largest in the world, stretches to 1,500 km in
width. The depth of the shelves also varies. It
may be as shallow as 30 m in some areas while
in some areas it is as deep as 600 m.
The continental shelves are covered with
variable thicknesses of sediments brought
down by rivers, glaciers, wind, from the land
and distributed by waves and currents. Massive
sedimentary deposits received over a long time
by the continental shelves, become the source
of fossil fuels.

Continental Slope
The continental slope connects the continental
shelf and the ocean basins. It begins where the
bottom of the continental shelf sharply drops
off into a steep slope. The gradient of the slope
region varies between 2-5. The depth of the
slope region varies between 200 and 3,000 m.
The slope boundary indicates the end of the
continents. Canyons and trenches are observed
in this region.
Deep Sea Plain
Deep sea plains are gently sloping areas of the
ocean basins. These are the flattest and
smoothest regions of the world. The depths
vary between 3,000 and 6,000m. These plains
are covered with fine-grained sediments like
clay and silt.
Oceanic Deeps or Trenches
These areas are the deepest parts of the oceans.
The trenches are relatively steep sided, narrow
basins. They are some 3-5 km deeper than
the surrounding ocean floor. They occur at the
bases of continental slopes and along island
arcs and are associated with active volcanoes
and strong earthquakes. That is why they are
very significant in the study of plate
movements. As many as 57 deeps have been
explored so far; of which 32 are in the Pacific
Ocean; 19 in the Atlantic Ocean and 6 in the
Indian Ocean.
Minor Relief Features
Apart from the above mentioned major relief
features of the ocean floor, some minor but
significant features predominate in different
parts of the oceans.
Mid-Oceanic Ridges

Figure 13.2 : Relief features of ocean floors

A mid-oceanic ridge is composed of two chains

of mountains separated by a large depression.
The mountain ranges can have peaks as high
as 2,500 m and some even reach above the
oceans surface. Iceland, a part of the midAtlantic Ridge, is an example.



It is a mountain with pointed summits, rising
from the seafloor that does not reach the surface
of the ocean. Seamounts are volcanic in origin.
These can be 3,000-4,500 m tall. The Emperor
seamount, an extension of the Hawaiian Islands
in the Pacific Ocean, is a good example.
Submarine Canyons
These are deep valleys, some comparable to
the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river. They
are sometimes found cutting across the
continental shelves and slopes, often extending
from the mouths of large rivers. The Hudson
Canyon is the best known canyon in the world.
It is a flat topped seamount. They show
evidences of gradual subsidence through
stages to become flat topped submerged
mountains. It is estimated that more than
10,000 seamounts and guyots exist in the
Pacific Ocean alone.
These are low islands found in the tropical
oceans consisting of coral reefs surrounding
a central depression. It may be a part of the
sea (lagoon), or sometimes form enclosing a
body of fresh, brackish, or highly saline water.




This section deals with the spatial and vertical

variations of temperature in various oceans.
Ocean waters get heated up by the solar energy
just as land. The process of heating and cooling
of the oceanic water is slower than land.
Factors Affecting Temperature Distribution
The factors which affect the distribution of
temperature of ocean water are :
(i) Latitude : the temperature of surface water
decreases from the equator towards the
poles because the amount of insolation
decreases poleward.
(ii) Unequal distribution of land and water :
the oceans in the northern hemisphere

receive more heat due to their contact with

larger extent of land than the oceans in
the southern hemisphere.
(iii) Prevailing wind : the winds blowing from
the land towards the oceans drive warm
surface water away form the coast
resulting in the upwelling of cold water
from below. It results into the longitudinal
variation in the temperature. Contrary to
this, the onshore winds pile up warm
water near the coast and this raises the
(iv) Ocean currents : warm ocean currents
raise the temperature in cold areas while
the cold currents decrease the
temperature in warm ocean areas. Gulf
stream (warm current) raises the
temperature near the eastern coast of
North America and the West Coast of
Europe while the Labrador current (cold
current) lowers the temperature near the
north-east coast of North America.
All these factors influence the temperature
of the ocean currents locally. The enclosed seas
in the low latitudes record relatively higher
temperature than the open seas; whereas the
enclosed seas in the high latitudes have lower
temperature than the open seas.
Horizontal and Vertical Distribution
of Temperature
The temperature-depth profile for the ocean
water shows how the temperature decreases
with the increasing depth. The profile shows a
boundary region between the surface waters
of the ocean and the deeper layers. The
boundary usually begins around 100 - 400 m
below the sea surface and extends several
hundred of m downward (Figure 13.3). This
boundary region, from where there is a rapid
decrease of temperature, is called the
thermocline. About 90 per cent of the total
volume of water is found below the thermocline
in the deep ocean. In this zone, temperatures
approach 0 C.
The temperature structure of oceans over
middle and low latitudes can be described as
a three-layer system from surface to the bottom.
The first layer represents the top layer of



warm oceanic water and it is about 500m thick

with temperatures ranging between 20 and
25 C. This layer, within the tropical region, is
present throughout the year but in mid
latitudes it develops only during summer.
The second layer called the thermocline
layer lies below the first layer and is characterised
by rapid decrease in temperature with increasing
depth. The thermocline is 500 -1,000 m thick.

hemisphere record relatively higher temperature

than in the southern hemisphere. The highest
temperature is not recorded at the equator but
slightly towards north of it. The average annual
temperatures for the northern and southern
hemisphere are around 19 C and 16 C
respectively. This variation is due to the
unequal distribution of land and water in the
northern and southern hemispheres. Figure
13.4 shows the spatial pattern of surface
temperature of the oceans.
It is a well known fact that the maximum
temperature of the oceans is always at their
surfaces because they directly receive the heat
from the sun and the heat is transmitted to
the lower sections of the oceans through the
process of conduction. It results into decrease
of temperature with the increasing depth, but
the rate of decrease is not uniform throughout.
The temperature falls very rapidly up to the
depth of 200 m and thereafter, the rate of
decrease of temperature is slowed down.


Figure 13.3 : Thermocline

The third layer is very cold and extends

upto the deep ocean floor. In the Arctic and
Antartic circles, the surface water temperatures
are close to 0 C and so the temperature change
with the depth is very slight. Here, only one
layer of cold water exists, which extends from
surface to deep ocean floor.
The average temperature of surface water
of the oceans is about 27C and it gradually
decreases from the equator towards the poles.
The rate of decrease of temperature with
increasing latitude is generally 0.5C per
latitude. The average temperature is around
22C at 20 latitudes, 14 C at 40 latitudes
and 0 C near poles. The oceans in the northern



All waters in nature, whether rain water or

ocean water, contain dissolved mineral salts.
Salinity is the term used to define the total
content of dissolved salts in sea water
(Table 13.4). It is calculated as the amount of
salt (in gm) dissolved in 1,000 gm (1 kg) of
seawater. It is usually expressed as parts per
thousand (o/oo) or ppt. Salinity is an important
property of sea water. Salinity of 24.7 o/oo has
been considered as the upper limit to
demarcate brackish water.
Factors affecting ocean salinity are
mentioned below:
(i) The salinity of water in the surface layer
of oceans depend mainly on evaporation
and precipitation.
(ii) Surface salinity is greatly influenced in
coastal regions by the fresh water flow
from rivers, and in polar regions by the
processes of freezing and thawing of ice.
(iii) Wind, also influences salinity of an area
by transferring water to other areas.
(iv) The ocean currents contribute to the
salinity variations. Salinity, temperature
and density of water are interrelated.
Hence, any change in the temperature or
density influences the salinity of an area.



Figure 13.4 : Spatial pattern of surface temperature (C) of the oceans

Highest salinity in water bodies

Lake Van in Turkey (330 o/oo),
Dead Sea (238 o/oo),
Great Salt Lake (220 o/oo)
Table 13.4 : Dissolved Salts in Sea Water
(gm of Salt per kg of Water)





The salinity for normal open ocean ranges

between 33o/oo and 37 o/oo. In the land locked

Red Sea, it is as high as 41o/oo, while in the

estuaries and the Arctic, the salinity fluctuates
from 0 - 35 o/oo, seasonally. In hot and dry
regions, where evaporation is high, the salinity
sometimes reaches to 70 o/oo.
The salinity variation in the Pacific Ocean
is mainly due to its shape and larger areal
extent. Salinity decreases from 35 o/oo - 31 o/oo
on the western parts of the northern
hemisphere because of the influx of melted
water from the Arctic region. In the same way,
after 15 - 20 south, it decreases to 33 o/oo .
The average salinity of the Atlantic Ocean
is around 36 o/oo. The highest salinity is
recorded between 15 and 20 latitudes.
Maximum salinity (37 o/oo) is observed between
20 N and 30 N and 20 W - 60 W. It gradually
decreases towards the north. The North Sea,
in spite of its location in higher latitudes,
records higher salinity due to more saline water
brought by the North Atlantic Drift. Baltic Sea
records low salinity due to influx of river waters
in large quantity. The Mediterranean Sea



Figure13.5 : Surface salinity of the Worlds Oceans

records higher salinity due to high evaporation.

Salinity is, however, very low in Black Sea due
to enormous fresh water influx by rivers. See
the atlas to find out the rivers joining Black Sea.
The average salinity of the Indian Ocean is
35 /oo. The low salinity trend is observed in
the Bay of Bengal due to influx of river water
by the river Ganga. On the contrary, the
Arabian Sea shows higher salinity due to high
evaporation and low influx of fresh water. Figure
13.5 shows the salinity of the Worlds oceans.
Vertical Distribution of Salinity
Salinity changes with depth, but the way it
changes depends upon the location of the sea.
Salinity at the surface increases by the loss of

water to ice or evaporation, or decreased by

the input of fresh waters, such as from the
rivers. Salinity at depth is very much fixed,
because there is no way that water is lost, or
the salt is added. There is a marked difference
in the salinity between the surface zones and
the deep zones of the oceans. The lower salinity
water rests above the higher salinity dense
water. Salinity, generally, increases with depth
and there is a distinct zone called the halocline,
where salinity increases sharply. Other factors
being constant, increasing salinity of seawater
causes its density to increase. High salinity
seawater, generally, sinks below the lower
salinity water. This leads to stratification by


Multiple choice questions.


Identify the element which is not a part of the hydrological cycle

(a) Evaporation
(b) Hydration

(c) Precipitation
(d) Condensation



(ii) The average depth of continental slope varies between

(a) 2-20m

(c) 20-200m

(b) 200-2,000m

(d) 2,000-20,000m

(iii) Which one of the following is not a minor relief feature in the oceans:




(c) Oceanic Deep

(b) Atoll

(d) Guyot

Salinity is expressed as the amount of salt in grams dissolved in sea

water per
(a) 10 gm

(c) 100 gm

(b) 1,000 gm

(d) 10,000 gm

Which one of the following is the smallest ocean:

(a) Indian Ocean

(c) Atlantic Ocean

(b) Arctic Ocean

(d) Pacific Ocean

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


Why do we call the earth a Blue Planet?

What is a continental margin?


List out the deepest trenches of various oceans.


What is a thermocline?


(a) Seamount

When you move into the ocean what thermal layers would you encounter?
Why the temperature varies with depth?
What is salinity of sea water?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


How are various elements of the hydrological cycle interrelated?

Examine the factors that influence the temperature distribution of the

Project Work

Consult the atlas and show ocean floor relief on the outline of the world
Identify the areas of mid oceanic ridges from the Indian Ocean.



he ocean water is dynamic. Its physical

characteristics like temperature,
salinity, density and the external
forces like of the sun, moon and the winds
influence the movement of ocean water. The
horizontal and vertical motions are common
in ocean water bodies. The horizontal motion
refers to the ocean currents and waves. The
vertical motion refers to tides. Ocean currents
are the continuous flow of huge amount of
water in a definite direction while the waves
are the horizontal motion of water. Water moves
ahead from one place to another through ocean
currents while the water in the waves does not
move, but the wave trains move ahead. The
vertical motion refers to the rise and fall of water
in the oceans and seas. Due to attraction of
the sun and the moon, the ocean water is raised
up and falls down twice a day. The upwelling
of cold water from subsurface and the sinking
of surface water are also forms of vertical
motion of ocean water.

Waves are actually the energy, not the water
as such, which moves across the ocean surface.
Water particles only travel in a small circle as a
wave passes. Wind provides energy to the
waves. Wind causes waves to travel in the ocean
and the energy is released on shorelines. The
motion of the surface water seldom affects the
stagnant deep bottom water of the oceans. As
a wave approaches the beach, it slows down.
This is due to the friction occurring between
the dynamic water and the sea floor. And, when
the depth of water is less than half the



wavelength of the wave, the wave breaks. The

largest waves are found in the open oceans.
Waves continue to grow larger as they move
and absorb energy from the wind.
Most of the waves are caused by the wind
driving against water. When a breeze of two
knots or less blows over calm water, small
ripples form and grow as the wind speed
increases until white caps appear in the
breaking waves. Waves may travel thousands
of km before rolling ashore, breaking and
dissolving as surf.
A waves size and shape reveal its origin.
Steep waves are fairly young ones and are
probably formed by local wind. Slow and
steady waves originate from far away places,
possibly from another hemisphere. The
maximum wave height is determined by the
strength of the wind, i.e. how long it blows and
the area over which it blows in a single direction.
Waves travel because wind pushes the
water body in its course while gravity pulls the
crests of the waves downward. The falling water
pushes the former troughs upward, and the

Figure14.1 : Motion of waves and water molecules


wave moves to a new position (Figure 14.1).

The actual motion of the water beneath the
waves is circular. It indicates that things are
carried up and forward as the wave
approaches, and down and back as it passes.
Characteristics of Waves
Wave crest and trough : The highest and
lowest points of a wave are called the crest
and trough respectively.
Wave height : It is the vertical distance
from the bottom of a trough to the top of
a crest of a wave.
Wave amplitude : It is one-half of the wave
Wave period : It is merely the time interval
between two successive wave crests or
troughs as they pass a fixed point.


attraction of the moon is less as it is farther

away, the centrifugal force causes tidal bulge
on the other side (Figure 14.2).
The tide-generating force is the difference
between these two forces; i.e. the gravitational
attraction of the moon and the centrifugal force.
On the surface of the earth, nearest the moon,
pull or the attractive force of the moon is greater
than the centrifugal force, and so there is a net
force causing a bulge towards the moon. On
the opposite side of the earth, the attractive
force is less, as it is farther away from the moon,
the centrifugal force is dominant. Hence, there
is a net force away from the moon. It creates
the second bulge away from the moon. On the
surface of the earth, the horizontal tide
generating forces are more important than the
vertical forces in generating the tidal bulges.

Wavelength : It is the horizontal distance

between two successive crests.
Wave speed : It is the rate at which the
wave moves through the water, and is
measured in knots.
Wave frequency : It is the number of waves
passing a given point during a onesecond time interval.

The periodical rise and fall of the sea level, once
or twice a day, mainly due to the attraction of
the sun and the moon, is called a tide.
Movement of water caused by meteorological
effects (winds and atmospheric pressure
changes) are called surges. Surges are not
regular like tides. The study of tides is very
complex, spatially and temporally, as it has great
variations in frequency, magnitude and height.
The moons gravitational pull to a great
extent and to a lesser extent the suns
gravitational pull, are the major causes for the
occurrence of tides. Another factor is centrifugal
force, which is the force that acts to counter
the balance the gravity. Together, the
gravitational pull and the centrifugal force are
responsible for creating the two major tidal
bulges on the earth. On the side of the earth
facing the moon, a tidal bulge occurs while on
the opposite side though the gravitational

Figure14.2 : Relation between gravitational

forces and tides

The tidal bulges on wide continental

shelves, have greater height. When tidal bulges
hit the mid-oceanic islands they become low.
The shape of bays and estuaries along a
coastline can also magnify the intensity of tides.
Funnel-shaped bays greatly change tidal
magnitudes. When the tide is channelled
between islands or into bays and estuaries
they are called tidal currents.



Tides of Bay of Fundy, Canada

The highest tides in the world occur in
the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The tidal bulge is 15 - 16 m. Because
there are two high tides and two low tides
every day (roughly a 24 hour period); then
a tide must come in within about a six
hour period. As a rough estimate, the tide
rises about 240 cm an hour (1,440 cm
divided by 6 hours). If you have walked
down a beach with a steep cliff alongside
(which is common there), make sure you
watch the tides. If you walk for about an
hour and then notice that the tide is
coming in, the water will be over your
head before you get back to where you

Types of Tides
Tides vary in their frequency, direction and
movement from place to place and also from
time to time. Tides may be grouped into various
types based on their frequency of occurrence
in one day or 24 hours or based on their height.
Tides based on Frequency
Semi-diurnal tide : The most common tidal
pattern, featuring two high tides and two low
tides each day. The successive high or low tides
are approximately of the same height.
Diurnal tide : There is only one high tide and
one low tide during each day. The successive
high and low tides are approximately of the
same height.
Mixed tide : Tides having variations in height
are known as mixed tides. These tides generally
occur along the west coast of North America
and on many islands of the Pacific Ocean.
Tides based on the Sun, Moon and the Earth
The height of rising water (high tide) varies
appreciably depending upon the position of
sun and moon with respect to the earth.
Spring tides and neap tides come under this

Spring tides : The position of both the sun and

the moon in relation to the earth has direct
bearing on tide height. When the sun, the moon
and the earth are in a straight line, the height
of the tide will be higher. These are called spring
tides and they occur twice a month, one on
full moon period and another during new moon
Neap tides : Normally, there is a seven day
interval between the spring tides and neap
tides. At this time the sun and moon are at
right angles to each other and the forces of the
sun and moon tend to counteract one another.
The Moons attraction, though more than twice
as strong as the suns, is diminished by the
counteracting force of the suns gravitational
Once in a month, when the moons orbit is
closest to the earth (perigee), unusually high
and low tides occur. During this time the tidal
range is greater than normal. Two weeks later,
when the moon is farthest from earth (apogee),
the moons gravitational force is limited and
the tidal ranges are less than their average
When the earth is closest to the sun
(perihelion), around 3rd January each year,
tidal ranges are also much greater, with
unusually high and unusually low tides. When
the earth is farthest from the sun (aphelion),
around 4th July each year, tidal ranges are
much less than average.
The time between the high tide and low tide,
when the water level is falling, is called the ebb.
The time between the low tide and high tide,
when the tide is rising, is called the flow or flood.
Importance of Tides
Since tides are caused by the earth-moon-sun
positions which are known accurately, the
tides can be predicted well in advance. This
helps the navigators and fishermen plan their
activities. Tidal flows are of great importance
in navigation. Tidal heights are very important,
especially harbours near rivers and within
estuaries having shallow bars at the entrance,
which prevent ships and boats from entering
into the harbour. Tides are also helpful in


desilting the sediments and in removing

polluted water from river estuaries. Tides are
used to generate electrical power (in Canada,
France, Russia, and China). A 3 MW tidal
power project at Durgaduani in Sunderbans
of West Bengal is under way.

Ocean currents are like river flow in oceans.
They represent a regular volume of water in a
definite path and direction. Ocean currents are
influenced by two types of forces namely :
(i) primary forces that initiate the movement of
water; (ii) secondary forces that influence the
currents to flow.
The primary forces that influence the
currents are: (i) heating by solar energy;
(ii) wind; (iii) gravity; (iv) coriolis force. Heating
by solar energy causes the water to expand.
That is why, near the equator the ocean water
is about 8 cm higher in level than in the middle
latitudes. This causes a very slight gradient
and water tends to flow down the slope. Wind
blowing on the surface of the ocean pushes the
water to move. Friction between the wind and
the water surface affects the movement of the
water body in its course. Gravity tends to pull
the water down to pile and create gradient
variation. The Coriolis force intervenes and
causes the water to move to the right in the
northern hemisphere and to the left in the
southern hemisphere. These large accumulations
of water and the flow around them are called
Gyres. These produce large circular currents
in all the ocean basins.
Characteristics of Ocean Currents
Currents are referred to by their drift.
Usually, the currents are strongest near
the surface and may attain speeds over
five knots. At depths, currents are
generally slow with speeds less than 0.5
knots. We refer to the speed of a current
as its drift. Drift is measured in terms
of knots. The strength of a current refers
to the speed of the current. A fast current
is considered strong. A current is usually
strongest at the surface and decreases
in strength (speed) with depth. Most
currents have speeds less than or equal
to 5 knots.


Differences in water density affect vertical

mobility of ocean currents. Water with high
salinity is denser than water with low salinity
and in the same way cold water is denser than
warm water. Denser water tends to sink, while
relatively lighter water tends to rise. Cold-water
ocean currents occur when the cold water at
the poles sinks and slowly moves towards the
equator. Warm-water currents travel out from
the equator along the surface, flowing towards
the poles to replace the sinking cold water.
Types of Ocean Currents
The ocean currents may be classified based on
their depth as surface currents and deep water
currents : (i) surface currents constitute about
10 per cent of all the water in the ocean, these
waters are the upper 400 m of the ocean;
(ii) deep water currents make up the other 90
per cent of the ocean water. These waters move
around the ocean basins due to variations in
the density and gravity. Deep waters sink into
the deep ocean basins at high latitudes, where
the temperatures are cold enough to cause the
density to increase.
Ocean currents can also be classified
based on temperature : as cold currents and
warm currents: (i) cold currents bring cold
water into warm water areas. These currents
are usually found on the west coast of the
continents in the low and middle latitudes
(true in both hemispheres) and on the east
coast in the higher latitudes in the Northern
Hemisphere; (ii) warm currents bring warm
water into cold water areas and are usually
observed on the east coast of continents in the
low and middle latitudes (true in both
hemispheres). In the northern hemisphere
they are found on the west coasts of continents
in high latitudes.
Major Ocean Currents
Major ocean currents are greatly influenced by
the stresses exerted by the prevailing winds and
coriolis force. The oceanic circulation pattern
roughly corresponds to the earths atmospheric
circulation pattern. The air circulation over the
oceans in the middle latitudes is mainly
anticyclonic (more pronounced in the southern
hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere).
The oceanic circulation pattern also
corresponds with the same. At higher latitudes,



Fig.14.3 : Major currents in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans

where the wind flow is mostly cyclonic, the

oceanic circulation follows this pattern. In
regions of pronounced monsoonal flow, the
monsoon winds influence the current
movements. Due to the coriolis force, the warm
currents from low latitudes tend to move to the
right in the northern hemisphere and to their
left in the southern hemisphere.
The oceanic circulation transports heat
from one latitude belt to another in a manner
similar to the heat transported by the general
circulation of the atmosphere. The cold waters
of the Arctic and Antarctic circles move towards
warmer water in tropical and equatorial
regions, while the warm waters of the lower
latitudes move polewards. The major currents
in the different oceans are shown in Figure14.3.
Prepare a list of currents which are
found in Pacific, Atlantic and Indian
How is the movement of currents is
influenced by prevailing winds? Give
some examples from Figure14.3.

Effects of Ocean Currents

Ocean currents have a number of direct and
indirect influences on human activities. West
coasts of the continents in tropical and
subtropical latitudes (except close to the
equator) are bordered by cool waters. Their
average temperatures are relatively low with a
narrow diurnal and annual ranges. There is
fog, but generally the areas are arid. West coasts
of the continents in the middle and higher
latitudes are bordered by warm waters which
cause a distinct marine climate. They are
characterised by cool summers and relatively
mild winters with a narrow annual range of
temperatures. Warm currents flow parallel to
the east coasts of the continents in tropical and
subtropical latitudes. This results in warm and
rainy climates. These areas lie in the western
margins of the subtropical anti-cyclones. The
mixing of warm and cold currents help to
replenish the oxygen and favour the growth of
planktons, the primary food for fish population.
The best fishing grounds of the world exist
mainly in these mixing zones.




Multiple choice questions.

(i) Upward and downward movement of ocean water is known as the :
(a) tide

(c) wave

(b) current

(d) none of the above

(ii) Spring tides are caused :


As result of the moon and the sun pulling the earth gravitationally
in the same direction.


As result of the moon and the sun pulling the earth gravitationally
in the opposite direction.


Indention in the coast line.


None of the above.

(iii) The distance between the earth and the moon is minimum when the moon
is in :



(c) Perihelion

(b) Perigee

(d) Apogee

The earth reaches its perihelion in:

(a) October

(c) July

(b) September

(d) January

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What are waves?

Where do waves in the ocean get their energy from?


What are tides?


How are tides caused?


(a) Aphelion

How are tides related to navigation?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


How do currents affect the temperature? How does it affect the temperature
of coastal areas in the N. W. Europe?
What are the causes of currents?

Project Work

Visit a lake or a pond and observe the movement of waves. Throw a stone
and notice how waves are generated. Draw the diagram of a wave and
measure its length, distance and amplitude and record them in your note.


Take a globe and a map showing the currents of the oceans. Discuss why
certain currents are warm or cold and why they deflect in certain places
and examine the reasons.




This unit deals with

Biosphere importance of plants and other organisms;

ecosystems, bio-geo chemical cycle and ecological balance;
biodiversity and conservation





y now you might have realised that all

units of this book have acquainted you
with the three major realms of the
environment, that is, the lithosphere, the
atmosphere and the hydrosphere. You know
that living organisms of the earth, constituting
the biosphere, interact with other environmental
realms. The biosphere includes all the living
components of the earth. It consists of all plants
and animals, including all the microLife on the earth is found almost
everywhere. Living organisms are found
from the poles to the equator, from the
bottom of the sea to several km in the
air, from freezing waters to dry valleys,
from under the sea to underground water
lying below the earths surface.

organisms that live on the planet earth and their

interactions with the surrounding environment.
Most of the organisms exist on the lithosphere
and/or the hydrosphere as well as in the
atmosphere. There are also many organisms
that move freely from one realm to the other.
The biosphere and its components are very
significant elements of the environment. These
elements interact with other components of the
natural landscape such as land, water and
soil. They are also influenced by the
atmospheric elements such as the temperature,
rainfall, moisture and sunlight. The
interactions of biosphere with land, air and
water are important to the growth,
development and evolution of the organism.

You have been reading about ecological and
environmental problems in newspapers and
magazines. Have you ever thought what
ecology is? The environment as you know, is
made up of abiotic and biotic components. It
would be interesting to understand how the
diversity of life-forms is maintained to bring a
kind of balance. This balance is maintained in
a particular proportion so that a healthy
interaction between the biotic and the abiotic
components goes on.
The interactions of a particular group of
organisms with abiotic factors within a
particular habitat resulting in clearly defined
energy flows and material cycles on land, water
and air, are called ecological systems.
The term ecology is derived from the Greek
word oikos meaning house, combined
with the word logy meaning the science
of or the study of . Literally, ecology is
the study of the earth as a household,
of plants, human beings, animals and
micro-organisms. They all live together
as interdependent components. A
German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, who
used the term as oekologie in 1869,
became the first person to use the term
ecology. The study of interactions
between life forms (biotic) and the
physical environment (abiotic) is the
science of ecology. Hence, ecology can be
defined as a scientific study of the
interactions of organisms with their
physical environment and with each other.



A habitat in the ecological sense is the totality

of the physical and chemical factors that
constitute the general environment. A system
consisting of biotic and abiotic components is
known as ecosystem. All these components in
ecosystem are inter related and interact with
each other. Different types of ecosystems exist
with varying ranges of environmental
conditions where various plants and animal
species have got adapted through evolution.
This phenomenon is known as ecological
Types of Ecosystems
Ecosystems are of two major types: terrestrial
and aquatic. Terrestrial ecosystem can be
further be classified into biomes. A biome is a
plant and animal community that covers a
large geographical area. The boundaries of
different biomes on land are determined mainly
by climate. Therefore, a biome can be defined
as the total assemblage of plant and animal
species interacting within specific conditions.
These include rainfall, temperature, humidity
and soil conditions. Some of the major biomes
of the world are: forest, grassland, desert and
tundra biomes. Aquatic ecosystems can be
classed as marine and freshwater ecosystems.
Marine ecosystem includes the oceans, coastal
estuaries and coral reefs. Freshwater

ecosystem includes lakes, ponds, streams,

marshes and bogs.
Structure and Functions of Ecosystems
The structure of an ecosystem involves a
description of the available plant and animal
species. From a structural point of view, all
ecosystems consist of abiotic and biotic factors.
Abiotic factors include rainfall, temperature,
sunlight, atmospheric humidity, soil
conditions, inorganic substances (carbon
dioxide, water, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus,
potassium, etc.). Biotic factors include the
producers, (primary, secondary, tertiary) the
consumers and the decomposers. The
producers include all the green plants, which
manufacture their own food through
photosynthesis. The primary consumers
include herbivorous animals like deer, goats,
mice and all plant-eating animals. The
carnivores include all the flesh-eating animals
like snakes, tigers and lions. Certain carnivores
that feed also on carnivores are known as top
carnivores like hawks and mongooses.
Decomposers are those that feed on dead
organisms (for example, scavengers like
vultures and crows), and further breaking
down of the dead matter by other decomposing
agents like bacteria and various microorganisms.

Figure 15.1 : Structure and functions of ecosystems



The producers are consumed by the

primary consumers whereas the primary
consumers are, in turn, being eaten by the
secondary consumers. Further, the secondary
consumers are consumed by the tertiary
consumers. The decomposers feed on the dead
at each and every level. They change them into
various substances such as nutrients, organic
and inorganic salts essential for soil fertility.
Organisms of an ecosystem are linked together
through a foodchain (Figure 15.1). For
example, a plant eating beetle feeding on a
paddy stalk is eaten by a frog, which is, in turn,
eaten by a snake, which is then consumed by
a hawk. This sequence of eating and being
eaten and the resultant transfer of energy from
one level to another is known as the food-chain.
Transfer of energy that occurs during the
process of a foodchain from one level to
another is known as flow of energy. However,
food-chains are not isolated from one another.
For example, a mouse feeding on grain may
be eaten by different secondary consumers
(carnivores) and these carnivores may be eaten
by other different tertiary consumers (top
carnivores). In such situations, each of the
carnivores may consume more than one type
of prey. As a result, the food- chains get
interlocked with one another. This interconnecting network of species is known as food
web. Generally, two types of food-chains are
recognised: grazing food-chain and detritus
food-chain. In a grazing food-chain, the first
level starts with plants as producers and ends
with carnivores as consumers as the last level,
with the herbivores being at the intermediate
level. There is a loss of energy at each level
which may be through respiration, excretion
or decomposition. The levels involved in a foodchain range between three to five and energy
is lost at each level. A detritus food-chain is
based on autotrophs energy capture initiated
by grazing animals and involves the
decomposition or breaking down of organic
wastes and dead matter derived from the
grazing food-chain.
Types of Biomes
In the earlier paragraphs, you have learnt the
meaning of the term biome. Let us now try to
identify the major biomes of the world. There
are five major biomes forest, desert, grassland,

aquatic and altitudinal biomes. Some features

of these biomes are given in Table 15.1.
Biogeochemical Cycles
The sun is the basic source of energy on which
all life depends. This energy initiates life
processes in the biosphere through
photosynthesis, the main source of food and
energy for green plants. During photosynthesis,
carbon dioxide is converted into organic
compounds and oxygen. Out of the total solar
insolation that reaches the earths surface, only
a very small fraction (0.1 per cent) is fixed in
photosynthesis. More than half is used for plant
respiration and the remaining part is
temporarily stored or is shifted to other
portions of the plant.
Life on earth consists of a great variety of
living organisms. These living organisms exist
and survive in a diversity of associations. Such
survival involves the presence of systemic flows
such as flows of energy, water and nutrients.
These flows show variations in different parts
of the world, in different seasons of the year
and under varying local circumstances. Studies
have shown that for the last one billion years,
the atmosphere and hydrosphere have been
composed of approximately the same balance
of chemical components. This balance of the
chemical elements is maintained by a cyclic
passage through the tissues of plants and
animals. The cycle starts by absorbing the
chemical elements by the organism and is
returned to the air, water and soil through
decomposition. These cycles are largely
energised by solar insolation. These cyclic
movements of chemical elements of the
biosphere between the organism and the
environment are referred to as biogeochemical
cycles. Bio refers to living organisms and geo
to rocks, soil, air and water of the earth.
There are two types of biogeochemical
cycles : the gaseous and the sedimentary cycle.
In the gaseous cycle, the main reservoir of
nutrients is the atmosphere and the ocean. In
the sedimentary cycle, the main reservoir is the
soil and the sedimentary and other rocks of
the earths crust.
The Water Cycle
All living organisms, the atmosphere and the
lithosphere maintain between them a



Table 15.1 : World Biomes






Hot and Dry A.

B. Semi arid
C. Coastal
D. Cold desert C.






Flora and Fauna

A1. Temp. 20-25C,

evenly distributed
A2. Temp. 25-30C,
Rainfall, ave. ann.
1,000mm, seasonal
B. Temp. 20-30 C,
Rainfall evenly
distributed 7501,500mm, Welldefined seasons
and distinct winter.
C. Short moist moderately warm
summers and long
cold dry winter;
very low
Precipitation mostly
400 -1,000mm

A1. Acidic,
poor in
A2. Rich in
B. Fertile,
C. Acidic and
poor in
thin soil

A1. M u l t i - l a y e r e d
canopy tall and
large trees
A2. Less dense, trees
of medium height;
many varieties coexis t. Insects,
bats, birds and
mammals are
common species
in both
B. Moderately dense
broad leaved trees.
With less diversity
of plant species.
Maple etc. are
some common
species. Squirrels,
rabbits, skunks,
birds, black bears,
mountain lions etc.
C. Evergreen conifers
like pine, fur and
spruce etc. Wood
peckers, hawks,
bears, wolves,
deer, hares and
bats are common

S a h a r a ,
Marginal areas
of hot deserts
Tundra climatic

A. Temp. 20 - 45C.
B. 21 - 38C.
C. 15 - 35C.
D. 2 - 25C
A-D Rainfall is less than
50 mm

Rich in
nutrients with
little or no
organic matter

A-C. Scanty vegetation; few large

insects, reptiles
and birds
D. Rabbits, rats,
and ground

Large areas
of A f r i c a ,
America and
P a r t s of
Eurasia and
North America




A1. 10 N-S
A2. 10 - 25 N-S
B. Eastern North
America, N.E.
Asia, Western
and Central
C. Broad belt of
Eurasia and
North America,
parts of
Canada and


Grassland A.




Warm hot
climates, Rainfall
500-1,250 mm
Hot summers and
cold winter.
Rainfall 500 900 mm


Porous with
thin layer of
Thin flocculated soil,
rich in bases


Grasses; trees
and large shrubs
absent; giraffes
zebras, buffalos,
leopards, hyenas,
elephants, mice,
moles, snakes
and worms etc.,
are common
Grasses; occasional trees
such as cottonwoods, oaks and
willows; gazelles,
zebras, rhin-



horses, lions,
varieties of birds,
worms, snakes
etc., are common


Freshwater A.


Lakes, streams, A-B Temperatures vary A. Water, swamps

widely with cooler air
and marshes
temperatures and
Oceans, coral
high humidity
B.Water, tidal
reefs, lagoons
swamps and
and estuaries

Slopes of high
mountain ranges
like the Himalayas,
the Andes and the

Temperature and
precipitation vary
depending upon
latitudinal zone

circulation of water in solid, liquid or gaseous

form referred to as the water or hydrologic cycle
(Chapter 13 of this book).

Regolith over

Algal and other aquatic

and marine plant
communities with
varieties of water
dwelling animals

Deciduous to tundra
vegetation varying
according to altitude

dioxide and are returned to the atmosphere

(Figure 15.2).

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon is one of the basic elements of all living
organisms. It forms the basic constituent of
all the organic compounds. The biosphere
contains over half a million carbon compounds
in them. The carbon cycle is mainly the
conversion of carbon dioxide. This conversion
is initiated by the fixation of carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
Such conversion results in the production of
carbohydrate, glucose that may be converted
to other organic compounds such as sucrose,
starch, cellulose, etc. Here, some of the
carbohydrates are utilised directly by the plant
itself. During this process, more carbon dioxide
is generated and is released through its leaves
or roots during the day. The remaining
carbohydrates not being utilised by the plant
become part of the plant tissue. Plant tissues
are either being eaten by the herbivorous
animals or get decomposed by the microorganisms. The herbivores convert some of the
consumed carbohydrates into carbon dioxide
for release into the air through respiration. The
micro-organisms decompose the remaining
carbohydrates after the animal dies. The
carbohydrates that are decomposed by the
micro-organisms then get oxidised into carbon

Figure 15.2 : Carbon Cycle

The Oxygen Cycle

Oxygen is the main by-product of
photosynthesis. It is involved in the oxidation
of carbohydrates with the release of energy,
carbon dioxide and water. The cycling of
oxygen is a highly complex process. Oxygen
occurs in a number of chemical forms and
combinations. It combines with nitrogen to
form nitrates and with many other minerals
and elements to form various oxides such as
the iron oxide, aluminium oxide and others.
Much of oxygen is produced from the
decomposition of water molecules by sunlight



during photosynthesis and is released in the

atmosphere through transpiration and
respiration processes of plants.
The Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrogen is a major constituent of the
atmosphere comprising about seventy-nine
per cent of the atmospheric gases. It is also an
essential constituent of different organic
compounds such as the amino acids, nucleic
acids, proteins, vitamins and pigments. Only
a few types of organisms like certain species of
soil bacteria and blue green algae are capable
of utilising it directly in its gaseous form.
Generally, nitrogen is usable only after it is
fixed. Ninety per cent of fixed nitrogen is
biological. The principal source of free nitrogen
is the action of soil micro-organisms and
associated plant roots on atmospheric nitrogen
found in pore spaces of the soil. Nitrogen can
also be fixed in the atmosphere by lightning and
cosmic radiation. In the oceans, some marine
animals can fix it. After atmospheric nitrogen
has been fixed into an available form, green
plants can assimilate it. Herbivorous animals
feeding on plants, in turn, consume some of it.
Dead plants and animals, excretion of
nitrogenous wastes are converted into nitrites
by the action of bacteria present in the soil.
Some bacteria can even convert nitrites into
nitrates that can be used again by green plants.
There are still other types of bacteria capable
of converting nitrates into free nitrogen, a
process known as denitrification (Figure 15.3).

Figure 15.3 : Nitrogen Cycle

Other Mineral Cycles

Other than carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and
hydrogen being the principal geochemical
components of the biosphere, many other
minerals also occur as critical nutrients for
plant and animal life. These mineral elements
required by living organisms are obtained
initially from inorganic sources such as
phosphorus, sulphur, calcium and potassium.
They usually occur as salts dissolved in soil
water or lakes, streams and seas. Mineral salts
come directly from the earths crust by
weathering where the soluble salts enter the
water cycle, eventually reaching the sea. Other
salts are returned to the earths surface through
sedimentation, and after weathering, they again
enter the cycle. All living organisms fulfill their
mineral requirements from mineral solutions
in their environments. Other animals receive
their mineral needs from the plants and animals
they consume. After the death of living
organisms, the minerals are returned to the soil
and water through decomposition and flow.
Ecological Balance
Ecological balance is a state of dynamic
equilibrium within a community of organisms
in a habitat or ecosystem. It can happen when
the diversity of the living organisms remains
relatively stable. Gradual changes do take
place but that happens only through natural
succession. It can also be explained as a stable
balance in the numbers of each species in an
ecosystem. This occurs through competition
and cooperation between different organisms
where population remains stable. This balance
is brought about by the fact that certain species
compete with one another determined by the
environment in which they grow. This balance
is also attained by the fact that some species
depend on others for their food and
sustenance. Such accounts are encountered
in vast grasslands where the herbivorous
animals (deer, zebras, buffaloes, etc.) are found
in plenty. On the other hand, the carnivorous
animals (tigers, lions, etc.) that are not usually
in large numbers, hunt and feed on the
herbivores, thereby controlling their
population. In the plants, any disturbance in
the native forests such as clearing the forest
for shifting cultivation usually brings about a



change in the species distribution. This change

is due to competition where the secondary
forest species such as grasses, bamboos or
pines overtakes the native species changing
the original forest structure. This is called
Ecological balance may be disturbed due
to the introduction of new species, natural
hazards or human causes. Human interference
has affected the balance of plant communities
leading to disturbances in the ecosystems.
Such disturbances bring about numerous
secondary successions. Human pressure on
the earths resources has put a heavy toll on

the ecosystem. This has destroyed its originality

and has caused adverse effects to the general
environment. Ecological imbalances have
brought many natural calamities like
floods, landslides, diseases, erratic climatic
occurrences, etc.
There is a very close relationship between
the plant and animal communities within
particular habitats. Diversity of life in a
particular area can be employed as an
indicator of the habitat factor. Proper
knowledge and understanding of such factors
provide a strong base for protecting and
conserving the ecosystems.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) Which one of the following is included in biosphere?
(a) only plants

(c) only animals

(b) all living and non-living organisms

(d) all living organisms

(ii) Tropical grasslands are also known as :

(a) the prairies

(c) the steppes

(b) the savannas

(d) none of the above

(iii) Oxygen combines with iron found in the rocks to form :



(a) iron carbonate

(c) iron oxides

(b) iron nitrites

(d) iron sulphate

During photosynthesis, carbon dioxide combines with water in the

presence of sunlight to form :
(a) proteins

(c) carbohydrates

(b) amino acids

(d) vitamins

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.

(i) What do you understand by the term ecology?
(ii) What is an ecological system? Identify the major types of ecosystems in
the world.
(iii) What is a food-chain? Give one example of a grazing food-chain identifying
the various levels.
(iv) What do you understand by the term food web? Give examples.
(v) What is a biome?




Answer the following questions in about 150 words.

(i) What are bio-geochemical cycles? Explain how nitrogen is fixed in the
(ii) What is an ecological balance? Discuss the important measures needed
to prevent ecological imbalances.

Project Work
(i) Show the distribution of the different biomes on the outline map of the
world with a note highlighting the important characteristics of each biome.
(ii) Make a note of trees, shrubs and perennial plants in your school campus
and devote half a day to observe the types of birds which come to the
garden. Can you describe the diversity of birds?





ou have already learnt about the

geomorphic processes particularly
weathering and depth of weathering
mantle in different climatic zones. See the
Figure 6.2 in Chapter 6 in order to recapitulate.
You should know that this weathering mantle
is the basis for the diversity of vegetation and
hence, the biodiversity. The basic cause for
such weathering variations and resultant
biodiversity is the input of solar energy and
water. No wonder that the areas that are rich
in these inputs are the areas of wide spectrum
of biodiversity.
Biodiversity as we have today is the result
of 2.5-3.5 billion years of evolution. Before
the advent of humans, our earth
supported more biodiversity than in any
other period. Since, the emergence of
humans, however, biodiversity has begun
a rapid decline, with one species after
another bearing the brunt of extinction
due to overuse. The number of species
globally vary from 2 million to 100 million,
with 10 million being the best estimate.
New species are regularly discovered
most of which are yet to be classified (an
estimate states that about 40 per cent of
fresh water fishes from South America
are not classified yet). Tropical forests are
very rich in bio-diversity.

Biodiversity is a system in constant

evolution, from a view point of species, as well
as from view point of an individual organism.
The average half-life of a species is estimated
at between one and four million years, and 99
per cent of the species that have ever lived on

the earth are today extinct. Biodiversity is not

found evenly on the earth. It is consistently
richer in the tropics. As one approaches the
polar regions, one finds larger and larger
populations of fewer and fewer species.
Biodiversity itself is a combination of two
words, Bio (life) and diversity (variety). In
simple terms, biodiversity is the number and
variety of organisms found within a specified
geographic region. It refers to the varieties of
plants, animals and micro-organisms, the
genes they contain and the ecosystems they
form. It relates to the variability among living
organisms on the earth, including the
variability within and between the species and
that within and between the ecosystems.
Biodiversity is our living wealth. It is a result
of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary
Biodiversity can be discussed at three
levels : (i) Genetic diversity; (ii) Species diversity;
(iii) Ecosystem diversity.
Genetic Diversity
Genes are the basic building blocks of various
life forms. Genetic biodiversity refers to the
variation of genes within species. Groups of
individual organisms having certain
similarities in their physical characteristics are
called species. Human beings genetically
belong to the homo sapiens group and also
differ in their characteristics such as height,
colour, physical appearance, etc., considerably.
This is due to genetic diversity. This genetic
diversity is essential for a healthy breeding of
population of species.


Species Diversity
This refers to the variety of species. It relates to
the number of species in a defined area. The
diversity of species can be measured through
its richness, abundance and types. Some areas
are more rich in species than others. Areas rich
in species diversity are called hotspots of
diversity (Figure 16.5).
Ecosystem Diversity
You have studied about the ecosystem in the
earlier chapter. The broad differences between
ecosystem types and the diversity of habitats
and ecological processes occurring within each
ecosystem type constitute the ecosystem
diversity. The boundaries of communities
(associations of species) and ecosystems are not
very rigidly defined. Thus, the demarcation of
ecosystem boundaries is difficult and complex.


ecosystem evolves and sustains without any

reason. That means, every organism, besides
extracting its needs, also contributes something
of useful to other organisms. Can you think of
the way we, humans contribute to the
sustenance of ecosystems. Species capture
and store energy, produce and decompose
organic materials, help to cycle water and
nutrients throughout the ecosystem, fix
atmospheric gases and help regulate the
climate. These functions are important for
ecosystem function and human survival. The
more diverse an ecosystem, better are the
chances for the species to survive through
adversities and attacks, and consequently, is
more productive. Hence, the loss of species
would decrease the ability of the system to
maintain itself. Just like a species with a high
genetic diversity, an ecosystem with high
biodiversity may have a greater chance of
adapting to environmental change. In other
words, the more the variety of species in an
ecosystem, the more stable the ecosystem is
likely to be.
Economic Role of Biodiversity

Figure 16.1 : Grasslands and sholas in Indira Gandhi

National Park, Annamalai, Western Ghats an
example of ecosystem diversity

Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity has contributed in many ways to
the development of human culture and, in
turn, human communities have played a major
role in shaping the diversity of nature at the
genetic, species and ecological levels.
Biodiversity plays the following roles:
ecological, economic and scientific.
Ecological Role of Biodiversity
Species of many kinds perform some function
or the other in an ecosystem. Nothing in an

For all humans, biodiversity is an important

resource in their day-to-day life. One important
part of biodiversity is crop diversity, which is
also called agro-biodiversity. Biodiversity is
seen as a reservoir of resources to be drawn
upon for the manufacture of food,
pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. This
concept of biological resources is responsible
for the deterioration of biodiversity. At the same
time, it is also the origin of new conflicts dealing
with rules of division and appropriation of
natural resources. Some of the important
economic commodities that biodiversity
supplies to humankind are: food crops,
livestock, forestry, fish, medicinal resources,
Scientific Role of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is important because each species
can give us some clue as to how life evolved
and will continue to evolve. Biodiversity also
helps in understanding how life functions and
the role of each species in sustaining



ecosystems of which we are also a species. This

fact must be drawn upon every one of us so
that we live and let other species also live their
It is our ethical responsibility to consider
that each and every species along with us have
an intrinsic right to exist. Hence, it is morally
wrong to voluntarily cause the extinction of any
species. The level of biodiversity is a good
indicator of the state of our relationships with
other living species. In fact, the concept of
biodiversity is an integral part of many human



The International Union of Conservation of

Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has
classified the threatened species of plants and
animals into three categories for the purpose
of their conservation.
Endangered Species
It includes those species which are in danger
of extinction. The IUCN publishes information
about endangered species world-wide as the
Red List of threatened species.


Since the last few decades, growth in human

population has increased the rate of
consumption of natural resources. It has
accelerated the loss of species and habitation
in different parts of the world. Tropical regions
which occupy only about one-fourth of the
total area of the world, contain about threefourth of the world human population. Overexploitation of resources and deforestation
have become rampant to fulfil the needs of large
population. As these tropical rain forests
contain 50 per cent of the species on the earth,
destruction of natural habitats have proved
disastrous for the entire biosphere.
Natural calamities such as earthquakes,
floods, volcanic eruptions, forest fires,
droughts, etc. cause damage to the flora and
fauna of the earth, bringing change the
biodiversity of respective affected regions.
Pesticides and other pollutants such as
hydrocarbons and toxic heavy metals destroy
the weak and sensitive species. Species which
are not the natural inhabitants of the local
habitat but are introduced into the system, are
called exotic species. There are many
examples when a natural biotic community of
the ecosystem suffered extensive damage
because of the introduction of exotic species.
During the last few decades, some animals like
tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, crocodiles, minks
and birds were hunted mercilessly by poachers
for their horn, tusks, hides, etc. It has resulted
in the rendering of certain types of organisms
as endangered category.

Figure 16.2 : Red Panda an endangered species

Figure 16.3 : Zenkeria Sebastinei a critically

endangered grass in Agasthiyamalai peak (India)

Vulnerable Species
This includes the species which are likely to
be in danger of extinction in near future if the
factors threatening to their extinction continue.
Survival of these species is not assured as their
population has reduced greatly.



Rare Species
Population of these species is very small in the
world; they are confined to limited areas or
thinly scattered over a wider area.

Figure 16.4 : Humbodtia decurrens Bedd highly rare

endemic tree of Southern Western Ghats (India)




Biodiversity is important for human existence.

All forms of life are so closely interlinked that
disturbance in one gives rise to imbalance in
the others. If species of plants and animals
become endangered, they cause degradation
in the environment, which may threaten
human beings own existence.
There is an urgent need to educate people to
adopt environment-friendly practices and
reorient their activities in such a way that our
development is harmonious with other life forms
and is sustainable. There is an increasing
consciousness of the fact that such conservation
with sustainable use is possible only with the
involvement and cooperation of local
communities and individuals. For this, the
development of institutional structures at local
levels is necessary. The critical problem is not
merely the conservation of species nor the habitat
but the continuation of process of conservation.
The Government of India along with 155
other nations have signed the Convention of
Biodiversity at the Earth Summit held at Riode
Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992. The world
conservation strategy has suggested the
following steps for biodiversity conservation:

(i) Efforts should be made to preserve the

species that are endangered.
(ii) Prevention of extinction requires proper
planning and management.
(iii) Varieties of food crops, forage plants,
timber trees, livestock, animals and
their wild relatives should be preserved;
(iv) Each country should identify habitats
of wild relatives and ensure their
(v) Habitats where species feed, breed, rest
and nurse their young should be
safeguarded and protected.
(vi) International trade in wild plants and
animals be regulated.
To protect, preserve and propagate the
variety of species within natural boundaries,
the Government of India passed the Wild Life
(Protection) Act, 1972, under which national
parks and sanctuaries were established and
biosphere reserves declared. Details of these
biosphere reserves are given in the book India:
Physical Environment (NCERT, 2006).
There are some countries which are
situated in the tropical region; they possess a
large number of the worlds species diversity.
They are called mega diversity centres. There
are 12 such countries, namely Mexico,
Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Zaire,
Madagascar, China, India, Malaysia,
Indonesia and Australia in which these centres
are located (Figure 16.5). In order to
concentrate resources on those areas that are
most vulnerable, the International Union for
the Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources (IUCN) has identified certain areas
as biodiversity hotspots. Hotspots are defined
according to their vegetation. Plants are
important because these determine the
primary productivity of an ecosystem. Most,
but not all, of the hotspots rely on speciesrich ecosystems for food, firewood, cropland,
and income from timber. In Madagascar, for
example, about 85 per cent of the plants and
animals are not only found nowhere else in
the world, but its people are also among the
worlds poorest and rely on slash and burn
agriculture for subsistence farming. Other
hotspots in wealthy countries are facing



Figure 16.5 : Ecological hotspots in the world

different types of pressures. The islands of

Hawaii have many unique plants and animals

that are threatened by introduced species and

land development.


Multiple choice questions.

(i) Conservation of biodiversity is important for :
(a) Animals

(c) Plants

(b) Animals and plants

(d) All organisms

(ii) Threatened species are those which :

(a) threaten others
(b) Lion and tiger
(c) are abundant in number
(d) are suffering from the danger of extinction
(iii) National parks and sanctuaries are established for the purpose of :
(a) Recreation

(c) Pets

(b) Hunting

(d) Conservation




Biodiversity is richer in :
(a) Tropical Regions
(b) Polar Regions



(d) Oceans

In which one of the following countries, the Earth Summit was held?
(a) the UK

(c) Brazil

(b) Mexico

(d) China

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.


What is biodiversity?
What are the different levels of biodiversity?


What do you understand by hotspots?


Discuss briefly the importance of animals to human kind.


(c) Temperate Regions

What do you understand by exotic species?

Answer the following questions in about 150 words.


What are the roles played by biodiversity in the shaping of nature?

What are the major factors that are responsible for the loss of biodiversity?
What steps are needed to prevent them?

Project Work
Collect the names of national parks, sanctuaries and biosphere reserves of the
state where your school is located and show their location on the map of India.




India Location




Structure and Physiography


Drainage System










Natural Vegetation











Natural Hazards and Disasters





















This unit deals with
Location space relations and Indias place in the world



ou have already seen the map of India

in the previous classes. Now you closely
examine the map of India (Figure 1.1).
Mark the southernmost and northernmost
latitudes and the easternmost and
westernmost longitudes.
The mainland of India, extends from
Kashmir in the north to Kanniyakumari in the
south and Arunachal Pradesh in the east to
Gujarat in the west. Indias territorial limit
further extends towards the sea upto 12
nautical miles (about 21.9 km) from the coast.
(See the box for conversion).
Statute mile
Nautical mile
1 Statute mile
1 Nautical mile


63,360 inches
72,960 inches
about 1.6 km (1.584 km)
about 1.8 km (1.852 km)

Our southern boundary extends upto

645' N latitude in the Bay of Bengal. Let us
try to analyse the implications of having such
a vast longitudinal and latitudinal extent.
If you work out the latitudinal and
longitudinal extent of India, they are roughly
about 30 degrees, whereas the actual distance
measured from north to south extremity is
3,214 km, and that from east to west is only
2,933 km. What is the reason for this
difference? Consult Chapter 3 on the topic
Latitude, Longitude and Time in the book

Practical Work in Geography Part I (NCERT,

2006) to find out.
This difference is based on the fact that the
distance between two longitudes decreases
towards the poles whereas the distance
between two latitudes remains the same
everywhere. Find out the distance between two
From the values of latitude, it is understood
that the southern part of the country lies
within the tropics and the northern part lies in
the sub-tropical zone or the warm temperate
zone. This location is responsible for large
variations in land forms, climate, soil types and
natural vegetation in the country.
Now, let us observe the longitudinal extent
and its implications on the Indian people. From
the values of longitude, it is quite discernible
that there is a variation of nearly 30 degrees,
which causes a time difference of nearly two
hours between the easternmost and the
westernmost parts of our country. You are
familiar with the concept of Indian Standard
Time (IST). What is the use of the standard
meridian? While the sun rises in the
northeastern states about two hours earlier as
compared to Jaisalmer, the watches in
Dibrugarh, Imphal in the east and Jaisalmer,
Bhopal or Chennai in the other parts of India
show the same time. Why does this happen?

There is a general understanding among the countries of the world to select the standard
meridian in multiples of 730' of longitude. That is why 8230' E has been selected as the
standard meridian of India. Indian Standard Time is ahead of Greenwich Mean Time by
5 hours and 30 minutes.
There are some countries where there are more than one standard meridian due to
their vast east-to-west extent. For example, the USA has seven time zones.


Figure 1.1 : India : Administrative Divisions

Figure 1.2 : Location of India in the Eastern World



Name a few place in India through which the

standard meridian passes?
India with its area of 3.28 million sq. km
accounts for 2.4 per cent of the worlds land
surface area and stands as the seventh
largest country in the world. Find out the
names of the countries which are larger than

The size of India has endowed her with great
physical diversity. Thus, you may appreciate
the presence of lofty mountains in the north;
large rivers such as Ganga, Brahmaputra,
Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari and Kaveri;
green forested hills in northeast and south
India; and the vast sandy expanse of
Marusthali. You may further appreciate that
bounded by the Himalayas in the north,
Hindukush and Sulaiman ranges in the northwest, Purvachal hills in the north-east and by
the large expanse of the Indian ocean in the
south, it forms a great geographic entity known
as the Indian subcontinent. It includes the
countries Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan,
Bangladesh and India. The Himalayas,
together with other ranges, have acted as a
formidable physical barrier in the past. Except
for a few mountain passes such as the Khyber,
the Bolan, the Shipkila, the Nathula, the
Bomdila, etc. it was difficult to cross it. It has
contributed towards the evolving of a unique
regional identity of the Indian subcontinent.
By referring to the physical map of India
you can now describe the physical variations
which you would come across while travelling

from Kashmir to Kanniyakumari and from

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to Imphal in Manipur.
Peninsular part of India extends towards
the Indian Ocean. This has provided the
country with a coastline of 6,100 km in the
mainland and 7,517 km in the entire
geographical coast of the mainland plus the
island groups Andaman and Nicobar located
in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep in
the Arabian Sea. Thus India, as a country, is
a physically diverse land providing occurrence
of varied resources.




Examine the location map of India (Figure 1.2).

You will notice that India is located in the
south-central part of the continent of Asia,
bordering the Indian ocean and its two arms
extending in the form of Bay of Bengal and the
Arabian Sea. This maritime location of
Peninsular India has provided links to its
neighbouring regions through the sea and air
Prepare a list of Indias neighbouring
countries by consulting the map.
Sri Lanka and Maldives are the two island
countries located in the Indian Ocean, which
are our neighbours. Sri Lanka is separated from
India by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.
Differentiate between a Gulf and a Strait

Do you think that physical barrier is a

hindrance in interaction with our neighbouring
countries in modern times? Give some
examples how we have overcome these
difficulties in the present day.


Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.
(i) Which one of the following latitudinal extent is relevant for the extent of
Indias area?
(a) 841'N - 357'N
(c) 84'N - 356'N
(b) 84'N - 376'N
(d) 645'N - 376'N
(ii) Which one of the following countries shares the longest land frontier with
(a) Bangladesh
(b) China

(c) Pakistan
(d) Myanmar


(iii) Which one of the following countries is larger in area than India?
(a) China
(c) France
(b) Egypt
(d) Iran
(iv) Which one of the following longitudes is the standard meridian for India?
(a) 6930'E
(c) 7530'E
(b) 8230'E
(d) 9030'E

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.

(i) Does India need to have more than one standard time? If yes, why do you
think so?
(ii) What are the implications of India having a long coastline?
(iii) How is the latitudinal spread of India advantageous to her?
(iv) While the sun rises earlier in the east, say Nagaland and also sets earlier,
how do the watches at Kohima and New Delhi show the same time?

Activity based on Appendix I (Teachers may help in the exercises by explaining
and getting it done by the students).
(i) On a graph paper, plot the number of districts in Madhya Pradesh,
Karnataka, Meghalaya, Goa, Kerala, Haryana. Do the number of districts
have some relationship with the area of the state?
(ii) Which state amongst Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Arunachal
Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir is
the most thickly populated and which one is the least densely populated?
(iii) Find out the relationship between the area of the state and the number of
(iv) Identify the states with coastal boundaries.
(v) Arrange the states from west to east which have only land boundary.
Activity based on Appendix II
(i) List the Union Territories which have coastal location.
(ii) How do you explain the variation in the area and population of NCT Delhi
and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands?
(iii) On a graph paper, draw a bar diagram to show the area and population of
all the Union Territories.

This unit deals with
Structure and Relief; physiographic divisions
Drainage systems: concept of water sheds the Himalayan

and the Peninsular



o you know that our earth also has a

history. The earth and its landforms
that we see today have evolved over a
very long time. Current estimation shows that
the earth is approximately 460 million years old.
Over these long years, it has undergone many
changes brought about primarily by the
endogenic and exogenic forces. These forces have
played a significant role in giving shape to various
surface and subsurface features of the earth. You
have already studied about the Plate Tectonics
and the movement of the Earths plates in the
book Fundamentals of Physical Geography
(NCERT, 2006). Do you know that the Indian
plate was to the south of the equator millions of
years ago? Do you also know that it was much
larger in size and the Australian plate was a part
of it? Over millions of years, this plate broke into
many parts and the Australian plate moved
towards the southeastern direction and the
Indian plate to the north. Can you map different
phases in the movement of the Indian plate? This
northward movement of the Indian plate is still
continuing and it has significant consequences
on the physical environment of the Indian
subcontinent. Can you name some important
consequences of the northward movement of the
Indian plate?
It is primarily through the interplay of these
endogenic and exogenic forces and lateral
movements of the plates that the present geological
structure and geomorphologic processes active
in the Indian subcontinent came into existence.
Based on the variations in its geological structure
and formations, India can be divided into three
geological divisions. These geological regions
broadly follow the physical features:



(i) The Penisular Block

(ii) The Himalayas and other Peninuslar
(iii) Indo-Ganga-Brahmaputra Plain.


The northern boundary of the Peninsular
Block may be taken as an irregular line
running from Kachchh along the western flank
of the Aravali Range near Delhi and then
roughly parallel to the Yamuna and the Ganga
as far as the Rajmahal Hills and the Ganga
delta. Apart from these, the Karbi Anglong and
the Meghalaya Plateau in the northeast and
Rajasthan in the west are also extensions of
this block. The northeastern parts are
separated by the Malda fault in West Bengal
from the Chotanagpur plateau. In Rajasthan,
the desert and other desertlike features
overlay this block.
The Peninsula is formed essentially by a
great complex of very ancient gneisses and
granites, which constitutes a major part of it.
Since the Cambrian period, the Peninsula has
been standing like a rigid block with the
exception of some of its western coast which
is submerged beneath the sea and some other
parts changed due to tectonic activity without
affecting the original basement. As a part of
the Indo-Australian Plate, it has been subjected
to various vertical movements and block
faulting. The rift valleys of the Narmada, the
Tapi and the Mahanadi and the Satpura block
mountains are some examples of it. The
Peninsula mostly consists of relict and residual
mountains like the Aravali hills, the Nallamala
hills, the Javadi hills, the Veliconda hills, the


Palkonda range and the Mahendragiri hills, etc.

The river valleys here are shallow with low
You are aware of the method of calculating
the gradient as a part of your study of the book
Practical Work in Geography Part I (NCERT,
2006). Can you calculate the gradient of the
Himalayan and the Peninsular rivers and draw
the comparisons?
Most of the east flowing rivers form deltas
before entering into the Bay of Bengal. The
deltas formed by the Mahanadi, the Krishna,
the Kaveri and the Godavari are important


The Himalayas along with other Peninsular
mountains are young, weak and flexible in their
geological structure unlike the rigid and stable
Peninsular Block. Consequently, they are still
subjected to the interplay of exogenic and
endogenic forces, resulting in the development of
faults, folds and thrust plains. These mountains
are tectonic in origin, dissected by fast-flowing
rivers which are in their youthful stage. Various
landforms like gorges, V-shaped valleys, rapids,
waterfalls, etc. are indicative of this stage.

during the third phase of the Himalayan

mountain formation approximately about 64
million years ago. Since then, it has been
gradually filled by the sediments brought by
the Himalayan and Peninsular rivers. Average
depth of alluvial deposits in these plains
ranges from 1,000-2,000 m.
It is evident from the above discussion that
there are significant variations among the
different regions of India in terms of their
geological structure, which has far-reaching
impact upon other related aspects. Variations
in the physiography and relief are important
among these. The relief and physiography of
India has been greatly influenced by the
geological and geomorphological processes
active in the Indian subcontinent.

Physiography of an area is the outcome of
structure, process and the stage of
development. The land of India is characterised
by great diversity in its physical features. The
north has a vast expanse of rugged topography
consisting of a series of mountain ranges with
varied peaks, beautiful valleys and deep gorges.
The south consists of stable table land with
highly dissected plateaus, denuded rocks and
developed series of scarps. In between these
two lies the vast north Indian plain.
Based on these macro variations, India can
be divided into the following physiographic

Figure 2.1 : A Gorge

The third geological division of India
comprises the plains formed by the river
Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
Originally, it was a geo-synclinal depression
which attained its maximum development

The Northern and Northeastern Mountains

The Northern Plain
The Peninsular Plateau
The Indian Desert
The Coastal Plains
The Islands.

The North and Northeastern Mountains

The North and Northeastern Mountains consist
of the Himalayas and the Northeastern hills.
The Himalayas consist of a series of parallel
mountain ranges. Some of the important ranges
are the Greater Himalayan range, which
includes the Great Himalayas and the TransHimalayan range, the Middle Himalayas and



Figure 2.2 : India : Physical



the Shiwalik. The general orientation of these

ranges is from northwest to the southeast
direction in the northwestern part of India.
Himalayas in the Darjiling and Sikkim regions
lie in an eastwest direction, while in Arunachal
Pradesh they are from southwest to the
northwest direction. In Nagaland, Manipur and
Mizoram, they are in the northsouth direction.
The approximate length of the Great Himalayan
range, also known as the central axial range, is
2,500 km from east to west, and their width
varies between 160-400 km from north to
south. It is also evident from the map that the
Himalayas stand almost like a strong and long
wall between the Indian subcontinent and the
Central and East Asian countries.

Figure 2.3 : The Himalayas

Himalayas are not only the physical barrier,

they are also a climatic, drainage and cultural
divide. Can you identify the impact of Himalayas
on the geoenvironment of the countries of South
Asia? Can you find some other examples of
similar geoenvironmental divide in the world?
There are large-scale regional variations
within the Himalayas. On the basis of relief,
alignment of ranges and other geomorphological
features, the Himalayas can be divided into the
following sub-divisions:

the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range,

lies the world famous valley of Kashmir and the
famous Dal Lake. Important glaciers of South
Asia such as the Baltoro and Siachen are also
found in this region. The Kashmir Himalayas are
also famous for Karewa
formations, which are useful
Karewas are the for the cultivation of Zafran,
thick deposits of a local variety of saffron.
glacial clay and Some of the important
other materials
passes of the region are Zoji
embedded with
La on the Great Himalayas,
Banihal on the Pir Panjal,
Photu La on the Zaskar and Khardung La on
the Ladakh range. Some of the important fresh
lakes such as Dal and Wular and salt water lakes
such as Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri are also in
this region. This region is drained by the river
Indus, and its tributaries such as the Jhelum
and the Chenab. The Kashmir and northwestern
Himalayas are well-known for their scenic
beauty and picturesque landscape. The
landscape of Himalayas is a major source of
attraction for adventure tourists. Do you know
that some famous places of pilgrimage such as
Vaishno Devi, Amarnath Cave, Charar -e-Sharif,
etc. are also located here and large number of
pilgrims visit these places every year?
Srinagar, capital city of the state of Jammu
and Kashmir is located on the banks of Jhelum
river. Dal Lake in Srinagar presents an
interesting physical feature. Jhelum in the valley
of Kashmir is still in its youth stage and yet forms
meanders a typical feature associated with the
mature stage in the evolution of fluvial land form
(Figure 2.4). Can you name some other fluvial
landforms in the mature stage of a river?

Kashmir or Northwestern Himalayas

Himachal and Uttaranchal Himalayas
Darjiling and Sikkim Himalayas
Arunachal Himalayas
Eastern Hills and Mountains.

Kashmir or Northwestern Himalayas

It comprise a series of ranges such as the
Karakoram, Ladakh, Zaskar and Pir Panjal. The
northeastern part of the Kashmir Himalayas is a
cold desert, which lies between the Greater
Himalayas and the Karakoram ranges. Between

Figure 2.4 : Meandering Jhelum



Figure 2.5 : Western Himalayas

An Interesting Fact
In Kashmir Valley, the meanders in Jhelum
river are caused by the local base level
provided by the erstwhile larger lake of which
the present Dal Lake is a small part.

The southernmost part of this region consists

of longitudinal valleys known as duns. Jammu
dun and Pathankot dun are important examples.
The Himachal and Uttaranchal Himalayas
This part lies approximately between the Ravi
in the west and the Kali (a tributary of
Ghaghara) in the east. It is drained by two major
river systems of India, i.e. the Indus and the
Ganga. Tributaries of the Indus include the river
Ravi, the Beas and the Satluj, and the
tributaries of Ganga flowing through this
region include the Yamuna and the Ghaghara.
The northernmost part of the Himachal
Himalayas is an extension of the Ladakh cold

desert, which lies in the Spiti subdivision of

district Lahul and Spiti. All the three ranges of
Himalayas are prominent in this section also.
These are the Great Himalayan range, the Lesser
Himalayas (which is locally known as
Dhaoladhar in Himachal Pradesh and Nagtibha
in Uttaranchal) and the Shiwalik range from the
North to the South. In this section of Lesser
Himalayas, the altitude between 1,000-2,000
m specially attracted to the British colonial
administration, and subsequently, some of the
important hill stations such as Dharamshala,
Mussoorie, Shimla, Kaosani and the
cantonment towns and health resorts such as
Shimla, Mussoorie, Kasauli, Almora,
Lansdowne and Ranikhet, etc. were developed
in this region.
The two distinguishing features of this
region from the point of view of physiography
are the Shiwalik and Dun formations. Some
important duns located in this region are the




Figure 2.6 : Himalayan Mountain Complex : Cross Sectional View from South to North

The Shiwalik
The word shiwalik has its origin in the
geological formation found in and around
a place called Sivawala near Dehra Dun
which was once a headquarter of the
Imperial Survey and which subsequently
established its permanent headquarters
at Dehra Dun.

Chandigarh-Kalka dun, Nalagarh dun, Dehra

Dun, Harike dun and the Kota dun, etc. Dehra
Dun is the largest of all the duns with an
approximate length of 35-45 km and a width
of 22-25 km. In the Great Himalayan range,
the valleys are mostly inhabited by the
Bhotias. These are nomadic groups who
migrate to Bugyals (the summer glasslands
in the higher reaches) during summer months
and return to the valleys during winters. The
famous Valley of flowers is also situated in this
region. The places of pilgrimage such as the
Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath
and Hemkund Sahib are also situated in this
part. The region is also known to have five
famous Prayags (river confluences) as
mentiond in Chapter 3 of this book. Can you
name some other famous prayags in other
parts of the country?
The Darjiling and Sikkim Himalayas
They are flanked by Nepal Himalayas in the
west and Bhutan Himalayas in the east. It is
relatively small but is a most significant part
of the Himalayas. Known for its fast-flowing

rivers such as Tista, it is a region of high

mountain peaks like Kanchenjunga
(Kanchengiri), and deep valleys. The higher
reaches of this region are inhabited by Lepcha
tribes while the southern part, particularly the
Darjiling Himalayas, has a mixed population
of Nepalis, Bengalis and tribals from Central
India. The British, taking advantage of the
physical conditions such as moderate slope,
thick soil cover with high organic content, well
distributed rainfall throughout the year and
mild winters, introduced tea plantations in this
region. As compared to the other sections of
the Himalayas, these along with the Arunachal
Himalayas are conspicuous by the absence of
the Shiwalik formations. In place of the
Shiwaliks here, the duar formations are
important, which have also been used for the
development of tea gardens. Sikkim and
Darjiling Himalayas are also known for their
scenic beauty and rich flora and fauna,
particularly various types of orchids.
The Arunachal Himalayas
These extend from the east of the Bhutan
Himalayas up to the Diphu pass in the east.
The general direction of the mountain range is
from southwest to northeast. Some of the
important mountain peaks of the region are
Kangtu and Namcha Barwa. These ranges are
dissected by fast-flowing rivers from the north
to the south, forming deep gorges.
Bhramaputra flows through a deep gorge after
crossing Namcha Barwa. Some of the
important rivers are the Kameng, the



Subansiri, the Dihang, the Dibang and the

Lohit. These are perennial with the high rate of
fall, thus, having the highest hydro-electric
power potential in the country. An important
aspect of the Arunachal Himalayas is the
numerous ethnic tribal community inhabiting
in these areas. Some of the prominent ones
from west to east are the Monpa, Daffla, Abor,
Mishmi, Nishi and the Nagas. Most of these
communities practise Jhumming. It is also
known as shifting or slash and burn
cultivation. This region is rich in biodiversity
which has been preserved by the indigenous

communities. Due to rugged topography, the

inter -valley transportation linkages are
nominal. Hence, most of the interactions are
carried through the duar region along the
Arunachal-Assam border.
The Eastern Hills and Mountains
These are part of the Himalayan mountain
system having their general alignment from the
north to the south direction. They are known
by different local names. In the north, they are
known as Patkai Bum, Naga hills, the Manipur

Figure 2.7 : Eastern Himalayas



hills and in the south as Mizo or Lushai hills.

These are low hills, inhabited by numerous
tribal groups practising Jhum cultivation.

Figure 2.8 : Mizo Hills

Most of these ranges are separated from each

other by numerous small rivers. The Barak is
an important river in Manipur and Mizoram.
The physiography of Manipur is unique by
the presence of a large lake known as Loktak
lake at the centre, surrounded by mountains
from all sides. Mizoram which is also known
as the Molassis basin which is made up of
soft unconsolidated deposits. Most of the rivers
in Nagaland form the tributary of the
Brahmaputra. While two rivers of Mizoram and
Manipur are the tributaries of the Barak river,
which in turn is the tributary of Meghna; the
rivers in the eastern part of Manipur are the
tributaries of Chindwin, which in turn is a
tributary of the Irrawady of Myanmar.

Figure 2.9 : Loktak Lake

The Northern Plains

The northern plains are formed by the
alluvial deposits brought by the rivers the
Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
These plains extend approximately 3,200 km
from the east to the west. The average width
of these plains varies between 150-300 km.
The maximum depth of alluvium deposits
varies between 1,000-2,000 m. From the
north to the south, these can be divided into
three major zones: the Bhabar, the Tarai and
the alluvial plains. The alluvial plains can be
further divided into the Khadar and the
Bhabar is a narrow belt ranging between
8-10 km parallel to the Shiwalik foothills at
the break-up of the slope. As a result of this,
the streams and rivers coming from the
mountains deposit heavy materials of rocks
and boulders, and at times, disappear in this
zone. South of the Bhabar is the Tarai belt,
with an approximate width of 10-20 km where
most of the streams and rivers re-emerge
without having any properly demarcated
channel, thereby, creating marshy and
swampy conditions known as the Tarai. This
has a luxurious growth of natural vegetation
and houses a varied wild life.
The south of Tarai is a belt consisting of
old and new alluvial deposits known as the
Bhangar and Khadar respectively. These
plains have characteristic features of mature
stage of fluvial erosional and depositional
landforms such as sand bars, meanders, oxbow lakes and braided channels. The
Brahmaputra plains are known for their
riverine islands and sand bars. Most of these
areas are subjected to periodic floods and
shifting river courses forming braided streams.
The mouths of these mighty rivers also form
some of the largest deltas of the world, for
example, the famous Sunderbans delta.
Otherwise, this is a featureless plain with a
general elevation of 50-150 m above the mean
sea level. The states of Haryana and Delhi form
a water divide between the Indus and the
Ganga river systems. As opposed to this, the
Brahmaputra river flows from the northeast to
the southwest direction before it takes an



Figure 2.10 : Northern Plain

almost 90 southward turn at Dhubri before

it enters into Bangladesh. These river valley
plains have a fertile alluvial soil cover which
supports a variety of crops like wheat, rice,
sugarcane and jute, and hence, supports a
large population.
The Peninsular Plateau
Rising from the height of 150 m above the river
plains up to an elevation of 600-900 m is the
irregular triangle known as the Peninsular
plateau. Delhi ridge in the northwest, (extension
of Aravalis), the Rajmahal hills in the east, Gir
range in the west and the Cardamom hills in
the south constitute the outer extent of the
Peninsular plateau. However, an extension of
this is also seen in the northeast, in the form of
Shillong and Karbi-Anglong plateau. The
Peninsular India is made up of a series of
patland plateaus such as the Hazaribagh
plateau, the Palamu plateau, the Ranchi
plateau, the Malwa plateau, the Coimbatore

plateau and the Karnataka plateau, etc. This

is one of the oldest and the most stable
landmass of India. The general elevation of the
plateau is from the west to the east, which is
also proved by the pattern of the flow of rivers.
Name some rivers of the Peninsular plateau
which have their confluence in the Bay of
Bengal and the Arabian sea and mention some
landforms which are typical to the east flowing
rivers but are absent in the west flowing rivers.
Some of the important physiographic features
of this region are tors, block mountains, rift
valleys, spurs, bare rocky structures, series of
hummocky hills and wall-like quartzite dykes
offering natural sites for water storage. The
western and northwestern part of the plateau
has an emphatic presence of black soil.
This Peninsular plateau has undergone
recurrent phases of upliftment and
submergence accompanied by crustal faulting
and fractures. (The Bhima fault needs special
mention, because of its recurrent seismic
activities). These spatial variations have
brought in elements of diversity in the relief of
the Peninsular plateau. The northwestern part
of the plateau has a complex relief of ravines
and gorges. The ravines of Chambal, Bhind and
Morena are some of the well-known examples.
On the basis of the prominent relief
features, the Peninsular plateau can be divided
into three broad groups:
(i) The Deccan Plateau
(ii) The Central Highlands
(iii) The Northeastern Plateau.
The Deccan Plateau

Figure 2.11 : A Part of Peninsular Plateau

This is bordered by the Western Ghats in the

west, Eastern Ghats in the east and the
Satpura, Maikal range and Mahadeo hills in
the north. Western Ghats are locally known
by different names such as Sahyadri in
Maharashtra, Nilgiri hills in Karnataka and
Tamil Nadu and Anaimalai hills and
Cardamom hills in Kerala. Western Ghats are
comparatively higher in elevation and more
continuous than the Eastern Ghats. Their
average elevation is about 1,500 m with the
height increasing from north to south.
Anaimudi (2,695 m), the highest peak of



Peninsular plateau is located on the Anaimalai

hills of the Western Ghats followed by Dodabetta
(2,637 m) on the Nilgiri hills. Most of the
Peninsular rivers have their origin in the
Western Ghats. Eastern Ghats comprising the
discontinuous and low hills are highly eroded
by the rivers such as the Mahanadi, the
Godavari, the Krishna, the Kaveri, etc. Some of
the important ranges include the Javadi hills,
the Palconda range, the Nallamala hills, the
Mahendragiri hills, etc. The Eastern and the
Western Ghats meet each other at the Nilgiri hills.
The Central Highlands
They are bounded to the west by the Aravali
range. The Satpura range is formed by a series
of scarped plateaus on the south, generally at
an elevation varying between 600-900 m above
the mean sea level. This forms the
northernmost boundary of the Deccan plateau.
It is a classic example of the relict mountains
which are highly denuded and form
discontinuous ranges. The extension of the
Peninsular plateau can be seen as far as
Jaisalmer in the West, where it has been
covered by the longitudinal sand ridges and
crescent-shaped sand dunes called barchans.
This region has undergone metamorphic
processes in its geological history, which can
be corroborated by the presence of
metamorphic rocks such as marble, slate,
gneiss, etc.
The general elevation of the Central
Highlands ranges between 700-1,000 m above
the mean sea level and it slopes towards the
north and northeastern directions. Most of the
tributaries of the river Yamuna have their origin
in the Vindhyan and Kaimur ranges. Banas is
the only significant tributary of the river
Chambal that originates from the Aravalli in
the west. An eastern extension of the Central
Highland is formed by the Rajmahal hills, to
the south of which lies a large reserve of
mineral resources in the Chotanagpur

exerted by the northeastward movement of the

Indian plate at the time of the Himalayan
origin, a huge fault was created between the
Rajmahal hills and the Meghalaya plateau.
Later, this depression got filled up by the
deposition activity of the numerous rivers.
Today, the Meghalaya and Karbi Anglong
plateau stand detached from the main
Peninsular Block. The Meghalaya plateau is
further sub-divided into three: (i) The Garo
Hills; (ii) The Khasi Hills; (iii) The Jaintia Hills,
named after the tribal groups inhabiting this
region. An extension of this is also seen in the
Karbi Anglong hills of Assam. Similar to the
Chotanagpur plateau, the Meghalaya plateau
is also rich in mineral resources like coal, iron
ore, sillimanite, limestone and uranium. This
area receives maximum rainfall from the south
west monsoon. As a result, the Meghalaya
plateau has a highly eroded surface.
Cherrapunji displays a bare rocky surface
devoid of any permanent vegetation cover.
The Indian Desert
To the northwest of the Aravali hills lies the
Great Indian desert. It is a land of undulating
topography dotted with longitudinal dunes
and barchans. This region receives low rainfall
below 150 mm per year; hence, it has arid
climate with low vegetation cover. It is because
of these characteristic features that this is also
known as Marusthali. It is believed that

Figure 2.12 : The Indian Desert

The Northeastern Plateau

In fact it is an extension of the main Peninsular
plateau. It is believed that due to the force

Can you identify the type of sand dunes

shown in this picture?


during the Mesozoic era, this region was under

the sea. This can be corroborated by the
evidence available at wood fossils park at Aakal
and marine deposits around Brahmsar, near
Jaisalmer (The approximate age of the woodfossils is estimated to be 180 million years).
Though the underlying rock structure of the
desert is an extension of the Peninsular
plateau, yet, due to extreme arid conditions,
its surface features have been carved by
physical weathering and wind actions. Some
of the well pronounced desert land features
present here are mushroom rocks, shifting
dunes and oasis (mostly in its southern part).
On the basis of the orientation, the desert can
be divided into two parts: the northern part is
sloping towards Sindh and the southern
towards the Rann of Kachchh. Most of the rivers
in this region are ephemeral. The Luni river
flowing in the southern part of the desert is of
some significance. Low precipitation and high
evaporation makes it a water deficit region.
There are some streams which disappear after
flowing for some distance and present a typical
case of inland drainage by joining a lake or
playa. The lakes and the playas have brackish
water which is the main source of obtaining salt.
The Coastal Plains
You have already read that India has a long
coastline . On the basis of the location and
active geomorphological processes, it can be
broadly divided into two: (i) the western coastal
plains; (ii) the eastern coastal plains.
The western coastal plains are an example
of submerged coastal plain. It is believed that
the city of Dwaraka which was once a part of
the Indian mainland situated along the west
coast is submerged under water. Because of
this submergence it is a narrow belt and
provides natural conditions for the
development of ports and harbours. Kandla,
Mazagaon, JLN port Navha Sheva, Marmagao,
Mangalore, Cochin, etc. are some of the
important natural ports located along the
west coast. Extending from the Gujarat coast
in the north to the Kerala coast in the south,
the western coast may be divided into
following divisions the Kachchh and


Figure 2.13 : Coastal Plains

Kathiawar coast in Gujarat, Konkan coast in

Maharashtra, Goan coast and Malabar coast
in Karnataka and Kerala respectively. The
western coastal plains are narrow in the
middle and get broader towards north and
south. The rivers flowing through this coastal
plain do not form any delta. The Malabar
coast has got certain distinguishing features
in the form of Kayals (backwaters), which
are used for fishing, inland navigation and also
due to its special attraction for tourists. Every
year the famous Nehru Trophy Vallamkali
(boat race) is held in Punnamada Kayal in
As compared to the western coastal plain,
the eastern coastal plain is broader and is an
example of an emergent coast. There are welldeveloped deltas here, formed by the rivers
flowing eastward in to the Bay of Bengal. These
include the deltas of the Mahanadi, the
Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri. Because
of its emergent nature, it has less number of
ports and harbours. The continental shelf
extends up to 500 km into the sea, which
makes it difficult for the development of good
ports and harbours. Name some ports on the
eastern coast.
The Islands
There are two major island groups in India
one in the Bay of Bengal and the other in the
Arabian Sea. The Bay of Bengal island groups
consist of about 572 islands/islets. These are
situated roughly between 6N-14N and
92E -94E. The two principal groups of islets
include the Ritchies archipelago and the
Labrynth island. The entire group of island is



On 26 December 2004, the Andaman and Nicobar islands experienced one of the most
devasting natural calamity. Can you name the calamity and identify some other areas
which were adversely affected by the same calamity? What was its major consequence?

divided into two broad categories the

Andaman in the north and the Nicobar in the
south. They are separated by a water body
which is called the Ten degree channel. It is
believed that these islands are an elevated
portion of submarine mountains. However,
some smaller islands are volcanic in origin.
Barren island, the only active volcano in India
is also situated in the Nicobar islands.
Some important mountain peaks in
Andaman and Nicobar islands are Saddle
peak (North Andaman 738 m), Mount
Diavolo (Middle Andaman 515 m), Mount
Koyob (South Andaman 460 m) and
Mount Thuiller (Great Nicobar 642 m).

280 km-480 km off the Kerala coast. The

entire island group is built of coral deposits.
There are approximately 36 islands of which
11 are inhabited. Minicoy is the largest island
with an area of 453 sq. km. The entire group
of islands is broadly divided by the Eleventh
degree channel, north of which is the Amini
Island and to the south of the Canannore
Island. The Islands of this archipelago have
storm beaches consisting of unconsolidated
pebbles, shingles, cobbles and boulders on the
eastern seaboard.

The coastal line has some coral deposits,

and beautiful beaches. These islands receive
convectional rainfall and have an equatorial
type of vegetation.
The islands of the Arabian sea include
Lakshadweep and Minicoy. These are scattered
between 8N-12N and 71E -74E longitude.
These islands are located at a distance of

Figure 2.14 : An Island

1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.
(i) In which part of Himalayas do we find the Karewa formation?
(a) North-eastern Himalayas
(c) Eastern Himalayas
(b) Himachal-Uttaranchal Himalayas
(d) Kashmir Himalayas
(ii) In which of the following states is Loktak lake situated?
(a) Kerala
(c) Manipur
(b) Uttaranchal
(d) Rajasthan
(iii) Which one of the water bodies separates the Andaman from the Nicobar?
(a) 11 Channel
(c) 10 Channel
(b) Gulf of Mannar
(d) Andaman Sea
(iv) On which of the following hill range is the Dodabeta peak situated?
(a) Nilgiri hills
(c) Cardamom hills
(b) Anaimalai hills
(d) Nallamala hills
2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words.
(i) If a person is to travel to Lakshadweep, from which coastal plain does he
prefer and why?



(ii) Where in India will you find a cold desert? Name some important ranges of
this region.
(iii) Why is the western coastal plain is devoid of any delta?
3. Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words.
(i) Make a comparison of the island groups of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of
(ii) What are the important geomorphological features found in the river valley
(iii) If you move from Badrinath to Sunderbans delta along the course of the
river Ganga, what major geomorphological features will you come across?
(i) Make a list of major Himalayan peaks from the west to the east with the help
of an atlas.
(ii) Identify the major landforms of your state and analyse the major economic
activity practised by the people in each landform.



ou have observed water flowing through

the rivers, nalas and even channels
during rainy season which drain the
excess water. Had these channels not been
there, large-scale flooding would have
occurred. Wherever channels are ill-defined or
choked, flooding is a common phenomenon.

2006) in this class . Can you, then, explain the

reason for water flowing from one direction to
the other? Why do the rivers originating from the
Himalayas in the northern India and the Western
Ghat in the southern India flow towards the east
and discharge their waters in the Bay of Bengal?

The flow of water through well-defined

channels is known as drainage and the
network of such channels is called a
drainage system. The drainage pattern
of an area is the outcome of the geological
time period, nature and structure of
rocks, topography, slope, amount of
water flowing and the periodicity of
the flow.

Do you have a river near your village or city?

Have you ever been there for boating or bathing?
Is it perennial (always with water) or ephemeral
(water during rainy season, and dry, otherwise)?
Do you know that rivers flow in the same
direction? You have studied about slopes in the
other two textbooks of geography (NCERT,

Figure 3.1 : A River in the Mountainous Region

A river drains the water collected from a

specific area, which is called its catchment area.
An area drained by a river and its tributaries
is called a drainage basin. The boundary line

Important Drainage Patterns

(i) The drainage pattern resembling the branches of a tree is known as dendritic the examples
of which are the rivers of northern plain.
(ii) When the rivers originate from a hill and flow in all directions, the drainage pattern is known
as radial. The rivers originating from the Amarkantak range present a good example of it.
(iii) When the primary tributaries of rivers flow parallel to each other and secondary tributaries
join them at right angles, the pattern is known as trellis.
(iv) When the rivers discharge their waters from all directions in a lake or depression, the
pattern is know as centripetal.
Find out some of the patterns in the topo sheet given in Chapter 5 of Practical Work in
Geography Part I (NCERT, 2006).



Figure 3.2 : Major Rivers of India



separating one drainage basin from the other

is known as the watershed. The catchments of
large rivers are called river basins while those
of small rivulets and rills are often referred to
as watersheds. There is, however, a slight
difference between a river basin and a
watershed. Watersheds are small in area while
the basins cover larger areas.
River basins and watersheds are marked
by unity. What happens in one part of the
basin or watershed directly affects the other
parts and the unit as a whole. That is why, they
are accepted as the most appropriate micro,
meso or macro planning regions.
Indian drainage system may be divided on
various bases. On the basis of discharge of water
(orientations to the sea), it may be grouped into:
(i) the Arabian Sea drainage; and (ii) the Bay of
Bengal drainage. They are separated from each
other through the Delhi ridge, the Aravalis and
the Sahyadris (water divide is shown by a line
in Figure 3.1). Nearly 77 per cent of the drainage
area consisting of the Ganga, the Brahmaputra,
the Mahanadi, the Krishna, etc. is oriented
towards the Bay of Bengal while 23 per cent
comprising the Indus, the Narmada, the Tapi,
the Mahi and the Periyar systems discharge
their waters in the Arabian Sea.
On the basis of the size of the watershed,
the drainage basins of India are grouped into
three categories: (i) Major river basins with
more than 20,000 sq. km of catchment area.
It includes 14 drainage basins such as the
Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Krishna, the
Tapi, the Narmada, the Mahi, the Pennar, the
Sabarmati, the Barak, etc. (Appendix III). (ii)
Medium river basins with catchment area
between 2,000-20,000 sq. km incorporating
44 river basins such as the Kalindi, the Periyar,
the Meghna, etc. (iii) Minor river basins with
catchment area of less than 2,000 sq. km
include fairly good number of rivers flowing in
the area of low rainfall.
If you look at the Figure 3.1 you can see
that many rivers have their sources in the
Himalayas and discharge their waters either in
the Bay of Bengal or in the Arabian Sea. Identify
these rivers of North India. Large rivers flowing
on the Peninsular plateau have their origin in
the Western Ghats and discharge their waters

in the Bay of Bengal. Identify these rivers of the

South India.
The Narmada and Tapi are two large rivers
which are exceptions. They along with many
small rivers discharge their waters in the
Arabian Sea.
Name these rivers of the western coastal
region from the Konkan to the Malabar coast.
On the basis of the mode of origin, nature
and characteristics, the Indian drainage may
also be classified into the Himalayan drainage
and the Peninsular drainage. Although it has
the problem of including the Chambal, the
Betwa, the Son, etc. which are much older in
age and origin than other rivers that have their
origin in the Himalayas, it is the most accepted
basis of classification. Hence, this scheme has
been followed in this book.




Indian drainage system consists of a large

number of small and big rivers. It is the outcome
of the evolutionary process of the three major
physiographic units and the nature and
characteristics of precipitation.


The Himalayan drainage system has evolved
through a long geological history. It mainly
includes the Ganga, the Indus and the
Brahmaputra river basins. Since these are fed
both by melting of snow and precipitation,
rivers of this system are perennial. These rivers
pass through the giant gorges carved out by
the erosional activity carried on simultaneously
with the uplift of the Himalayas. Besides deep
gorges, these rivers also form V-shaped valleys,
rapids and waterfalls in their mountainous

Figure 3.3 : Rapids



course. While entering the plains, they form

depositional features like flat valleys, ox-bow
lakes, flood plains, braided channels, and
deltas near the river mouth. In the Himalayan
reaches, the course of these rivers is highly
tortous, but over the plains they display a
strong meandering tendency and shift their
courses frequently. River Kosi, also know as
the sorrow of Bihar, has been notorious for
frequently changing its course. The Kosi brings
huge quantity of sediments from its upper
reaches and deposits it in the plains. The
course gets blocked, and consequently, the
river changes its course. Why does the Kosi
river bring such huge quantity of sediments
from the upper reaches? Do you think that
the discharge of the water in the rivers in
general and the Kosi in particular, remains the
same, or does it fluctuate? When does the river
course receive the maximum quantity of water?
What are the positive and negative effects of




There are difference of opinion about the

evolution of the Himalayan rivers. However,
geologists believe that a mighty river called
Shiwalik or Indo-Brahma traversed the entire
longitudinal extent of the Himalaya from Assam
to Punjab and onwards to Sind, and finally
discharged into the Gulf of Sind near lower
Punjab during the Miocene period some 5-24
million years ago (See the table of geological
times scale in Chapter 2 of Fundamentals of
Physical Geography, NCER T, 2006). The
remarkable continuity of the Shiwalik and its
lacustrine origin and alluvial deposits
consisting of sands, silt, clay, boulders and
conglomerates support this viewpoint.
It is opined that in due course of time Indo
Brahma river was dismembered into three main
drainage systems: (i) the Indus and its five
tributaries in the western part; (ii) the Ganga
and its Himalayan tributaries in the central
part; and (iii) the stretch of the Brahmaputra
in Assam and its Himalayan tributaries in the
eastern part. The dismemberment was
probably due to the Pleistocene upheaval in
the western Himalayas, including the uplift of

the Potwar Plateau (Delhi Ridge), which acted

as the water divide between the Indus and
Ganga drainage systems. Likewise, the downthrusting of the Malda gap area between the
Rajmahal hills and the Meghalaya plateau
during the mid-pleistocene period, diverted the
Ganga and the Brahmaputra systems to flow
towards the Bay of Bengal.




The Himalayan drainage consists of several

river systems but the following are the major
river systems:
The Indus System
It is one of the largest river basins of the world,
covering an area of 11,65,000 sq. km (in India
it is 321, 289 sq. km and a total length of 2,880
km (in India 1,114 km). The Indus also
known as the Sindhu, is the westernmost of
the Himalayan rivers in India. It originates
from a glacier near Bokhar Chu (3115' N
latitude and 8140' E longitude) in the
Tibetan region at an altitude of 4,164 m in
the Kailash Mountain range. In Tibet, it is
known as Singi Khamban; or Lions mouth.
After flowing in the northwest direction
between the Ladakh and Zaskar ranges, it
passes through Ladakh and Baltistan. It cuts
across the Ladakh range, forming a
spectacular gorge near Gilgit in Jammu and
Kashmir. It enters into Pakistan near Chillar
in the Dardistan region. Find out the area
known as Dardistan.
The Indus receives a number of Himalayan
tributaries such as the Shyok, the Gilgit, the
Zaskar, the Hunza, the Nubra, the Shigar, the
Gasting and the Dras. It finally emerges out of
the hills near Attock where it receives the Kabul
river on its right bank. The other important
tributaries joining the right bank of the Indus
are the Khurram, the Tochi, the Gomal, the
Viboa and the Sangar. They all originate in the
Sulaiman ranges. The river flows southward
and receives Panjnad a little above Mithankot.
The Panjnad is the name given to the five rivers
of Punjab, namely the Satluj, the Beas, the Ravi,
the Chenab and the Jhelum. It finally discharges



into the Arabian Sea, east of Karachi. The Indus

flows in India only through the Leh district in
Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jhelum, an important tributary of the
Indus, rises from a spring at Verinag situated
at the foot of the Pir Panjal in the south-eastern
part of the valley of Kashmir. It flows through
Srinagar and the Wular lake before entering
Pakistan through a deep narrow gorge. It joins
the Chenab near Jhang in Pakistan.
The Chenab is the largest tributary of the
Indus. It is formed by two streams, the
Chandra and the Bhaga, which join at
Tandi near Keylong in Himachal Pradesh.
Hence, it is also known as Chandrabhaga.
The river flows for 1,180 km before entering
into Pakistan.
The Ravi is another important tributary of
the Indus. It rises west of the Rohtang pass in
the Kullu hills of Himachal Pradesh and flows
through the Chamba valley of the state. Before
entering Pakistan and joining the Chenab near
Sarai Sidhu, it drains the area lying between
the southeastern part of the Pir Panjal and the
Dhauladhar ranges.
The Beas is another important tributary of
the Indus, originating from the Beas Kund near
the Rohtang Pass at an elevation of 4,000 m
above the mean sea level. The river flows
through the Kullu valley and forms gorges at
Kati and Largi in the Dhaoladhar range. It
enters the Punjab plains where it meets the
Satluj near Harike.
The Satluj originates in the Rakas lake near
Mansarovar at an altitude of 4,555 m in Tibet
where it is known as Langchen Khambab. It
flows almost parallel to the Indus for about 400
km before entering India, and comes out of a
gorge at Rupar. It passes through the Shipki
La on the Himalayan ranges and enters the
Punjab plains. It is an antecedent river. It is a
very important tributary as it feeds the canal
system of the Bhakra Nangal project.
The Ganga System
The Ganga is the most important river of India
both from the point of view of its basin and
cultural significance. It rises in the Gangotri
glacier near Gaumukh (3,900 m) in the

Uttarkashi district of Uttaranchal. Here, it is

known as the Bhagirathi. It cuts through the
Central and the Lesser Himalayas in narrow
gorges. At Devprayag, the Bhagirathi meets
the Alaknanda; hereafter, it is known as the
Ganga. The Alaknanda has its source in the
Satopanth glacier above Badrinath. The
Alaknanda consists of the Dhauli and the
Vishnu Ganga which meet at Joshimath or
Vishnu Prayag. The other tributaries of
Alaknanda such as the Pindar join it at Karna
Prayag while Mandakini or Kali Ganga meets
it at Rudra Prayag. The Ganga enters the
plains at Haridwar. From here, it flows first to
the south, then to the south-east and east
before splitting into two distributaries, namely
the Bhagirathi and the Hugli. The river has a
length of 2,525 km. It is shared by
Uttaranchal (110 km) and Uttar Pradesh
(1,450 km), Bihar (445 km) and West Bengal
(520 km). The Ganga basin covers about 8.6
lakh sq. km area in India alone. The Ganga
river system is the largest in India having a
number of perennial and non-perennial rivers
originating in the Himalayas in the north and
the Peninsula in the south, respectively. The
Son is its major right bank tributary. The
important left bank tributaries are the
Ramganga, the Gomati, the Ghaghara, the
Gandak, the Kosi and the Mahanada. The
river finally discharges itself into the Bay of
Bengal near the Sagar Island.
The Yamuna, the western most and the
longest tributary of the Ganga, has its source
in the Yamunotri glacier on the western slopes
of Banderpunch range (6,316 km). It joins the
Ganga at Prayag (Allahabad). It is joined by
the Chambal, the Sind, the Betwa and the Ken
on its right bank which originates from the
Peninsular plateau while the Hindan, the Rind,
the Sengar, the Varuna, etc. join it on its left
bank. Much of its water feeds the western and
eastern Yamuna and the Agra canals for
irrigation purposes.
Name the states which are drained by
the river Yamuna.

The Chambal rises near Mhow in the

Malwa plateau of Madhya Pradesh and flows
northwards through a gorge up wards of Kota


in Rajasthan, where the Gandhisagar dam has

been constructed. From Kota, it traverses down
to Bundi, Sawai Madhopur and Dholpur, and
finally joins the Yamuna. The Chambal is
famous for its badland topography called the
Chambal ravines.
The Gandak comprises two streams,
namely Kaligandak and Trishulganga. It rises
in the Nepal Himalayas between the Dhaulagiri
and Mount Everest and drains the central part
of Nepal. It enters the Ganga plain in
Champaran district of Bihar and joins the
Ganga at Sonpur near Patna.
The Ghaghara originates in the glaciers of
Mapchachungo. After collecting the waters of
its tributaries Tila, Seti and Beri, it comes
out of the mountain, cutting a deep gorge at
Shishapani. The river Sarda (Kali or Kali
Ganga) joins it in the plain before it finally meets
the Ganga at Chhapra.
The Kosi is an antecedent river with its
source to the north of Mount Everest in Tibet,
where its main stream Arun rises. After
crossing the Central Himalayas in Nepal, it is
joined by the Son Kosi from the West and the
Tamur Kosi from the east. It forms Sapt Kosi
after uniting with the river Arun.
The Ramganga is comparatively a small
river rising in the Garhwal hills near Gairsain.
It changes its course to the southwest direction
after crossing the Shiwalik and enters into the
plains of Uttar Pradesh near Najibabad. Finally,
it joins the Ganga near Kannauj.
The Damodar occupies the eastern margins
of the Chotanagpur Plateau where it flows
through a rift valley and finally joins the Hugli.
The Barakar is its main tributary. Once known
as the sorrow of Bengal, the Damodar has
been now tamed by the Damodar Valley
corporation, a multipurpose project.
The Sarda or Saryu river rises in the Milan
glacier in the Nepal Himalayas where it is
known as the Goriganga. Along the Indo-Nepal
border, it is called Kali or Chauk, where it joins
the Ghaghara.
The Mahananda is another important
tributary of the Ganga rising in the Darjiling
hills. It joins the Ganga as its last left bank
tributary in West Bengal.
The Son is a large south bank tributary of


the Ganga, originating in the Amarkantak

plateau. After forming a series of waterfalls at
the edge of the plateau, it reaches Arrah, west
of Patna, to join the Ganga.
The Brahmaputra System
The Brahmaputra, one of the largest rivers
of the world, has its origin in the
Chemayungdung glacier of the Kailash range
near the Mansarovar lake. From here, it
traverses eastward longitudinally for a
distance of nearly 1,200 km in a dry and
flat region of southern Tibet, where it is
known as the Tsangpo, which means the
purifier. The Rango Tsangpo is the major
right bank tributary of this river in Tibet. It
emerges as a turbulent and dynamic river
after carving out a deep gorge in the Central
Himalayas near Namcha Barwa (7,755 m).
The river emerges from the foothills under
the name of Siang or Dihang. It enters India
west of Sadiya town in Arunachal Pradesh.
Flowing southwest, it receives its main left
bank tributaries, viz., Dibang or Sikang and
Lohit; ther eafter, it is known as the
The Brahmaputra receives numerous
tributaries in its 750 km long journey through
the Assam valley. Its major left bank
tributaries are the Burhi Dihing, Dhansari
(South) and Kalang whereas the important right
bank tributaries are the Subansiri, Kameng,
Manas and Sankosh. The Subansiri which has
its origin in Tibet, is an antecedent river. The
Brahmaputra enters into Bangladesh near
Dhubri and flows southward. In Bangladesh,
the Tista joins it on its right bank from where
the river is known as the Yamuna. It finally
merges with the river Padma, which falls in the
Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra is well-known
for floods, channel shifting and bank erosion.
This is due to the fact that most of its tributaries
are large, and bring large quantity of sediments
owing to heavy rainfall in its catchment area.


The Peninsular drainage system is older than
the Himalayan one. This is evident from the
broad, largely-graded shallow valleys, and the


maturity of the rivers. The Western Ghats

running close to the western coast act as the
water divide between the major Peninsular
rivers, discharging their water in the Bay of
Bengal and as small rivulets joining the
Arabian Sea. Most of the major Peninsular
rivers except Narmada and Tapi flow from west
to east. The Chambal, the Sind, the Betwa, the
Ken, the Son, originating in the northern part
of the Peninsula belong to the Ganga river
system. The other major river systems of the
Peninsular drainage are the Mahanadi the
Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri.
Peninsular rivers are characterised by fixed
course, absence of meanders and nonperennial flow of water. The Narmada and the
Tapi which flow through the rift valley are,
however, exceptions.
The Evolution of Peninsular Drainage
Three major geological events in the distant
past have shaped the present drainage
systems of Peninsular India: (i) Subsidence
of the western flank of the Peninsula leading
to its submergence below the sea during the
early tertiary period. Generally, it has
disturbed the symmetrical plan of the river
on either side of the original watershed.
(ii) Upheaval of the Himalayas when the
northern flank of the Peninsular block was
subjected to subsidence and the consequent
trough faulting. The Narmada and The Tapi
flow in trough faults and fill the original
cracks with their detritus materials. Hence,
there is a lack of alluvial and deltaic deposits
in these rivers. (iii) Slight tilting of the
Peninsular block from northwest to the
southeastern direction gave orientation to the
entire drainage system towards the Bay of
Bengal during the same period.
River Systems of the Peninsular Drainage
There are a large number of river systems in
the Peninsular drainage. A brief account of the
major Peninsular river systems is given below:
The Mahanadi rises near Sihawa in Raipur
district of Chhattisgarh and runs through
Orissa to discharge its water into the Bay of


Bengal. It is 851 km long and its catchment area

spreads over 1.42 lakh sq. km. Some
navigation is carried on in the lower course of
this river. Fifty three per cent of the drainage
basin of this river lies in Madhya Pradesh and
Chhattisgarh, while 47 per cent lies in Orissa.
The Godavari is the largest Peninsular river
system. It is also called the Dakshin Ganga. It
rises in the Nasik district of Maharashtra and
discharges its water into the Bay of Bengal. Its
tributaries run through the states of
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,
Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. It is 1,465 km
long with a catchment area spreading over 3.13
lakh sq. km 49 per cent of this, lies in
Maharashtra, 20 per cent in Madhya Pradesh
and Chhattisgarh, and the rest in Andhra
Pradesh. The Penganga, the Indravati, the
Pranhita, and the Manjra are its principal
tributaries. The Godavari is subjected to heavy
floods in its lower reaches to the south of
Polavaram, where it forms a picturesque gorge.
It is navigable only in the deltaic stretch. The
river after Rajamundri splits into several
branches forming a large delta.
The Krishna is the second largest eastflowing Peninsular river which rises near
Mahabaleshwar in Sahyadri. Its total length is
1,401 km. The Koyna, the Tungbhadra and
the Bhima are its major tributaries. Of the total
catchment area of the Krishna, 27 per cent lies
in Maharashtra, 44 per cent in Karnataka and
29 per cent in Andhra Pradesh.
The Kaveri rises in Brahmagiri hills
(1,341m) of Kogadu district in Karnataka. Its
length is 800 km and it drains an area of
81,155 sq. km. Since the upper catchment
area receives rainfall during the southwest
monsoon season (summer) and the lower part
during the northeast monsoon season (winter),
the river carries water throughout the year with
comparatively less fluctuation than the other
Peninsular rivers. About 3 per cent of the Kaveri
basin falls in Kerala, 41 per cent in Karnataka
and 56 per cent in Tamil Nadu. Its important
tributaries are the Kabini, the Bhavani and the
The Narmada originates on the western flank
of the Amarkantak plateau at a height of about
1,057 m. Flowing in a rift valley between the
Satpura in the south and the Vindhyan range



in the north, it forms a picturesque gorge in

marble rocks and Dhuandhar waterfall near
Jabalpur. After flowing a distance of about
1,312 km, it meets the Arabian sea south of
Bharuch, forming a broad 27 km long estuary.
Its catchment area is about 98,796 sq. km. The
Sardar Sarovar Project has been constructed
on this river.
The Tapi is the other important westward
flowing river. It originates from Multai in the Betul
district of Madhya Pradesh. It is 724 km long
and drains an area of 65,145 sq. km. Nearly 79
per cent of its basin lies in Maharashtra, 15 per
cent in Madhya Pradesh and the remaining
6 per cent in Gujarat.
Luni is the largest river system of
Rajasthan, west of Aravali. It originates near
Pushkar in two branches, i.e. the Saraswati
and the Sabarmati, which join with each other
at Govindgarh. From here, the river comes out
of Aravali and is known as Luni. It flows
towards the west till Telwara and then takes a
southwest direction to join the Rann of
Kuchchh. The entire river system is ephemeral.
Smaller Rivers Flowing Towards the West
The rivers flowing towards the Arabian sea
have short courses. Why do they have short
courses? Find out the smaller rivers of
Gujarat. The Shetruniji is one such river
which rises near Dalkahwa in Amreli district.
The Bhadra originates near Aniali village in
Rajkot district. The Dhadhar rises near
Ghantar village in Panchmahal district.
Sabarmati and Mahi are the two famous rivers
of Gujarat.
Find out the places of confluence of these
rivers. Find out some important west
flowing rivers of Maharashtra.

The Vaitarna rises from the Trimbak hills

in Nasik district at an elevation of 670 m. The
Kalinadi rises from Belgaum district and falls
in the Karwar Bay. The source of Bedti river
lies in Hubli Dharwar and traverses a course
of 161 km. The Sharavati is another important
river in Karnataka flowing towards the west.
The Sharavati originates in Shimoga district
of Karnataka and drains a catchment area of
2,209 sq. km.

Find out the name of the river on which

the Gersoppa (Jog) fall is found.

Goa has two important rivers which can be

mentioned here. One is Mandovi and the other
is Juari. You can locate them on the map.
Kerala has a narrow coastline. The longest
river of Kerala, Bharathapuzha rises near
Annamalai hills. It is also known as Ponnani.
It drains an area of 5,397 sq. km. Compare its
catchment area with that of the Sharavati river
of Karnataka.
The Periyar is the second largest river of
Kerala. Its catchment area is 5,243 sq. km.
You can see that there is a marginal difference
in the catchment area of the Bhartapuzha and
the Periyar rivers.
Another river of Kerala worth mentioning is
the Pamba river which falls in the Vemobanad
lake after traversing a course of 177 km.
Teachers may explain the comparative
importance of west flowing small rivers

Catchment area
sq. km

Small Rivers Flowing towards the East

There are a large number of rivers flowing
towards the east along with their tributaries.
Can you name some of these rivers? There are
small rivers which join the Bay of Bengal,
though small, these are important in their own
right. The Subarnrekha, the Baitarni, the
Brahmani, the Vamsadhara, the Penner, the
Palar and the Vaigai are important rivers. Find
out these rivers from the atlas.
Teachers may explain the comparative
importance of east flowing small rivers

Catchment area
sq. km



Table 3.1 : Comparison between the Himalayan and the Peninsular River
Sl. No.


Himalayan River

Peninsular River


Place of origin

Himalayan mountain covered with


Peninsular plateau and central highland


Nature of flow

Perennial; receive water from glacier

and rainfall

Seasonal; dependent on monsoon



Type of drainage

Antecedent and consequent leading to

dendritic pattern in plains

Super imposed, rejuvenated resulting

in trellis, radial and rectangular


Nature of river

Long course, flowing through the

rugged mountains experiencing
headward erosion and river capturing;
In plains meandering and shifting of

Smaller, fixed course with well-adjusted



Catchment area

Very large basins

Relatively smaller basin


Age of the river

Young and youthful, active and

deepening in the valleys

Old rivers with graded profile, and have

almost reached their base levels

Do you know that the quantity of water
flowing in a river channel is not the same
throughout the year? It varies from season
to season. In which season do you expect the
maximum flow in Ganga and Kaveri? The
pattern of flow of water in a river channel over
a year is known as its regime. The north Indian
rivers originating from the Himalayas are
perennial as they are fed by glaciers through
snow melt and also receive rainfall water during
rainy season. The rivers of South India do not
originate from glaciers and their flow pattern
witnesses fluctuations. The flow increases
considerably during monsoon rains. Thus, the
regime of the rivers of South India is controlled
by rainfall which also varies from one part of
the Peninsular plateau to the other.
The discharge is the volume of water flowing
in a river measured over time. It is measured
either in cusecs (cubic feet per second) or
cumecs (cubic metres per second).
The Ganga has its minimum flow during
the January-June period. The maximum flow
is attained either in August or in September.
After September, there is a steady fall in the
flow. The river, thus, has a monsoon regime
during the rainy season.
There are striking differences in the river
regimes in the eastern and the western parts
of the Ganga Basin. The Ganga maintains a

sizeable flow in the early part of summer due

to snow melt before the monsoon rains begin.
The mean maximum discharge of the Ganga
at Farakka is about 55,000 cusecs while the
mean minimum is only 1,300 cusecs. What
factors are responsible for such a large
The two Peninsular rivers display
interesting differences in their regimes
compared to the Himalayan rivers. The
Narmada has a very low volume of discharge
from January to July but it suddenly rises in
August when the maximum flow is attained.
The fall in October is as spectacular as the rise
in August. The flow of water in the Narmada,
as recorded at Garudeshwar, shows that the
maximum flow is of the order of 2,300 cusecs,
while the minimum flow is only 15 cusecs. The
Godavari has the minimum discharge in May,
and the maximum in July-August. After
August, there is a sharp fall in water flow
although the volume of flow in October and
November is higher than that in any of the
months from January to May. The mean
maximum discharge of the Godavari at
Polavaram is 3,200 cusecs while the mean
minimum flow is only 50 cusecs. These figures
give an idea of the regime of the river.






The rivers of India carry huge volumes of water



per year but it is unevenly distributed both in

time and space. There are perennial rivers
carrying water throughout the year while the
non-perennial rivers have very little water during
the dry season. During the rainy season, much
of the water is wasted in floods and flows down
to the sea. Similarly, when there is a flood in one
part of the country, the other area suffers from
drought. Why does this happen? Is it the
problem of availability of water resource or that
of its management? Can you suggest some
measures to mitigate the problems of floods and
droughts simultaneously occuring in different
parts of the country? (See Chapter 7 of the book).
Can these problems be solved or minimised
by trasfering the surplus water from one basin
to the water deficit basins? Do we have some
schemes of inter-basin linkage?
Teachers may explain the following

Periyar Diversion Scheme

Indira Gandhi Canal Project

Kurnool-Cuddapah Canal

Beas-Satluj Link Canal

Ganga-Kaveri Link Canal

Have you read in the newspapers about the

linking of rivers? Do you think that digging a
canal is enough to transfer water from the Ganga
basin to the Peninsular river? What is the major
problem? Consult Chapter 2 of this book and

find out the difficulties posed by the

unevenness of the terrain. How can the water
be lifted from the plain area to the plateau area?
Is there sufficient surplus water in the north
Indian rivers which can be transferred on a
regular basis? Organise a debate on the whole
issue and prepare a write up. How do you rank
the following problems in using river water?

No availability in sufficient quantity

River water pollution
Load of silt in the river water
Uneven seasonal flow of water
River water disputes between states
Shrinking of channels due to the extension
of settlements towards the thalweg.

Why are the rivers polluted? Have you seen

the dirty waters of cities entering into the
rivers? Where do the industrial affluents and
wastes get disposed of ? Most of the cremation
grounds are on the banks of rivers and the
dead bodies are sometimes thrown in the
rivers. On the occasion of some festivals, the
flowers and statues are immersed in the rivers.
Large scale bathing and washing of clothes
also pollute river waters. How can the rivers
be made pollution free? Have you read about
Ganga Action Plan, or about a campaign for
cleaning the Yamuna at Delhi? Collect
materials on schemes for making rivers
pollution free and organise the materials in a
write up.


Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.
(i) Which one of the following rivers was known as the Sorrow of Bengal?
(a) The Gandak
(c) The Kosi
(b) The Son
(d) The Damodar
(ii) Which one of the following rivers has the largest river basin in India?
(a) The Indus
(c) The Ganga
(b) The Brahmaputra
(d) The Krishna
(iii) Which one of the following rivers is not included in Panchnad?
(a) The Ravi
(c) The Indus
(b) The Chenab
(d) The Jhelum
(iv) Which one of the following rivers flows in a rift valley?
(a) The Son
(c) The Yamuna
(b) The Narmada
(d) The Luni




Which one of the following is the place of confluence of the Alkananda and the
(a) Vishnu Prayag
(c) Karan Prayag
(b) Rudra Prayag
(d) Deva Prayag


State the differences between the following.

(i) River Basin and Watershed
(ii) Dendritic and Trellis drainage pattern
(iii) Radial and Centripetal drainage pattern
(iv) Delta and Estuary


Answer the following questions in about 30 words.

(i) What are the socio-economic advantages of inter-linking of rivers in India?
(ii) Write three characterstics of the Peninsular river.


Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words.

(i) What are the important characteristic features of north Indian rivers? How are
these different from Peninsular rivers?
(ii) Suppose you are travelling from Hardwar to Siliguri along the foothills of the
Himalayas. Name the important rivers you will come across. Describe the
characteristics of any one of them.

Study the Appendix III and answer the following questions.
(i) Which river has the largest proportion of catchment area in the country?
(ii) Make a comparative bar diagram on a graph paper to show the length of the
courses of the rivers.

This unit deals with

Weather and climate spatial and temporal distribution of temperature,

pressure, winds and rainfall; Indian monsoons: mechanism, onset and
variability spatial and temporal; climatic types

Natural vegetation forest types and distribution; wild life

conservation; biosphere reserves

Soils major types and their distribution, soil degradation and




e drink more water during summers.

Your uniform during the summer is
different from the winters. Why do
you wear lighter clothes during summers and
heavy woollen clothes during winters in north
India? In southern India, woollen clothes are
not required. In northeastern states, winters
are mild except in the hills. There are variations
in weather conditions during different seasons.
These changes occur due to the changes in the
elements of weather (temperature, pressure,
wind direction and velocity, humidity and
precipitation, etc.).
Weather is the momentary state of the
atmosphere while climate refers to the
average of the weather conditions over a
longer period of time. Weather changes
quickly, may be within a day or week but
climate changes imperceptively and may
be noted after 50 years or even more.

You have already studied about the

monsoon in your earlier classes. You are also
aware of the meaning of the word, monsoon.
Monsoon connotes the climate associated with
seasonal reversal in the direction of winds.
India has hot monsoonal climate which is the
prevalent climate in south and southeast Asia.


The monsoon regime emphasises the unity of
India with the rest of southeast Asian region.
This view of broad unity of the monsoon type
of climate should not, however, lead one to
ignore its regional variations which differentiate

the weather and climate of different regions of

India. For example, the climate of Kerala and
Tamil Nadu in the south are so different from
that of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the north,
and yet all of these have a monsoon type of
climate. The climate of India has many regional
variations expressed in the pattern of winds,
temperature and rainfall, rhythm of seasons
and the degree of wetness or dryness. These
regional diversities may be described as
sub-types of monsoon climate. Let us take a
closer look at these regional variations in
temperature, winds and rainfall.
While in the summer the mercury
occasionally touches 55C in the western
Rajasthan, it drops down to as low as minus
45C in winter around Leh. Churu in Rajasthan
may record a temperature of 50C or more on a
June day while the mercury hardly touches
19C in Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) on the
same day. On a December night, temperature
in Drass (Jammu and Kashmir) may drop down
to minus 45C while Tiruvanantapuram or
Chennai on the same night records 20C or
22C. These examples confirm that there are
seasonal variations in temperature from place
to place and from region to region in India. Not
only this, if we take only a single place and
record the temperature for just one day,
variations are no less striking. In Kerala and in
the Andaman Islands, the difference between
day and night temperatures may be hardly
seven or eight degree Celsius. But in the Thar
desert, if the day temperature is around 50C,
at night, it may drop down considerably upto



Now, let us see the regional variations in

precipitation. While snowfall occurs in the
Himalayas, it only rains over the rest of the
country. Similarly, variations are noticeable not
only in the type of precipitation but also in its
amount. While Cherrapunji and Mawsynram
in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya receive rainfall
over 1,080 cm in a year, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
rarely gets more than 9 cm of rainfall during
the same period.
Tura situated in the Garo Hills of
Meghalaya may receive an amount of rainfall
in a single day which is equal to 10 years of
rainfall at Jaisalmer. While the annual
precipitation is less than 10 cm in the northwest Himalayas and the western deserts, it
exceeds 400 cm in Meghalaya.
The Ganga delta and the coastal plains of
Orissa are hit by strong rain-bearing storms
almost every third or fifth day in July and
August while the Coromandal coast, a
thousand km to the south, goes generally dry
during these months. Most parts of the country
get rainfall during June-September, but on the
coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, it rains in the
beginning of the winter season.
In spite of these differences and variations,
the climate of India is monsoonal in rhythm
and character.






Indias climate is controlled by a number of

factors which can be broadly divided into two
groups factors related to location and relief,
and factors related to air pressure and winds.
Factors related to Location and Relief
Latitude : You already know the latitudinal and
longitudinal extent of the land of India. You
also know that the Tropic of Cancer passes
through the central part of India in east-west
direction. Thus, northern part of the India lies
in sub-tropical and temperate zone and the
part lying south of the Tropic of Cancer falls in
the tropical zone. The tropical zone being
nearer to the equator, experiences high
temperatures throughout the year with small
daily and annual range. Area north of the
Tropic of Cancer being away from the equator,

experiences extreme climate with high daily

and annual range of temperature.
The Himalayan Mountains : The lofty Himalayas
in the north along with its extensions act as an
effective climatic divide. The towering mountain
chain provides an invincible shield to protect
the subcontinent from the cold northern winds.
These cold and chilly winds originate near the
Arctic circle and blow across central and eastern
Asia. The Himalayas also trap the monsoon
winds, forcing them to shed their moisture
within the subcontinent.
Distribution of Land and Water : India is
flanked by the Indian Ocean on three sides in
the south and girdled by a high and
continuous mountain-wall in the north. As
compared to the landmass, water heats up or
cools down slowly. This differential heating of
land and sea creates different air pressure
zones in different seasons in and around the
Indian subcontinent. Difference in air pressure
causes reversal in the direction of monsoon
Distance from the Sea : With a long coastline,
large coastal areas have an equable climate.
Areas in the interior of India are far away from
the moderating influence of the sea. Such
areas have extremes of climate. That is why,
the people of Mumbai and the Konkan coast
have hardly any idea of extremes of
temperature and the seasonal rhythm of
weather. On the other hand, the seasonal
contrasts in weather at places in the interior of
the country such as Delhi, Kanpur and
Amritsar affect the entire sphere of life.
Altitude : Temperature decreases with height.
Due to thin air, places in the mountains are
cooler than places on the plains. For example,
Agra and Darjiling are located on the same
latitude, but temperature of January in Agra
is 16C whereas it is only 4C in Darjiling.
Relief : The physiography or relief of India also
affects the temperature, air pressure, direction
and speed of wind and the amount and
distribution of rainfall. The windward sides of
Western Ghats and Assam receive high rainfall



during June-September whereas the southern

plateau remains dry due to its leeward
situation along the Western Ghats.
Factors Related to Air Pressure and Wind
To understand the differences in local climates
of India, we need to understand the
mechanism of the following three factors:
(i) Distribution of air pressure and winds
on the surface of the earth.
(ii) Upper air circulation caused by factors
controlling global weather and the inflow
of different air masses and jet streams.
(iii) Inflow of western cyclones generally
known as disturbances during the winter
season and tropical depressions during
the south-west monsoon period into
India, creating weather conditions
favourable to rainfall.
The mechanism of these three factors can
be understood with reference to winter and
summer seasons of the year separately.

up in the lower troposphere, about three km

above the surface of the earth, a different pattern
of air circulation is observed. The variations in
the atmospheric pressure closer to the surface
of the earth have no role to play in the making of
upper air circulation. All of Western and Central
Asia remains under the influence of westerly
winds along the altitude of 9-13 km from west
to east. These winds blow across the Asian
continent at latitudes north of the Himalayas
roughly parallel to the Tibetan highlands
(Figure 4.1). These are known as jet streams.
Tibetan highlands act as a barrier in the path of
these jet streams. As a result, jet streams get
bifurcated. One of its branches blows to the north
of the Tibetan highlands, while the southern
branch blows in an eastward direction, south of
the Himalayas. It has its mean position at 25N
in February at 200-300 mb level. It is believed
that this southern branch of the jet stream
exercises an important influence on the winter
weather in India.

Mechanism of Weather in the Winter Season

Surface Pressure and Winds : In winter
months, the weather conditions over India are
generally influenced by the distribution of
pressure in Central and Western Asia. A high
pressure centre in the region lying to the north
of the Himalayas develops during winter. This
centre of high pressure gives rise to the flow of
air at the low level from the north towards the
Indian subcontinent, south of the mountain
range. The surface winds blowing out of the high
pressure centre over Central Asia reach India
in the form of a dry continental air mass. These
continental winds come in contact with trade
winds over northwestern India. The position of
this contact zone is not, however, stable.
Occasionally, it may shift its position as far east
as the middle Ganga valley with the result that
the whole of the northwestern and northern
India up to the middle Ganga valley comes
under the influence of dry northwestern winds.
Jet Stream and Upper Air Circulation : The
pattern of air circulation discussed above is
witnessed only at the lower level of the
atmosphere near the surface of the earth. Higher

Figure 4.1 : Direction of Winds in India in

Winter at the Height of 9-13 km

Western Cyclonic Disturbance and Tropical

Cyclones : The western cyclonic disturbances
which enter the Indian subcontinent from the west
and the northwest during the winter months,
originate over the Mediterranean Sea and are



brought into India by the westerly jet stream. An

increase in the prevailing night temperature
generally indicates an advance in the arrival of these
cyclones disturbances.
Tropical cyclones originate over the Bay of
Bengal and the Indian ocean. These tropical
cyclones have very high wind velocity and heavy
rainfall and hit the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
and Orissa coast. Most of these cyclones are very
destructive due to high wind velocity and torrential
rain that accompanies it. Have you seen their
movement in the weather report in the television?
Mechanism of Weather in the Summer Season
Surface Pressure and Winds : As the summer
sets in and the sun shifts northwards, the wind
circulation over the subcontinent undergoes
a complete reversal at both, the lower as well
as the upper levels. By the middle of July, the
low pressure belt nearer the surface [termed
as Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)]

shifts northwards, roughly parallel to the

Himalayas between 20 N and 25 N. By this
time, the westerly jet stream withdraws from
the Indian region. In fact, meteorologists have
found an interrelationship between the
northward shift of the equatorial trough (ITCZ)
and the withdrawal of the westerly jet stream
from over the North Indian Plain. It is generally
believed that there is a cause and effect
relationship between the two. The ITCZ being
a zone of low pressure, attracts inflow of winds
from different directions. The maritime tropical
airmass (mT) from the southern hemisphere,
after crossing the equator, rushes to the low
pressure area in the general southwesterly
direction. It is this moist air current which is
popularly known as the southwest monsoon.
Jet Streams and Upper Air Circulation : The
pattern of pressure and winds as mentioned
above is formed only at the level of the
troposphere. An easterly jet stream flows over

Figure 4.2 : Summer Monsoon Winds : Surface Circulation



Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is a low pressure zone located at the equator
where trade winds converge, and so, it is a zone where air tends to ascend. In July, the
ITCZ is located around 20N-25N latitudes (over the Gangetic plain), sometimes called
the monsoon trough. This monsoon trough encourages the development of thermal low
over north and northwest India. Due to the shift of ITCZ, the trade winds of the southern
hemisphere cross the equator between 40 and 60E longitudes and start blowing from
southwest to northeast due to the Coriolis force. It becomes southwest monsoon. In winter,
the ITCZ moves southward, and so the reversal of winds from northeast to south and
southwest, takes place. They are called northeast monsoons.

the southern part of the Peninsula in June, and

has a maximum speed of 90 km per hour
(Figure 4.3). In August, it is confined to 15oN
latitude, and in September up to 22o N latitudes.
The easterlies normally do not extend to the north
of 30o N latitude in the upper atmosphere.




Monsoon is a familiar though a little known

climatic phenomenon. Despite the observations
spread over centuries, the monsoon continues
to puzzle the scientists. Many attempts have
been made to discover the exact nature and
causation of monsoon, but so far, no single
theory has been able to explain the monsoon
fully. A real breakthrough has come recently
when it was studied at the global rather than
at regional level.
Systematic studies of the causes of rainfall
in the South Asian region help to understand
the causes and salient features of the monsoon,
particularly some of its important aspects,
such as:
(i) The onset of the monsoon.
(ii) Rain-bearing systems (e.g. tropical
cyclones) and the relationship between
their frequency and distribution of
monsoon rainfall.
(iii) Break in the monsoon.
Onset of the Monsoon

Figure 4.3 : The Direction of Winds at 13 km

Altitude in Summer Season

Easterly Jet Stream and Tropical Cyclones : The

easterly jet stream steers the tropical
depressions into India. These depressions play
a significant role in the distribution of monsoon
rainfall over the Indian subcontinent. The
tracks of these depressions are the areas of
highest rainfall in India. The frequency at which
these depressions visit India, their direction
and intensity, all go a long way in determining
the rainfall pattern during the southwest
monsoon period.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, it

was believed that the differential heating of
land and sea during the summer months is
the mechanism which sets the stage for the
monsoon winds to drift towards the
subcontinent. During April and May when the
sun shines vertically over the Tropic of Cancer,
the large landmass in the north of Indian ocean
gets intensely heated. This causes the
formation of an intense low pressure in the
northwestern part of the subcontinent. Since
the pressure in the Indian Ocean in the south
of the landmass is high as water gets heated



The shift in the position of the ITCZ is also

related to the phenomenon of the withdrawal
of the westerly jet stream from its position over
the north Indian plain, south of the Himalayas.
The easterly jet stream sets in along 15N
latitude only after the western jet stream has
withdrawn itself from the region. This easterly
jet stream is held responsible for the burst of
the monsoon in India.
Entry of Monsoon into India : The southwest
monsoon sets in over the Kerala coast by 1st
June and moves swiftly to reach Mumbai and
Kolkata between 10th and 13th June. By midJuly, southwest monsoon engulfs the entire
subcontinent (Figure 4.5)
Rain-bearing Systems and Rainfall
Figure 4.4 : Onset of Monsoon

slowly, the low pressure cell attracts the

southeast trades across the Equator. These
conditions help in the northward shift in the
position of the ITCZ. The southwest monsoon
may thus, be seen as a continuation of the
southeast trades deflected towards the Indian
subcontinent after crossing the Equator. These
winds cross the Equator between 40E and
60E longitudes.

There seem to be two rain-bearing systems in

India. First originate in the Bay of Bengal
causing rainfall over the plains of north India.
Second is the Arabian Sea current of the southwest monsoon which brings rain to the west
coast of India. Much of the rainfall along the
Western Ghats is orographic as the moist air is
obstructed and forced to rise along the Ghats.
The intensity of rainfall over the west coast of
India is, however, related to two factors:
(i) The offshore meteorological conditions.
(ii) The position of the equatorial jet stream
along the eastern coast of Africa.

EI-Nino and the Indian Monsoon

EI-Nino is a complex weather system that appears once every three to seven years, bringing
drought, floods and other weather extremes to different parts of the world.
The system involves oceanic and atmospheric phenomena with the appearance of warm
currents off the coast of Peru in the Eastern Pacific and affects weather in many places including
India. EI-Nino is merely an extension of the warm equatorial current which gets replaced temporarily
by cold Peruvian current or Humbolt current (locate these currents in your atlas). This current
increases the temperature of water on the Peruvian coast by 10C. This results in:
(i) the distortion of equatorial atmospheric circulation;
(ii) irregularities in the evaporation of sea water;
(iii) reduction in the amount of planktons which further reduces the number of fish in the sea.
The word EI-Nino means Child Christ because this current appears around Christmas
in December. December is a summer month in Peru (Southern Hemisphere).
EI-Nino is used in India for forecasting long range monsoon rainfall. In 1990-91, there
was a wild EI-Nino event and the onset of southwest monsoon was delayed over most parts of
the country ranging from five to twelve days.



Figure 4.5 : India : Normal Dates of Onset of the Southwest Monsoon



The frequency of the tropical depressions

originating from the Bay of Bengal varies from
year to year. Their paths over India are mainly
determined by the position of ITCZ which is
generally termed as the monsoon trough. As
the axis of the monsoon trough oscillates, there
are fluctuations in the track and direction of
these depressions, and the intensity and the
amount of rainfall vary from year to year. The
rain which comes in spells, displays a declining
trend from west to east over the west coast, and
from the southeast towards the northwest over
the North Indian Plain and the northern part
of the Peninsula.
Break in the Monsoon
During the south-west monsoon period after
having rains for a few days, if rain fails to occur
for one or more weeks, it is known as break in
the monsoon. These dry spells are quite
common during the rainy season. These
breaks in the different regions are due to
different reasons:
In northern India rains are likely to fail if
the rain-bearing storms are not very
frequent along the monsoon trough or
the ITCZ over this region.
(ii) Over the west coast the dry spells are
associated with days when winds blow
parallel to the coast.



may be quite low, sometimes going below

freezing point in Punjab and Rajasthan.
There are three main reasons for the excessive
cold in north India during this season :
(i) States like Punjab, Haryana and
Rajasthan being far away from the
moderating influence of sea experience
continental climate.
(ii) The snowfall in the nearby Himalayan
ranges creates cold wave situation; and
(iii) Around February, the cold winds coming
from the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan
bring cold wave along with frost and fog
over the northwestern parts of India.
Understanding the Monsoon
Attempts have been made to
mechanism of the monsoon on the
basis of data collected on land, oceans
and in the upper atmosphere. The
intensity of southwest monsoon winds
of southern oscillation can be
measured, among others, by measuring
the difference in pressure between
Tahiti (roughly 20S and 140W) in
French Polynesia in East Pacific and
port Darwin (1230'S and 131E) in
northern Australia. Indian Meteorological
Department (IMD) can forecast the
possible behaviour of monsoons on the
basis of 16 indicators.


The Cold Weather Season

The Peninsular region of India, however,

does not have any well-defined cold weather
season. There is hardly any seasonal change
in the distribution pattern of the temperature
in coastal areas because of moderating
influence of the sea and the proximity to
equator. For example, the mean maximum
temperature for January at Thiruvanantapuram
is as high as 31C, and for June, it is 29.5C.
Temperatures at the hills of Western Ghats
remain comparatively low (Figure 4.6).

Temperature : Usually, the cold weather

season sets in by mid-November in northern
India. December and January are the coldest
months in the northern plain. The mean daily
temperature remains below 21C over most
parts of northern India. The night temperature

Pressure and Winds : By the end of December

(22nd December), the sun shines vertically
over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern
hemisphere. The weather in this season is
characterised by feeble high pressure
conditions over the northern plain. In south

The climatic conditions of India can best be

described in terms of an annual cycle of
seasons. The meteorologists recognise the
following four seasons :

the cold weather season

the hot weather season
the southwest monsoon season
the retreating monsoon season.



Figure 4.6 : India : Mean Monthly Temperatures of the Day in January


India, the air pressure is slightly lower. The

isobars of 1019 mb and 1013 mb pass
through northwest India and far south,
respectively (Figure 4.7).
As a result, winds start blowing from
northwestern high pressure zone to the low air
pressure zone over the Indian Ocean in the
Due to low pressure gradient, the light
winds with a low velocity of about 3-5 km per
hour begin to blow outwards. By and large,
the topography of the region influences the
wind direction. They are westerly or
northwesterly down the Ganga Valley. They
become northerly in the Ganga-Brahmaputra
delta. Free from the influence of topography,
they are clearly northeasterly over the Bay of
During the winters, the weather in India
is pleasant. The pleasant weather conditions,
however, at intervals, get disturbed by shallow
cyclonic depressions originating over the east
Mediterranean Sea and travelling eastwards
across West Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and
Pakistan before they reach the northwestern
parts of India. On their way, the moisture
content gets augmented from the Caspian Sea
in the north and the Persian Gulf in the south.
What is the role of Westerly Jet Streams in
steering these depressions in India?
Rainfall : Winter monsoons do not cause
rainfall as they move from land to the sea. It is
because firstly, they have little humidity; and
secondly, due to anti cyclonic circulation on
land, the possibility of rainfall from them
reduces. So, most parts of India do not have
rainfall in the winter season. However, there are
some exceptions to it:
(i) In northwestern India, some weak
Mediterranean sea cause rainfall in
Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western
Uttar Pradesh. Although the amount
is meagre, it is highly beneficial for
rabi crops. The precipitation is in the
form of snowfall in the lower
Himalayas. It is this snow that
sustains the flow of water in the


Himalayan rivers during the summer

months. The precipitation goes on
decreasing from west to east in the
plains and from north to south in the
mountains. The average winter rainfall
in Delhi is around 53 mm. In Punjab
and Bihar, rainfall remains between 25
mm and 18 mm respectively.
(ii) Central parts of India and northern
parts of southern Peninsula also get
winter rainfall occasionally.
(iii) Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in the
northeastern parts of India also have
rains between 25 mm and 50 mm
during these winter months.
(iv) D u r i n g O c t o b e r a n d N o v e m b e r,
northeast monsoon while crossing over
the Bay of Bengal, picks up moisture
and causes torrential rainfall over the
Tamil Nadu coast, southern Andhra
Pradesh, southeast Karnataka and
southeast Kerala.
The Hot Weather Season
Temperature: With the apparent northward
movement of the sun towards the Tropic of
Cancer in March, temperatures start rising
in north India. April, May and June are the
months of summer in north India. In most
parts of India, temperatures recorded are
between 30-32C. In March, the highest day
temperature of about 38C occurs in the
Deccan Plateau while in April, temperature
ranging between 38C and 43C are found
in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In May,
the heat belt moves further north, and in the
north-western part of India, temperatures
around 48C are not uncommon (Figure 4.8).
The hot weather season in south India is
mild and not so intense as found in north
India. The Peninsular situation of south
India with moderating effect of the oceans
keeps the temperatures lower than that
prevailing in north India. So, temperatures
remain between 26C and 32C. Due to
altitude, the temperatures in the hills of
Western Ghats remain below 25C. In the
coastal regions, the north-south extent of



Figure 4.7 : India : Pressure and Surface Winds (January)



Figure 4.8 : India : Mean Monthly Temperature of the Day in July



isotherms parallel to the coast confirms that

temperature does not decrease from north
to south rather it increases from the coast
to the interior. The mean daily minimum
temperature during the summer months
also remains quite high and rarely goes
below 26C.
Pressure and Winds : The summer months
are a period of excessive heat and falling air
pressure in the northern half of the country.
Because of the heating of the subcontinent,
the ITCZ moves northwards occupying a
position centred at 25N in July. Roughly,
this elongated low pressure monsoon
trough extends over the Thar desert in the
north-west to Patna and Chotanagpur
plateau in the east-southeast (Figure 4.9).
The location of the ITCZ attracts a surface
circulation of the winds which are
southwesterly on the west coast as well as
a l o n g t h e c o a s t o f We s t B e n g a l a n d
Bangladesh. They are easterly or southeasterly over north Bengal and Bihar. It has
been discussed earlier that these currents
of southwesterly monsoon are in reality
displaced equatorial westerlies. The influx
of these winds by mid-June brings about a
change in the weather towards the rainy
In the heart of the ITCZ in the northwest,
the dry and hot winds known as Loo, blow
in the afternoon, and very often, they
continue to well into midnight. Dust storms
in the evening are very common during May
in Punjab, Haryana, Eastern Rajasthan and
Uttar Pradesh. These temporary storms
bring a welcome respite from the oppressing
heat since they bring with them light rains
and a pleasant cool breeze. Occasionally, the
moisture-laden winds are attracted towards
the periphery of the trough. A sudden
contact between dry and moist air masses
gives rise to local storms of great intensity.
These local storms are associated with
violent winds, torrential rains and even

Some Famous Local Storms of Hot

Weather Season
(i) Mango Shower : Towards the end of
summer, there are pre-monsoon
showers which are a common
phenomena in Kerala and coastal
areas of Karnataka. Locally, they
are known as mango showers since
they help in the early ripening of
(ii) Blossom Shower : With this shower,
coffee flowers blossom in Kerala and
nearby areas.
(iii) Nor Westers : These are dreaded
evening thunderstorms in Bengal
and Assam. Their notorious nature
can be understood from the local
nomenclature of Kalbaisakhi, a
calamity of the month of Baisakh.
These showers are useful for tea,
jute and rice cultivation. In Assam,
these storms are known as Bardoli
(iv) Loo : Hot, dry and oppressing winds
blowing in the Northern plains from
Punjab to Bihar with higher
intensity between Delhi and Patna.


As a result of rapid increase of temperature in
May over the northwestern plains, the low
pressure conditions over there get further
intensified. By early June, they are powerful
enough to attract the trade winds of Southern
Hemisphere coming from the Indian Ocean.
These southeast trade winds cross the equator
and enter the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian
Sea, only to be caught up in the air circulation
over India. Passing over the equatorial warm
currents, they bring with them moisture in
abundance. After crossing the equator, they
follow a southwesterly direction. That is why
they are known as southwest monsoons.
The rain in the southwest monsoon season
begins rather abruptly. One result of the first
rain is that it brings down the temperature
substantially. This sudden onset of the
moisture-laden winds associated with
violent thunder and lightening, is often
termed as the break or burst of the



Figure 4.9 : India : Pressure and Surface Winds (July)



monsoons. The monsoon may burst in the

first week of June in the coastal areas of Kerala,
Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra while in the
interior parts of the country, it may be delayed
to the first week of July. The day temperature
registers a decline of 5C to 8C between midJune and mid-July.
As these winds approach the land, their
southwesterly direction is modified by the relief
and thermal low pressure over the northwest
India. The monsoon approaches the landmass
in two branches:
(i) The Arabian Sea branch
(ii) The Bay of Bengal branch.
Monsoon Winds of the Arabian Sea
The monsoon winds originating over the
Arabian Sea further split into three branches:
(i) Its one branch is obstructed by the
Western Ghats. These winds climb the
slopes of the Wester n Ghats from
900-1200 m. Soon, they become cool,
and as a result, the windward side of the
Sahyadris and Western Coastal Plain
receive very heavy rainfall ranging
between 250 cm and 400 cm. After
crossing the Western Ghats, these winds
descend and get heated up. This reduces
humidity in the winds. As a result, these
winds cause little rainfall east of the
Western Ghats. This region of low rainfall
is known as the rain-shadow area. Find
out the rainfall at Kozhikode, Mangalore,
Pune and Bangalore and note the
difference (Figure 4.10).
(ii) Another branch of the Arabian sea
monsoon strikes the coast north of
Mumbai. Moving along the Narmada and
Tapi river valleys, these winds cause
rainfall in extensive areas of central India.
The Chotanagpur plateau gets 15 cm
rainfall from this part of the branch.
Thereafter, they enter the Ganga plains
and mingle with the Bay of Bengal branch.
(iii) A third branch of this monsoon wind
strikes the Saurashtra Peninsula and the
Kachchh. It then passes over west
Rajasthan and along the Aravallis,
causing only a scanty rainfall. In Punjab

and Haryana, it too joins the Bay of

Bengal branch. These two branches,
reinforced by each other, cause rains in
the western Himalayas,
Monsoon Winds of the Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal branch strikes the coast
of Myanmar and part of southeast
Bangladesh. But the Arakan Hills along the
coast of Myanmar deflect a big portion of this
branch towards the Indian subcontinent. The
monsoon, therefore, enters West Bengal and
Bangladesh from south and southeast
instead of from the south-westerly direction.
From here, this branch splits into two under
the influence of the Himalayas and the
thermal low is northwest India. Its one
branch moves westward along the Ganga
plains reaching as far as the Punjab plains.
The other branch moves up the Brahmaputra
valley in the north and the northeast, causing
widespread rains. Its sub-branch strikes the
Garo and Khasi hills of Meghalaya.
Mawsynram, located on the crest of Khasi
hills, receives the highest average annual
rainfall in the world.
Here it is important to know why the Tamil
Nadu coast remains dry during this season.
There are two factors responsible for it:
(i) The Tamil Nadu coast is situated
parallel to the Bay of Bengal branch of
southwest monsoon.
(ii) It lies in the rainshadow area of the
Arabian Sea branch of the south-west
Characteristics of Monsoonal Rainfall
(i) Rainfall received from the southwest
monsoons is seasonal in character,
which occurs between June and
(ii) Monsoonal rainfall is largely governed
by relief or topography. For instance
the windward side of the Western Ghats
register a rainfall of over 250 cm. Again,
the heavy rainfall in the northeastern
states can be attributed to their hill
ranges and the Eastern Himalayas.



Figure 4.10 : India : Seasonal Rainfall (June-September)



(iii) The monsoon rainfall has a declining

trend with increasing distance from the
sea. Kolkata receives 119 cm during
the southwest monsoon period, Patna
105 cm, Allahabad 76 cm and Delhi
56 cm.
(iv) The monsoon rains occur in wet spells
of few days duration at a time. The wet
spells are interspersed with rainless
interval known as breaks. These breaks
in rainfall are related to the cyclonic
depressions mainly formed at the head
of the Bay of Bengal, and their crossing
into the mainland. Besides the frequency
and intensity of these depressions, the
passage followed by them determines
the spatial distribution of rainfall.
(v) The summer rainfall comes in a heavy
downpour leading to considerable run
off and soil erosion.
(vi) Monsoons play a pivotal role in the
agrarian economy of India because over
three-fourths of the total rain in the
country is received during the southwest monsoon season.
(vii) Its spatial distribution is also uneven
which ranges from 12 cm to more than
250 cm.
(viii) The beginning of the rains sometimes
is considerably delayed over the whole
or a part of the country.
(ix) The rains sometimes end considerably
earlier than usual, causing great
damage to standing crops and making
the sowing of winter crops difficult.
Season of Retreating Monsoon
The months of October and November are
known for retreating monsoons. By the end
of September, the southwest monsoon
becomes weak as the low pressure trough of
the Ganga plain starts moving southward in
response to the southward march of the sun.
The monsoon retreats from the western
Rajasthan by the first week of September. It
withdraws from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Western
Ganga plain and the Central Highlands by the
end of the month. By the beginning of October,
the low pressure covers northern parts of the
Bay of Bengal and by early November, it moves

over Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. By the

middle of December, the centre of low pressure
is completely removed from the Peninsula.
The retreating southwest monsoon season
is marked by clear skies and rise in
temperature. The land is still moist. Owing to
the conditions of high temperature and
humidity, the weather becomes rather
oppressive. This is commonly known as the
October heat. In the second half of October,
the mercury begins to fall rapidly, particularly
in northern India. The weather in the
retreating monsoon is dry in north India but
it is associated with rain in the eastern part of
the Peninsula. Here, October and November
are the rainiest months of the year.
The widespread rain in this season is
associated with the passage of cyclonic
depressions which originate over the
Andaman Sea and manage to cross the
eastern coast of the southern Peninsula. These
tropical cyclones are very destructive. The
thickly populated deltas of the Godavari,
Krishna and Kaveri are their preferred targets.
Every year cyclones bring disaster here. A few
cyclonic storms also strike the coast of West
Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. A bulk of
the rainfall of the Coromondal coast is derived
from these depressions and cyclones. Such
cyclonic storms are less frequent in the
Arabian Sea.


In the Indian tradition, a year is divided into
six two-monthly seasons. This cycle of seasons,
which the common people in north and central
India follow is based on their practical
experience and age-old perception of weather
phenomena. However, this system does not
match with the seasons of south India where
there is little variation in the seasons.

(According to the
Indian Calendar)

(According to the
Indian Calendar)






Distribution of Rainfall
The average annual rainfall in India is about
125 cm, but it has great spatial variations
(Figure 4.11).
Areas of High Rainfall : The highest rainfall
occurs along the west coast, on the Western
Ghats, as well as in the sub-Himalayan areas
is the northeast and the hills of Meghalaya. Here
the rainfall exceeds 200 cm. In some parts of
Khasi and Jaintia hills, the rainfall exceeds
1,000 cm. In the Brahmaputra valley and the
adjoining hills, the rainfall is less then 200 cm.
Areas of Medium Rainfall : Rainfall between
100-200 cm is received in the southern parts
of Gujarat, east Tamil Nadu, northeastern
Peninsula covering Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar,
eastern Madhya Pradesh, northern Ganga plain
along the sub-Himalayas and the Cachar Valley
and Manipur.
Areas of Low Rainfall : Western Uttar Pradesh,
Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir,
eastern Rajasthan, Gujarat and Deccan Plateau
receive rainfall between 50-100 cm.
Areas of Inadequate Rainfall: Parts of the
Peninsula, especially in Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka and Maharashtra, Ladakh and most
of western Rajasthan receive rainfall below 50 cm.
Snowfall is restricted to the Himalayan
Identify the pattern of rainfall after
consulting the rainfall map.
Variability of Rainfall
A characteristic feature of rainfall in India is its
variability. The variability of rainfall is computed
with the help of the following formula:
C.V. =

Standard Deviation

where C.V. is the coefficient of variation.

The values of coefficient of variation show
the change from the mean values of rainfall. The
actual rainfall in some places deviates from
20-50 per cent. The values of coefficient of
variation show variability of rainfall in India. A
variability of less than 25 per cent exists on the
western coasts, Western Ghats, northeastern

Peninsula, eastern plains of the Ganga,

northeastern India, Uttaranchal and Himachal
Pradesh and south-western part of Jammu and
Kashmir. These areas have an annual rainfall
of over 100 cm. A variability of over 50 per cent
exists in the western part of Rajasthan, northern
part of Jammu and Kashmir and interior parts
of the Deccan plateau. These areas have an
annual rainfall of less than 50 cm. Rest of India
have a variability of 25-50 per cent and these
areas receive an annual rainfall between
50 -100 cm (Figure 4.12).
Climatic Regions of India
The whole of India has a monsoon type of
climate. But the combination of elements of the
weather, however, reveal many regional
variations. These variations represent the subtypes of the monsoon climate. It is on this basis
that the climatic regions can be identified. A
climatic region has a homogeneous climatic
condition which is the result of a combination
of factors. Temperature and rainfall are two
important elements which are considered to be
decisive in all the schemes of climatic
classification. The classification of climate,
however, is a complex exercise. There are
different schemes of classification of climate.
Major climatic types of India based on
Koeppens scheme have been described below:
Koeppen based his scheme of Climatic
classification on monthly values of temperature
and precipitation. He identified five major
climatic types, namely:
(i) Tropical climates, where mean monthly
temperature throughout the year is over
(ii) Dry climates, where precipitation is very
low in comparison to temperature, and
hence, dry. If dryness is less, it is semiarid (S); if it is more, the climate is arid(W).
(iii) Warm temperate climates, where mean
temperature of the coldest month is
between 18C and minus 3C.
(iv) Cool temperate climates, where mean
temperature of the warmest month is over
10C, and mean temperature of the
coldest month is under minus 3C.
(v) Ice climates, where mean temperature of
the warmest month is under 10C.



Figure 4.11 : India : Annual Rainfall



Figure 4.12 : India : Variability of Annual Rainfall



Koeppen used letter symbols to denote

climatic types as given above. Each type is
further sub-divided into sub-types on the
basis of seasonal variations in the
distributional pattern of rainfall and
temperature. He used S for semi-arid and W
for arid and the following small letters to define
sub-types: f (sufficient precipitation), m (rain
forest despite a dry monsoon season), w (dry
season in winter), h (dry and hot), c (less than
four months with mean temperature over
10C), and g (Gangetic plain). Accordingly,
India can be divided into eight climatic regions
(Table 4.1; Figure 4.13).

(vii) Winter rainfall by temperate cyclones in

north India is highly beneficial for rabi crops.
(viii) Regional climatic variation in India is
reflected in the vast variety of food, clothes
and house types.

You know that change is the law of nature.
Climate has also witnessed change in the past
at the global as well as at local levels. It is
changing even now but the change is
imperceptible. A number of geological
evidences suggest that once upon a time,

Table 4.1 : Climatic Regions of India According to Koeppens Scheme

Type of Climate
Amw Monsoon with short dry season
As Monsoon with dry summer
Aw Tripical savannah
Bwhw Semi-arid steppe climate
Bwhw Hot desert
Cwg Monsoon with dry winter
Dfc Cold humid winter with short summer
E Polar type

West coast of India south of Goa
Coromandel coast of Tamil Nadu
Most of the Peninsular plateaus, south of the Tropic of Cancer
North-western Gujarat, some parts of western Rajasthan and
Extreme western Rajasthan
Ganga plain, eastern Rajasthan, northern Madhya Pradesh,
most of North-east India
Arunachal Pradesh
Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal

Monsoons and the Economic Life in India

(i) Monsoon is that axis around which
revolves the entire agricultural cycle of
India. It is because about 64 per cent
people of India depend on agriculture for
their livelihood and agriculture itself is
based on southwest monsoon.
(ii) Except Himalayas all the parts of the
country have temperature above the
threashold level to grow the crops or
plants throughout the year..
(iii) Regional variations in monsoon climate
help in growing various types of crops.
(iv) Variability of rainfall brings droughts or
floods every year in some parts of the country.
(v) Agricultural prosperity of India depends
very much on timely and adequately
distributed rainfall. If it fails, agriculture
is adversely affected particularly in those
regions where means of irrigation are not
(vi) Sudden monsoon burst creates problem
of soil erosion over large areas in India.

(see geological time scale in Chapter 2 of

Fundamentals of Physical Geography, NCERT,
2006) large part of the earth was under ice cover.
Now you might have read or heard the debate
on global warming. Besides the natural causes,
human activities such as large scale
industrialisation and presence of polluting gas
in the atmosphere are also important factors
responsible for global warming. You might have
heard about the green house effect while
discussing global warming.
The temperature of the world is
significantly increasing. Carbon dioxide
produced by human activities is a major
source of concern. This gas, released to the
atmosphere in large quantities by burning
of fossil fuel, is increasing gradually. Other
gases like methane, chlorofluorocarbons,
and nitrous oxide which are present in much
smaller concentrations in the atmosphere,
together with carbon dioxide are known as
green house gases. These gases are better
absorbers of long wave radiations than carbon



Figure 4.13 : India : Climatic Regions According to Koppens Scheme



ice melt in response to warming. According

to the current prediction, on an average, the
sea level will rise 48 cm by the end of twenty
first century. This would increase the
incidence of annual flooding. Climatic
change would promote insect-borne
diseases like malaria, and lead to shift in
climatic boundaries, making some regions
wetter and others drier. Agricultural pattern
would shift and human population as well
as the ecosystem would experience change.
What would happen to the Indian sea
coasts if the sea level rises 50 cm above the
present one?

dioxide, and so, are more effective at

enhancing the green house effect. These
gases have been contributing to global
warming. It is said that due to global warming
the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers
would melt and the amount of water in the
oceans would increase.
The mean annual surface temperature
of the earth in the past 150 years has
increased. It is projected that by the year
2,100, global temperature will warm about
2C. This rise in temperature will
accompany many other changes: one of
these is a rise in sea level, as glacier and sea



Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.

What causes rainfall on the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu in the beginning
of winters?
(a) South-West monsoon
(c) North-Eastern monsoon


Temperate cyclones

Local air circulation

What is the proportion of area of India which receives annual rainfall less
than 75 cm?
(a) Half
(c) Two-third
(b) One-third





Which one of the following is not a fact regarding South India?

(a) Diurnal range of temperature is less here.
(b) Annual range of temperature is less here.

Temperatures here are high throughout the year.

(d) Extreme climatic conditions are found here.


Which one of the following phenomenon happens when the sun shines
vertically over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere?
(a) High pressure develops over North-western India due to low
(b) Low pressure develops over North-western India due to high
(c) No changes in temperature and pressure occur in north-western
(d) Loo blows in the North-western India.


In which of the following states in India do we find As type of climate as

per Koeppens classification?
(a) In Kerala and coastal Karnataka
(b) In Andaman and Nicobar Islands
(c) On Coromandal coast
(d) In Assam and Arunachal Pradesh





Answer the following questions in about 30 words.

(i) What are the three important factors which influence the mechanism of
Indian weather?
(ii) What is the Inter-Tropical Convergene Zone?
(iii) What is meant by bursting of monsoon? Name the place of India which
gets the highest rainfall.
(iv) Define climatic region? What are the bases of Koeppens classification?
(v) Which type(s) of cyclones cause rainfall in north-western India during
winter? Where do they originate?
Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words.

Notwithstanding the broad climatic unity, the climate of India has many
regional variations. Elaborate this statement giving suitable examples.
How many distinct seasons are found in India as per the Indian
Meteorological Department? Discuss the weather conditions associated
with any one season in detail.

On the outline map of India, show the following:
(i) Areas of winter rain
(ii) Wind direction during the summer season
(iii) Areas having variability of rainfall over 50 per cent
(iv) Areas having less than 15C temperature in January
(v) Isohyte of 100 cm.



ave you ever been to a forest for a picnic?

You might have surely gone to a park if
you live in a city or to a mango, guava
or coconut orchard, if you live in a village. How
do you differentiate between the natural
vegetation and the planted vegetation? The same
variety may be found growing wild in the forest
under natural conditions and the same tree
may be the planted one in your garden under
human supervision.
Natural vegetation refers to a plant
community that has been left undisturbed over
a long time, so as to allow its individual species
to adjust themselves to climate and soil
conditions as fully as possible.
India is a land of great variety of natural
vegetation. Himalayan heights are marked with
temperate vegetation; the Western Ghats and
the Andaman Nicobar Islands have tropical
rain forests, the deltaic regions have tropical
forests and mangroves; the desert and semi
desert areas of Rajasthan are known for cactii,
a wide variety of bushes and thorny vegetation.
Depending upon the variations in the climate
and the soil, the vegetation of India changes
from one region to another.
On the basis of certain common features
such as predominant vegetation type and
climatic regions, Indian forests can be divided
into the following groups:

Tropical Evergreen and

Semi Evergreen Forests
These forests are found in the western slope
of the Western Ghats, hills of the northeastern
region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
They are found in warm and humid areas with
an annual precipitation of over 200 cm and
mean annual temperature above 22 oC.
Tropical evergreen forests are well stratified,
with layers closer to the ground and are
covered with shrubs and creepers, with short
structured trees followed by tall variety of trees.
In these forests, trees reach great heights up
to 60 m or above. There is no definite time for
trees to shed their leaves, flowering and
fruition. As such these forests appear green
all the year round. Species found in these
forests include rosewood, mahogony, aini,
ebony, etc.
The semi evergreen forests are found in the
less rainy parts of these regions. Such forests
have a mixture of evergreen and moist
deciduous trees. The undergrowing climbers
provide an evergreen character to these forests.
Main species are white cedar, hollock and kail.

(i) Tropical Evergreen and Semi
Evergreen forests
(ii) Tropical Deciduous forests
(iii) Tropical Thorn forests
(iv) Montane forests
(v) Littoral and Swamp forests.

Figure 5.1 : Evergreen Forest



Figure 5.2 : Natural Vegetation



The British were aware of the economic

value of the forests in India, hence, large scale
exploitation of these forests was started. The
structure of forests was also changed. The oak
forests in Garhwal and Kumaon were replaced
by pine (chirs) which was needed to lay railway
lines. Forests were also cleared for introducing
plantations of tea, rubber and coffee. The
British also used timber for construction
activities as it acts as an insulator of heat. The
protectional use of forests was, thus, replaced
by commercial use.
Tropical Deciduous Forests
These are the most widespread forests in India.
They are also called the monsoon forests. They
spread over regions which receive rainfall
between 70-200 cm. On the basis of the
availability of water, these forests are further
divided into moist and dry deciduous.

the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the

higher rainfall regions of the Peninsular plateau
and the northern Indian plain, these forests
have a parkland landscape with open stretches
in which teak and other trees interspersed with
patches of grass are common. As the dry
season begins, the trees shed their leaves
completely and the forest appears like a vast
grassland with naked trees all around. Tendu,
palas, amaltas, bel, khair, axlewood, etc. are
the common trees of these forests. In the
western and southern part of Rajasthan,
vegetation cover is very scanty due to low
rainfall and overgrazing.
Tropical Thorn Forests
Tropical thorn forests occur in the areas which
receive rainfall less than 50 cm. These consist
of a variety of grasses and shrubs. It includes
semi-arid areas of south west Punjab,
Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
and Uttar Pradesh. In these forests, plants
remain leafless for most part of the year and
give an expression of scrub vegetation.
Important species found are babool, ber, and
wild date palm, khair, neem, khejri, palas, etc.
Tussocky grass grows upto a height of 2 m as
the under growth.

Figure 5.3 : Deciduous Forests

The Moist deciduous forests are more

pronounced in the regions which record rainfall
between 100-200 cm. These forests are found
in the northeastern states along the foothills of
Himalayas, eastern slopes of the Western Ghats
and Orissa. Teak, sal, shisham, hurra, mahua,
amla, semul, kusum, and sandalwood etc. are
the main species of these forests.
Dry deciduous forest covers vast areas of
the country, where rainfall ranges between
70 -100 cm. On the wetter margins, it has a
transition to the moist deciduous, while on the
drier margins to thorn forests. These forests
are found in rainier areas of the Peninsula and

Figure 5.4 : Tropical Thorn Forests

Montane Forests
In mountainous areas, the decrease in
temperature with increasing altitude leads to
a corresponding change in natural vegetation.
Mountain forests can be classified into two
types, the northern mountain forests and the
southern mountain forests.



The Himalayan ranges show a succession

of vegetation from the tropical to the tundra,
which change in with the altitude. Deciduous
forests are found in the foothills of the
Himalayas. It is succeeded by the wet
temperate type of forests between an altitude
of 1,000-2,000 m. In the higher hill ranges of
northeastern India, hilly areas of West Bengal
and Uttaranchal, evergreen broad leaf trees
such as oak and chestnut are predominant.
Between 1,500-1,750 m, pine forests are also
well-developed in this zone, with Chir Pine as
a very useful commercial tree. Deodar, a highly
valued endemic species grows mainly in the
western part of the Himalayan range. Deodar
is a durable wood mainly used in construction
activity. Similarly, the chinar and the walnut,
which sustain the famous Kashmir
handicrafts, belong to this zone. Blue pine and
spruce appear at altitudes of 2,225-3,048 m.
At many places in this zone, temperate
grasslands are also found. But in the higher
reaches there is a transition to Alpine forests
and pastures. Silver firs, junipers, pines, birch
and rhododendrons, etc. occur between
3,000-4,000 m. However, these pastures are
used extensively for transhumance by tribes
like the Gujjars, the Bakarwals, the Bhotiyas
and the Gaddis. The southern slopes of the
Himalayas carry a thicker vegetation cover
because of relatively higher precipitation than
the drier north-facing slopes. At higher
altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of the
tundra vegetation.

Figure 5.5 : Montane Forests

The southern mountain forests include

the forests found in three distinct areas of
Peninsular India viz; the Western Ghats, the
Vindhyas and the Nilgiris. As they are closer
to the tropics, and only 1,500 m above the
sea level, vegetation is temperate in the higher
regions, and subtropical on the lower regions
of the Western Ghats, especially in Kerala,
Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The temperate
forests are called Sholas in the Nilgiris,
Anaimalai and Palani hills. Some of the other
trees of this forest of economic significance
include, magnolia, laurel, cinchona and
wattle. Such forests are also found in the
Satpura and the Maikal ranges.
Littoral and Swamp Forests
India has a rich variety of wetland habitats.
About 70 per cent of this comprises areas
under paddy cultivation. The total area of wet
land is 3.9 million hectares. Two sites
Chilika Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National
Park (Bharatpur) are protected as water-fowl
habitats under the Convention of Wetlands of
International Importance (Ramsar Convention).
An international convention is an
agreement among member states of
the United Nations.
The countrys wetlands have been grouped
into eight categories, viz. (i) the reservoirs of the
Deccan Plateau in the south together with the
lagoons and other wetlands of the southern
west coast; (ii) the vast saline expanses of
Rajasthan, Gujarat and the Gulf of Kachchh;
(iii) freshwater lakes and reservoirs from Gujarat
eastwards through Rajasthan (Keoladeo
National Park) and Madhya Pradesh; (iv) the
delta wetlands and lagoons of Indias east coast
(Chilika Lake); (v) the freshwater marshes of the
Gangetic Plain; (vi) the floodplains of the
Brahmaputra; the marshes and swamps in the
hills of northeast India and the Himalayan
foothills; (vii) the lakes and rivers of the montane
region of Kashmir and Ladakh; and (viii) the
mangrove forest and other wetlands of the island
arcs of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Mangroves grow along the coasts in the salt
marshes, tidal creeks, mud flats and estuaries.



They consist of a number of salt-tolerant species

of plants. Crisscrossed by creeks of stagnant
water and tidal flows, these forests give shelter
to a wide variety of birds.

Figure 5.6 : Mangrove Forests

In India, the mangrove forests spread over

6,740 sq. km which is 7 per cent of the worlds
mangrove forests. They are highly developed in
the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the
Sunderbans of West Bengal. Other areas of
significance are the Mahanadi, the Godavari and
the Krishna deltas. These forests too, are being
encroached upon, and hence, need conservation.


According to state records, the forest area
covers 23.28 per cent of the total land area of
the country. It is important to note that the
forest area and the actual forest cover are not
the same. The forest area is the area notified
and recorded as the forest land irrespective of
the existence of trees, while the actual forest
cover is the area occupied by forests with
canopy. The former is based on the records of
the State Revenue Department, while the latter
is based on aerial photographs and satellite
imageries. In 2001, the actual forest cover was
only 20.55 per cent. Of the forest cover, the
share of dense and open forests was 12.60 per
cent and 7.87 per cent rerspectively.
Both forest area and forest cover vary from
state to state. Lakshadweep has zero per cent
forest area; Andaman and Nicobar Islands have
86.93 per cent. Most of the states with less than
10 per cent of the forest area lie in the north and
northwestern part of the country. These are
Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.

Most of the forests in Punjab and Haryana have

been cleared for cultivation. States with 10-20
per cent forest area are Tamil Nadu and West
Bengal. In Peninsular India, excluding Tamil
Nadu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Goa, the area
under forest cover is 20-30 per cent. The
northeastern states have more than 30 per cent
of the land under forest. Hilly topography and
heavy rainfall are good for forest growth.
There is a lot of variation in actual forest cover,
which ranges from 9.56 per cent in Jammu and
Kashmir to 84.01 per cent in Andaman and
Nicobar Islands. From the table showing the
distribution of forests in India (Appendix IV), it is
clear that there are 15 states where the forest cover
is more than one-third of the total area, which is
the basic requirement for maintaining the
ecological balance.
On the basis of the percentage of the actual
forest cover, the states have been grouped into
four regions:
The Region

Cover of the

(i) The region of high concentration

> 40

(ii) The region of medium concentration


(iii) The region of low concentration


(iv) The region of very low concentration

< 10

Taking the data from Appendix IV, list the states under
the four regins of forest cover

Forests have an intricate interrelationship with
life and environment. These provide numerous
direct and indirect advantages to our economy
and society. Hence, conservation of forest is of
vital importance to the survival and prosperity
of humankind. Accordingly, the Government
of India proposed to have a nation-wide forest
conservation policy, and adopted a forest
policy in 1952, which was further modified in
1988. According to the new forest policy, the
Government will emphasise sustainable forest
management in order to conserve and expand
forest reserve on the one hand, and to meet
the needs of local people on the other.
The forest policy aimed at : (i) bringing 33
per cent of the geographical areas under forest



cover; (ii) maintaining environmental stability

and to restore forests where ecological balance
was disturbed; (iii) conserving the natural
heritage of the country, its biological diversity
and genetic pool; (iv) checks soil erosion,
extension of the desert lands and reduction of
floods and droughts; (v) increasing the forest
cover through social forestry and afforestation
on degraded land; (vi) increasing the
productivity of forests to make timber, fuel,
fodder and food available to rural population
dependant on forests, and encourage the
substitution of wood; (vii) creating of a massive
peoples movement involving women to
encourage planting of trees, stop felling of trees
and thus, reduce pressure on the existing forest.
Forests and Life
To a vast number of tribal people, the
forest is a home, a livelihood, their
very existence. It provides them food,
fruits of all kinds, edible leaves, honey,
nourishing roots and wild game. It
provides them with material to build
their houses and items for practising
their arts. The importance of forests
in tribal economy is well-known as
they are the source of sustenance and
livelihood for tribal communities. It is
commonly believed that the tribal
communities live in harmony with
nature and protect forests. Out of a
total of 593 districts 187 (2001) have
been identified as tribal districts. The
tribal districts account for about 59.8
per cent of the total forest cover of the
country whereas the geographical
area of 187 tribal districts forms only
33.6 per cent of the total geographical
area of the country. It demonstrates
that tribal districts are generally rich
in forest cover.
Forest and tribals are very closely
related. The age-old knowledge of
tribals regarding forestry can be used
in the development of forests. Rather
than treating tribals as minor forest
produce collectors they should be
made growers of minor forest produce
and encouraged to participate in

Based on the forest conservation policy the

following steps were initiated:
Social Forestry
Social forestry means the management and
protection of forests and afforestation on barren
lands with the purpose of helping in the
environmental, social and rural development.
The National Commission on Agriculture
(1976) has classified social forestry into three
categories. These are Urban forestry, Rural
forestry and Farm forestry.
Urban forestry pertains to the raising and
management of trees on public and privately
owned lands in and around urban centres
such as green belts, parks, roadside avenues,
industrial and commercial green belts, etc.
Rural forestry lays emphasis on promotion
of agro-forestry and community-forestry.
Agro-forestry is the raising of trees and
agriculture crops on the same land inclusive
of the waste patches. It combines forestry with
agriculture, thus, altering the simultaneous
production of food, fodder, fuel, timber and
fruit. Community forestry involves the raising
of trees on public or community land such as
the village pasture and temple land, roadside,
canal bank, strips along railway lines, and
schools etc. Community forestry programme
aims at providing benefits to the community
as a whole. Community forestry provides a
means under which the people of landless
classes can associate themselves in treeraising and thus, get those benefits which
otherwise are restricted for landowners.
Farm Forestry
Farm forestry is a term applied to the process
under which farmers grow trees for
commercial and non-commercial purposes on
their farm lands.
Forest departments of various states
distribute seedlings of trees free of cost to
small and medium farmers. Several lands
such as the margins of agricultural fields,
grasslands and pastures, land around homes
and cow sheds may be used for raising trees
under non-commercial farm forestry.


You would have visited a zoo and may have
seen animals and birds in captivity. Wildlife
of India is a great natural heritage. It is
estimated that about 4-5 per cent of all
known plant and animal species on the earth
are found in India. The main reason for this
remarkable diversity of life forms is the great
diversity of the ecosystem which this country
has preserved and supported through the
ages. Over the years, their habitat has been
disturbed by human activities and as a
result, their numbers have dwindled
significantly. There are certain species that
are at the brink of extinction.
Some of the important reasons of the
declining of wildlife are as follows:
(i) Industrial
advancement brought about a rapid
increase in the exploitation of forest
(ii) More and more lands were cleared for
agriculture, human settlement, roads,
mining, reservoirs, etc.
(iii) Pressure on forests mounted due to
lopping for fodder and fuelwood and
removal of small timber by the local
(iv) Grazing by domestic cattle caused an
adverse effect on wildlife and its habitat.
(v) Hunting was taken up as a sport by
the elite and hundreds of wild animals
were killed in a single hunt. Now
commercial poaching is rampant.
(vi) Incidence of forest fire.
It is being felt that conservation of wildlife
is of great significance to the national as well
as the world heritage along with the promotion
of ecotourism. What steps have been initiated
by the government in this direction?


The protection of wildlife has a long tradition
in India. Many stories of Panchtantra and
Jungle Books, etc. have stood the test of time
relating to the love for wildlife. These have a
profound impact on young minds.


In 1972, a comprehensive Wildlife Act

was enacted, which provides the main legal
framework for conservation and protection
of wildlife in India. The two main objectives
of the Act are; to provide protection to the
endangered species listed in the schedule of
the Act and to provide legal support to the
conservation areas of the country classified
as National parks, sanctuaries and closed
areas. This Act has been comprehensively
amended in 1991, making punishments
more stringent and has also made provisions
for the protection of specified plant species
and conservation of endangered species of
wild animals.
There are 92 National parks and 492
wildlife sanctuaries covering an area of 15.67
million hectares in the country.
Wildlife conservation has a very large
ambit with unbounded potential for the wellbeing of humankind. However, this can be
achieved only when every individual
understands its significance and contributes
his bit.
For the purpose of effective conservation
of flora and fauna, special steps have been
initiated by the Government of India in
collaboration with UNESCOs Man and
Biosphere Programme.
Special schemes like Project Tiger (1973)
and Project Elephant (1992) have been
launched to conserve these species and their
habitat in a sustainable manner.
Project Tiger has been implemented since
1973. The main objective of the scheme is to
ensure maintenance of viable population of
tigers in India for scientific, aesthetic,
cultural and ecological values, and to
preserve areas of biological importance as
natural heritage for the benefit, education
and enjoyment of the people. Initially, the
Project Tiger was launched in nine tiger
reserves, covering an area of 16,339 sq. km,
which has now increased to 27 tiger reserves,
encompassing 37,761sq. km of tiger habitats
distributed in 17 states. The tiger population
in the country has registered an increase
from 1,827 in 1972 to 3,642 in 2001-2002.



Project Elephant was launched in 1992

to assist states having free ranging
population of wild elephants. It was aimed
at ensuring long-term survival of identified
viable population of elephants in their
natural habitat. The project is being
implemented in 13 states.

A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and
representative ecosystem of terrestrial and
coastal areas which are internationally
recognised within the framework of UNESCOs
Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The
Biosphere Reserve aims at achieving the three
objectives as depicted in Figure 5.8.
There are 14 Biosphere Reserves in India
(Table 5.1, Figure 5.9). Four Biosphere
Reserves, namely (i) Nilgiri; (ii) Nanda Devi;

Figure 5.7 : Elephants in their Natural Habitat

Apart from this, some other projects such

as Crocodile Breeding Project, Project Hangul
and conservation of Himalayan Musk deer have
also been launched by the Government of India.

Figure 5.8 : Objectives of a Biosphere Reserve

Table 5.1 : List of Biosphere Reserves


Name of the Biosphere

* Nilgiri

Area (km2)

Location (States)

Part of Wynad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai,

Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani Hills (Tamil Nadu,
Kerala and Karnataka)
2. * Nanda Devi
Part of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora districts
(Uttar Pradesh) and part of Garo Hills (Meghalaya)
Part of Garo Hills (Meghalaya)
Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup
and Darrang districts (Assam)
5. * Sunderbans
Part of delta of Ganges and Brahmaputra river system (West
6. * Gulf of Mannar
Indian part of Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka
(Tamil Nadu)
Great Nicobar
Southernmost islands of the Andaman and Nicobar
(A & N Islands)
Part of Mayurbhanj district (Orissa)
Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts (Assam)
Dihang Dibang
Part of Siang and Debang valley in Arunachal Pradesh
Parts of North and West Sikkim
Parts of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chindwara districts of
Madhya Pradesh
Agasthyamalai Hills in Kerala
Achanakmar- Amarkantak
Parts of Anupur and Dindori district of MP and parts of
Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh
* have been recognised by the UNESCO on World Network of Biosphere Reserves
Source : Annual Report (2004-05), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India



Figure 5.9 : India : Biosphere Reserves



(iii) Sunderbans; and (iv) Gulf of Mannar have

been recognised by the UNESCO on World
Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR), the first
of the fourteen biosphere reserves of India, was
established in September 1986. It embraces
the sanctuary complex of Wyanad, Nagarhole,
Bandipur and Mudumalai, the entire forested
hill slopes of Nilambur, the Upper Nilgiri
plateau, Silent Valley and the Siruvani hills.
The total area of the biosphere reserve is
around 5,520 sq. km.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve possesses
different habitat types, unspoilt areas of
natural vegetation types with several dry
scrubs, dry and moist deciduous, semievergreen and wet evergreen forests, evergreen
sholas, grasslands and swamps. It includes
the largest known population of two
endangered animal species, namely the Nilgiri
Tahr and the Lion-tailed macaque. The largest
south Indian population of elephant, tiger,
gaur, sambar and chital as well as a good
number of endemic and endangered plants are
also found in this reserve. The habitat of a
number of tribal groups remarkable for their
traditional modes of harmonious use of the
environment are also found here.
The topography of the NBR is extremely
varied, ranging from an altitude of 250 m to
2,650 m. About 80 per cent of the flowering
plants reported from the Western Ghats occur
in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve
The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve situated
in Uttaranchal includes parts of Chamoli,
Almora, Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts.
The major forest types of the reserve are
temperate. A few important species are silver

weed and orchids like latifolie and

rhododendron. The biosphere reserve has a
rich fauna, for example the snow leopard,
black bear, brown bear, musk deer, snowcock, golden eagle and black eagle.
Major threats to the ecosystem are the
collection of endangered plants for medicinal
use, forest fires and poaching.
Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve
It is located in the swampy delta of the river
Ganga in West Bengal. It extends over a vast
area of 9,630 sq. km and consists of mangrove
forests, swamps and forested islands.
Sunderbans is the home of nearly 200 Royal
Bengal tigers.
The tangled mass of roots of mangrove
trees provide safe homes for a large number
of species, from fish to shrimp. More than 170
birds species are known to inhabit these
mangrove forests.
Adapting itself to the saline and fresh water
environment, the tigers at the park are good
swimmers, and they hunt scarce preys such
as chital deer, barking deer, wild pig and even
macaques. In the Sunderbans, the mangrove
forests are characterised by Heritiera fomes,
a species valued for its timber.
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve covers
an area of 105,000 hectares on the southeast
coast of India. It is one of the worlds richest
regions from a marine biodiversity perspective.
The biosphere reserve comprises 21 islands
with estuaries, beaches, forests of the
nearshore environment, sea grasses, coral
reefs, salt marshes and mangroves. Among the
Gulfs 3,600 plant and animal species are the
globally endangered sea cow (Dugong dugon)
and six mangrove species, endemic to
Peninsular India.


Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.

Sandalwood is an example of:

(a) Evergreen forest
(b) Deciduous forest

(c) Deltaic forest

(d) Thorny forest




Which one of the following was the purpose of Project Tiger?

(a) to kill tigers
(c) to protect tigers from illegal hunting
(b) to put tigers in the Zoo
(d) to make films on tigers


In which one of the following states is the Nandadevi Biosphere reserve





(c) Three
(d) Four

Which one of the following proportion of area of the country was targeted
to be under forest in Forest Policy of India?


(c) Uttaranchal
(d) Orissa

How many of the following numbers of Biosphere reserves are recognised

by the IUCN?


Uttar Pradesh


(c) 55
(d) 22

Answer the following questions in about 30 words.

(i) What is natural vegetation? Under what climatic conditions are tropical
evergreen forests develop?
(ii) What do you understand by social forestry?
(iii) Define Biosphere reserves?
(iv) What is the difference between forest area and forest cover?
Answer the following questions in not more than 150 words.

What steps have been taken up to conserve forests?

How can peoples participation be effective in conserving forests and wildlife?

On the outline map of India, mark and label the following.
(i) Areas having Mangrove forests.
(ii) Biosphere reserves of Nanda Devi, Sunderbans, Gulf of Mannar and Nilgiri.
(iii) Mark the location of Forest Survey of India Head Quarter.
List the trees, bush and shrub species found around your school. Write
their local names and their uses.



ave you ever thought about the most

important factor which supports trees,
grasses, crops and numerous lifeforms over the earths surface? Can one grow
a blade of grass without soil? While some
plants and organisms which are aquatic in
nature can sustain in water, do they not derive
nutrients from soil through water? You will
realise that soil is the most important layer of
the earths crust. It is a valuable resource. The
bulk of our food and much of our clothing is
derived from land-based crops that grow in the
soil. The soil on which we depend so much for
our day-to-day needs has evolved over
thousands of years. The various agents of
weathering and gradation have acted upon the
parent rock material to produce a thin layer of
Soil is the mixture of rock debris and
organic materials which develop on the earths
surface. The major factors affecting the
formation of soil are relief, parent material,
climate, vegetation and other life-forms and
time. Besides these, human activities also
influence it to a large extent. Components of
the soil are mineral particles, humus, water and
air. The actual amount of each of these depend
upon the type of soil. Some soils are deficient
in one or more of these, while there are some
others that have varied combinations.
Have you ever dug a pit in the field of your
school to plant a tree while celebrating VanMahotsava? Was the pit of uniform layer of soil
or did you notice different colours from the top
to the bottom of the pit?
If we dig a pit on land and look at the soil,
we find that it consists of three layers which

are called horizons. Horizon A is the topmost

zone, where organic materials have got
incorporated with the mineral matter,
nutrients and water, which are necessary for
the growth of plants. Horizon B is a transition
zone between the horizon A and horizon C,
and contains matter derived from below as well
as from above. It has some organic matter in
it, although the mineral matter is noticeably
weathered. Horizon C is composed of the loose
parent material. This layer is the first stage in
the soil formation process and eventually forms
the above two layers. This arrangement of layers
is known as the soil profile. Underneath these
three horizons is the rock which is also known
as the parent rock or the bedrock. Soil, which
is a complex and varied entity has always
drawn the attention of the scientists. In order
to understand its importance, it is essential to
attempt a scientific study of the soil.
Classification of the soil is an effort to achieve
this objective.




India has varied relief features, landforms,

climatic realms and vegetation types. These
have contributed in the development of various
types of soils in India.
In ancient times, soils used to be classified
into two main groups Urvara and Usara,
which were fertile and sterile, respectively. In
the 16th centrury A.D., soils were classified on
the basis of their inherent characteristics and
external features such as texture, colour, slope
of land and moisture content in the soil. Based
on texture, main soil types were identified as



sandy, clayey, silty and loam, etc. On the basis

of colour, they were red, yellow, black, etc.
Since Independence, scientific surveys of
soils have been conducted by various agencies.
Soil Survey of India, established in 1956, made
comprehensive studies of soils in selected areas
like in the Damodar Valley. The National
Bureau of Soil Survey and the Land Use
Planning an Institute under the control of the
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
did a lot of studies on Indian soils. In their effort
to study soil and to make it comparable at the
international level, the ICAR has classified the
Indian soils on the basis of their nature and
character as per the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Taxonomy.

about 40 per cent of the total area of the

country. They are depositional soils,
transported and deposited by rivers and
streams. Through a narrow corridor in
Rajasthan, they extend into the plains of
Gujarat. In the Peninsular region, they are
found in deltas of the east coast and in the river

ICAR has classified the soils of India into the

following order as per the USDA soil taxonomy


(in Thousand


Figure 6.1 : Alluvial Soil

































Source : Soils of India, National Bureau of Soil
Survey and Land Use Planning, Publication
Number 94

On the basis of genesis, colour,

composition and location, the soils of India
have been classified into:
(i) Alluvial soils
(ii) Black soils
(iii) Red and Yellow soils
(iv) Laterite soils
(v) Arid soils
(vi) Saline soils
(vii) Peaty soils
(viii) Forest soils.
Alluvial Soils
Alluvial soils are widespread in the northern
plains and the river valleys. These soils cover

The alluvial soils vary in nature from sandy

loam to clay. They are generally rich in potash
but poor in phosphorous. In the Upper and
Middle Ganga plain, two different types of
alluvial soils have developed, viz. Khadar and
Bhangar. Khadar is the new alluvium and is
deposited by floods annually, which enriches
the soil by depositing fine silts. Bhangar
represents a system of older alluvium,
deposited away from the flood plains. Both the
Khadar and Bhangar soils contain calcareous
concretions (Kankars). These soils are more
loamy and clayey in the lower and middle
Ganga plain and the Brahamaputra valley. The
sand content decreases from the west to east.
The colour of the alluvial soils varies from
the light grey to ash grey. Its shades depend
on the depth of the deposition, the texture of
the materials, and the time taken for attaining
maturity. Alluvial soils are intensively
Black Soil
Black soil covers most of the Deccan Plateau
which includes parts of Maharashtra, Madhya
Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and some
parts of Tamil Nadu. In the upper reaches of
the Godavari and the Krishna, and the north



Figure 6.2 : Major Soil Types of India



western part of the Deccan Plateau, the black

soil is very deep. These soils are also known as
the Regur Soil or the Black Cotton Soil. The
black soils are generally clayey, deep and
impermeable. They swell and become sticky
when wet and shrink when dried. So, during
the dry season, these soil develop wide cracks.
Thus, there occurs a kind of self ploughing.
Because of this character of slow absorption
and loss of moisture, the black soil retains the
moisture for a very long time, which helps the
crops, especially, the rain fed ones, to sustain
even during the dry season.

Figure 6.3 : Black Soil During Dry Season

Chemically, the black soils are rich in lime,

iron, magnesia and alumina. They also contain
potash. But they lack in phosphorous,
nitrogen and organic matter. The colour of the
soil ranges from deep black to grey.
Red and Yellow Soil
Red soil develops on crystalline igneous rocks
in areas of low rainfall in the eastern and
southern part of the Deccan Plateau. Along the
piedmont zone of the Western Ghat, long stretch
of area is occupied by red loamy soil. Yellow and
red soils are also found in parts of Orissa and
Chattisgarh and in the southern parts of the
middle Ganga plain. The soil develops a reddish
colour due to a wide diffusion of iron in crystalline
and metamorphic rocks. It looks yellow when it
occurs in a hydrated form. The fine-grained red
and yellow soils are normally fertile, whereas
coarse-grained soils found in dry upland areas
are poor in fertility. They are generally poor in
nitrogen, phosphorous and humus.

Laterite Soil
Laterite has been derived from the Latin word
Later which means brick. The laterite soils
develop in areas with high temperature and
high rainfall. These are the result of intense
leaching due to tropical rains. With rain, lime
and silica are leached away, and soils rich in
iron oxide and aluminium compound are left
behind. Humus content of the soil is removed
fast by bacteria that thrives well in high
temperature. These soils are poor in organic
matter, nitrogen, phosphate and calcium,
while iron oxide and potash are in excess.
Hence, laterites are not suitable for cultivation;
however, application of manures and fertilisers
are required for making the soils fertile for
Red laterite soils in Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh and Kerala are more suitable for tree
crops like cashewnut.
Laterite soils are widely cut as bricks for
use in house construction. These soils have
mainly developed in the higher areas of the
Peninsular plateau. The laterite soils are
commonly found in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil
Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and the hilly areas of
Orissa and Assam.
Arid Soils
Arid soils range from red to brown in colour.
They are generally sandy in structure and
saline in nature. In some areas, the salt content
is so high that common salt is obtained by
evaporating the saline water. Due to the dry
climate, high temperature and accelerated
evaporation, they lack moisture and humus.
Nitrogen is insufficient and the phosphate

Figure 6.4 : Arid Soil


content is normal. Lower horizons of the soil

are occupied by kankar layers because of the
increasing calcium content downwards. The
Kankar layer formation in the bottom horizons
restricts the infiltration of water, and as such
when irrigation is made available, the soil
moisture is readily available for a sustainable
plant growth. Arid soils are characteristically
developed in western Rajasthan, which exhibit
characteristic arid topography. These soils are
poor and contain little humus and organic
Saline Soils
They are also known as Usara soils. Saline soils
contain a larger proportion of sodium,
potassium and magnesium, and thus, they are
infertile, and do not support any vegetative
growth. They have more salts, largely because
of dry climate and poor drainage. They occur
in arid and semi-arid regions, and in
waterlogged and swampy areas. Their
structure ranges from sandy to loamy. They
lack in nitrogen and calcium. Saline soils are
more widespread in western Gujarat, deltas of
the eastern coast and in Sunderban areas of
West Bengal. In the Rann of Kuchchh, the
Southwest Monsoon brings salt particles and
deposits there as a crust. Seawater intrusions
in the deltas promote the occurrence of saline
soils. In the areas of intensive cultivation with
excessive use of irrigation, especially in areas
of green revolution, the fertile alluvial soils are
becoming saline. Excessive irrigation with dry
climatic conditions promotes capillary action,
which results in the deposition of salt on the
top layer of the soil. In such areas, especially
in Punjab and Haryana, farmers are advised
to add gypsum to solve the problem of salinity
in the soil.
Peaty Soils
They are found in the areas of heavy rainfall
and high humidity, where there is a good
growth of vegetation. Thus, large quantity of
dead organic matter accumulates in these
areas, and this gives a rich humus and organic
content to the soil. Organic matter in these
soils may go even up to 40-50 per cent. These


soils are normally heavy and black in colour.

At many places, they are alkaline also. It occurs
widely in the northern part of Bihar, southern
part of Uttaranchal and the coastal areas of West
Bengal, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
Forest Soils
As the name suggests, forest soils are formed in
the forest areas where sufficient rainfall is
available. The soils vary in structure and texture
depending on the mountain environment where
they are formed. They are loamy and silty on
valley sides and coarse-grained in the upper
slopes. In the snow-bound areas of the
Himalayas, they experience denudation, and
are acidic with low humus content. The soils
found in the lower valleys are fertile.
It is evident from the foregoing discussions
that soils, their texture, quality and nature are
vital for the germination and growth of plant
and vegetation including crops. Soils are living
systems. Like any other organism, they too
develop and decay, get degraded, respond to
proper treatment if administered in time. These
have serious repercussions on other
components of the system of which they
themselves are important parts.

In a broad sense, soil degradation can be
defined as the decline in soil fertility, when the
nutritional status declines and depth of the soil
goes down due to erosion and misuse. Soil
degradation is the main factor leading to the
depleting soil resource base in India. The degree
of soil degradation varies from place to place
according to the topography, wind velocity and
amount of the rainfall.

The destruction of the soil cover is described as
soil erosion. The soil forming processes and the
erosional processes of running water and wind
go on simultaneously. But generally, there is a
balance between these two processes. The rate
of removal of fine particles from the surface is
the same as the rate of addition of particles to
the soil layer.



Sometimes, such a balance is disturbed by

natural or human factors, leading to a greater
rate of removal of soil. Human activities too are
responsible for soil erosion to a great extent.
As the human population increases, the
demand on the land also increases. Forest and
other natural vegetation is removed for human
settlement, for cultivation, for grazing animals
and for various other needs.
Wind and water are powerful agents of soil
erosion because of their ability to remove soil
and transport it. Wind erosion is significant in
arid and semi-arid regions. In regions with
heavy rainfall and steep slopes, erosion by
running water is more significant. Water
erosion which is more serious and occurs
extensively in different parts of India, takes place
mainly in the form of sheet and gully erosion.
Sheet erosion takes place on level lands after a
heavy shower and the soil removal is not easily
noticeable. But it is harmful since it removes the
finer and more fertile top soil. Gully erosion is
common on steep slopes. Gullies deepen with
rainfall, cut the agricultural lands into small
fragments and make them unfit for cultivation.
A region with a large number of deep gullies or
ravines is called a badland topography. Ravines
are widespread, in the Chambal basin. Besides
this, they are also found in Tamil Nadu and West
Bengal. The country is losing about 8,000
hectares of land to ravines every year. What types
are prone to gully erosion?

Soil erosion is a serious problem for Indian

agriculture and its negative effects are seen in other
spheres also. Eroded materials are carried down
to rivers and they lower down their carrying
capacity, and cause frequent floods and damage
to agricultural lands.
Deforestation is one of the major causes of soil
erosion. Plants keep soils bound in locks of roots,
and thus, prevent erosion. They also add humus
to the soil by shedding leaves and twigs. Forests
have been denuded practically in most parts of
India but their effect on soil erosion are more in
hilly parts of the country.
A fairly large area of arable land in the irrigated
zones of India is becoming saline because of overirrigation. The salt lodged in the lower profiles of
the soil comes up to the surface and destroys its
fertility. Chemical fertilisers in the absence of
organic manures are also harmful to the soil.
Unless the soil gets enough humus, chemicals
harden it and reduce its fertility in the long run.
This problem is common in all the command
areas of the river valley projects, which were the
first beneficiaries of the Green Revolution.
According to estimates, about half of the total land
of India is under some degree of degradation.
Every year, India loses millions of tonnes of
soil and its nutrients to the agents of its
degradation, which adversely affects our national
productivity. So, it is imperative to initiate
immediate steps to reclaim and conserve soils.
Soil Conservation

Figure 6.5 : Soil Erosion

If soil erosion and exhaustion are caused by

humans; by corollary, they can also be
prevented by humans. Nature has its own laws
of maintaining balance. Nature offers enough
opportunities for humans to develop their
economy without disturbing the ecological
balance. Soil conservation is a methodology
to maintain soil fertility, prevent soil erosion
and exhaustion, and improve the degraded
condition of the soil.
Soil erosion is essentially aggravated by
faulty practices. The first step in any rational
solution is to check open cultivable lands on
slopes from farming. Lands with a slope
gradient of 15 - 25 per cent should not be used



for cultivation. If at all the land is to be used

for agriculture, terraces should carefully be
made. Over-grazing and shifting cultivation in
many parts of India have affected the natural
cover of land and given rise to extensive erosion.
It should be regulated and controlled by
educating villagers about the consequences.
Contour bunding, Contour terracing,
regulated forestry, controlled grazing, cover
cropping, mixed farming and crop rotation are
some of the remedial measures which are often
adopted to reduce soil erosion.

Figure 6.6 : Terrace Farming

Efforts should be made to prevent gully

erosion and control their formation. Finger
gullies can be eliminated by terracing. In
bigger gullies, the erosive velocity of water may

be reduced by constructing a series of check

dams. Special attention should be made to
control headward extension of gullies. This can
be done by gully plugging, terracing or by
planting cover vegetation.
In arid and semi-arid areas, efforts should
be made to protect cultivable lands from
encroachment by sand dunes through
developing shelter belts of trees and
agro-forestry. Lands not suitable for
cultivation should be converted into pastures
for grazing. Experiments have been made to
stabilise sand dunes in western Rajasthan by
the Central Arid Zone Research Institute
The Central Soil Conservation Board, set up
by the Government of India, has prepared a
number of plans for soil conservation in different
parts of the country. These plans are based on
the climatic conditions, configuration of land
and the social behaviour of people. Even these
plans are fragmental in nature. Integrated land
use planning, therefore, seems to be the best
technique for proper soil conservation. Lands
should be classified according to their
capability; land use maps should be prepared
and lands should be put to right uses. The final
responsibility for achieving the conservation of
land will rest on the people who operate on it
and receive the benefits.


Choose the right answer from the

(i) Which one of the following is
category of soil?
(a) Alluvial Soil
(b) Laterite Soil

Black Soil
Forest Soil

Regur Soil is another name for the.

(a) Saline Soil
(b) Arid Soil


four alternatives given below.

the most widespread and most productive

(c) Black Soil

(d) Laterite Soil

Which one of the following is the main reason for the loss of the top soil
in India?
(a) Wind erosion
(b) Water erosion

(c) Excessive leaching

(d) None of these




Arable land in the irrigated zones of India is turning saline due to which
of the following reasons?
(a) Addition of gypsum
(b) Over grazing


Answer the following questions in about 30 words.



(c) Over irrigation

(d) Use of fertilisers

What is soil?
What are the main factors responsible for the formation of soil?
Mention the three horizons of a soil profile.
What is soil degradation?
What is the difference between Khadar and Bhangar?

Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words.


What are black soils? Describe their formation and characteristics.

What is soil conservation? Suggest some measures to conserve soil.
How do you know that a particular type of soil is fertile or not? Differentiate
between naturally determined fertility and culturally induced fertility.


Collect various samples of soil and prepare a report on the type(s) of soils
found in your region.


On an outline map of India, mark the areas coverd by the following soil

Red soil
Laterite soil
Alluvial soil.

This unit deals with

Floods and droughts

Earthquakes and tsunami





ou might have read about tsunami or

seen the images of horror on
television set immediately after it
happened. You may also be aware of the severe
earthquake in Kashmir on both sides of the
Line of Control (LOC). The damage caused to
human life and properties during these
episodes has moved us all. What are these as
phenomena and how they are caused? How
can we save ourselves? These are some
questions which come to our minds. This
chapter will attempt to analyse some of these
Change is the law of nature. It is a continuous
process that goes on uninterruptedly involving
phenomena, big and small, material and nonmaterial that make our physical and sociocultural environment. It is a process present
everywhere with variations in terms of
magnitude, intensity and scale. Change can be
a gradual or slow process like the evolution of
landforms and organisms and it can be as
sudden and swift as volcanic eruptions,
tsunamis, earthquakes and lightening, etc.
Similarly, it may remain confined to a smaller
area occurring within a few seconds like
hailstorms, tornadoes and dust storms, and it
can also have global dimensions such as global
warming and depletion of the ozone layer.
Besides these, changes have different
meanings for different people. It depends upon
the perspective one takes while trying to
understand them. From the perspective of
nature, changes are value-neutral (these are
neither good nor bad). But from the human
perspective, these are value-loaded. There are
some changes that are desirable and good like

the change of seasons, ripening of fruits, while

there are others like earthquakes, floods and
wars that are considered bad and undesirable.
Observe the environment you live in and
prepare a list of changes, which take
place over a long period of time and
those, which take place within a short
period of time. Do you know why some
changes are considered good and others
bad? Prepare a list of changes, which
you notice in your daily life and give
reasons why some of these are
considered good and others bad.

In this chapter, we will read about some of

these changes, which are considered bad and
have haunted humankind for a long time.
Disasters in general and natural disasters
in particular, are some such changes that are
always disliked and feared by humankind.
What is a Disaster?
Disaster is an undesirable occurrence
resulting from forces that are largely
outside human control, strikes quickly
with little or no warning, which causes
or threatens serious disruption of life
and property including death and injury
to a large number of people, and requires
therefore, mobilisation of efforts in excess
of that which are normally provided by
statutory emergency services.

For a long time, geographical literature

viewed disasters as a consequence of natural
forces; and human beings were treated as
innocent and helpless victims in front of the
mighty forces of nature. But natural forces are


not the only causes of disasters. Disasters are

also caused by some human activities. There
are some activities carried by human beings
that are directly responsible for disasters.
Bhopal Gas tragedy, Chernobyl nuclear disaster,
wars, release of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) and
increase of green house gases, environmental
pollutions like noise, air, water and soil are some
of the disasters which are caused directly by
human actions. There are some other activities
of human beings that accelerate or intensify
disasters indirectly. Landslides and floods due
to deforestation, unscientific land use and
construction activities in fragile areas are some
of the disasters that are the results of indirect
human actions. Can you identify some other
human activities going on in and around your
neighbourhood and schools that can lead to
disasters in the near future? Can you suggest
some measures to prevent it? It is a common
experience that human-made disasters have
increased both in their numbers and
magnitudes over the years and concerted
efforts are on at various levels to prevent and
minimise their occurrences. Though the
success has been only nominal so far, it is
possible to prevent some of these disasters
created by human actions. As opposed to this,
very little is possible to prevent natural
disasters; therefore, the best way out is to
emphasise on natural disaster mitigation and
management. Establishment of National
Institute of Disaster Management, India, Earth
Summit at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1993 and
the World Conference on Disaster Management
in May 1994 at Yokohama, Japan, etc. are
some of the concrete steps towards this
direction initiated at different levels.
Most often it is observed that scholars use
disasters and natural hazards as interchangeable.
Both are related phenomena, yet quite distinct
from each other. Hence, it is necessary to
distinguish between the two.
Natural Hazards are elements of
circumstances in the Natural environment that
have the potential to cause harm to people or
property or both. These may be swift or
permanent aspects of the respective
environmental settings like currents in the
oceans, steep slope and unstable structural


features in the Himalayas or extreme climatic

conditions in deserts or glaciated areas.
As compared to natural hazards, natural
disasters are relatively sudden and cause
large scale, widespread death, loss of
property and disturbance to social systems
and life over which people have a little or no
control. Thus, any event can be classed as
disaster when the magnitude of destruction
and damage caused by it is very high.
Generally, disasters are generalised
experiences of people the world over, and no
two disasters are similar and comparable to
each other. Every disaster is unique in terms
of the local socio-environmental factors that
control it, the social response it generates, and
the way each social group negotiates with it.
However, the opinion mentioned above is
indicative of three important things. Firstly, the
magnitude, intensity, frequency and damages
caused by natural disasters have increased
over the years. Secondly, there is a growing
concern among people the world over to deal
with the menace created by these so that the
loss of human life and property can be
minimised. And finally, significant changes
have taken place in the pattern of natural
disasters over the years.
There has also been a change in the
perception of natural disasters and hazards.
Previously, hazards and disasters were seen
as two closely associated and interrelated
phenomena, i.e. areas prone to natural
hazards, were more vulnerable to disasters.
Hence, people avoided tampering with the
delicate balance that existed in a given
ecosystem. People avoided intensification of
their activities in such areas and that is how
disasters were less damaging. Technological
power has given large capacity to human
intervention in nature. Consequently, now,
human beings tend to intensify their activities
into disaster prone areas increasing their
vulnerability to disasters. Colonisation of flood
plains of most of the rivers and development of
large cities and port-towns like Mumbai and
Chennai along the coast, and touching the
shore due to high land values, make them
vulnerable to the occurrence of cyclones,
hurricanes and tsunamis.



These observations can also be corroborated

by the data given in Table 7.1 showing the
magnitude of deaths caused by twelve serious
natural disasters in the past sixty years in
different countries of the world.
It is evident from the table that natural
disasters have caused widespread loss of life and
property. Concerted efforts are on at various
levels to take appropriate measures to deal with
the situation. It is also being felt that the damages
caused by natural disasters have global
repercussions that are beyond the means and
capabilities of individual nation-states to cope
up with. Hence, this issue was raised at the U.N.
General Assembly in 1989 and it was finally
formalised at the World Conference on Disaster
Management in May 1994 at Yokohama, Japan.
This was subsequently called the Yokohama
Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World.




Human beings the world over have

experienced disasters and have faced and lived
with them. Now people are becoming aware
and various steps have been initiated at
different levels for mitigating the effects of
disasters. Identification and classification of
disasters is being considered as an effective and
scientific step to deal promptly and efficiently
with the disasters. Broadly, natural disasters
can be classified under four categories (See
Table 7.2).
India is one of those countries which has
experienced most of the natural disasters
mentioned in Table 7.2. Every year it loses
thousands of lives and property worth
millions of rupees due to these natural
calamities. In the following section, some of

Table 7.1 : Top Twelve Natural Disasters Since 1948





The Soviet Union (now Russia)

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)
East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)
Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, etc.

Tropical Cyclones
Tropical Cyclones
Tropical Cyclones


Pakistan, India



Source : United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), 1991

*News Report from National Institute for Disaster Management, Government of India, New Delhi

Table 7.2 : Classification of Natural Disasters



Tropical Cyclone
Frost, Heat Wave or
Loo.Cold Waves, etc.

Volcanic Eruptions
Soil Erosion

Tidal Waves
Ocean Currents
Storm Surge

Plants and Animals as
colonisers (Locusts, etc.).
Insects infestation fungal,
bacterial and viral diseases
such as bird flu, dengue,



Yokohama Strategy and International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR)
Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World
All the member states of the United Nations and other states met at the World Conference on
Natural Disaster Reduction in the city of Yokohama from May 23rd-27th 1994. It acknowledged
that the impact of natural disasters in terms of human and economic losses has risen in recent
years, and society, in general, has become vulnerable to natural disasters. It also accepted that
these disasters affected the poor and disadvantageous groups the worst, particularly in the
developing countries, which are ill-equipped to cope with them. Hence, the conference adopted
the Yokohama strategy as a guide to rest of the decade and beyond, to mitigate the losses due to
these disasters.
The resolution of the World Conference on Natural Disasters Reduction is as mentioned below:
(i) It will note that each country has the sovereign responsibility to protect its citizens from
natural disasters;
(ii) It will give priority attention to the developing countries, particularly the least developed,
land-locked countries and small-island developing states;
(iii) It will develop and strengthen national capacities and capabilities and, where appropriate,
national legislation for natural and other disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness,
including the mobilisation of non-governmental organisations and participation of local
(iv) It will promote and strengthen sub-regional, regional and international cooperation in activities
to prevent, reduce and mitigate natural and other disasters, with particular emphasis on:
(a) human and institutional capacity-building and strengthening;
(b) technology sharing: the collection, the dissemination and utilisation of information; and
(c) mobilisation of resources.
It also declared the decade 1990-2000 as the International Decade for Natural Disaster
Reduction (IDNDR).

the highly devastating natural disasters have been

discussed, particularly in the context of India.






It was discussed in one of the previous chapters

that India is vast and diverse in terms of its
physical and socio-cultural attributes. It is
largely due to its vast geographical area,
environmental diversities and cultural
pluralities that scholars often described it
using two meaningful adjectives like the
Indian-subcontinent and the land of unity in
diversity. Its vastness in terms of natural
attributes combined with its prolonged colonial
past, continuing various forms of social
discriminations and also equally large
population have enhanced its vulnerability to
natural disasters. These observations can also
be illustrated by focussing on some of the
major natural disasters in India.
Earthquakes are by far the most unpredictable
and highly destructive of all the natural
disasters. You have already learnt the causes

of earthquakes in your book Fundamentals

of Physical Geography (NCER T, 2006).
Earthquakes that are of tectonic origin have
proved to be the most devastating and their
area of influence is also quite large. These
earthquakes result from a series of earth
movements brought about by a sudden release
of energy during the tectonic activities in the
earths crust. As compared to these, the
earthquakes associated with volcanic
eruption, rock fall, landslides, subsidence,
particularly in the mining areas, impounding
of dams and reservoirs, etc. have limited area of
influence and the scale of damage.
It was mentioned in Chapter 2 of the book
that the Indian plate is moving at a speed of one
centimetre per year towards the north and
northeastern direction and this movement of
plates is being constantly obstructed by the
Eurasian plate from the north. As a result of this,
both the plates are said to be locked with each
other resulting in accumulation of energy at
different points of time. Excessive accumulation
of energy results in building up of stress, which
ultimately leads to the breaking up of the lock
and the sudden release of energy causes



earthquakes along the Himalayan arch. Some

of the most vulnerable states are Jammu and
Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal,
Sikkim, and the Darjiling and subdivision of West
Bengal and all the seven states of the northeast.

Figure 7.1 : A Damaged Building Due to an Earthquake

Apart from these regions, the central-western

parts of India, particularly Gujarat (in 1819,
1956 and 2001) and Maharashtra (in 1967 and
1993) have also experienced some severe
earthquakes. Earth scientists have found it
difficult to explain the occurrence of earthquakes
in one of the oldest, most stable and mature
landmass of Peninsular block for a long time.
Recently, some earth scientists have come up
with a theory of emergence of a fault line and
energy build-up along the fault line represented
by the river Bhima (Krishna) near Latur and
Osmanabad (Maharashtra) and the possible
breaking down of the Indian plate (Figure 7.2).
Geological Survey of India, Department of
Meteorology, Government of India, along with
the recently formed National Institute of Disaster
Management, have made an intensive analysis
of more than 1,200 earthquakes that have
occurred in India in different years in the past,
and based on these, they divided India into the
following five earthquake zones:

Very high damage risk zone

High damage risk zone
Moderate damage risk zone
Low damage risk zone
Very low damage risk zone.

Out of these, the first two zones had

experienced some of the most devastating
earthquakes in India. As shown in the Figure 7.2,

areas vulnerable to these earthquakes are the

North-east states, areas to the north of Darbhanga
and Araria along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar,
Uttaranchal, Western Himachal Pradesh (around
Dharamshala) and Kashmir Valley in the
Himalayan region and the Kuchchh (Gujarat).
These are included in the Very High Damage Risk
Zone. Similarly, the remaining parts of Jammu
and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Northern parts
of Punjab, Eastern parts of Haryana, Delhi,
Western Uttar Pradesh, and Northern Bihar fall
under the High Damage Risk Zone. Remaining
parts of the country fall under moderate to very
Low Damage Risk Zone. Most of the areas that
can be considered safe are from the stable
landmass covered under the Deccan plateau.



The idea of an earthquake is often associated with

fear and horror due to the scale, magnitude and
suddenness at which it spreads disasters on the
surface of the earth without discrimination. It
becomes a calamity when it strikes the areas of
high density of population. It not only damages
and destroys the settlements, infrastructure,
transport and communication network,
industries and other developmental activities but
also robs the population of their material and
socio-cultural gains that they have preserved
over generations. It renders them homeless,
which puts an extra-pressure and stress,
particularly on the weak economy of the
developing countries.
Effects of Earthquakes
Earthquakes have all encompassing disastrous
effects on the area of their occurrence. Some of
the important ones are listed in Table 7.3.
Table 7.3 : Effects of Earthquakes
On Ground

On Manmade



Earth Pressure


On Water




Figure 7.2 : India: Earthquake Hazard Zones



Apart from these, earthquakes also have

some serious and far-reaching environmental
consequences. Surface seismic waves produce
fissures on the upper layers of the earths crust
through which water and other volatile
materials gush out, inundating the
neighbouring areas. Earthquakes are also
responsible for landslides and often these
cause obstructions in the flow of rivers and
channels resulting in the formation of
reservoirs. Sometimes, rivers also change their
course causing floods and other calamities in
the affected areas.
Earthquake Hazard Mitigation
Unlike other disasters, the damages caused
by earthquakes are more devastating. Since
it also destroys most of the transport and
communication links, providing timely relief
to the victims becomes difficult. It is not
possible to prevent the occurrence of an
earthquake; hence, the next best option is to
emphasis on disaster preparedness and
mitigation rather than curative measures
such as:
(i) Establishing earthquake monitoring
centres (seismological centres) for
regular monitoring and fast
dissemination of information among the
people in the vulnerable areas. Use of
Geographical Positioning System (GPS)
can be of great help in monitoring the
movement of tectonic plates.
(ii) Preparing a vulnerability map of the
country and dissemination of
vulnerability risk information among the
people and educating them about the
ways and means minimising the adverse
impacts of disasters.
(iii) Modifying the house types and buildingdesigns in the vulnerable areas and
discouraging construction of high-rise
buildings, large industrial establishments
and big urban centres in such areas.
(iv) Finally, making it mandatory to adopt
earthquake-resistant designs and use
light materials in major construction
activities in the vulnerable areas.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that
cause the sea-floor to move abruptly resulting
in sudden displacement of ocean water in the
form of high vertical waves are called tsunamis
(harbour waves) or seismic sea waves.
Normally, the seismic waves cause only one
instantaneous vertical wave; but, after the initial
disturbance, a series of afterwaves are created
in the water that oscillate between high crest
and low trough in order to restore the water
The speed of wave in the ocean depends
upon the depth of water. It is more in the
shallow water than in the ocean deep. As a
result of this, the impact of tsunami is less over
the ocean and more near the coast where they
cause large-scale devastations. Therefore, a
ship at sea is not much affected by tsunami
and it is difficult to detect a tsunami in the
deeper parts of sea. It is so because over deep
water the tsunami has very long wave-length
and limited wave-height. Thus, a tsunami wave
raises the ship only a metre or two and each
rise and fall takes several minutes. As opposed
to this, when a tsunami enters shallow water,
its wave-length gets reduced and the period
remains unchanged, which increases the waveheight. Sometimes, this height can be up to
15m or more, which causes large-scale
destructions along the shores. Thus, these are
also called Shallow Water Waves. Tsunamis
are frequently observed along the Pacific ring
of fire, particularly along the coast of Alaska,
Japan, Philippines, and other islands of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri
Lanka, and India etc.
After reaching the coast, the tsunami waves
release enormous energy stored in them and
water flows turbulently onto the land
destroying port-cities and towns, structures,
buildings and other settlements. Since the
coastal areas are densely populated the world
over, and these are also centres of intense
human activity, the loss of life and property is
likely to be much higher by a tsunami as
compared to other natural hazards in the
coastal areas. The extent of devastation caused
by tsunami can be assessed through the



visuals on Banda Ache (Indonesia) presented

in the book Practical Work in Geography - Part I
(NCERT, 2006).
Unlike other natural hazards, the
mitigation of hazards created by tsunami is
difficult, mainly because of the fact that losses
are on a much larger scale.

(i) Large and continuous supply of warm

and moist air that can release enormous
latent heat.
(ii) Strong Coriolis force that can prevent
filling of low pressure at the centre
(absence of Coriolis force near the
equator prohibits the formation of
t r o p i c a l c y c l o n e b e t w e e n 0 -5
(iii) Unstable condition through the
troposphere that creates local disturbances
around which a cyclone develops.
(iv) Finally, absence of strong vertical wind
wedge, which disturbs the vertical
transport of latent heat.
Structure of Tropical Cyclone

Figure 7.3 : Tsunami Affected Area

It is beyond the capacity of individual state

or government to mitigate the damage. Hence,
combined efforts at the international levels are
the possible ways of dealing with these
disasters as has been in the case of the tsunami
that occurred on 26th December 2004 in which
more than 300,000 people lost their lives. India
has volunteered to join the International
Tsunami Warning System after the December
2004 tsunami disaster.
Tropical Cyclone
Tropical cyclones are intense low-pressure
areas confined to the area lying between 30 N
and 30 S latitudes, in the atmosphere around
which high velocity winds blow. Horizontally,
it extends up to 500-1,000 km and vertically
from surface to 12-14 km. A tropical cyclone
or hurricane is like a heat engine that is
energised by the release of latent heat on
account of the condensation of moisture that
the wind gathers after moving over the oceans
and seas.
There are differences of opinion among
scientists about the exact mechanism of a
tropical cyclone. However, some initial
conditions for the emergence of a tropical
cyclone are:

Tropical cyclones are characterised by large

pressure gradients. The centre of the cyclone
is mostly a warm and low-pressure,
cloudless core known as eye of the storm.
Generally, the isobars are closely placed to
each other showing high-pressure
gradients. Normally, it varies between
14-17mb/100 km, but sometimes it can be
as high as 60mb/100km. Expansion of the
wind belt is about 10-150 km from the
Spatio-temporal Distribution of T ropical
Cyclone in India
Owing to its Peninsular shape surrounded
by the Bay of Bengal in the east and the
Arabian Sea in the west, the tropical
cyclones in India also originate in these two
important locations. Though most of the
cyclones originate between 10-15 north
latitudes during the monsoon season, yet
in case of the Bay of Bengal, cyclones
mostly develop during the months of
O c t o b e r a n d N o v e m b e r. H e r e , t h e y
originate between 16-2 N latitudes and
to the west of 92 E. By July the place of
origin of these storms shifts to around 18 N
latitude and west of 90E near the
Sunderban Delta. Table 7.4 and Figure 7.4
show the frequency and tracks of time of
cyclonic storms in India.


Figure 7.4 : Tropical Cyclone Hazard Zones




Table 7.4 : Frequency of Cyclonic Storms in India


Bay of Bengal
4 (1.3)
1 (0.3)
4 (1.30)
18 (5.7)
28 (8.9)
34 (10.8)
38 (12.1)
25 (8.0)
27 (8.6)
53 (16.9)
56 (17.8)
26 (8.3)
314 (100)

2 (2.4)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
5 (6.1)
13 (15.9)
13 (15.9)
3 (3.7)
1 (1.2)
4 (4.8)
17 (20.7)
21 (25.6)
3 (3.7)
82 (100)

*Data in the brackets are in percentage to total number

of storms taking place in a year

Consequences of Tropical Cyclones

It was mentioned that the energy to the tropical
cyclone comes from the latent heat released by
the warm moist air. Hence, with the increase
in distance from the sea, the force of the cyclone
decreases. In India, the force of the cyclone
decreases with increase in distance from the
Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. So, the
coastal areas are often struck by severe cyclonic
storms with an average velocity of 180 km/h.
Often, this results in abnormal rise in the sea
level known as Storm Surge.
A surge is generated due to interaction
of air, sea and land. The cyclone provides
the driving force in the form of very high
horizontal pressure-gradient and very
strong surface winds. The sea water flows
across the coast along with strong winds
and heavy downpour.

disasters, the causes of floods are wellestablished. Floods are relatively slow in
occurrences and often, occur in well-identified
regions and within expected time in a year.
Floods occur commonly when water in the
form of surface run-off exceeds the carrying
capacity of the river channels and streams and
flows into the neighbouring low-lying flood
plains. At times, this even goes beyond the
capacity of lakes and other inland water bodies
in which they flow. Floods can also be caused
due to a storm surge (in the coastal areas), high
intensity rainfall for a considerably longer time
period, melting of ice and snow, reduction in
the infiltration rate and presence of eroded
material in the water due to higher rate of soil
erosion. Though floods occur frequently over
wide geographical area having disasterous
ramifications in many parts of the world, floods
in the South, Southeast and East Asian
countries, particularly in China, India and
Bangladesh, are frequent and equally
Once again, unlike other natural disasters,
human beings play an important role in the
genesis as well as spread of floods.
Indiscriminate deforestation, unscientific
agricultural practices, disturbances along the
natural drainage channels and colonisation of
flood-plains and river-beds are some of the
human activities that play an important role
in increasing the intensity, magnitude and
gravity of floods.

This results in inundation of human

settlements, agricultural fields, damaging
crops and destruction of structures created by
human beings.
You read in newspapers and watch images of
floods on televisions occurring in some regions
during rainy seasons. Inundation of land and
human settlements by the rise of water in the
channels and its spill-over presents the
condition of flooding. Unlike other natural

Figure 7.5 : Brahmaputra During Flood



Figure 7.6 : Flood Hazard Zones


Various states of India face heavy loss of

lives and property due to recurrent floods.
Rashtriya Barh Ayog (National Flood
Commission) identified 40 million hectares of
land as flood-prone in India. The Figure 7.6
shows the flood-affected areas in India. Assam,
West Bengal and Bihar are among the high
flood-prone states of India. Apart from these,
most of the rivers in the northern states like
Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, are also vulnerable
to occasional floods. It has been noticed that
states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and
Punjab are also getting inundated in recent
decades due to flash floods. This is partly
because of the pattern of the monsoon and
partly because of blocking of most of the
streams and river channels by human
activities. Sometimes, Tamil Nadu
experiences flooding during November January due to the retreating monsoon.
Consequence and Control of Floods
Frequent inundation of agricultural land and
human settlement, particularly in Assam, West
Bengal, Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh
(flooding rivers), coastal areas of Orissa, Andhra
Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat (cyclone) and
Punjab, Rajasthan, Northern Gujarat and
Haryana (flash floods) have serious
consequences on the national economy and
society. Floods do not only destroy valuable
crops every year but these also damage physical
infrastructure such as roads, rails, bridges and
human settlements. Millions of people are
rendered homeless and are also washed down
along with their cattle in the floods. Spread of
diseases like cholera, gastro-enteritis, hepatitis
and other water-borne diseases spread in the
flood-affected areas. However, floods also make
a few positive contributions. Every year, floods
deposit fertile silt over agricultural fields which
is good for the crops. Majuli (Assam), the largest
riverine island in the world, is the best example
of good paddy crops after the annual floods in
Brahmaputra. But these are insignificant
benefits in comparison to the grave losses.
The Government of India as well as the state
governments are well aware of the menace
created by floods every year. How do these


governments generally respond to the floods?

Construction of flood protection embankments
in the flood-prone areas, construction of dams,
afforestation and discouraging major
construction activities in the upper reaches of
most of the flood-creating rivers, etc. are some
steps that need to be taken up on urgent basis.
Removal of human encroachment from the
river channels and depopulating the flood
plains can be the other steps. This is
particularly true in western and northern parts
of the country which experience flash-floods.
Cyclone centres may provide relief in coastal
areas which are hit by a storm surge.
The term drought is applied to an extended
period when there is a shortage of water
availability due to inadequate precipitation,
excessive rate of evaporation and
over-utilisation of water from the reservoirs and
other storages, including the ground water.
Drought is a complex phenomenon as it
involves elements of meteorology like
precipitation, evaporation, evapotranspiration, ground water, soil
moisture, storage and surface run-off,
agricultural practices, particularly the
types of crops grown, socio-economic
practices and ecological conditions.

Types of Droughts
Meteorological Drought : It is a situation when
there is a prolonged period of inadequate
rainfall marked with mal-distribution of the
same over time and space.
Agricultural Drought : It is also known as soil
moisture drought, characterised by low soil
moisture that is necessary to support the crops,
thereby resulting in crop failures. Moreover, if
an area has more than 30 per cent of its gross
cropped area under irrigation, the area is
excluded from the drought-prone category.
Hydrological Drought : It results when the
availability of water in different storages and
reservoirs like aquifers, lakes, reservoirs, etc.
falls below what the precipitation can replenish.



Figure 7.8 : Drought Prone Areas



Extreme Drought Affected Areas : It is evident

from the Figure 7.8 that most parts of
Rajasthan, particularly areas to the west of the
Aravali hills, i.e. Marusthali and Kachchh
regions of Gujarat fall in this category. Included
here are also the districts like Jaisalmer and
Barmer from the Indian desert that receive less
that 90 mm average annual rainfall.

Figure 7.7 : Drought

Ecological Drought : When the productivity of

a natural ecosystem fails due to shortage of
water and as a consequence of ecological
distress, damages are induced in the
Various parts of India experience these
droughts recurrently which result in some
serious socio-economic and ecological problems.
Drought Prone Areas in India
Indian agriculture has been heavily dependent
on the monsoon rainfall. Droughts and floods
are the two accompanying features of Indian
climate. According to some estimates, nearly
19 per cent of the total geographical area of
the country and 12 per cent of its total
population suffer due to drought every year.
About 30 per cent of the countrys total area is
identified as drought prone affecting around
50 million people. It is a common experience
that while some parts of the country reel under
floods, there are regions that face severe
drought during the same period. Moreover, it
is also a common sight to witness that one
region suffers due to floods in one season and
experiences drought in the other. This is mainly
because of the large-scale variations and
unpredictability in the behaviour of the
monsoon in India. Thus, droughts are
widespread and common phenomena in most
parts of the country, but these are most
recurrent and severe in some and not so in
others. On the basis of severity of droughts,
India can be divided into the following regions:

Severe Drought Prone Area : Parts of eastern

Rajasthan, most parts of Madhya Pradesh,
eastern parts of Maharashtra, interior parts of
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Plateau,
northern parts of interior Tamil Nadu and
southern parts of Jharkhand and interior
Orissa are included in this category.
Moderate Drought Affected Area : Northern
parts of Rajasthan, Haryana, southern districts
of Uttar Pradesh, the remaining parts of
Gujarat, Maharashtra except Konkan,
Jharkhand and Coimbatore plateau of Tamil
Nadu and interior Karnataka are included in
this category. The remaining parts of India can
be considered either free or less prone to the
Consequences of Drought
Droughts have cascading effects on various
other aspects of environment and society. Crop
failure leading to scarcity of food grains (akal),
fodder (trinkal), inadequate rainfall, resulting
in shortage of water (jalkal), and often shortage
in all the three (trikal) is most devastating.
Large-scale death of cattle and other animals,
migration of humans and livestock are the
most common sight to be seen in the droughtaffected areas. Scarcity of water compels people
to consume contaminated water resulting in
spread of many waterborne diseases like
gastro-enteritis, cholera, hepatitis, etc.
Droughts have both immediate as well as
long-term disastrous consequences on the
social and physical environments.
Consequently, planning for drought has to
take both aspects into consideration.
Provision for the distribution of safe drinking
water, medicines for the victims and
availability of fodder and water for the cattle
and shifting of the people and their livestock



to safer places, etc. are some steps that need

to be taken immediately. Identification of
ground water potential in the form of aquifers,
transfer of river water from the surplus to the
deficit areas, and particularly planning for
inter-linking of rivers and construction of
reservoirs and dams, etc. should be given a
serious thought. Remote sensing and satellite
imageries can be useful in identifying the
possible river-basins that can be inter-linked
and in identifying the ground water potential.
Dissemination of knowledge about
drought-resistant crops and proper training
to practise the same can be some of the
long-term measures that will be helpful in
drought-mitigation. Rainwater harvesting can
also be an effective method in minimising the
effects of drought.
Observe the methods adopted for rooftop rainwater harvesting in your
locality and suggest measures to make
it more effective.

Have you ever read about the blocking of roads
to Srinagar or disruption of rail services by
stones falling on the Konkan Railway track? It
happens due to landslide, which is the rapid
sliding of large mass of bedrocks. Disasters
due to landslides, are in general, far less
dramatic than due to earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions, tsunamis and cyclones but their
impact on the natural environment and
national economy is in no way less severe.
Unlike other disasters that are sudden,
unpredictable and are largely controlled by
macro or regional factors, landslides are largely
controlled by highly localised factors. Hence,
gathering information and monitoring the
possibilities of landslide is not only difficult but
also immensely cost-intensive.
It is always difficult to define in a precise
statement and generalise the occurrence and
behaviour of a landslide. However, on the
basis of past experiences, frequency and
certain causal relationships with the
controlling factors like geology, geomorphic
agents, slope, land-use, vegetation cover and

human activities, India has been divided into

a number of zones.
Landslide Vulnerability Zones
Very High Vulnerability Zone : Highly unstable,
relatively young mountainous areas in the
Himalayas and Andaman and Nicobar, high
rainfall regions with steep slopes in the Western
Ghats and Nilgiris, the north-eastern regions,
along with areas that experience frequent
ground-shaking due to earthquakes, etc. and
areas of intense human activities, particularly
those related to construction of roads, dams,
etc. are included in this zone.
High Vulnerability Zone : Areas that have
almost similar conditions to those included in
the very high vulnerability zone are also
included in this category. The only difference
between these two is the combination, intensity
and frequency of the controlling factors. All the
Himalayan states and the states from the
north-eastern regions except the plains of
Assam are included in the high vulnerability
Moderate to Low Vulnerability Zone : Areas that
receive less precipitation such as TransHimalayan areas of Ladakh and Spiti (Himachal
Pradesh), undulated yet stable relief and low
precipitation areas in the Aravali, rain shadow
areas in the Western and Eastern Ghats and
Deccan plateau also experience occasional
landslides. Landslides due to mining and

Figure 7.9 : Landslide


subsidence are most common in states like

Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya
Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala.
Other Areas : The remaining parts of India,
particularly states like Rajasthan, Haryana,
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal (except
district Darjiling), Assam (except district Karbi
Anglong) and Coastal regions of the southern
States are safe as far as landslides are
Consequences of Landslides
Landslides have relatively small and localised
area of direct influence, but roadblock,
destruction of railway lines and channelblocking due to rock-falls have far-reaching
consequences. Diversion of river courses due
to landslides can also lead to flood and loss of
life and property. It also makes spatial
interaction difficult, risky as well as a costly
affair, which, in turn, adversely affects the
developmental activities in these areas.
It is always advisable to adopt area-specific
measures to deal with landslides. Restriction on
the construction and other developmental
activities such as roads and dams, limiting
agriculture to valleys and areas with moderate
slopes, and control on the development of large
settlements in the high vulnerability zones, should
be enforced. This should be supplemented by
some positive actions like promoting large-scale
afforestation programmes and construction of
bunds to reduce the flow of water. Terrace farming
should be encouraged in the northeastern hill
states where Jhumming (Slash and Burn/Shifting
Cultivation) is still prevalent.

Disasters due to cyclones, unlike the ones
caused by earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic
eruptions are more predictable in terms of the
time and place of their occurrences. Moreover,
with the help of development of techniques to
monitor the behaviour of cyclones, their
intensity, direction and magnitude, it has
become possible to manage the cyclonic hazard


to some extent. Construction of cycloneshelters, embankments, dykes, reservoirs and

afforestation to reduce the speed of the winds
are some of the steps that can help in
minimising the damages. However, increase in
the loss of life and property in countries like
India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, etc. in successive
storms is largely due to high vulnerability of
their population residing in the coastal areas.
Disaster Management Bill, 2005
The Disaster Management Bill, 2005,
defines disaster as a catastrophe,
mishap, calamity or grave occurrence
affecting any area, arising from
natural or man-made causes, or by
accident or negligence which results
in substantial loss of life or human
suffering or damage to, and
destruction of, environment, and is of
such nature or magnitude as to be
beyond the coping capacity of the
community of the affected area.

On the basis of the above discussion, it can be
concluded that disasters can be natural or the
results of human activities, and all hazards
need not turn into disasters since it is difficult
to eliminate disasters, particularly natural
disasters. Then the next best option is
mitigation and preparedness. There are three
stages involved in disaster mitigation and
(i) Pre-disaster management involves
generating data and information about the
disasters, preparing vulnerability zoning
maps and spreading awareness among the
people about these. Apart from these,
disaster planning, preparedness and
preventive measures are other steps that
need to be taken in the vulnerable areas.
(ii) During disasters, rescue and relief
operations such as evacuation, construction
of shelters and relief camps, supplying of
water, food, clothing and medical aids etc.
should be done on an emergency basis.
(iii) Post-disaster operations should involve
rehabilitation and recovery of victims. It



should also concentrate on capacitybuilding in order to cope up with future

disasters, if any.
These measures have special significance
to a country like India, which has about
two-third of its geographical area and equal

proportion of its population, vulnerable to

disasters. Introduction of the Disaster
Management Bill, 2005 and establishment of
National Institute of Disaster Management are
some examples of the positive steps taken by
the Government of India.


Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.

Which one of the following states of India experiences floods frequently?

(a) Bihar
(c) Assam
(b) West Bengal
(d) Uttar Pradesh

(ii) In which one of the following districts of Uttaranchal did Malpa Landslide
disaster take place?
(a) Bageshwar
(b) Champawat

(c) Almora
(d) Pithoragarh

(iii) Which one of the following states receives floods in the winter months?
(a) Assam
(b) West Bengal

(c) Kerala
(d) Tamil Nadu

(iv) In which of the following rivers is the Majuli River Island situated?
(a) Ganga
(c) Godavari
(b) Brahmaputra
(d) Indus
(v) Under which type of natural hazards do blizzards come?
(a) Atmospheric
(c) Terrestrial
(b) Aquatic
(d) Biological

Answer the following questions in less than 30 words.

(i) When can a hazard become a disaster?
(ii) Why are there more earthquakes in the Himalayas and in the north-eastern
region of India?
(iii) What are the basic requirements for the formation of a cyclone?
(vi) How are the floods in Eastern India different from the ones in Western India?
(v) Why are there more droughts in Central and Western India?

3. Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words.

(i) Identify the Landslide-prone regions of India and suggest some measures to
mitigate the disasters caused by these.
(ii) What is vulnerability? Divide India into natural disaster vulnerability zones
based on droughts and suggest some mitigation measures.
(v) When can developmental activities become the cause of disasters?
Prepare a project report on any one of the topics given below.
(i) Malpa Landslide
(ii) Tsunami

(v) Tehri Dam/Sardar Sarovar

(vi) Bhuj/Latur Earthquakes

(iii) Orissa and Gujarat Cyclones (vii) Life in a delta/riverine island

(iv) Inter-linking of rivers

(viii) Prepare a model of rooftop rainwater








Andhra Pradesh



Arunachal Pradesh




No. of

Area in sq. km
































Gandhi Nagar











Himachal Pradesh






Jammu and Kashmir























Madhya Pradesh
























































Tamil Nadu












Dehra Dun





Uttar Pradesh






West Bengal








Union Territories





Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Daman and Diu
NCT Delhi

Port Blair
* Delhi




: * Delhi has the status of National Capital Territory with a Legislative Assembly
** Pondicherry also has a Legislative Assembly
Source :
India-2005, A Reference Annual, Publications Division, Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting




Indus (in India)

Ganga (in India)
Brahmaputra (in India)
Barak and others
Flowing to Meghna
Brahmani and Baitarni

(in km)

Area (sq. km)
Discharge in the
River (km3)

Excluding the



















Medium river basins flowing

{ towards the east and west directions





Andhra Pradesh


Forest Cover









Arunachal Pradesh












































Himachal Pradesh


























Madhya Pradesh





































































Jammu & Kashmir


Uttar Pradesh












West Bengal











Andaman & Nicobar




Dadra & Nagar Haveli






Daman & Diu


















Source : State Forest Report, 2001




Andhra Pradesh

Area of State

National Parks

Area Covered

% of
State Area




Arunachal Pradesh

































Himachal Pradesh
Jammu and Kashmir










Madhya Pradesh










































Tamil Nadu





Uttar Pradesh




West Bengal






Union Territories
Andaman and Nicobar
Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Daman & Diu


Source: State Forest Report, 2001



Alluvial Plain : A level tract of land made up of alluvium or fine rock material brought
down by a river.
Archipelago : A group of islands that lie in fairly close proximity.
Arid : Denoting any climate or region in which the rainfall is insufficient or barely
sufficient to support vegetation.
Backwater : A stretch of water that has become bypassed by the main flow of a
stream, although still joined to it. It has a very low rate of flow.
Bedrock : The solid rock lying beneath soil and weathered material.
Biosphere Reserve : These are multi-purpose protected areas, where every plant
and animal size is to be protected in its natural habitat. Its major objectives are :
(i) to conserve and maintain diversity and integrity of the natural heritage in its full
form, i.e. physical environment, the flora and the fauna; (ii) to promote research on
ecological conservation and other aspects of environment at preservation; (iii) to provide
facilities for education, awareness and explaining.
Bunding : The practice of constructing embankments of earth or stone for conserving
water and soil to increase crop production.
Calcareous : Composed of or containing a high proportion of calcium carbonate.
Catchment Area : The area drained by a major river and its tributaries.
Climate : The average weather conditions of a sizeable area of the earths surface
over a period of time (usually spread over a span of at least 30 years).
Coast : The boundary between land and sea. It includes the strip of land that borders
the sea shore.
Coastal Plain : It is a flat low lying land between the coast and higher ground inland.
Conservation : The protection of natural environment and natural resources for the
future. It includes the management of minerals, landscape, soil and forests to prevent
their destruction and over exploitation.
Coral : It is a small calcium secreting marine polyp that occurs in colonies, mainly in
warm shallow sea water. It forms the coral reefs.
Depression : In meteorology; it denotes an area of relatively low atmospheric pressure,
which is found mainly in temperate regions. It is also used as synonym for temperate
Estuary : The tidal mouth of a river where fresh and saline water get mixed.
Fauna : The animal life of a given area or time.
Fold : A bend in rock strata resulting from compression of an area of the earths
Glacier : A mass of snow and ice that moves slowly away from its place of accumulation
carving gradually a broad and steepsided valley on its way.
Gneiss : A coarse grained metamorphic rock with a banded structure. It is formed by
the large scale application of heat and pressure associated with mountain building
and volcanic activity.
Gorge : A deep valley with steep and rocky side walls.



Gully Erosion : It is the erosion of the soil and rock by the concentration of runoff into
Humus : The dead organic content of the soil.
Island : A mass of land that is surrounded by water and is smaller than a continent.
Jet Stream : A very strong and steady westerly wind blowing just below the tropopause.
Lake : A body of water that lives in a hollow in the earths surface and is entirely
surrounded by land.
Landslide : A form of mass movement in which rock and debris moves rapidly
downslope under the influence of gravity as a result of failure along a shear plane.
Meander : A pronounced curve or loop in the course of a river channel.
Monsoon : A complete reversal of winds over a large area leading to a change of
National Park : A National park is an area which is strictly reserved for the protection
of the wildlife and where activities such as forestry, grazing or cultivation are not
Pass : A route through a mountain range which follows the line of a col or a gap.
Peninsula : A piece of land jutting out into the sea.
Plain : An extensive area of flat or gently undulating land.
Plateau : An extensive elevated area of relatively flat land.
Playa : The low flat central area of a basin of inland drainage. Playas occur in areas
of low rainfall.
Protected Forest : An area notified under the provisions of Indian Forest Act or the
State Forest Acts having limited degree of protection. In Protected Forests, all activities
are permitted unless prohibited.
Rapids : A stretch of swift flowing water where a river bed suddenly becomes steeper
due to the presence of hard rocks.
Reserved Forest : An area notified under the provisions of Indian Forest Act or the
State Forest Acts having full degree of protection. In Reserved Forests, all activities
are prohibited unless permitted.
Sanctuary : A sanctuary is an area, which is reserved for the conservation of animals
only and operations such as harvesting of timber, collection of minor forest products
are allowed so long as they do not affect the animals adversely.
Soil Profile : It is the vertical section of soil from the ground surface to the parent
Subcontinent : A big geographical unit which stands out distinctly from the rest of
the continent.
Terai : A belt of marshy ground and vegetation on the lower parts of the alluvial fans.
Tectonic : Forces originating within the earth and responsible for bringing widespread
changes in the landform features.
Unclassed Forest : An area recorded as forest but not included in reserved or protected
forest category. Ownership status of such forests varies from state to state.


Introduction to Maps

Map Scale


Latitude, Longitude and Time


Map Projections


Topographical Maps


Introduction To Aerial Photographs


Introduction To Remote Sensing
Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts



Introduction to Maps

Chapter 1

Introduction to Maps
You may be familiar with
maps that you have seen in
most of your books of social
sciences representing the
earth or any of its parts.
You may also know that the
shape of the earth is geoid
(three-dimensional) and a
globe can best represent it
(Fig. 1.1). A map, on the
other hand, is a simplified
depiction of whole or part
of the earth on a piece of
paper. In other words, it is
a two-dimensional form of

Figure 1.1 India as it is seen on the globe

the three-dimensional
earth. Hence, a map can be
drawn using a system of

map projections (see

Chapter 4). As it is impossible to represent all features of the earths
surface in their true size and form, a map is drawn at a reduced
scale. Imagine your school campus. If a plan/map of your school is
to be drawn in its actual size, it will be as large as the campus itself.
Hence, maps are drawn at a scale and projection so that each point
on the paper corresponds to the actual ground position. Besides,
the representation of different features is also simplified using
symbols, colours and shades. A map is, therefore, defined as
selective, symbolised and generalised representation of whole or a

Practical Work in Geography

Figure 1.2 Sketch of the Environs of Delhi (Left) and a Map of Delhi (Right)

Cadastral Map : A large-scale map drawn at a scale of 1 : 500 to 1 : 4000 to show property
boundaries, designating each parcel of land with a number.
Cardinal Points : North (N), South (S), East (E) and West (W).
Cartography : Art, science and technology of making maps, charts, plans and other modes
of graphical expression as well as their study and use.
Generalisation-Map : A simplified representation of the features on the map, appropriate
to its scale or purpose, without affecting their visual form.
Geoid : An oblate spheroid whose shape resembles the actual shape of the Earth.
Map : A selective, symbolised and generalised representation of the whole or part of the
earth at a reduced scale.
Map series : A group of maps produced at same scale, style and specifications for a country
or a region.
Projection-Map : The system of the transformation of the spherical surface onto a plane
Scale : The ratio between the distances of two points on the map, plan or photograph and
the actual distance between the same two points on the ground.
Sketch Map : A simplified map drawn freehand which fails to preserve the true scale or

Introduction to Maps

part of the earth's surface on a plane surface at a reduced scale. It may

also be understood that a simple network of lines and polygons without
a scale shall not be called a map. It is only referred to as the sketch
(Fig. 1.2). In the present chapter, we will study the essential requirements
of maps, their types and the uses.




In view of the variety of maps, we may find it difficult to summarise

what they all have in common. Cartography, being an art and science of
map-making, does include a series of processes that are common to all
the maps. These processes that may also be referred to as essentials of
maps are :

Map Projection

Map Generalisation

Map Design
Map Construction and Production

Scale: We know that all maps are reductions. The first decision that a
map-maker has to take is about the scale of the map. The choice of scale
is of utmost importance. The scale of a map sets limits of information
contents and the degree of reality with which it can be delineated on the
map. For example, figure 1.3 provides a comparison between maps having
different scales and the improvements made thereupon with the change
in scale.

Projection: We also know that maps are a simplified representation

of the three-dimensional surface of the earth on a plane sheet of paper.
The transformation of all-side-curved-geoidal surface into a plane surface
is another important aspect of the cartographic process. We should know
that such a radical transformation introduces some unavoidable changes
in directions, distances, areas and shapes from the way they appear on
a geoid. A system of transformation of the spherical surface to the plane
surface is called a map projection. Hence, the choice, utilisation and
construction of projections is of prime importance in map-making.

Practical Work in Geography

A Portion of Sheet NH 43

A Portion of Sheet 53 H/2

A Portion of Sheet 53 H

A Portion of Guide Map

Figure 1.3 Effect of Scale on Mapped Information

Introduction to Maps

Generalisation: Every map is drawn with a definite objective. For

example, a general purpose map is drawn to show information of a general
nature such as relief, drainage, vegetation, settlements, means of
transportation, etc. Similarly, a special purpose map exhibits information
pertaining to one or more selected themes like population density, soil
types or location of industries. It is, therefore, necessary to carefully
plan the map contents while the purpose of the map must be kept in the
forefront. As maps are drawn at a reduced scale to serve a definite
purpose, the third task of a cartographer is to generalise the map
contents. In doing so, a cartographer must select the information (data)
relevant to the selected theme and simplify it as per the needs.

Map Design: The fourth important task of a cartographer is the map

design. It involves the planning of graphic characteristics of maps
including the selection of appropriate symbols, their size and form, style
of lettering, specifying the width of lines, selection of colours and shades,
arrangement of various elements of map design within a map and design
for map legend. The map design is, therefore, a complex aspect of mapmaking and requires thorough understanding of the principles that
govern the effectiveness of graphic communication.

Map Construction and Production: The drawing of maps and

their reproduction is the fifth major task in the cartographic process. In
earlier times, much of the map construction and reproduction work
used to be carried out manually. Maps were drawn with pen and ink
and printed mechanically. However, the map construction and
reproduction has been revolutionalised with the addition of computer
assisted mapping and photo-printing techniques in the recent past.




The history of map making is as old as the history of mankind itself. The
oldest map was found in Mesopotamia drawn on a clay tablet that belongs
to 2,500 B.C. Figure 1.4 shows Ptolemys Map of the World. Greek and
the Arab geographers laid the foundation of modern cartography. The
measurement of the circumference of the Earth and the use of the system
of geographical coordinates in map-making are some of the significant
contributions of the Greeks and the Arabs. The art and science of map

Practical Work in Geography

making was revitalised in early

modern period, with extensive
efforts made to minimise the

effects of the transformation of

the geoid onto a plane surface.
The maps were drawn on different
projections to obtain true
directions, correct distances and
to measure area accurately. The
aerial photography supplemented
Figure 1.4 Ptolemys Map of the World

the ground method of survey and

the uses of aerial photographs
stimulated map-making in the



The foundation of map-making in India was laid during the Vedic

period when the expressions of astronomical truths and cosmological
revelations were made. The expressions were crystallised into sidhantas'
or laws in classical treaties of Arya Bhatta, Varahamihira and Bhaskara,
and others. Ancient Indian scholars divided the known world into seven
dwipas (Fig. 1.5). Mahabharata conceived a round world surrounded
by water (Fig. 1.6).

Todarmal pioneered land

Figure 1.5 Seven Dwipas of the World

as conceived in Ancient

Figure 1.6 Round World surrounded by

water as conceived in

Introduction to Maps

surveying and map-making as an integral part of the revenue collection

procedure. Besides, Sher Shah Suris revenue maps further enriched
the mapping techniques during the medieval period. The intensive
topographical surveys for the preparation of uptodate maps of the
entire country, were taken up with the setting up of the Survey of India
in 1767, which culminated with the map of Hindustan in 1785. Today,
the Survey of India produces maps at different scales for the entire

Types of Maps Based on Scale: On the basis of scale, maps may

be classified into large-scale and small-scale. Large scale maps are drawn
to show small areas at a relatively large-scale. For example, the
topographical maps drawn at a scale of 1: 250,000, 1:50,000 or 1:25,000
and the village maps, the zonal plans of the cities and house plans
prepared on a scale of 1:4,000, 1:2,000 and 1:500 are large scale maps.
On the other hand, small-scale maps are drawn to show large areas.
For example, atlas maps, wall maps, etc.
(i) Large-scale Maps: Large-scale maps are further divided into the
following types :
(a) Cadastral maps
(b) Topographical maps
(a) Cadastral Maps : The term cadastral is derived from the French
word cadastre meaning register of territorial property. These maps are
drawn to show the ownership of landed property by demarcating field
boundaries of agricultural land and the plan of individual houses in
urban areas. The cadastral maps are prepared by the government
agencies to realise revenue and taxes, along with keeping a record of
ownership. These maps are drawn on a very large scale, such as the
cadastral maps of villages at 1 : 4,000 scale and the city plans at a scale
of 1 : 2,000 and larger.
(b) Topographical Maps : These maps are also prepared on a fairly large
scale. The topographical maps are based on precise surveys and are
prepared in the form of series of maps made by the national mapping
agencies of almost all countries of the world (Chapter 5). For example,
the Survey of India undertakes the topographical mapping of the entire
country at 1 : 250,000, 1 : 50,000 and 1 : 25,000 scale (Fig. 1.3). These
maps follow uniform colours and symbols to show topographic details
such as relief, drainage, agricultural land, forest, settlements, means of

Practical Work in Geography

communication, location of schools, post offices and other services and

(ii) Small-scale Maps: Small-scale maps are further divided into the
following types :
(a) Wall Maps
(b) Atlas Maps
(a) Wall Maps : These maps are generally drawn on large size paper or
on plastic base for use in classrooms or lecture halls. The scale of wall
maps is generally smaller than the scale of topographical maps but
larger than atlas maps.
(b) Atlas Maps : Atlas maps are very small-scale maps. These maps
represent fairly large areas and present highly generalised picture of the
physical or cultural features. Even so, an atlas map serves as a graphic
encyclopaedia of the geographical information about the world,
continents, countries or regions. When consulted properly, these maps
provide a wealth of generalised information regarding location, relief,
drainage, climate, vegetation, distribution of cities and towns, population,
location of industries, transport-network system, tourism and heritage
sites, etc.

Types of Maps Based on Function: The maps may also be

classified on the basis of their functions. For example, a political map
serves the function of providing administrative divisions of a continent
or a country and a soil map shows the distribution of different types of
soils. Broadly, maps based on their functions may be classified into
physical maps and cultural maps.
(i) Physical Maps: Physical maps show natural features such as relief,
geology, soils, drainage, elements of weather, climate and vegetation,
(a) Relief Maps: Relief maps show general topography of an area like
mountains and valleys, plains, plateaus and drainage. Figure 1.7 shows
the relief and slope map of Nagpur district.
(b) Geological Maps: These maps are drawn to show geological structures,
rock types, etc. Figure 1.8 shows the distribution of rocks and minerals
in Nagpur district.
(c) Climatic Maps : These maps depict climatic regions of an area.
Besides, maps are also drawn to show the distribution of temperature,

Introduction to Maps

Figure 1.7 Relief and Slope Map of Nagpur District

Figure 1.8 Distribution of Rocks and Minerals in Nagpur District

Practical Work in Geography


Figure 1.9 Map showing Climatic Conditions of Nagpur District

Figure 1.10 Soils of Nagpur District

Introduction to Maps

rainfall, cloudiness, relative humidity, direction and velocity of winds

and other elements of weather (Fig 1.9).
(d) Soil Maps : Maps are also drawn to show the distribution of different
types of soil(s) and their properties (Fig. 1.10).
(ii) Cultural Maps: Cultural maps show man-made features. These
include a variety of maps showing population distribution and growth,
sex and age, social and religious composition, literacy, levels of
educational attainment, occupational structure, location of settlements,
facilities and services, transportation lines and production, distribution
and flow of different commodities.
(a) Political Maps : These maps show the administrative divisions of an
area such as country, state or district. These maps facilitate the
administrative machinery in planning and management of the concerned
administrative unit.
(b) Population Maps: The population maps are drawn to show the
distribution, density and growth of population, age and sex composition,


Figure 1.11 Nagpur District : Distribution of Population

Practical Work in Geography

distribution of religious, linguistic and social groups, occupational


structure of the population, etc. (Fig 1.11 on previous page). Population

maps serve the most significant role in the planning and development of
an area.
(c) Economic Maps: Economic maps depict production and distribution
of different types of crops and minerals, location of industries and
markets, routes for trade and flow of commodities. Figures 1.12 and
1.13 show the land use and cropping patterns and the location of
industries in Nagpur district respectively.

Figure 1.12 Land use and Cropping Patterns in Nagpur District

(d) Transportation Maps: These maps show roads, railway lines and the
location of railway stations and airports.

Introduction to Maps

Figure 1.13 Location of Industries in Nagpur District




Geographers, planners and other resource scientists use maps. In doing

so, they make various types of measurements to determine distances,
directions and area.

Measurement of Distance: The linear features shown on the maps

fall into two broad categories, i.e. straight lines and erratic or zigzag
lines. The measurement of straight line features like roads, railway lines
and canals is simple. It can be taken directly with a pair of dividers or a
scale placed on the map surface. However, distances are required, more
often, along erratic paths, i.e. the coastlines, rivers and streams. The
distances along all such features can be measured by placing a thread
at the starting point and carrying it along the line up to the end point.
The thread is then stretched and measured to determine the distance. It
can also be measured by using a simple instrument called Rotameter.


Practical Work in Geography

The wheel of the 'rotameter' is

moved along the route to measure
the distance.


Measurement of Direction:
Direction is defined as an
imaginary straight line on the map
showing the angular position to a
common base direction. The line
pointing to the north is zero
direction or the base direction line.
A map always shows the north
direction. All other directions are
determined in to this relation. The
north direction enables the mapuser to locate different features
with respect to each other. The four
commonly known directions are
Figure 1.14 Cardinal and Intermediate Directions

North, South, East and West. These

are also called the cardinal points.
In between the cardinal points, one
may have several intermediate
directions (Fig. 1.14).

Measurement of Area: The measurement of area of features like

that of administrative and geographic units is also carried out over the
surface of the map by map-users. There are different methods in which
areas can be determined. One of the simplest but not very accurate
method to determine the area is by means of regular pattern of squares.
In this method, the area to be measured is covered by squares by placing
a sheet of graph paper beneath the map on an illuminated tracing table
or by tracing the area onto the square sheet. The total number of 'whole
squares' are summed up, together with 'partial squares'. The area is
then determined by a simple equation :

Sum of whole squares + Sum of partial squares x Map Scale


The area can also be calculated by using a fixed area polar planimeter
(Box 1.1).

Introduction to Maps

Box 1.1 Measurement of Area using Polar Planimeter

The area calculation is also carried out using
Polar Planimeter. In this instrument, a
measure is made of the movement of a rod
whose locus is constrained by having one end
fixed to a radial arc. The area to be measured
is traced along its perimeter in a clockwise
direction with an index mark, starting from
one convenient point to which the index of
the tracing arm must exactly return.
Reading on the dial, before and after the
tracing of areas perimeter, will give a value
in instrumental units. These readings are
multiplied by the same constant for the
particular instrument to convert into areas
in square inches or centimetres.

1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below:
i) Which one of the following is essential for the network of lines
and polygons to be called a map ?
(a) Map Legend
(b) Symbols
(c) North Direction
(d) Map Scale
ii) A map bearing a scale of 1 : 4000 and larger is called :
(a) Cadastral map
(b) Topographical map
(c) Wall map
(d) Atlas map
iii) Which one of the following is NOT an essential element of maps ?
(a) Map Projection
(b) Map Generalisation
(c) Map Design
(d) History of Maps


Practical Work in Geography

2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words:

(i) What is map generalisation ?


(ii) Why is map design important ?

(iii) What are different types of small-scale maps ?
(iv) List out two major types of large-scale maps ?
(v) How is a map different from a sketch ?
3. Write an explanatory account of types of maps.

Map Scale

Chapter 2

Map Scale
You have read in Chapter 1 that the scale is an essential element of
all types of maps. It is so important that if a network of lines and
polygons does not carry a scale, we call it a sketch. Why is the
scale so important ? What does it mean ? What are the different
methods of showing the scale on a map? How useful is the scale in
measuring the distances and the area? These are some of the
questions which will be taken up in the present chapter.
Denominator: The number below the line in a fraction. For example, in a fraction
of 1 : 50,000, 50,000 is the denominator.
Numerator: The number above the line in a fraction. For example, in a fraction of
1 : 50,000, 1 is the numerator.
Representative Fraction: A method of scale of a map or plan expressed as a
fraction showing the ratio between a unit distance on the map or plan, and the
distance measured in the same units on the ground.

What is Scale ?
You must have seen maps with a scale bar indicating equal divisions,
each marked with readings in kilometres or miles. These divisions
are used to find out the ground distance on the map. In other
words, a map scale provides the relationship between the map and
the whole or a part of the earths surface shown on it. We can also
express this relationship as a ratio of distances between two points
on the map and the corresponding distance between the same two
points on the ground.


Practical Work in Geography

There are at least three ways in which this relationship can be


expressed. These are:

1. Statement of Scale
2. Representative Fraction (R. F.)
3. Graphical Scale
Each of these methods of scale has advantages and limitations. But
before taking up these issues, let us understand that the scale is normally
expressed in one or the other system of measurement. You must have
read and/or used kilometre, metre, centimetre etc. to measure the linear
distances between two points on the ground. You might have also heard
of miles, furlongs, yards, feet, etc. These are two different systems of
measurement of the distances used in different countries of the world.
Whereas the former system is referred to as the Metric System of
Measurement and presently used in India and many other countries of
the world, the latter system is known as the English System of
Measurement and is prevalent in both the United States and the United
Kingdom. India also used this system for measuring/showing linear
distances before 1957. The units of measurement of these systems are
given in Box 2.1.




As mentioned above, the scale of the map may be expressed using one
or a combination of more than one methods of scale. Let us see how
these methods are used and what are their advantages and limitations.

Box 2.1 Systems of Measurements

Metric System of Measurement
1 km

1000 Metres

1 Metre

100 Centimetres

1 Centimetre

10 Millimetres

English System of Measurement

1 Mile

8 Furlongs

1 Furlong

220 Yards

1 Yard

3 feet

1 Foot

12 Inches

Map Scale

1. Statement of Scale: The scale of a map may be indicated in the

form of a written statement. For example, if on a map a written statement
appears stating 1 cm represents 10 km, it means that on that map a
distance of 1 cm is representing 10 km of the corresponding ground
distance. It may also be expressed in any other system of measurement,
i.e. 1 inch represents 10 miles. It is the simplest of the three methods.
However, it may be noted that the people who are familiar with one
system may not understand the statement of scale given in another
system of measurement. Another limitation of this method is that if the
map is reduced or enlarged, the scale will become redundant and a new
scale is to be worked out.
2. Graphical or Bar Scale:

The second type of scale shows map

distances and the corresponding ground distances using a line bar with
primary and secondary divisions marked on it. This is referred to as the
graphical scale or bar scale (Fig. 2.1). It may be noted that the scale
readings as shown on the bar scale in Figure 2.1 reads only in kilometres
and metres. In yet another bar scale the readings may be shown in
miles and furlongs. Hence, like the statement of scale method, this
method also finds restricted use for only those who can understand it.
However, unlike the statement of the scale method, the graphical scale
stands valid even when the map is reduced or enlarged. This is the
unique advantage of the graphical method of the map scale.

Figure 2.1

3. Representative Fraction ( R. F. ): The third type of scale is R.

F. It shows the relationship between the map distance and the
corresponding ground distance in units of length. The use of units to
express the scale makes it the most versatile method.
R. F. is generally shown in fraction because it shows how much the
real world is reduced to fit on the map. For example, a fraction of 1 :
24,000 shows that one unit of length on the map represents 24,000 of
the same units on the ground i.e. one mm, one cm or one inch


Practical Work in Geography

on the map representing 24,000 mm, 24,000 cm and 24,000 inches,

respectively of the ground. It may, however, be noted that while converting


the fraction of units into Metric or English systems, units in centimetre or

inch are normally used by convention. This quality of expressing scale in
units in R. F. makes it a universally acceptable and usable method. Let us
take R. F. of 1 : 36,000 to elaborate the universal nature of R. F.
If the given scale is 1: 36,000, a person acquainted with the Metric
System will read the given units by converting them into cm, i.e. the
distance of 1 unit on the map as 1 cm and the distance of 36,000 units
on the ground distance as 36,000 cm. These values may subsequently
be converted into a statement of scale, i.e. 1 cm represents 360 metres.
(by dividing values in denominator by the number of centimetres in a
metre, i.e. 100). Yet another user of the map familiar with the English
system of measurement will understand the map scale by converting it
into a statement of scale convenient to him/her and read the map scale
as 1 inch represents 1,000 yards. The said statement of scale will be
obtained by dividing 36,000 units in the denominator by 36 (number of
inches in a yard).




If you have carefully read the advantages and limitations of the different
methods of scale, then it will not be difficult for you to convert the
Statement of Scale into Representative Fraction and vice-versa.

Statement of Scale into R. F.


Convert the given Statement of Scale of 1 inch represents

4 miles into R. F.


The given Statement of Scale may be converted into R. F.

using the following steps.
1 inch represents 4 miles


1 inch represents 4 x 63,360 inches (1 mile = 63,360



1 inch represents 253,440 inches

We can now replace the character inches into units
and read it as :
1 unit represents 253,440 Units


R. F. 1 : 253, 440

Map Scale

R. F. into Statement of Scale


Convert R. F. 1 : 253, 440 into Statement of Scale (In

Metric System)


The given R. F. of 1 : 253, 440 may be converted into

Statement of Scale using the following steps :
1 : 253, 440 means that
1 unit on the map represents 253, 440 units on the ground.


1 cm represents 253, 440/100,000 (1 km = 100,000



1 cm represents 2.5344 km
After rounding of up to 2 decimals, the answer will be :


1 cm represents 2.53 km

Construction of the Graphical/Bar Scale

Problem 1

Construct a graphical scale for a map drawn at a scale of

1 : 50,000 and read the distances in kilometre and metre.


By convention, a length of nearly 15 cm is taken to draw

a graphical scale.

Calculations To get the length of line for the graphical scale, these
steps may be followed:
1 : 50,000 means that
1 unit of the map represents 50,000 units on the ground

1 cm represents 50,000 cm


15 cm represents 50,000 x 15/100,000 km


15 cm represents 7.5 km

Since the value of 7.5 (km) is not a round number, we can choose 5
or 10 (km) as the round number. In the present case, we choose 5 as the
round number.
To determine the length of the line to show 5 km, the following
calculations are to be carried out:
7.5 km is represented by a line of 15 cm
5 km will be represented by a line of 15 x 5/7.5

5 km will be represented by a line of 10 cm

Construction The graphical scale may be constructed by following

these steps:
Draw a straight line of 10 cm and divide it into 5 equal parts and assign
a value of 1 km each for 4 right side divisions from the 0 mark. Also
divide the extreme left side division into 10 equal parts and mark each


Practical Work in Geography

division by a value of 100 metres, beginning from 0. (You may also divide


it into 2, 4, or 5 parts and assign a value of 500, 250, or 200 metres to

each of the subdivisions respectively from 0.

Figure 2.2

Problem 2

Construct a graphical scale when the given Statement

of Scale is 1 inch representing 1 mile and read the
distances in miles and furlongs.


By convention, a length of nearly 6 inches is taken to


draw a graphical scale.

To get the length of line for the graphical scale, these
steps may be followed:
1 inch represents 1 mile
or 6 inches represents 6 miles


The graphical scale may be constructed in the following

Draw a straight line of 6 inches and divide it into 6 equal parts and
assign a value of 1 mile each for 5 right side divisions. Also divide the
extreme left side division into 4 equal parts and mark each division by a
value of 2 miles each, beginning from 0.

Figure 2.3

Problem 3

Construct a graphical scale when the given R. F. is 1 :

50,000 and read the distances in miles and furlongs.


To get the length of the line for the graphical scale,

these steps may be followed:
1 : 50,000 means that
1 unit represents 50,000 units
or 1 inch represents 50,000 inches.
or 6 represents 50,000 x 6/63,360 miles

6 represents 4.73 miles

Map Scale

Since a figure of 4.73 (miles) is not a round number, we take 5 as the

round number.
To determine the length of the line to show 5 km, the following
calculations are to be carried out :
4.73 miles are represented by a line of 6 inches
5 miles will be represented by a line of 6 x 5/4.73

5 miles will be represented by a line of 6.34 inches

The graphical scale may be constructed in the following

To construct a graphical scale to show 5 miles we need to draw a line of

6.34 inches and divide it into 5 equal parts. The question is how can an
unequal line of 6.3 inches be divided into 5 equal parts. To do so we can
use the following procedure:
Draw a straight line of 6.3 inches.
Draw lines at an angle of 400 or 450 from the start and end

nodes of the lines and divide them into 5 equal parts of 1 or

1.5 inches each.
Draw dotted lines joining the divisions marked on the two lines.

Mark the intersections of these lines at the primary scale.

By doing so, you will divide the unequal line of 6.3 inches into 5
equal parts. You can repeat the same way to divide the extreme left part
on the primary scale into 4 or 8 parts to show the number of furlongs
that are equivalent to 1 mile.

Figure 2.4 Drawing of equal divisions in a graphical scale

Practical Work in Geography

1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below:



Which one of the following methods of scale is a universal method?

(a) Simple Statement
(b) Representative Fraction
(c) Graphical Scale


(d) None of the above

Map distance in a scale is also known as:
(a) Numerator
(b) Denominator
(c) Statement of Scale
(d) Representative Fraction


Numerator in scale represents:

(a) Ground distance
(b) Map distance
(c) Both the distances
(d) None of the above

2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words:

(i) What are the two different systems of measurement?
(ii) Give one example each of statement of scale in Metric and English
(iii) Why is the Representative Fraction method called a Universal
(iv) What are the major advantages of the graphical method?
3. Convert the given Statement of Scale into Representative Fraction
(R. F.).
(i) 5 cm represents 10 km
(ii) 2 inches represents 4 miles
(iii) 1 inch represents 1 yard
(iv) 1 cm represents 100 metres
4. Convert the given Representative Fraction (R. F.) into Statement of
Scale in the System of Measurement shown in parentheses:
(i) 1 : 100,000 (into km)
(ii) 1 : 31680 (into furlongs)

Map Scale

(iii) 1 : 126,720 (into miles)

(iv) 1 : 50,000 (into metres)

Construct a graphical scale when the given R. F. is 1 : 50,000 and

read the distances in kilometre and metre.


Practical Work in Geography


Chapter 3

Latitude, Longitude and

THE EARTH is nearly a sphere. It is because of the fact that the
equatorial radius and the polar radius of the earth is not the same.
The rotation of the earth over its axis produces bulging at the equator.
Hence, the actual shape resembles that of an oblate spheroid. The
shape of the earth presents some difficulties in positioning its surface
features, as there is no point of reference from which to measure the
relative positions of other points. Hence, a network of imaginary lines
is drawn on a globe or a map to locate various places. Let us find out
what are these lines and how are they drawn.
The spinning of the earth on its axis from west to east provides
two natural points of reference, i.e. North and South Poles. They form
the basis for the geographical grid. A network of intersecting lines is
drawn for the purpose of fixing the locations of different features.
The grid consists of two sets of horizontal and vertical lines, which
are called parallels of latitudes and the meridians of longitudes.
Horizontal lines are drawn parallel to each other in east-west
direction. The line drawn midway between the North Pole and the
South Pole is called the equator. It is the largest circle and divides
the globe into two equal halves. It is also called a great circle. All the
other parallels get smaller in size, in proportion to their distance
from the equator towards the poles and divide the earth into two
unequal halves, also referred to as the small circles. These imaginary
lines running east-west are commonly known as the parallels of
The vertical lines running north-south, join the two poles. They
are called the meridians of longitude. They are spaced farthest apart
at the equator and converge at a point at each pole.

Latitude, Longitude and Time

The latitudes and longitudes are commonly referred to as geographical

coordinates as they provide systematic network of lines upon which the
position of various surface features of the earth, can be represented.
With the help of these coordinates, location, distance and direction of
various points can be easily determined.
Although an infinite number of parallels and meridians may be drawn
on a globe, only a selected number of them are usually drawn on a map.
Latitudes and longitudes are measured in degrees () because they
represent angular distances. Each degree is further divided into 60
minutes ( ) and each minute into 60 seconds ( ).

Parallels of Latitude : The parallels of latitude refer to the angular
distance, in degrees, minutes and seconds of a point north or south of
the Equator. Lines of latitude are often referred to as parallels.
Meridians of Longitude : The meridians of longitude refer to the angular
distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds, of a point east or west of
the Prime (Greenwich) Meridian. Lines of longitude are often referred to
as meridians.




The latitude of a place on the earths surface is its distance north or

south of the equator, measured along the meridian of that place as an
angle from the centre of the earth. Lines joining places with the same
latitudes are called parallels. The value of equator is 0 and the latitude
of the poles are 90N and 90S (Fig. 3.1 on the next page). If parallels of
latitude are drawn at an interval of one degree, there will be 89 parallels
in the northern and the southern hemispheres each. The total number
of parallels thus drawn, including the equator, will be 179. Depending
upon the location of a feature or a place north or south of the equator,
the letter N or S is written along with the value of the latitude.
If the earth were a perfect sphere, the length of 10 of latitude (a one
degree arc of a meridian) would be a constant value, i.e. 111 km
everywhere on the earth. This length is almost the same as that of a


Practical Work in Geography

degree of longitude at the equator. But to be precise,

a degree of latitude changes slightly in length from
the equator to the poles. While at the equator, it is


110.6 km at the poles, it is 111.7 km. Latitude of a

place may be determined with the help of the
altitude of the sun or the Pole Star.


How to draw the parallels of latitudes? Draw a circle
Figure 3.1 Parallels of Latitudes

and divide it into two equal halves by drawing a

horizontal line in the centre. This represents the
equator. Place a protractor on this circle in a way
that 0 and 180 line on the protractor coincide with
the equator on the paper. Now to draw 20S, mark
two points at an angle of 20 from the equator, east
and west in the lower half of the circle, as shown in
Fig. 3.2. The arms of the angle cut the circle at two
points. Join these two points by a line parallel to
the equator. It will be 200S.

Figure 3.2 Drawing of Parallels of



Unlike the parallels of latitude which are circles,

the meridians of longitude are semi-circles that
converge at the poles. If opposite meridians are taken
together, they complete a circle, but, they are valued
separately as two meridians.
The meridians intersect the equator at right
angles. Unlike the parallels of latitude, they are all
equal in length. For convenience of numbering, the
meridian of longitude passing through the
Greenwich observatory (near London) has been
adopted as the Prime Meridian by an international
agreement and has been given the value of 0.
The longitude of a place is its angular distance
east or west of the Prime Meridian. It is also measured
in degrees. The longitudes vary from 0 to 180

Latitude, Longitude and Time

eastward and westward of the Prime Meridian

(Fig. 3.3). The part of the earth east of the Prime
Meridian is called the eastern hemisphere and
in its west referred to as the western hemisphere.

Drawing the Meridians of Longitude

How to draw the lines of longitude? Draw a
circle whose centre represents the North Pole.
The circumference will represent the equator.
Draw a vertical line through the centre of the
circle, i.e. crossing the North Pole. This
represents the 0 and 180 meridians, which
meet at the North Pole (Fig. 3.4).
When you look at a map, the east is towards
your right and the west is towards your left.
However, to draw a longitude, imagine that you
are on the North Pole, i.e. at the centre of the
circle as shown in Fig. 3.4. Observe now that
the relative directions of east and west would
reverse in this case and east would be towards
your left while west would be towards your right.
Now, draw 45 E and W as shown in Fig. 3.5
For this, place your protractor along the vertical
line, coinciding with the 0 and 180 meridians
and then measure 45 on both the sides, which
will denote 45 E meridian and 45 W meridian
on your left and right, respectively. The diagram
will represent the appearance of the earth if we
look at it from directly above the North Pole.



Figure 3.3 Meridians of Longitude

Figure 3.4 Meridians of 00 and 1800

join at the North Pole


We all know that the earth rotates from west to

east over its axis. It makes the sun rise in the
east and set in the west. The rotation of the earth
over its axis takes 24 hours to complete one circle
or 360 of longitudes. As 180 of longitudes fall
both east and west of the Prime Meridian, the
sun, thus takes 12 hours time to traverse the

Figure 3.5 Drawing of Meridians of

Practical Work in Geography

Table 3.1 A Comparison between the Parallels of Latitudes and t

he Meridians of Longitudes


S. No.

Parallels of Latitude

Meridians of Longitude


Latitude is the angular

Longitude is the angular

distance of a point north or

south of the equator as

distance along the

equator measured in

measured in degrees.

degrees. It is measured
east or west of
Greenwich (0), from 0
to 180.


All latitudes are parallel

to the equator.

All meridians of
longitude converge at
the poles.


On a globe, parallels of
latitudes appear as circles.

All meridians of
longitude appear as
circles running through


The distance between two

the poles.
The distance between

latitudes is approximately

two longitudes is

111 km.

maximum at the
equator (111.3 km) and
minimum at the poles (0
km). Midway, at 450 of
latitude, it is 79 km.


The 00 latitude is referred to

There are 360 of

as the equator and the 90

as the poles.

longitude, 180 each in

the east and west of the
Prime Meridian.


The latitudes from the

equator to the poles are
used to demarcate
temperature zones, i.e. 0 to
23 north and south as the
torrid zone, 23 to 66
as the temperate zone and
66 to 90 as the frigid

The longitudes are used

to determine the local
time with reference to
the time at Prime

Latitude, Longitude and Time

eastern and western hemispheres. In other words, the sun traverses 150
of longitudes per hour or one degree of longitude in every four minutes of
time. It may further be noted that the time decreases when we move from
west to east and increases with our westward movement.
The rate of the time at which the sun traverses over certain degrees of
longitudes is used to determine the local time of an area with respect to
the time at the Prime Meridian (0Longitude). Let us try to understand
the question of the determination of time with respect to the Prime Meridian
with the following set of examples :
Example 1 : Determine the local time of Thimpu (Bhutan) located at 90
east longitude when the time at Greenwich (0) is 12.00 noon.
Statement : The time increases at a rate of 4 minutes per one degree of
longitude, east of the Prime Meridian.
Solution :
Difference between Greenwich and Thimpu = 90 of longitudes
Total Time difference = 90 x 4 = 360 minutes
= 360/60 hours
= 6 hours\Local time of Thimpu is 6 hours





i.e. 6.00 p.m.

Example 2 : Determine the local time of New Orleans (the place, which
was worst affected by Katrina Hurricane in October 2005), located at 900
West longitude when the time at Greenwich (00) is 12.00 noon.
Statement : The time decrease, at a rate of 4 minutes per one degree of
longitude, west of the prime meridian.
Solution :
Difference between Greenwich and New Orleans = 90 of longitudes
Total Time difference

= 90 x 4 = 360 minutes
= 360/60 hours

= 6 hours\Local time of New Orleans is 6 hours less than that at

Greenwich, i.e. 6.00 a. m.
In the same way, the time may be determined for any place in the
world. However, in order to maintain uniformity of time as far as possible
within the territorial limits of a country, the time at the central meridian of
the country is taken as the Standard Meridian and its local time is taken
as the standard time for the whole country. The Standard Meridian is
selected in a manner that it is divisible by 150 or 7 30 so that the difference


Practical Work in Geography

between its standard time and the Greenwich Mean Time may be


expressed as multiples of an hour or half an hour.

The Indian Standard Time is calculated from 8230E meridian passing
through Mirzapur. Therefore, IST is plus 5.30 hours from the GMT ((8230
x 4) (60 minutes=5 hours 30 minutes). Similarly, all countries of the world
choose the standard meridian within their territory to determine the time
within their administrative boundaries. The countries with large eastwest span may choose more than one standard meridian to get more than
one time zone such as Russia, Canada and the United States of America.
The world is divided into 24 major time zones (Fig. 3.6).

Figure 3.6 Major Time Zones of the World


While the world is divided into 24 time zones, there has to be a place
where there is a difference in days, somewhere the day truly starts on
the planet. The 180 line of longitude is approximately where the
International Date Line passes. The time at this longitude is exactly 12
hours from the 00 longitude, irrespective of one travels westward or
eastward from the Prime Meridian. We know that time decreases east of

Latitude, Longitude and Time

the Prime Meridian and increases to its west. Hence, for a person moving
east of the Prime Meridian, the time would be 12 hours less than the
time at 0 longitude. For another person moving westward, the time
would be 12 hours more than the Prime Meridian. For example, a person
moving eastward on Tuesday will count the day as Wednesday once the
International Date Line is crossed. Similarly, another person starting
his journey on the same day, but moving westward will count the day as
Monday after crossing the line.

1. Answer the following questions in about 30 words:
(i) Which are the two natural points of references on the earth?
(ii) What is a great circle?
(iii) What are coordinates?
(iv) Why does the sun appear to be moving from east to west?
(v) What is meant by local time?
2. Distinguish between latitudes and longitudes.

1. Find out the locations of the following places with the help of your
atlas and write their latitudes and longitudes.




(i) Mumbai
(ii) Vladivostok
(iii) Cairo
(iv) New York
(v) Ottawa
(vi) Geneva
(vii) Johannesburg
(viii) Sydney


Practical Work in Geography

2. What would be the time of the following cities if the time at Prime


Meridian is 10 a.m.
(i) Delhi
(ii) London
(iii) Tokyo
(iv) Paris
(v) Cairo
(vi) Moscow

Map Projections

Chapter 4

Map Projections
What is map projection? Why are map projections drawn? What
are the different types of projections? Which projection is most
suitably used for which area? In this chapter, we will seek the
answers of such essential questions.

Map projection is the method of transferring the graticule of latitude
and longitude on a plane surface. It can also be defined as the
transformation of spherical network of parallels and meridians on
a plane surface. As you know that, the earth on which we live in is
not flat. It is geoid in shape like a sphere. A globe is the best model
of the earth. Due to this property of the globe, the shape and sizes
of the continents and oceans are accurately shown on it. It also
shows the directions and distances very accurately. The globe is
divided into various segments by the lines of latitude and longitude.
The horizontal lines represent the parallels of latitude and the
vertical lines represent the meridians of the longitude. The network
of parallels and meridians is called graticule. This network facilitates
drawing of maps. Drawing of the graticule on a flat surface is
called projection.
But a globe has many limitations. It is expensive. It can neither
be carried everywhere easily nor can a minor detail be shown on it.
Besides, on the globe the meridians are semi-circles and the parallels
are circles. When they are transferred on a plane surface, they
become intersecting straight lines or curved lines.


Practical Work in Geography


The need for a map projection mainly arises to have a detailed study of a


region, which is not possible to do from a globe. Similarly, it is not easy to

compare two natural regions on a globe. Therefore, drawing accurate
large-scale maps on a flat paper is required. Now, the problem is how to
transfer these lines of latitude and longitude on a flat sheet. If we stick a
flat paper over the globe, it will not coincide with it over a large surface
without being distorted. If we throw light from the centre of the globe, we
get a distorted picture of the globe in those parts of paper away from the
line or point over which it touches the globe. The distortion increases
with increase in distance from the tangential point. So, tracing all the
properties like shape, size and directions, etc. from a globe is nearly
impossible because the globe is not a developable surface.
In map projection we try to represent a good model of any part of the
earth in its true shape and dimension. But distortion in some form or the
other is inevitable. To avoid this distortion, various methods have been
devised and many types of projections are drawn. Due to this reason,
map projection is also defined as the study of different methods which
have been tried for transferring the lines of graticule from the globe to a
flat sheet of paper.
Map projection: It is the system of transformation of the spherical
surface onto a plane surface. It is carried out by an orderly and
systematic representation of the parallels of latitude and the meridians
of longitude of the spherical earth or part of it on a plane surface on a
conveniently chosen scale.
Lexodrome or Rhumb Line: It is a straight line drawn on Mercators
projection joining any two points having a constant bearing. It is very
useful in determining the directions during navigation.
The Great Circle: It represents the shortest route between two points,
which is often used both in air and ocean navigation.
Homolograhic Projection: A projection in which the network of latitudes
and longitudes is developed in such a way that every graticule on the
map is equal in area to the corresponding graticule on the globe. It is
also known as the equal-area projection.
Orthomorphic Projection: A projection in which the correct shape of a
given area of the earths surface is preserved.

Map Projections




a. Reduced Earth: A model of the earth is represented by the help

of a reduced scale on a flat sheet of paper. This model is called the reduced
earth. This model should be more or less spheroid having the length of
polar diameter lesser than equatorial and on this model the network of
graticule can be transferred.

b. Parallels of Latitude: These are the circles running round the

globe parallel to the equator and maintaining uniform distance from the
poles. Each parallel lies wholly in its plane which is at right angle to the
axis of the earth. They are not of equal length. They range from a point at
each pole to the circumference of the globe at the equator. They are
demarcated as 0 to 90 North and South latitudes.

c. Meridians of Longitude: These are semi-circles drawn in northsouth direction from one pole to the other, and the two opposite meridians
make a complete circle, i.e. circumference of the globe. Each meridian lies
wholly in its plane, but all intersect at right angle along the axis of the
globe. There is no obvious central meridian but for convenience, an
arbitrary choice is made, namely the meridian of Greenwich, which is
demarcated as 0 longitudes. It is used as reference longitudes to draw
all other longitudes

d. Global Property: In preparing a map projection the following basic

properties of the global surface are to be preserved by using one or the
other methods:
(i) Distance between any given points of a region;
(ii) Shape of the region;
(iii) Size or area of the region in accuracy;
(iv) Direction of any one point of the region bearing to another point.




Map Projections may be classified on the following bases:

a. Drawing Techniques: On the basis of method of construction,

projections are generally classified into perspective, non-perspective and


Practical Work in Geography

conventional or mathematical. Perspective projections can be drawn


taking the help of a source of light by projecting the image of a network of

parallels and meridians of a globe on developable surface. Nonperspective
projections are developed without the help of a source of light or casting
shadow on surfaces, which can be flattened. Mathematical or conventional
projections are those, which are derived by mathematical computation,
and formulae and have little relations with the projected image.

b. Developable Surface: A developable surface is one, which can

be flattened, and on which, a network of latitude and longitude can be
projected. A non-developable surface is one, which cannot be flattened
without shrinking, breaking or creasing. A globe or spherical surface has
the property of non-developable surface whereas a cylinder, a cone and a
plane have the property of developable surface. On the basis of nature of
developable surface, the projections are classified as cylindrical, conical
and zenithal projections. Cylindrical projections are made through the
use of cylindrical developable surface. A paper-made cylinder covers the
globe, and the parallels and
meridians are projected on it. When
the cylinder is cut open, it provides a
cylindrical projection on the plane
sheet. A Conical projection is drawn
by wrapping a cone round the globe
and the shadow of graticule network
is projected on it. When the cone is
cut open, a projection is obtained on
a flat sheet. Zenithal projection is
directly obtained on a plane surface
when plane touches the globe at a
point and the graticule is projected
on it. Generally, the plane is so placed
on the globe that it touches the globe
at one of the poles. These projections
are further subdivided into normal,
oblique or polar as per the position
Figure 4.1 Conversions from a Globe to a flat
surface produces distortions in
area, shape and directions.

of the plane touching the globe. If the

developable surface touches the
globe at the equator, it is called the

Map Projections

Figure 4.2 A conical projection from a Globe to a Flat Map

equatorial or normal projection. If it is tangential to a point between the

pole and the equator, it is called the oblique projection; and if it is tangential
to the pole, it is called the polar projection.

c. Global Properties: As mentioned above, the correctness of area,

shape, direction and distances are the four major global properties to be
preserved in a map. But none of the projections can maintain all these
properties simultaneously. Therefore, according to specific need, a
projection can be drawn so that the desired quality may be retained. Thus,
on the basis of global properties, projections are classified into equal area,
orthomorphic, azimuthal and equi-distant projections. Equal Area
Projection is also called homolographic projection. It is that projection in
which areas of various parts of the earth are represented correctly.
Orthomorphic or True-Shape projection is one in which shapes of various
areas are portrayed correctly. The shape is generally maintained at the
cost of the correctness of area. Azimuthal or True-Bearing projection is
one on which the direction of all points from the centre is correctly
represented. Equi-distant or True Scale projection is that where the
distance or scale is correctly maintained. However, there is no such
projection, which maintains the scale correctly throughout. It can be


Practical Work in Geography

maintained correctly only along some selected parallels and meridians as

per the requirement.


d. Source of Light: On the basis of location of source of light,

projections may be classified as gnomonic, stereographic and
orthographic. Gnomonic projection is obtained by putting the light at the
centre of the globe. Stereographic projection is drawn when the source of
light is placed at the periphery of the globe at a point diametrically opposite
to the point at which the plane surface touches the globe. Orthographic
projection is drawn when the source of light is placed at infinity from the
globe, opposite to the point at which the plane surface touches the globe.


a. Conical Projection with one Standard Parallel
A conical projection is one, which is drawn by projecting the image of the
graticule of a globe on a developable cone, which touches the globe along a
parallel of latitude called the standard parallel. As the cone touches the
globe located along AB, the position of this parallel on the globe coinciding
with that on the cone is taken as the standard parallel. The length of other
parallels on either side of this parallel are distorted. (Fig. 4.3)
Construct a conical projection with one standard parallel for an area
bounded by 10 N to 70 N latitude and 10 E to 130 E longitudes when
the scale is 1:250,000,000 and latitudinal and longitudinal interval is 10.
Radius of reduced earth R =

= 2.56 cm

Standard parallel is 40 N (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70)

Central meridian is 70 E (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110,
120, 130)

Draw a circle or a quadrant of 2.56 cm radius marked with angles


COE as 10 interval and BOE and AOD as 40 standard parallel.

A tangent is extended from B to P and similarly from A to P, so
that AP and BP are the two sides of the cone touching the
globe and forming Standard Parallel at 40 N.

Map Projections


The arc distance CE represents the interval between parallels.


A semi-circle is drawn by taking this arc distance.

X-Y is the perpendicular drawn from OP to OB.


A separate line N-S is taken on which BP distance is drawn

representing standard parallel. The line NS becomes the central


Other parallels are drawn by taking arc distance CE on the


central meridian.
The distance XY is marked on the standard parallel at 40 for
drawing other meridians.

(viii) Straight lines are drawn by joining them with the pole.
1. All the parallels are arcs of concentric circle and are equally spaced.
2. All meridians are straight lines merging at the pole. The meridians
intersect the parallels at right angles.
3. The scale along all meridians is true, i.e. distances along the
meridians are accurate.
4. An arc of a circle represents the pole.
5. The scale is true along the standard parallel but exaggerated away
from the standard parallel.
6. Meridians become closer to each other towards the pole.
7. This projection is neither equal area nor orthomorphic.


Figure 4.3 Simple Conical Projection with one standard parallel

Practical Work in Geography



1. It is not suitable for a world map due to extreme distortions in the

hemisphere opposite the one in which the standard parallel is selected.
2. Even within the hemisphere, it is not suitable for representing larger
areas as the distortion along the pole and near the equator is larger.
1. This projection is commonly used for showing areas of mid-latitudes
with limited latitudinal and larger longitudinal extent.
2. A long narrow strip of land running parallel to the standard parallel
and having east-west stretch is correctly shown on this projection.
3. Direction along standard parallel is used to show railways, roads,
narrow river valleys and international boundaries.
4. This projection is suitable for showing the Canadian Pacific Railways,
Trans-Siberian Railways, international boundaries between USA and
Canada and the Narmada Valley.

b. Cylindrical Equal Area Projection

The cylindrical equal area projection, also known as the Lamberts
projection, has been derived by projecting the surface of the globe with
parallel rays on a cylinder touching it at the equator. Both the parallels
and meridians are projected as straight lines intersecting one another at
right angles. The pole is shown with a parallel equal to the equator; hence,
the shape of the area gets highly distorted at the higher latitude.
Construct a cylindrical equal area projection for the world when the R.F.
of the map is 1:300,000,000 taking latitudinal and longitudinal interval
as 15.
Radius of the reduced earth R =

Length of the equator 2R or

Interval along the equator =

= 2.1 cm

2 x 22 x 2.1
= 13.2cm

13.2 x15
= 0.55cm

Map Projections

(i) Draw a circle of 2.1 cm radius;
(ii) Mark the angles of 15, 30, 45, 60, 75 and 90 for both, northern
and southern hemispheres;
(iii) Draw a line of 13.2 cm and divide it into 24 equal parts at a distance
of 0.55cm apart. This line represents the equator;
(iv) Draw a line perpendicular to the equator at the point where 0 is
meeting the circumference of the circle;
(v) Extend all the parallels equal to the length of the equator from the
perpendicular line; and
(vi) Complete the projection as shown in fig 4.4 below:

Figure 4.4 Cylindrical Equal Area Projection

1. All parallels and meridians are straight lines intersecting each other
at right angle.
2. Polar parallel is also equal to the equator.
3. Scale is true only along the equator.
1. Distortion increases as we move towards the pole.
2. The projection is non-orthomorphic.
3. Equality of area is maintained at the cost of distortion in shape.
1. The projection is most suitable for the area lying between 45 N
and S latitudes.
2. It is suitable to show the distribution of tropical crops like rice,
tea, coffee, rubber and sugarcane.


Practical Work in Geography

c. Mercators Projection
A Dutch cartographer Mercator Gerardus Karmer developed this


projection in 1569. The projection is based on mathematical formulae.

So, it is an orthomorphic projection in which the correct shape is
maintained. The distance between parallels increases towards the pole.
Like cylindrical projection, the parallels and meridians intersect each other
at right angle. It has the characteristics of showing correct directions. A
straight line joining any two points on this projection gives a constant
bearing, which is called a Laxodrome or Rhumb line.
Draw a Mercators projection for the world map on the scale of
1:250,000,000 at 15 interval.
Radius of the reduced earth is R =

Length of the equator 2R or

Interval along the equator =

= 1" inch

= 6.28"inches

6.28 x15
= 0.26" inches


Draw a line of 6.28" inches representing the equator as EQ:

Divide it into 24 equal parts. Determine the length of each
division using the following formula:

Length of Equator X interval


Calculate the distance for latitude with the help of the table
given below:Latitude



0.265 x 1 = 0.265" inch


0.549 x 1 = 0.549" inch

0.881 x 1 = 0.881" inch


1.317 x 1 = 1.317" inches

2.027 x 1 = 2.027" inches
Complete the projection as shown in Fig. 4.5

Map Projections

Figure 4.5 Mercators Projection

1. All parallels and meridians are straight lines and they intersect
each other at right angles.
2. All parallels have the same length which is equal to the length of
3. All meridians have the same length and equal spacing. But they
are longer than the corresponding meridian on the globe.
4. Spacing between parallels increases towards the pole.
5. Scale along the equator is correct as it is equal to the length of the
equator on the globe; but other parallels are longer than the
corresponding parallel on the globe; hence the scale is not correct
along them. For example, the 30 parallel is 1.154 times longer
than the corresponding parallel on the globe.
6. Shape of the area is maintained, but at the higher latitudes
distortion takes place.
7. The shape of small countries near the equator is truly preserved
while it increases towards poles.
8. It is an azimuthal projection.
9. This is an orthomorphic projection as scale along the meridian is
equal to the scale along the parallel.
1. There is greater exaggeration of scale along the parallels and
meridians in high latitudes. As a result, size of the countries near


Practical Work in Geography

the pole is highly exaggerated. For example, the size of Greenland


equals to the size of USA, whereas it is 1/10th of USA.

2. Poles in this projection cannot be shown as 90 parallel and
meridian touching them are infinite.
1. More suitable for a world map and widely used in preparing atlas
2. Very useful for navigation purposes showing sea routes and air
3. Drainage pattern, ocean currents, temperature, winds and their
directions, distribution of worldwide rainfall and other weather
elements are appropriately shown on this map

Figure 4.6 Straight lines are Laxodromes or Rhumb lines and

Dotted lines are great circles

Map Projections

1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below:
(i) A map projection least suitable for the world map:
(a) Mercator
(b) Simple Cylindrical
(c) Conical
(d) All the above
(ii) A map projection that is neither the equal area nor the correct
shape and even the directions are also incorrect
(a) Simple Conical
(b) Polar zenithal
(c) Mercator
(d) Cylindrical
(iii) A map projection having correct direction and correct shape but
area greatly exaggerated polewards is
(a) Cylindrical Equal Area
(b) Mercator
(c) Conical
(d) All the above
(iv) When the source of light is placed at the centre of the globe, the
resultant projection is called
(a) Orthographic
(b) Stereographic
(c) Gnomonic
(d) All the above
2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words:
(i) Describe the elements of map projection.
(ii) What do you mean by global property?
(iii) Not a single map projection represents the globe truly. Why?
(iv) How is the area kept equal in cylindrical equal area projection?
3. Differentiate between
(i) Developable and non-developable surfaces
(ii) Homolographic and orthographic projections
(iii) Normal and oblique projections
(iv) Parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude


Practical Work in Geography

4. Answer the following questions in not more than 125 words:



Discuss the criteria used for classifying map projection and state
the major characteristics of each type of projection.


Which map projection is very useful for navigational purposes?


Explain the properties and limitations of this projection.

Discuss the main properties of conical projection with one standard
parallel and describe its major limitations.

Construct graticule for an area stretching between 30 N to 70 N and
40 E to 30 W on a simple conical projection with one standard parallel
with a scale of 1:200,000,000 and interval at an 10 apart.
Prepare graticule for a Cylindrical Equal Area Projection for the world
when R.F. is1: 150,000,000 and the interval is 15 apart.
Draw a Mercator Projection for the world map when the R.F. is
1:400,000,000 and the interval between the latitude and longitude is

Topographical Maps

Chapter 5
Topographical Maps
You know that the map is an important geographic tool. You also
know that maps are classified on the basis of scale and functions.
The topographical maps, which have been referred to in Chapter 1
are of utmost importance to geographers. They serve the purpose
of base maps and are used to draw all the other maps.
Topographical maps, also known as general purpose maps, are
drawn at relatively large scales. These maps show important natural
and cultural features such as relief, vegetation, water bodies,
cultivated land, settlements, and transportation networks, etc.
These maps are prepared and published by the National Mapping
Organisation of each country. For example, the Survey of India
prepares the topographical maps in India for the entire country.
The topographical maps are drawn in the form of series of maps at
different scales. Hence, in the given series, all maps employ the
same reference point, scale, projection, conventional signs, symbols
and colours.
The topographical maps in India are prepared in two series, i.e.
India and Adjacent Countries Series and The International Map
Series of the World.

India and Adjacent Countries Series: Topographical maps under

India and Adjacent Countries Series were prepared by the Survey
of India till the coming into existence of Delhi Survey Conference
in 1937. Henceforth, the preparation of maps for the adjoining
countries was abandoned and the Survey of India confined itself to
prepare and publish the topographical maps for India as per the
specifications laid down for the International Map Series of the
World. However, the Survey of India for the topographical maps


Practical Work in Geography

Contours: Imaginary lines joining all the points of equal elevation or


altitude above mean sea level. They are also called level lines.
Contour Interval: Interval between two successive contours. It is also
known as vertical interval, usually written as V. I. Generally, it is constant
for a given map.
Cross-section: A side view of the ground cut vertically along a straight
line. It is also known as a section or profile.
Hachures: Small straight lines drawn on the map along the direction of
maximum slope, running across the contours. They given an idea about
the differences in the slope of the ground.
Topographic Map: A map of a small area drawn on a large scale
depicting detailed surface features both natural and man made. Relief
in this map is shown by contours.

under the new series retained the numbering system and the layout plan
of the abandoned India and Adjacent Countries Series.
The topographical maps of India are prepared on 1 : 10,00,000,
1 : 250,000, 1 : 1,25,000, 1 : 50,000 and 1: 25,000 scale providing a
latitudinal and longitudinal coverage of 4 x 4, 1 x 1, 30' x 30', 15' x
15' and 5' x 7' 30", respectively. The numbering system of each one of
these topographical maps is shown in Fig. 5.1 (on page 51).

International Map Series of the World: Topographical Maps

under International Map Series of the World are designed to produce
standardised maps for the entire World on a scale of 1: 10,00,000 and

Reading of Topographical Maps: The study of topographical maps

is simple. It requires the reader to get acquainted with the legend, conventional
sign and the colours shown on the sheets. The conventional sign and symbols
depicted on the topographical sheets are shown in Fig. 5.2 (on page 52).


The earths surface is not uniform and it varies from mountains to hills to
plateaus and plains. The elevation and depressions of the earths surface
are known as physical features or relief features of the earth. The map
showing these features is called a relief map.

Topographical Maps


Figure 5.1 Reference Map of Topographical Sheets Published by Survey of India

Practical Work in Geography


Figure 5.2 Conventional Signs and Symbols

A number of methods have been used to show the relief features of

the Earths surface on maps, over the years. These methods include
hachure, hill shading, layer tints, benchmarks and spot heights and
contours. However, contours and spot heights are predominantly used
to depict the relief of an area on all topographical maps.

Topographical Maps

Contours are imaginary lines joining places having the same elevation
above mean sea level. A map showing the landform of an area by contours
is called a contour map. The method of showing relief features through
contour is very useful and versatile. The contour lines on a map provide
a useful insight into the topography of an area.
Earlier, ground surveys and levelling methods were used to draw
contours on topographical maps. However, the invention of photography
and subsequent use of aerial photography have replaced the conventional
methods of surveying, levelling and mapping. Henceforth, these
photographs are used in topographical mapping.
Contours are drawn at different vertical intervals (VI), like 20, 50, 100
metres above the mean sea level. It is known as contour interval. It is
usually constant on a given map. It is generally expressed in metres.
While the vertical interval between the two successive contour lines remains
constant, the horizontal distance varies from place to place depending
upon the nature of slope. The horizontal distance, also known as the
horizontal equivalent (HE), is large when the slope is gentler and decreases
with increasing slope gradient.

Some basic features of contour lines are

A contour line is drawn to show places of equal heights.

Contour lines and their shapes represent the height and slope or
gradient of the landform.

Closely spaced contours represent steep slopes while widely spaced

contours represent gentle slope.

When two or more contour lines merge with each other, they represent
features of vertical slopes such as cliffs or waterfalls.

Two contours of different elevation usually do not cross each other.

Drawing of Contours and Their Cross Sections

We know that all the topographical features show varying degrees of
slopes. For example, a flat plain exhibits gentler slopes and the cliffs and
gorges are associated with the steep slopes. Similarly, valleys and
mountain ranges are also characterised by the varying degree of slopes,
i.e. steep to gentle. Hence, the spacing of contours is significant since it
indicates the slope.


Practical Work in Geography

Types of slope
The slopes can broadly be classified into gentle, steep, concave, convex


and irregular or undulating. The contours of different types of slopes

show a distinct spacing pattern.

Gentle Slope

Steep Slope

When the degree or angle of

When the degree or angle of

slope of a feature is very low, the

slope of a feature is high and

slope will be gentle. The

the contours are closely spaced,

contours representing this type

they inddicate steep slope.

of slope are far apart.

Gentle Slope

Steep Slope

Topographical Maps

Concave Slope

Convex Slope

A slope with a gentle gradient in

Unlike concave slope, the

the lower parts of a relief feature

convex slope is fairly gentle in

and steep in its upper parts is

the upper part and steep in the



lower part. As a result, the

Contours in this type of slope are

contours are widely spaced in

widely spaced in the lower parts

the upper parts and are closely

and are closely spaced in the

spaced in the lower parts.



upper parts.

Concave Slope

Convex Slope

Practical Work in Geography

Types of Landform



A widely stretched flattopped high

Conical Hill

land, with relatively steeper slopes,

It rises almost uniformly from

rising above the adjoining plain or

the surrounding land. A conical

sea is called a plateau. The contour

hill with uniform slope and

lines representing a plateau are

narrow top is represented by

normally close spaced at the margins

concentric contours spaced

with the innermost contour showing

almost at regular intervals.

wide gap between its two sides.

Conical Slope


Topographical Maps

A geomorphic feature lying between two hills or ridges and formed as a
result of the lateral erosion by a river or a glacier is called a valley.

V-shaped Valley

U shaped Valley

It resembles the letter V. A V-shaped

A Ushaped valley is formed by strong

valley occurs in mountainous areas.

lateral erosion of glaciers at high

The lowermost part of the Vshaped

altitudes. The flat wide bottom and

valley is shown by the innermost

steep sides makes it resemble the

contour line with very small gap

letter U.

between its two sides and the lowest

Ushaped valley is shown by the

value of the contour is assigned to it.

innermost contour line with a wide

The contour value increases with

gap between its two sides. The contour

uniform intervals for all other contour

value increases with uniform intervals

lines outward.

for all other contour lines outward.

The lowermost part of the


V-Shaped Valley

U-Shaped Valley

Practical Work in Geography




In high altitudes, gorges form in the

A tongue of land, projecting from

areas where the vertical erosion by

higher ground into the lower is called

river is more prominent than the

a spur. It is also represented by V-

lateral erosion. They are deep and

shaped contours but in the reverse

narrow river valleys with very steep

manner. The arms of the V point to

sides. A gorge is represented by very

the higher ground and the apex of V

closely-spaced contour lines on a map

to the lower ones.

with the innermost contour showing

small gap between its two sides.



Topographical Maps
Waterfall and Rapids






perpendicular descent of water from

a considerable height in the bed of a
river is called a waterfall. Sometimes,
a waterfall succeeds or precedes with
a cascading stream forming rapids







perpendicular face of landform. On a

map, a cliff may be identified by the
way the contours run very close to one
another, ultimately merging into one.





waterfall. The contours representing

a waterfall merge into one another
while crossing a river stream and the
rapids are shown by relatively distant
contour lines on a map.




Practical Work in Geography

Steps for Drawing a Cross-section


The following steps may be followed to draw cross-sections of various

relief features from their contours :
1. Draw a straight line cutting across the contours on the map and
mark it as AB.
2. Take a strip of white paper or graph and place its edge along the
AB line.
3. Mark the position and value of every contour that cuts the line
4. Choose a suitable vertical scale, eg cm =100 metres, to draw
horizontal lines parallel to each other and equal to the length of
AB. The number of such lines should be equal or more than the
total contour lines.
5. Mark the appropriate values corresponding to the contour values
along the vertical of the cross-section. The numbering may be
started with the lowest value represented by the contours.
6. Now place the edge of the marked paper along the horizontal line
at the bottom line of the cross-section in such a way that AB of the
paper corresponds to the AB of the map and mark the contour
7. Draw perpendiculars from AB line, intersecting contour lines, to
the corresponding line at the cross-section base.
8. Smoothly join all the points marked on different lines at the crosssection base.


Settlements, buildings, roads and railways are important cultural features
shown on topographical sheets through conventional signs, symbols and
colours. The location and pattern of distribution of different features
help in understanding the area shown on the map.

Distribution Of Settlements
It can be seen in the map through its site, location pattern, alignment and
density. The nature and causes of various settlement patterns may be
clearly understood by comparing the settlement map with the contour

Topographical Maps

Four types of rural settlements may be identified on the map

(a) Compact
(b) Scattered
(c) Linear
(d) Circular
Similarly, urban centres may also be distinguished as
(a) Cross-road town
(b) Nodal point
(c) Market centre
(d) Hill station
(e) Coastal resort centre
(f) Port
(g) Manufacturing centre with suburban villages or satellite towns
(h) Capital town
(i) Religious centre
Various factors determine the site of settlements like
(a) Source of water
(b) Provision of food
(c) Nature of relief
(d) Nature and character of occupation
(e) Defence
Site of settlements should be closely examined with reference to the
contour and drainage map. Density of settlement is directly related to
food supply. Sometimes, village settlements form alignments, i.e. they
are spread along a river valley, road, embankment, coastline these are
called linear settlements.
In the case of an urban settlement, a cross-road town assumes a
fan-shaped pattern, the houses being arranged along the roadside and
the crossing being at the heart of the town and the main market place. In
a nodal town, the roads radiate in all directions.

Transport And Communication Pattern

Relief, population, size and resource development pattern of an area
directly influence the means of transport and communication and their
density. These are depicted through conventional signs and symbols.
Means of transport and communication provide useful information about
the area shown on the map.


Practical Work in Geography


Knowledge of map language and sense of direction are essential in reading


and interpreting topo-sheets .You must first look for the northline and the
scale of the map and orient yourself accordingly. You must have a thorough
knowledge of the legends / key given in the map depicting various features.
All topo-sheets contain a table showing conventional signs and symbols
used in the map (Figure 5.2). Conventional signs and symbols are
internationally accepted; so, anyone can read any map anywhere in the
world without knowing the language of that particular country.
A topographic sheet is usually interpreted under the following heads:
(a) Marginal Information
(b) Relief and Drainage
(c) Land Use
(d) Means of Transport and Communication
(e) Human Settlement

Marginal Information: It includes the topographical sheet number,

its location, grid references, its extent in degrees and minutes, scale, the
districts covered, etc.

Relief of the Area: The general topography of the area is studied to

identify the plains, plateaus, hills or mountains along with peaks, ridges,
spur and the general direction of the slope. These features are studied under
the following heads :

Hill : With concave, convex, steep or gentle slope and shape.

Plateau : Whether it is broad , narrow, flat, undulating or dissected.

Plain : Its types, i.e. alluvial, glacial, karst, coastal, marshy, etc.

Mountain : General elevation, peak, passes, etc.

Drainage of the Area: The important rivers and their tributaries and
the type and extent of valleys formed by them, the types of drainage pattern,
i.e. dendritic, radial, ring, trellis, internal, etc.

Land Use: It includes the use of land under different categories like :

Natural vegetation and forest (which part of the area is forested,

whether it is dense forest or thin, and the categories of forest found
there like Reserved, Protected, Classified / Unclassified).

Topographical Maps

Agricultural, orchard, wasteland, industrial, etc.

Facilities and Services such as schools, colleges, hospitals, parks,

airports, electric substations, etc.

Transport and Communication: The means of transportation

include national or state highways, district roads, cart tracks, camel
tracks, footpaths, railways, waterways, major communication lines, post
offices, etc.

Settlement: Settlements are studied under the following heads :

Rural Settlements: The types and patterns of rural settlements,

i.e. compact, semi-compact, dispersed, linear, etc.

Urban Settlements: Type of urban settlements and their functions,

i.e. capital cities, administrative towns, religious towns, port towns,
hill stations, etc.

Occupation: The general occupation of the people of the area may be

identified with the help of land use and the type of settlement. For example,
in rural areas the main occupation of majority of the people is agriculture;
in tribal regions, lumbering and primitive agriculture dominates and in
coastal areas, fishing is practised. Similarly, in cities and towns, services
and business appear to be the major occupations of the people.


Map interpretation involves the study of factors that explain the causal
relationship among several features shown on the map. For example, the
distribution of natural vegetation and cultivated land can be better
understood against the background of landform and drainage. Likewise,
the distribution of settlements can be examined in association with the
levels of transport network system and the nature of topography.
The following steps will help in map interpretation:

Find out from the index number of the topographical sheet, the
location of the area in India. This would give an idea of the general
characteristics of the major and minor physiographic divisions of
the area. Note the scale of the map and the contour interval, which
will give the extent and general landform of the area.


Practical Work in Geography

Trace out the following features on tracing sheets.

(a) Major landforms as shown by contours and other graphical


(b) Drainage and water features the main river and its important
(c) Land use i.e. forest, agricultural land, wastes, sanctuary,
park, school, etc.
(d) Settlement and Transport pattern.

Describe the distributional pattern of each of the features separately

drawing attention to the most important aspect.

Superimpose pairs of these maps and note down the relationship,
if any, between the two patterns. For example, if a contour map is
superimposed over a land use map, it provides the relationship
between the degree of slope and the type of the land used.

Aerial photographs and satellite imageries of the same area and of the
same scale can also be compared with the topographical map to update
the information.

1. Answer the following questions in about 30 words:
(i) What are topographical maps?
(ii) Name the organisation which prepares the topographical maps of
(iii) Which are the commonly used scales for mapping our country
used by the Survey of India?
(iv) What are contours?
(v) What does the spacing of contours indicate?
(vi) What are conventional signs?
2. Write short notes on
(i) Contours
(ii) Marginal Information in Topographical sheets
(iii) The Survey of India
3. Explain what is meant by map interpretation and what procedure is
followed for its interpretation.

Topographical Maps

4. If you are interpreting the cultural features from a topographical sheet,

what information would you like to seek and how would you derive
this information? Discuss with the help of suitable examples.
5. Draw the conventional signs and symbols for the following features
(i) International Boundary
(ii) Bench Mark
(iii) Villages
(iv) Metalled Road
(v) Footpath with bridges
(vi) Places of Worship

Exercise A
Study the contour pattern and answer the following questions.
1. Name the geographical feature formed by contours.
2. Find out the contour interval in the map.
3. Find out the map distance between E and F and convert it into ground
4. Name the type of slope between A and B; C and D and E and F.
5. Find out the direction of E, D and F from G.

Exercise B
Study the extract from the topographical sheet No. 63K/12, as shown in
the figure below and answer the following questions


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1. Convert 1:50,000 into a statement of scale.

2. Name the major settlements of the area.
3. What is the direction of flow of the river Ganga?


Uttar Pradesh
Mirzapur and Varanasi District

Part of 63K/12

82o 40










82o 40

82o 45
R. F. 1: 50,000
Part of the Topographical Sheet No 63K/12

Topographical Maps

4. At which one of the banks of river Ganga, Bhatauli is located ?

5. What is the pattern of rural settlements along the right bank of river
6. Name the villages/settlements where Post Office/Post and Telegraph
Office are located ?
7. What does the yellow colour in the area refer to?
8. What means of transportation is used to cross the river by the people
of Bhatauli village ?

Exercise C
Study the extract for topographical sheet 63K/12 shown in the figure on
page 68 and answer the following questions.
1. Give the height of the highest point on the map.
2. River Jamtihwa Nadi is flowing through which quarter of the map ?
3. Which is the major settlement located in the east of the Kuardari Nala ?
4. What type of settlement does the area have ?
5. Name the geographical feature represented by white patches in the
middle of Sipu Nadi.
6. Name the two types of vegetation shown on part of the topographical
7. What is the direction of the flow of the Kuardari ?
8. In which part of the sheet area is Lower Khajuri Dam located?


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Uttar Pradesh
Mirzapur and Varanasi District


Part of 63K/12

82o 35









R. F. 1: 50,000
Part of the Topographical Sheet No 63K/12


Introduction To Aerial Photographs

Chapter 6

Introduction To Aerial
We are familiar with photographs
taken with normal cameras. These
photographs provide us with a view
of the object similar to the way we
see them with our own eyes. In other
words, we get a horizontal perspective
of the objects photographed. For
example, a photograph of a part of
settlement will provide us a
perspective the way it appears to us
when we
look at it
(Fig. 6.1).
we want
to take a
Figure 6.1 Terrestrial
photograph of
eye view
Mussorrie town
of similar
features, then we have to place
ourselves somewhere in the air. When
we do so and look down, we get a very
different perspective. This perspective,
which we get in aerial photographs, is
termed as aerial perspective (Fig. 6.2).
The photographs taken from an
aircraft or helicopter using a precision
Figure 6.2 Birds Eye View of Tehri
camera are termed aerial photographs.
Town, ttaranchal


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The photographs so obtained have been found to be indispensable tools


in the topographical mapping and interpretation of the images of the

Aerial Camera : A precision camera specifically designed for use in
Aerial Film : A roll film with high sensitivity, high intrinsic resolution
power and dimensionally stable emulsion support.
Aerial Photography : Art, science and technology of taking aerial
photographs from an air-borne platform.
Aerial Photograph : A photograph taken from an air-borne platform
using a precision camera.
Fiducial Marks : Index marks, rigidly connected at the central or corner
edges of the camera body. When the film is exposed, these marks appear
on the film negative .
Forward Overlap : The common area on two successive photographs
in the flight direction. It is usually expressed in per cent.
Image Interpretation : An act of identifying the images of the objects
and judging their relative significance.
Nadir Point : The foot of the perpendicular drawn from the camera lens
centre on the ground plane.
Principal Point : The foot of the perpendicular drawn from the camera
lens centre on the photo plane.
Principal Distance : The perpendicular distance from the perspective
centre to the plane of the photograph.
Perspective Centre : The point of origin (perspective centre) of the bundle
of light rays.
Photograpmmetry : The science and technology of taking reliable
measurements from aerial photographs.




Aerial photographs are used in topographical mapping and interpretation.

These two different uses have led to the development of photogrammetry
and photo/image interpretation as two independent but related sciences.
Photogrammetry: It refers to the science and technology of making
reliable measurements from aerial photographs. The principles used in
photogrammetry facilitate precise measurements related to the length,

Introduction To Aerial Photographs

breadth and height from such photographs. Hence, they are used as the
data source for creating and updating topographic maps.
The development of aerial photography in India is briefly given in Box 6.I.
Box 6.1 Aerial Photography in India
Aerial photography in India goes back to 1920 when large-scale aerial
photographs of Agra city were obtained. Subsequently, Air Survey Party
of the Survey of India took up aerial survey of Irrawaddy Delta forests,
which was completed during 192324. Subsequently, several similar
surveys were carried out and advanced methods of mapping from aerial
photographs were used. Today, aerial photography in India is carried
out for the entire country under the overall supervision of the
Directorate of Air Survey (Survey of India) New Delhi. Three flying
agencies, i.e. Indian Air Force, Air Survey Company, Kolkata and
National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad have been officially
authorised to take aerial photographs in India.
The procedure for indenting aerial photographs for educational
purposes could be made with APFPS Party No. 73, Directorate of Air
Survey, Survey of India, West Block IV, R. K. Puram, New Delhi.

Image Interpretation: It is an art of identifying images of objects and

judging their relative significance. The principles of image interpretation
are applied to obtain qualitative information from the aerial photographs
such as land use/land cover, topographical forms, soil types, etc. A trained
interpreter can thus utilise aerial photographs to analyse the land-use


The basic advantages that aerial photographs offer over ground based
observation are :

a. Improved vantage point: Aerial photography provides a birds

eye view of large areas, enabling us to see features of the earth surface in
their spatial context.

b. Time freezing ability: An aerial photograph is a record of the

surface features at an instance of exposure. It can, therefore, be used as
a historical record.


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c. Broadened Sensitivity: The sensitivity of the film used in taking


aerial photographs is relatively more than the sensitivity of the human

eyes. Our eyes perceive only in the visible region of the electromagnetic
spectrum, i.e. 0.4 to 0.7 m whereas the sensitivity of the film ranges
from 0.3 to 0.9 m.

d. Three Dimensional Perspective: Aerial photographs are

normally taken with uniform exposure interval that enables us in obtaining
stereo pair of photographs. Such a pair of photographs helps us in getting
a three-dimensional view of the surface photographed.




The aerial photographs are classified on the basis of the position of the
camera axis, scale, angular extent of coverage and the film used. The
types of the aerial photographs based on the position of optical axis and
the scale are given below :

a. Types of Aerial Photographs Based on the Position of

the Cameral Axis: On the basis of the position of the camera axis,
aerial photographs are classified into the following types :
(i) Vertical photographs
(ii) Low oblique photographs
(iii) High oblique photographs
(i) Vertical Photographs: While taking aerial photographs, two distinct
axes are formed from the camera lens centre, one towards the ground
plane and the other towards the photo plane. The perpendicular dropped
from the camera lens centre to the ground plane is termed as the vertical
axis, whereas the plumb line drawn from the lens centre to the photo
plane is known as the photographic/optical axis. When the photo plane
is kept parallel to the ground plane, the two axes also coincide with each
other. The photograph so obtained is known as vertical aerial photograph
(Figures 6.3 and 6.4). However, it is normally very difficult to achieve
perfect parallelism between the two planes due to the fact that the aircraft
flies over the curved surface of the earth. The photographic axis, therefore,
deviates from the vertical axis. If such a deviation is within the range of
plus or minus 3o, the near-vertical aerial photographs are obtained. Any
photography with an unintentional deviation of more than 3o in the optical
axis from the vertical axis is known as a tilted photograph.

Introduction To Aerial Photographs

Figure 6.3 Vertical Aerial


Figure 6.4 Vertical Aerial Photograph of Arneham,

The Netherlands

(ii) Low Oblique: An aerial photograph taken with an intentional deviation

of 15 to 30 in the camera axis from the vertical axis is referred to as the

low oblique photograph (Figures 6.5 and 6.6). This kind of photograph is
often used in reconnaissance surveys.

Figure 6.5 Low-Oblique Photograph
Figure 6.6 Low-Oblique Photograph of Arneham,
The Netherlands

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(iii)High Oblique: The high

oblique are photographs

obtained when the camera
axis is intentionally inclined


about 60 from the vertical

axis (Figure 6.7). Such
photography is useful in
reconnaissance surveys.

Figure 6.7 High Oblique Photograph

Table 6.1 provides a comparison between vertical and oblique

Table 6.1: Comparison between Vertical and Oblique Photographs


Low Oblique

High Oblique

Optical Axis

Tilt < 3 i.e. exactly

Deviation is >300

Deviates by

or nearly

from the Vertical

axis > 30O

coincides with the


from vertical

Vertical axis.



Horizon does not

Horizon does


not appear.



Small area

Relatively larger

Largest area

Shape of the area



Uniform, if the

Decreases from


terrain is flat

foreground to

from the


foreground to


Difference in


comparison to




the map

Useful in




and thematic


Introduction To Aerial Photographs

(b) Types of Aerial

Photographs Based
on Scale: The aerial
photographs may also
be classified on the
basis of the scale of
photograph into three
(i) Large Scale
Photographs: When the
scale of an aerial
photograph is 1 : 15,000
and larger, the
photography is classified
as large-scale
photograph (Fig. 6.8).

Figure 6.8 1 : 5000 Photograph of Arnehem

(ii) Medium Scale

Photographs: The
aerial photographs
with a scale ranging
between 1 : 15,000
and 1 : 30,000 are
usually treated as
medium scale
photographs (Fig. 6.9).

Figure 6.9 1 : 20,000 Photograph of Arnehem

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(iii) Small Scale


Photographs: The
photographs with the
scale being smaller than
1 : 30,000, are referred to
as small scale
photographs (Fig. 6.10).

Figure 6.10 1 : 40,000 Photograph of Arnehem


To understand the geometry of an aerial photograph, it is important to
appreciate the orientation of the photograph with respect to the ground,
i.e. the way the rays connect or project onto the ground in relation to the
ground representation (photograph or map). The following three examples
of such projection would be useful in
understanding the problem.

Parallel Projection: In this projection, the

projecting rays are parallel but not necessarily
perpendicular. The triangle ABC is projected on
LL1 as triangle abc (Figure 6.11).

Figure 6.11 Parallel Projection

Introduction To Aerial Photographs

Orthogonal Projection: This is a special case

of parallel projections. Maps are orthogonal
projections of the ground. The advantage of this
projection is that the distances, angles or areas on
the plane are independent of the elevation
differences of the objects. Figure 6.12 is an example
of orthogonal projection where the projecting rays
are perpendicular to the line LL1.
Figure 6.12 Orthogonal projection

Central Projection: Figure 6.13 shows an

example of Central Projection. The projecting rays
Aa, Bb and Cc pass through a common point O,
which is called the perspective Centre. The image
projected by a lens is treated like a central
An aerial photograph, as discussed earlier is a
central projection. In an absolutely vertical flat
terrain the aerial photograph will be geometrically
the same as the corresponding map of the area.
However, because of the tilt of the photograph and
relief variations of the ground photographed, an

Figure 6.13 Central Projection

aerial photograph differs geometrically from the

map of the corresponding area.
As shown in Figure 6.14, S is the camera lens centre. The bundle of
light rays coming from the ground plane converge at this point and diverge
from there towards the negative (photo) plane to form images of the objects.
Thus, the central projection is characterised by the fact that all straight
lines joining corresponding points, i.e. straight lines joining object points
to their corresponding image points pass through one point. Figure 6.14
illustrates this relationship. Straight lines AAi, BBi, CCi and DDi join
corresponding points on the ground photographed and the negative plane.
For example, A on the ground and Ai on the negative plane (or a on the
positive plane) is a line joining corresponding points which pass through
the camera lens centre. If we draw a perpendicular from S following the
camera axis onto the negative plane, the point where this perpendicular
meets the negative is known as the principal point (P in Fig. 6.14). If we
extend the same line to the ground, it would meet the target (photographed


Practical Work in Geography

ground) plane at PG, i.e. the ground principal point. Similarly, if we draw
a vertical line (plumb line as indicated by the direction of gravity) through


S, it will meet the photo negative at a point known as the nadir point and
on the ground as the ground nadir point. Observe from figures 6.3, 6.5
and 6.7 that the plumb line and the camera axis are coincident for a
vertical photograph while they are separable in case of an oblique or a
tilted photograph. Thus in case of a vertical photograph, the principal
and the nadir points also coincide with one another. For an oblique
photograph, the angle between the camera axis and the plumb line is the
tilt angle. Figure 6.14 shows both the positive and the negative planes of
a vertical photograph. The geometry of the positive and the negative planes
are identical.

Figure 6.14 Geometry of Vertical Photograph

It needs to be understood here that SP, i.e. the perpendicular distance

between the camera lens and the negative plane is known as the focal
length. On the other hand, SPG, i.e., the perpendicular distance between
the camera lens and the ground photographed is known as the flying

Introduction To Aerial Photographs






A map cannot be directly traced out of an aerial photograph. The reason

is that there is a basic difference in the planimetry (projection) and
perspective of a map and an aerial photograph. The difference is given in
Table 6.2.

Table 6.2: Difference between Maps and Aerial Photographs

Aerial Photograph


It is a central Projection.

It is an orthogonal Projection.

An aerial photograph is

A map is a geometrically correct

geometrically incorrect. The

representation of the part of the earth

distortion in the geometry is


minimum at the centre and

increases towards the edges of the
The scale of the photograph is

The scale of the map is uniform

not uniform.

throughout the map extent.

Enlargement/reduction does not

Enlargement/reduction of the maps

change the contents of the

involves redrawing it afresh.

photographs and can easily be

carried out.
Aerial photography holds good for

The mapping of inaccessible and

inaccessible and inhospitable areas.

inhospitable areas is very difficult and

sometimes it becomes impossible.

Even vertical aerial photographs do not have a consistent scale unless

they have been taken of a flat terrain. Aerial photographs need to be
transformed from perspective view to the planimetric view before they can
be used as map substitute. Such transformed photographs are known
as orthophotos.


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You are already familiar with the concept of a map scale (See Chapter 2).


The concept of scale for aerial photographs is much the same as that of a
map. Scale is the ratio of a distance on an aerial photograph the distance
between the same two places on the ground in the real world. It can be
expressed in unit equivalents like 1 cm= 1,000 km(or 12,000 inches) or
as a representative fraction (1:100,000).
Scale determines what objects would be visible, the accuracy of
estimates and how certain features will appear. When conducting an
analysis that is based on air photos, it will sometimes be necessary to
make estimates regarding the number of objects, the area covered by a
certain amount of material or it may be possible to identify certain features
based on their length. To determine this dimension during air photo
interpretation, it will be necessary to make estimates of lengths and areas,
which require knowledge of the photo scale. There are three methods to
compute the scale of an aerial photograph using different sets of

Method 1: By Establishing Relationship Between Photo

Distance and Ground Distance : If additional information like
ground distances of two identifiable points in an aerial photograph is
available, it is fairly simple to work out the scale of a vertical photograph.
Provided that the corresponding ground distances (Dg) are known for which
the distances on an aerial photograph (Dp) are measured. In such cases,
the scale of an aerial photograph will be measured as a ratio of the two,
i.e. Dp/ Dg.
Problem 6.1 The distance between two points on an aerial photograph is
measured as 2 centimetres. The known distance between the same two
points on the ground is 1 km. Compute the scale of the aerial photograph
Sp =


Dp : Dg
2 cm : 1 km

2cm : 1 x 100,000 cm


1 : 100,000/2 = 50,000 cm
1 unit represents 50,000 units

Sp =

1 : 50,000

Introduction To Aerial Photographs

Method 2: By Establishing Relationship Between Photo

Distance and Map Distance: As we know, the distances between
different points on the ground are not always known. However, if a reliable
map is available for the area shown on an aerial photograph, it can be
used to determine the photo scale. In other words, the distances between
two points identifiable both on a map and the aerial photograph enable
us to compute the scale of the aerial photograph (Sp). The relationship
between the two distances may be expressed as under :
(Photo scale : Map scale) = (Photo distance : Map distance)
We can derive
Photo scale (Sp) = Photo distance (Dp) : Map distance (Dm) x Map
scale factor (msf)
Problem 6.2 The distance measured between two points on a map is 2
cm. The corresponding distance on an aerial photograph is 10 cm.
Calculate the scale of the photograph when the scale of the map is 1:

Dp : Dm x msf


10 cm : 2 cm x 50,000


10 cm : 100,000 cm


1 : 100,000/10 = 10,000 cm


1 unit represents 10,000 units

1 : 10,000

Therefore, Sp

Method 3: By Establishing
Relationship Between Focal
Length (f) and Flying Height
(H) of the Aircraft : If no
additional information is available
about the relative distances on
photograph and ground/map, we
can determine the photo-scale
provided the information about the


focal length of the camera (f) and the

flying height of the aircraft (H) are
known (Fig. 6.15). The photo scale
so determined could be more

Figure 6.15 Focal Length of the Camera (f) and

Flying Height of the Aircraft (H)

Practical Work in Geography

reliable if the given aerial photograph is truly vertical or near vertical and


the terrain photographed is flat. The focal length of the camera (f) and the
flying height of the aircraft (H) are provided as marginal information on
most of the vertical photographs (Box 6.2).
The Fig. 6.15 may be used to derive the photo-scale formula in the
following way :
Focal Length (f) : Flying Height(H) =
Photo distance (Dp) : Ground distance (Dg)
Problem 6.3 Compute the scale of an aerial photograph when the flying
height of the aircraft is 7500m and the focal length of the camera is 15cm.
Sp =



Sp =

15 cm : 7,500 x 100 cm


Sp =
Sp =

1 : 750,000/15
1 : 50,000

Box 6.2 Marginal Information given on Vertical Aerial Photographs



Flying Height

793 B/5-23

Tilt Indicator Photo Specifications*

* 793 is a Photo Specification number maintained by the 73 APFPS Party of the Survey of
India. B is the Flying Agency that carried out the present photography (In India three
flying agencies are officially permitted to carry out aerial photography. They are the
Indian Air Force, the Air Survey Company, Kolkata and the National Remote Sensing
Agency, Hydrabad, identified on the aerial photographs as A, B and C respectively), 5 is
the strip number and 23 is the photo number in strip 5.

Introduction To Aerial Photographs

Multiple Choice Questions
1. In which of the following aerial photographs the horizon appears?
a. Vertical
b. Near-vertical
c. Low-oblique
d. High-oblique
2. In which of the following aerial photographs the Nadir and the
principle points coincide?
a. Vertical
b. Near-vertical
c. Low-oblique
d. High-oblique
3. Which type of the following projections is used in aerial photographs?
a. Parallel
b. Orthogonal
c. Central
d. None of the above.

Short Questions
1. State any three advantages that an aerial photograph offers over
ground based observations.
2. How is an aerial photograph taken?
3. Present a concise account of aerial photography in India.
4. Answer the following questions in about 125 words :
i) What are the two major uses of an aerial photograph? Elaborate.
ii) What are the different methods of scale determination?


Practical Work in Geography

Chapter 7

Introduction To Remote
You have read about aerial photography in chapter 6. If you have
carefully gone through its contents, you would have appreciated
that it is an extension of the observation and recording capabilities
of the human eyes. You may also have noticed that the photographic
system utilises the same principles of observation and recording the
objects of the earths surface, as being done by the eyes. However,
both the human eyes and the photographic systems respond to light
in a minute portion of the total energy received and responded by
the objects surface. The present day remote sensing devices, on the
other hand, react to much wider range of radiations reflected/emitted,
absorbed and transmitted by all object surfaces at a temperature above
0 Kelvin (-273C).
The term remote sensing was first used in the early 1960s. Later,
it was defined as the total processes used to acquire and measure the
information of some property of objects and phenomena by a
recording device (sensor) that is not in physical contact with the
objects and phenomena in study. It can be noted from the above
definition of remote sensing that it primarily involves an object
surface, the recording device and the information carrying energy
waves (Fig 7.1).


Energy Waves

Figure 7.1 Conceptual Frame of Remote Sensing


Introduction To Remote Sensing

Absorptance : The ratio of the radiant energy absorbed by a substance to the energy
it receives.
Band : The specific wavelength interval in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Digital image : An array of digital numbers (DN) arranged in rows and columns,
having the property of an intensity value and their locations.
Digital Number : An intensity value of a pixel in a digital image.
Digital Image Processing : The numerical manipulation of DN values for the purpose
of extracting information about the phenomena of the surface they represent.
Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) : The Energy propagated through a space or a
medium at a speed of light.
Electromagnetic Spectrum : The continuum of EMR that ranges from short wave
high frequency cosmic radiations to long wavelength low frequency radio waves.
False Colour Composite (FCC) : An artificially generated colour image in which
blue, green and red colours are assigned to the wavelength regions to which they do
not belong in nature. For example, in standard a False Colour Composite blue is
assigned to green radiations (0.5 to 0.6 m), green is assigned to red radiations (0.6
to 0.7 m and red is assigned to Near Infrared radiation (0.7 to 0.8 m).
Gray scale : A medium to calibrate the variations in the brightness of an image that
ranges from black to white with intermediate grey values.
Image :

The permanent record of a scene comprising of natural and man-made

features and activities, produced by photographic and nonphotographic means.

Scene : The ground area covered by an image or a photograph.
Sensor : Any imaging or nonimaging device that receives EMR and converts it into
a signal that can be recorded and displayed as photographic or digital image.
Reflectance : The ratio of the radiant energy reflected by a substance to the energy
it receives.
Spectral Band : The range of the wavelengths in the continuous spectrum such as
the green band ranges from 0.5 to .6 and the range of NIR band 0.7 to 1.1 .


Practical Work in Geography




Figure 7.2 illustrates the processes used in remote sensing data


acquisition. These basic processes that help in the collection of information

about the properties of the objects and phenomena of the earth surface
are as follows :
(a) Source of Energy (sun/self-emission);
(b) Transmission of energy from the source to the surface of the earth;
(c) Interaction of energy with the earths surface;
(d) Propagation of reflected/emitted energy through atmosphere;
(e) Detection of the reflected/emitted energy by the sensor;
(f) Conversion of energy received into photographic/digital form of
(g) Extraction of the information contents from the data products; and
(h) Conversion of information into Map/Tabular forms.

Figure 7.2 Stages in Remote Sensing Data Acquisition

a. Source of Energy: Sun is the most important source of energy

used in remote sensing. The energy may also be artificially generated
and used to collect information about the objects and phenomena such
as flashguns or energy beams used in radar (radio detection and ranging).

b. Transmission of Energy from the Source to the Surface

of the Earth: The energy that emanates from a source propagates
between the source and the object surface in the form of the waves of

Introduction To Remote Sensing

energy at a speed of light (300,000 km per second). Such energy

propagation is called the Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR). The energy
waves vary in size and frequency. The plotting of such variations is known
as the Electromagnetic Spectrum (Fig. 7.3). On the basis of the size of the
waves and frequency, the energy waves are grouped into Gamma, X
rays, Ultraviolet rays, Visible rays, Infrared rays , Microwaves and Radio
waves. Each one of these broad regions of spectrum is used in different
applications. However, the visible, infrared and microwave regions of energy
are used in remote sensing.

Figure 7.3 Electromagnetic Spectrum

c. Interaction of Energy with the Earths Surface: The

propagating energy finally interacts with the objects of the surface of the
earth. This leads to absorption, transmission, reflection or emission of energy
from the objects. We all know that all objects vary in their composition,
appearance forms and other properties. Hence, the objects responses to the
energy they receive are also not uniform. Besides, one particular object also
responds differently to the energy it receives in different regions of the
spectrum (Fig. 7.5). For example, a fresh water body absorbs more energy
in the red and infrared regions of the spectrum and appears dark/black in
a satellite image whereas turbid water body reflects more in blue and green
regions of spectrum and appears in light tone (Fig. 7.4).


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Figure 7.4 Spectral Signature of Soil, Vegetation and Water

Figure 7.5 IRS 1 C Band 1 Green (Left) and Band 4 IR Images of

Sambhar Lake, Rajasthan

d. Propagation of Reflected/Emitted Energy through

Atmosphere: When energy is reflected from objects of the earths
surface, it reenters into the atmosphere. You may be aware of the fact
that atmosphere comprises of gases, water molecules and dust particles.
The energy reflected from the objects comes in contact with the atmospheric
constituents and the properties of the original energy get modified. Whereas
the Carbon dioxide (CO2), the Hydrogen (H), and the water molecules
absorb energy in the middle infrared region, the dust particles scatter the
blue energy. Hence, the energy that is either absorbed or scattered by
the atmospheric constituents never reaches to sensor placed onboard a
satellite and the properties of the objects carried by such energy waves
are left unrecorded.

Introduction To Remote Sensing

e. Detection of Reflected/Emitted Energy by the Sensor:

The sensors recording the energy that they receive are placed in a near
polar sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 900 km. These
satellites are known as remote sensing satellites (e.g. Indian Remote
Sensing Series). As against these satellites, the weather monitoring and
telecommunication satellites are placed in a Geostationary position (the
satellite is always positioned over its orbit that synchronises with the
direction of the rotation of the earth) and revolves around the earth
(coinciding with the direction of the movement of the earth over its axis) at
an altitude of nearly 36,000 km (e.g. INSAT series of satellites). A
comparison between the remote sensing and weather monitoring satellites
is given in Box (7.1). Figure 7.6 shows the orbits of Sun-Synchronous
and Geostationary satellites respectively.
Box. 7.1 Comparison between Sun-Synchronous and Geostationary Satellites

Sun Synchronous






700 900 km

@ 36,000 km


810 N to 810 S

1/3rd of the Globe

Orbital period

@ 14 orbits per day

24 hours




(182 metre to 1 metre)

(1 km x 1 km)

Earth Resources



and Weather monitoring


Figure 7.6 Orbit of Sun Synchronous (Left) and Geostationary (Right) Satellites

Remote sensing satellites are deployed with sensors which are capable
of collecting the EMR reflected by the objects. We have seen in Chapter 6

Practical Work in Geography

how the photographic camera obtains photographs at an instance of


exposure. However, the sensors used in remote sensing satellites possess

a mechanism that is different from photographic camera in collecting and
recording the information. The images so acquired by space-borne sensors
are in digital format as against the photographic format obtained through
a camera-based system.

f. Conversion of Energy Received into Photographic/

Digital Form of Data: The radiations received by the sensor are
electronically converted into a digital image. It comprises digital numbers
that are arranged in rows and columns. These numbers may also be
converted into an analogue (picture) form of data product. The sensor
onboard an earth-orbiting satellite electronically transmits the collected
image data to an Earth Receiving Station located in different parts of the
world. In India, one such station is located at Shadnagar near Hyderabad.

g. Extraction of Infor mation Contents from Data

Products: After the image data is received at the earth station, it is
processed for elimination of errors caused during image data collection.
Once the image is corrected, information extraction is carried out from
digital images using digital image processing techniques and from
analogue form of data products by applying visual interpretation methods.

h. Conversion of Information into Map/Tabular Forms:

The interpreted information is finally delineated and converted into different
layers of thematic maps. Besides, quantitative measures are also taken to
generate a tabular data.

A sensor is a device that gathers electromagnetic radiations, converts it
into a signal and presents it in a form suitable for obtaining information
about the objects under investigation. Based upon the form of the data
output, the sensors are classified into photographic (analogue) and non
photographic (digital) sensors.
A photographic sensor (camera) records the images of the objects at
an instance of exposure. On the other hand, a nonphotographic sensor
obtains the images of the objects in bit-by-bit form. These sensors are
known as scanners. You have already read about the types and geometry

Introduction To Remote Sensing

of photographic cameras in Chapter 6. In the present chapter, we will

confine ourselves to describe the nonphotographic sensors that are used
in satellite remote sensing.

Multispectral Scanners: In satellite remote sensing, the Multi

Spectral Scanners (MSS) are used as sensors. These sensors are designed
to obtain images of the objects while sweeping across the field of view. A
scanner is usually made up of a reception system consisting of a mirror
and detectors. A scanning sensor constructs the scene by recording a
series of scan lines. While doing so, the motor device oscillates the scanning
mirror through the angular field of view of the sensor, which determines
the length of scan lines and is called swath. It is because of such reasons
that the mode of collection of images by scanners is referred bitbybit.
Each scene is composed of cells that determine the spatial resolution of
an image. The oscillation of the scanning mirror across the scene directs
the received energy to the detectors, where it is converted into electrical
signals. These signals are further converted into numerical values called
Digital Number (DN Values) for recording on a magnetic tape.
The Multi-Spectral Scanners are divided into the following types:
(i) Whiskbroom Scanners
(ii) Pushbroom Scanners
(i) Whiskbroom Scanners : The whiskbroom scanners are made up of
a rotating mirror and a single detector. The mirror is so oriented that
when it completes a rotation, the detector sweeps across the field of view


7.7 Whiskbroom Scanners

7.8 Pushbroom Scanners

Practical Work in Geography

between 90 and 120 to obtain images in a large number of narrow


spectral bands ranging from visible to middle infrared regions of the

spectrum. The total extent of the oscillating sensor is known as the Total
Field of View (TFOV) of the scanner. While scanning the entire field, the
sensors optical head is always placed at a particular dimension called
the Instantaneous Field of View (IFOV). Figure 7.7 depicts the scanning
mechanism of whiskbroom scanners.
(i) Pushbroom Scanners: The pushbroom scanners consist of a number
of detectors which are equivalent to the number obtained by dividing the
swath of the sensor by the size of the spatial resolution (Fig. 7.8). For
example, the swath of High Resolution Visible Radiometer 1 (HRVR 1)
of the French remote sensing satellite SPOT is 60 km and the spatial
resolution is 20 metres. If we divide 60 km x 1000 metres/20 metres, we
get a number of 3000 detectors that are deployed in SPOT HRV 1 sensor.
In pushbroom scanner, all detectors are linearly arrayed and each detector
collects the energy reflected by the ground cell (pixel) dimensions of 20
metres at a nadirs view.


In satellite remote sensing, the sun-synchronous polar orbit enables the
collection of images after a pre-determined periodical interval referred to
as the temporal resolution or the revisit time of the satellite over the same
area of the earth surface. Fig. 7.9 illustrates the two images acquired over
two different periods in time for the same area enabling to study and
record the changes that take place with respect to the types of vegetation
in Himalayas. In another example, Fig. 7.10 (a and b) shows the images
acquired before and after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The image
acquired in June 2004 clearly shows the undisturbed topography of
Banda Aceh in Indonesia, whereas the post tsunami image acquired
immediately after tsunami reveals the damages that were caused by the

Introduction To Remote Sensing

Figure 7. 9 Images of Himalayas and Northern Indian Plain by IRS Satellite taken in
May (Left) and November (Right) show differences in the types of vegetation.
The red patches in May image refer to Coniferous vegetation. In November
image the additional red patches refer to Deciduous plants and the light red
colour is related to the crops.


Practical Work in Geography


Figure 7.10 (a) Pre-tsunami Image acquired in June 2004

Figure 7.10 (b) Post-tsunami image acquired in December, 2004

Introduction To Remote Sensing

Remote sensors are characterised by spatial, spectral and radiometric
resolutions that enable the extraction of useful information pertaining to
different terrain conditions.

(i) Spatial Resolution: You must have seen some people using
spectacles while reading a book or newspaper. Have you ever thought as
to why they do so. It is simply because of the fact that resolving power of
their eyes to differentiate two closed spaced letters in a word is unable to
identify them as two different letters. By using positive spectacles they try
to improve their vision as well as the resolving power. In remote sensing,
the spatial resolution of the sensors refers to the same phenomena. It is
the capability of the sensor to distinguish two closed spaced object surfaces
as two different object surfaces. As a rule, with an increasing resolution
the identification of even smaller object surfaces become possible.

(ii) Spectral Resolution: It refers to the sensing and recording power

of the sensor in different bands of EMR (Electromagnetic radiation).
Multispectral images are acquired by using a device that disperses the
radiation received by the sensor and recording it by deploying detectors
sensitive to specific spectral ranges. The principles in obtaining such
images is the extension of the dispersion of light in nature resulting in the
appearance of the rainbow and the use of prism in the lab (Box 7.2).
The images obtained in different bands show objects response
differently as discussed in Para 3 of the stages in remote sensing data
acquisition. Fig. 7.11 illustrates images acquired in different spectral
regions by IRS P - 6 (Resource sat - 1) showing strong absorption
properties of fresh water in band 4 (Infrared) and mixed strong reflectance
in band 2 (green) by dry surfaces (Fig. 7.11).

(iii) Radiometric Resolution: It is the capability of the sensor to

discriminate between two targets. Higher the radiometric resolution,
smaller the radiance differences that can be detected between two targets.
The spatial, spectral, and radiometric resolutions of some of the remote
sensing satellites of the world are shown in Table 7.1.


Practical Work in Geography

Table 7.1 Spatial, Spectral and Radiometric Resolution of Landsat, IRS

and SPOT Sensors



Spatial Resolution

Number of

Radiometric Range

(in metres)


(Number of Grey
Level Variations)

Landsat MSS (USA)

80.0 x 80.0

0 - 64

IRS LISS I (India)

72.5 x 72.5

0 - 127


36.25 x 36.25

0 - 127

Landsat TM (USA)

30.00 x 30.00

0 - 255


23.00 x 23.00

0 - 127

SPOT HRV - I (France)

20.00 x 20.00

0 - 255

SPOT HRV II (France) 10.00 x 10.00

0 - 255

IRS PAN (India)

0 - 127

5.80 x 5.80

Box : 7.2

(Natural Dispersion of Light)
Dispersion of Light
(The principle that is utilised in
obtaining Multispectral Images)
The overall mechanism of obtaining
images in a number of bands derives
strength from the principle of the
dispersion of light. You must have
seen the rainbow. It is formed
through a natural process of
dispersion of light rays through

(Artificial Dispersion of Light)

water molecules present in the

atmosphere. The same phenomena
may be experimented by putting a
beam of light at one side of a prism.
At the other side of the prism you
may notice the dispersion of energy
into seven colours that form white

Introduction To Remote Sensing

Figure 7. 11 IRS P - 6 (Resourcesat - 1) Images of Parts of Najafgarh, Delhi, 03 June 2005


Practical Work in Geography

We have seen that the electromagnetic energy may be detected either


photographically or electronically. The photographic process uses light

sensitive film to detect and record energy variations (Refer Chapter 6). On
the other hand, a scanning device obtains images in digital mode. It is
important to distinguish between the terms images and photographs.
An image refers to pictorial representation, regardless of what regions of
energy have been used to detect and record it. A photograph refers
specifically to images that have been recorded on photographic film.
Hence, it can be said that all photographs are images, but all images are
not photographs.
Based upon the mechanism used in detecting and recording, the
remotely sensed data products may be broadly classified into two types :

Photographic Images

Digital Images

Photographic Images: Photographs are acquired in the optical

regions of electromagnetic spectrum, i.e. 0.3 0.9 m. Four different
types of light sensitive film emulsion bases are used to obtain photographs.
These are black and white, colour, black and white infrared and colour
infrared. However, in aerial photography black and white film is normally
used. Photographs may be enlarged to any extent without loosing
information contents or the contrast.

Digital Images: A digital image consists of discrete picture elements

called pixels. Each one of the pixels in an image has an intensity value
and an address in two-dimensional image space. A digital number (DN)
represents the average intensity value of a pixel. It is dependent upon the
electromagnetic energy received by the sensor and the intensity levels
used to describe its range.
In a digital image, the reproduction of the details pertaining to the
images of the objects is affected by the size of the pixel. A smaller size
pixel is generally useful in the preservation of the scene details and digital
representation. However, zooming of the digital image beyond certain
extent produces loss of information and the appearance of pixels only.
Using a digital image processing algorithms, the digital numbers
representing their intensity level in an image may be displayed (Fig. 7.12).

Introduction To Remote Sensing

Figure 7.12 Digital Image (top) and Part of it zoomed showing Pixels brightness (left)
and the associated Digital Numbers (right)


The data obtained from the sensors is used for information extraction
related to the forms, and patterns of the objects and phenomena of the
earths surface. We have seen that different sensors obtain photographic
and digital data products. Hence, the extraction of both qualitative and
quantitative properties of such features could be carried out using either
visual interpretation methods or digital image processing techniques.
The visual interpretation is a manual exercise. It involves reading of
the images of objects for the purpose of their identification. On the other
hand, digital images require a combination of hardware and software to
extract the desired information. It would not be possible to deliberate
upon the digital image processing techniques under the constraints of
time, equipments and accessories. Hence, only visual interpretation
methods would be discussed.


Practical Work in Geography

Elements of Visual Interpretation

Whether we are conscious of it or not we use the form, size, location of the


objects and their relationships with the surrounding objects to identify

them in our day-to-day life. These characteristics of objects are termed as
elements of visual interpretation. We can further group the characteristics
of the objects into two broad categories, i.e. image characteristics and
terrain characteristics. The image characteristics include tone or colour
in which objects appear, their shape, size, pattern, texture and the shadow
they cast. On the other hand, location and the association of different
objects with their surrounding objects constitute the terrain
1. Tone or Colour: We know that all objects receive energy in all regions
of spectrum. The interaction of EMR with the object surface leads to the
absorption, transmittance and reflection of energy. It is the reflected
amount of the energy that is received and recorded by the sensor in tones
of grey, or hues of colour in black and white, and colour images
respectively. The variations in the tone or the colour depend upon the
orientation of incoming radiations, surface properties and the composition
of the objects. In other words, smooth and dry object surfaces reflect more
energy in comparison to the rough and moist surfaces. Besides, the
response of the objects also varies in different regions of the spectrum
(Refer para C Stages in remote sensing data acquisition). For example,
healthy vegetation reflects strongly in the infrared region because of the
multiple-layered leaf structure and appears in a light tone or bright red

7.13 (a) Turbid river

7.13 (b) River with fresh water

Introduction To Remote Sensing

colour in standard false colour composite and the scrubs appear in greyish
red colour). Similarly, a fresh water body absorbs much of the radiations
received by it and appears in dark tone or black colour, whereas the turbid
water body appears in light tone or light bluish colour in FCC due to
mixed response shown by the water molecules as well as suspended sand
particles (Figures 7.13 a and b).
The colours in which different features of the earths surfaces are recorded
in remote sensing images are given in Table 7.2.
Table 7.2: Colour Signatures on Standard False Colour
Composite of Earth Surface Features
S. No.

Earth Surface Feature


Healthy Vegetation and

Cultivated Areas

Colour(In Standard FCC)


Red to magenta


Brown to red
Light brown with red




Cropped land
Fallow land

Bright red
Light blue to white

Clear water

Dark blue to black

Turbid waterbody

Light blue

Built up area
High density

Dark blue to bluish green

Low density

Light blue

Waste lands/Rock outcrops

Rock outcrops
Sandy deserts/River sand/

Light brown
Light blue to white

Salt affected
Deep ravines
Shallow ravines

Dark green
Light green

Water logged/Wet lands

Motelled black


Practical Work in Geography


2. Texture: The texture refers to the minor variations in tones of grey or

hues of colour. These variations are primarily caused by an aggregation
of smaller unit features that fail to be discerned individually such as high
density and low density residential areas; slums and squatter settlements;
garbage and other forms of solid waste; and different types of crops and
plants. The textural differences in the images of certain objects vary from
smooth to coarse textures (Fig. 7.14 a and b). For example, dense
residential areas in a large city form fine texture due to the concentration
of the houses in a smaller area and the low-density residential areas
produce a coarse texture. Similarly, in high resolution images the
sugarcane or millet plants produce coarse texture in comparison to the
fine texture of rice or wheat plants. One can also notice the coarse texture
in the images of scrubbed lands if compared with the fine texture of lush
green evergreen forests.

Figure 7.14 (a) Coarse texture

image of

Figure 7.14 (b) Fine texture of cropped



3. Size: The size of an object as discerned from the resolution or scale of

an image is another important characteristic of individual objects. It helps
in distinctively identifying the industrial and industrial complexes with
residential dwellings (Fig. 7.15), stadium in the heart of the city with the
brick kilns at an urban fringe, size and hierarchy of the settlements, etc.
4. Shape: The general form and configuration or an outline of an
individual object provides important clues in the interpretation of remote
sensing images. The shape of some of the objects is so distinctive that
make them easy to identify. For example, the shape of the Sansad Bhawan
is typically distinct from many other built-up features. Similarly, a railway
line can be readily distinguished from a road due to its long continuous
linearity in shape with gradual change in its course (Figure 7.16). The

Introduction To Remote Sensing

(a) Parts of Kolkata

(b) Parts of Varanasi

Figure 7.15 Variations in size between institutional buildings and residential

areas may be distinctly identified in the images of parts of Kolkata (a) and
Varanasi (b)

shape also plays a deciding role in the identity of

religious places such as mosques and temples as
distinct features.
5. Shadow: Shadow of an object is a function of
the suns illumination angle and the height of the
object itself. The shape of some of the objects is
so typical that they could not be identified without
finding out the length of the shadow they cast.
For example, the Qutub Minar located in Delhi,
minarets of mosques, overhead water tanks,
electric or telephone lines, and similar features
can only be identified using their shadow. Shadow
also adversely affects the identifiability of the
objects in city centres as it produces a dark tone,
which dominates the original tone or colour of the
features lying under the shadow of tall buildings.
It may , however, be noted that the shadow as an
element of image interpretation is of less use in


satellite images. However, it serves a useful

purpose in large-scale aerial photography.
6. Pattern: The spatial arrangements of many
natural and manmade features show repetitive

Figure 7.16 Curvilinear shape of

the Railway Tract is
Distinctly different
from Sharp Bending

Practical Work in Geography

appearance of forms and relationships. The arrangements can easily be


identified from the images through the utilisation of the pattern they form.
For example, planned residential areas with the same size and layout
plan of the dwelling units in an urban area can easily be identified if their
pattern is followed (Figure 7.17). Similarly, orchards and plantations
produce arrangements of the same type of plants with uniform inter
plant distances. A distinction can also be made between various types of
drainage or settlements if their pattern is properly studied and recognised.

Figure 7.17

Planned residential areas are easily identifiable using the

pattern they form

7. Association: The association refers to the relationship between the

objects and their surroundings along with their geographical location.
For example, an educational institution always finds its association with
its location in or near a residential area as well as the location of a
playground within the same premises. Similarly, stadium, race course
and golf course holds good for a large city, industrial sites along highway
at the periphery of a growing city, and slums along drains and railway

Introduction To Remote Sensing

1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below
(i) Remote sensing of objects can be done through various means
such as A. remote sensors, B. human eyes and C. photographic
system. Which of the following represents the true order of their
(a) ABC
(b) BCA
(c) CAB
(d) None of the above
(ii) Which of the following regions of Electromagnetic spectrum
is not used in satellite remote sensing.
(a) Microwave region
(b) Infrared region
(c) X - rays
(d) Visible region
(iii) Which of the following is not used in visual interpretation technique ?
(a) Spatial arrangements of objects
(b) Frequency of tonal change on the image
(c) Location of objects with respect to other objects
(d) Digital image processing
2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words.
(i) Why is remote sensing a better technique than other traditional
(ii) Differentiate between IRS and INSAT series of satellites.
(iii) Describe in brief the functioning of pushbroom scanner.
3. Answer the following questions in about 125 words.
(i) Describe the operation of a whiskbroom scanner with the help of
a diagram. Explain how it is different from pushbroom scanner.
(ii) Identify and list the changes that can be observed in the vegetation
of Himalayas (Fig.7.9).


Practical Work in Geography

Identify various features marked on IRS IC LISS III imagery shown


below. Draw clues from the description of the elements of image

interpretation discussed and the colours in which various objects
appear on a standard alse Colour Composite.

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Chapter 8

Weather Instruments, Maps and

Weather denotes the atmospheric conditions of weather elements at a
particular place and time. The weather elements include temperature,
pressure, wind, humidity and cloudiness. Each day weather maps are
prepared for that day by the Meteorological Department from the data
obtained from observations made at various weather stations across the
world. In India, weather-related information is collected and published
under the auspices of the Indian Meteorological Department, New Delhi,
which is also responsible for weather forecasting.

Indian Meteorological Department

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) was established in 1875, with
its headquarters at Calcutta. The IMD headquarters are presently located
at New Delhi.

Weather forecasts help in taking safety measures in advance in case of

the likelihood of bad weather. Predicting weather a few days in advance
may prove very useful to farmers and to the crew of ships, pilots, fishermen,
defence personnel, etc.
1. Weather :

The condition of the atmosphere at a given place and time

with respect to atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, precipitation,

cloudiness and wind. These factors are known as weather elements.
2. Weather Forecast : Prediction with a reasonable amount of certainty
about the conditions of weather that would prevail in the coming 12 to 48
hours in a certain area.


Practical Work in Geography

Globally, meteorological observations are recorded at three levels, viz.


surface observatories, upper air observatories and space-based

observation platforms. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a
specialised agency of the United Nations, coordinates these observations.

A typical surface observatory has instruments for measuring and
recording weather elements like temperature (maximum and minimum),
air pressure, humidity, clouds, wind and rainfall. Specialised observatories
also record elements like radiation, ozone atmospheric trace gases,
pollution and atmospheric electricity. These observations are taken all
over the globe at fixed times of the day as decided by the WMO and the
use of instruments are made conforming to international standards, thus
making observations globally compatible.
In India, meteorological observations are normally classified into five
categories depending upon their instruments and the number of daily
observations taken. The highest category is Class-I. Typical instrumental
facility available in a Class-I observatory consists of the following:
Maximum and minimum thermometers
Anemometer and wind vane
Dry and Wet bulb thermometer
Rain gauge

Observations are taken in these observatories normally at

00,03,06,09,12,15,18,21 hours (Greenwich Mean Time) around the globe.
However, for logistic reasons, some of the observatories take limited
number of daily observations upper air observation during daytime only.

Weather satellites make comprehensive and large-scale observations of
different meteorological elements at the ground level as well in the upper
layers of the atmosphere. The geo-stationary satellites provide space-based
observations about weather conditions (refer to Chapter 7). For example,
The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) provides valuable observations of
temperature, cloud cover, wind and associated weather phenomena.

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Various instruments are used for measuring
different weather phenomena. Some of the common
but important weather instruments are listed below.

Thermometer is used to measure air temperature.
Most thermometers are in the form of a narrow closed
glass tube with an expanded bulb at one end. The
bulb and the lower part of the tube are filled with
liquid such as mercury or alcohol. Before the other
end is sealed off, the air in the tube is released by
heating it. The bulb of the thermometer in contact
with the air gets heated or cooled, as the case may
be, as a result of which the mercury in the bulb
rises or falls. A scale is marked on the glass tube

Figure 8.1 Maximum Thermometer

and readings are taken from there.

The two most common scales used in
thermometers are Centigrade and the Fahrenheit.
On the Centigrade thermometer, the temperature of
melting ice is marked 00C and that of boiling water
as 1000C, and the interval between the two is divided
into 100 equal parts. On the Fahrenheit
thermometer, the freezing and boiling points of
water are graduated as 320F and 2120F respectively.
While the maximum thermometer and minimum
thermometer are used to measure the air
temperature, the dry bulb and the wet bulb
thermometers are used to determine the humidity
in the air. A set of these thermometers is kept in the
Stevenson Screen (Box 8.2).
The maximum thermometer is designed to record
the highest temperature during a day. As the
temperature increases, the mercury moves up into
the tube; however, as the mercury cools, it cannot
move downwards because of a constriction in the
tube. It must be reset again to bring it down. The
minimum thermometer records the lowest reading Figure 8.2 Minimum Thermometer


Practical Work in Geography



The Stevenson screen is designed to protect

thermometers from precipitation and direct
sunlight while allowing air to circulate freely
around them. It is made from wood with louvered
sides to allow free and even flow of air. It is painted
white to reflect radiation. It stands on four legs
and is about 3 feet 6 inches above the level of the
ground. The legs must be sufficiently rigid and
be buried sufficiently in the ground to prevent
shaking. The front panel is hinged at the bottom
to form a door, which allows for maintenance and
reading of the thermometers. The door of
Stevenson screen is always towards the north in
the northern hemisphere and towards the south
in the southern hemisphere because direct
sunrays also affect mercury. The purpose of the
Stevenson screen is to create a uniform
temperature enclosure that closely represents the
same temperature as the air outside.

in a day. In this thermometer, alcohol is used in place of

mercury. When the temperature decreases, the metal pin
in the tube goes down and strikes at the minimum
temperature. (Fig. 8.1 Maximum and Fig. 8.2 Minimum
The dry bulb and wet bulb thermometers are used for
measuring humidity in the air (Fig. 8.3). The dry bulb and
wet bulb thermometers are two identical thermometers
fixed to a wooden frame. The bulb of the dry thermometer
is kept uncovered and is exposed to the air while the bulb
of the wet bulb thermometer is wrapped up with a piece of
wet muslin, which is kept continuously moist by dipping
a strand of it into a small vessel of distilled water. The
evaporation from the wet bulb lowers its temperature.
Figure 8.3 Wet and Dry

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Dry bulb readings are not affected by the amount of water vapour
present in the air, but the wet bulb readings vary with it since the rate of
evaporation is dependent upon the amount of water vapour present in
the air. The greater the humidity in the air, the slower the rate of evaporation
and hence, the difference between the readings of the dry bulb and wet
bulb will be small. On the other hand, when the air is dry, the evaporation
from the surface of the wet bulb is rapid, which would lower its
temperature and the difference between the two readings would be larger.
Hence, the difference of the readings of the dry bulb and the wet bulb
thermometers determines the state of the atmosphere with regard to its
humidity. The larger the difference, the more arid is the air.

The air around us has weight, and it exerts great pressure on the earths
surface. At the sea level, under normal conditions, the pressure of air is
1.03 kg per square centimetre. Due
to constant movement of air, change
in temperature and variation in its
vapour content, the weight of the air
changes continuously with time and
The instrument used to
measure atmospheric pressure is
called a barometer. The most
commonly used barometers are the



barometer and barographs. The unit

of measurement is in the millibar.
Mercury barometer is an accurate
instrument and is used as a standard.
In it the atmospheric pressure of any
place is balanced against the weight of
a column of mercury in an inverted
glass tube. The principle of a mercurial


barometer can be explained by a simple

experiment (Fig. 8.4). Take a thick
glass tube of uniform length about a
meter long and fill it with mercury.

Figure 8.4 Mercury Barometer

Practical Work in Geography

Close the mouth of the tube with a

finger, then invert and immerse its open
end in a cup of mercury without allowing


air to enter into the tube and then

remove the finger.
The mercury will flow out of the tube
into the cup and stand at a definite height
above the level of the liquid in the cup.
This is because the weight of the column
of the mercury in the tube, above the
surface of the mercury in the cup, is
balanced by the weight of the air column
of an indefinite height exerted as pressure
Figure 8.5 Aneroid Barometer

upon an equal cross-section of the liquid

surface. The height of the column of
mercury in the tube, therefore, becomes

the measure of the pressure of air.

Aneroid barometer gets its name from the Greek work, aneros (a- not, neros
moisture, meaning without liquid). It is a compact and portable instrument. It
consists of a corrugated metal box made up of a thin alloy, sealed completely and
made airtight after partial exhaustion of air. It has a thin flexible lid, which is
sensitive to changes of pressure. (Fig. 8.5)
As the pressure increases, the lid is pressed inward, and this, in turn, moves a
system of levers connected to a pointer, which moves clockwise over the graduated
dial and gives higher reading. When the pressure decreases, the lid is pushed
outward and the pointer moves counter clockwise, indicating lower pressure.
Barograph works on the principle of aneroid barometer. There are a number
of vacuum boxes placed one above the other so that the displacement is large. A
system of levers magnifies this movement which is recorded by a pen on a paper
attached to a rotating drum. The readings of a barograph are not always accurate,
and therefore, they are standardised by comparing them with a mercury barometer

Wind Vane
Wind vane is a device used to measure the direction of the wind. The wind vane is
a lightweight revolving plate with an arrowhead on one end and two metal plates
attached to the other end at the same angle. This revolving plate is mounted on a
rod in such a manner that it is free to rotate on a horizontal plane. It responds

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Figure 8.6 Wind Vane

Figure 8.7 Rain Gauge

even to a slight blow of wind. The arrow always points towards the
direction from which the wind blows. (Fig. 8.6)

Rain Gauge
The amount of rainfall is measured with the help of a rain gauge. The rain
gauge consists of a metal cylinder on which a circular funnel is fitted. The
diameter of the funnels rim is normally 20 cm. The rain drops are collected
and measured in a measuring glass. Normally, rainfall is measured in
the units of millimetres or centimetres. Snow is also measured in a similar
manner by turning it into liquid form (Fig. 8.7).Table 8.1: Instruments

Instruments for Measuring Weather Elements

S. No





Thermometer C/F

Atmospheric Pressure Barometer



Wind (Direction)
Wind (Velocity)

Wind Vane

Cardinal points


Rain Gauge



Practical Work in Geography




Weather Maps: A weather map is the representation of weather


phenomena of the earth or a part of it on a flat surface. It depicts conditions

associated with different weather elements such as temperature, rainfall,
sunshine and cloudiness, direction and velocity of winds, etc. on a
particular day. Such observations being taken at fixed hours are
transmitted by code to the forecasting stations. The central office keeps a
record of the observations, which forms the basis for making a weather
map. The upper air observations which are procured from hill stations,
aeroplanes, pilot balloons, etc. are plotted separately. Since the inception
of the Indian Meteorological Department, the weather maps and charts
are prepared regularly.
Meteorological observatories transmit the data to the Central
Observatory at Pune twice a day. Data is also collected on ships plying
on the Indian seas. A good progress has been made in the field of weather
forecasting and observation with the establishment of weather
observatories in Antarctica, the International Indian Ocean Expedition,
and the launching of rockets and weather satellites.

Weather Charts: The data received from various weather observatories

are in plenty and detailed. As such, they cannot be incorporated in one
single chart unless the coding designed to give the economy of expression
is used. These are called synoptic weather charts and the codes used
are called meteorological symbols. Weather charts provide the primary
tools for weather forecasting. They help in locating and identifying different
air masses, pressure systems, fronts and areas of precipitation.

The messages received from all the observatories are plotted on the map
using weather symbols standardised by the World Meteorological
Organisation and the National Weather Bureaus. (Figures 8.8 and 8.9)
To facilitate the interpretation of the plots, each element occupies a fixed
position to the station circle as given in Figures 8.8 and 8.9.

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Figure 8.8 Meteorological Symbols (Approved by the International

Meteorological Organisation, Warsaw, 1935)


Light breeze
Gentle breeze
Moderate breeze
Fresh breeze
Strong breeze

Moderate gale
Fresh gale
Strong gale
Whole gale




Light air


Figure 8.9 Wind Speed and Common Effects

118 plus






Most destructive.

Very rarely experienced, accompanied by

widespread damage.

Seldom experienced inland; trees uprooted,

considerable structural damage occurs.

Slight structural damage occurs (chimney pots

and slates removed.)

Breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes


Whole tree in motion, inconvenience felt when

walking against wind.

Large branches in motion; whistling heard in

telegraph wires umbrellas used with diffiuclty.

Small tree in leaf begin to sway, crested wavelets

from an inland waters.


Raises dust and loose papers, small branches

are moved.

Leaves and small twigs in constant motion, wind

extends light flag.


Wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vane

move by winds.

Direction of wind shown by smoke drift, but not

wind vanes.


Calm, Smoke rise vertically.

Common effects





Beaufort No.

Practical Work in Geography

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

Mapping the Climatic Data

Much of the climatic data is represented by line symbols. The most
common of these are the isometric lines. These lines are depicted on the
map as isopleths. The Isopleth can be interpolated for places having the
same mean values of temperature, rainfall, pressure, sunshine, clouds,
etc. Some of these lines and their uses are mentioned below:
Isobars :
Lines connecting places of equal air pressure.
Isotherms :

Lines connecting places of equal temperature.

Isohyets :

Lines connecting places of equal amount of rainfall over a

given period of time.

Isohels :

Lines connecting places of same mean daily duration of

Isonephs :

Lines connecting places of same mean value of cloud cover.

Weather Map Interpretation

On the basis of the above information, we can analyse a weather map and
understand the general pattern of weather conditions prevailing in different
parts of the country. In Fig. 8.10 the general weather conditions prevailing
in India during the month of May are plotted. There is a general increase
of pressure towards the north and north-east. Two low-pressure centres
can be identified with one over Rajasthan and the other over the Bay of
Bengal. The low pressure centre is well developed over the Bay of Bengal
marked by concentric isobars, with the lowest air pressure being 996
mb. The southern part of India has overcast skies. The central part of
India, on the other hand, has generally clear skies. In the southern part
of the eastern coast, the winds are mostly from the land to the sea, flowing
in an anti-clockwise direction. Also, read Fig. 8.13 and find out the
temperature and pressure conditions in July.
In Figures 8.11 and 8.12, the general weather conditions during
winters in the month of January are plotted. There is a general increase of
pressure towards the north from south. Most of the country has clear
skies with a high-pressure region developing to the eastern side of India.
The highest pressure isobar of 1018 mb passes through Rajasthan.


Practical Work in Geography


Figure 8.10 Indian Weather Map (for the month of May)

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts


Figure 8.11 Indian Weather Map (for the month of January)

Practical Work in Geography


Figure 8.12 India - Mean Pressure and Temperature (January)

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts


Figure 8.13 Mean Pressure and Temperature (July)

Practical Work in Geography



1. Choose the right answer from the four alternatives given below.
(i) Which department prepares the weather map of India for each
(a) The World Meteorological Organisation
(b) The Indian Meteorological Department
(c) The Survey of India
(d) None of these
(ii) Which two liquids are used in maximum and minimum
(a) Mercury and water
(b) Water and alcohol
(c) Mercury and alcohol
(d) None of these
(iii) Lines connecting the places of equal pressure are called
(a) Isobars
(b) Isohyets
(c) Isotherms
(d) Isohels
The primary tool for weather forecasting is
(iv) (a) Thermometer
(b) Barometer
(c) Maps
(d) Weather charts
(v) If there is more humidity in the air, the difference between the
readings of a dry bulb and a wet bulb will be
(a) Less
(b) More
(c) Equal
(d) None of these
2. Answer the following questions in about 30 words.
(i) What are the basic elements of weather?
(ii) What is a weather chart?
(iii) Which instruments are normally available in Class-I observatory
to measure the weather phenomena?
(iv) What are Isotherms?

Weather Instruments, Maps and Charts

(v) Which meteorological symbols are used to mark the following on

a weather map?
a) Rain
b) Mist
c) Sunshine
d) Lightning
e) Overcast Sky
3. Answer the following question in not more than 125 words.
Discuss how weather maps and charts are prepared and how they
are useful to us.

Study the Figures 8.12 and 8.13 and answer the following questions.
(a) Which seasons are shown in these maps?
(b) What is the value of the highest isobar in Figure 8.12 and through
which part of the country does it pass?
(c) What are the values of the highest and the lowest isobars in Figure
8.13 and where are they located?
(d) What are the patterns of temperature distribution in both the
(e) In which parts do you see the highest and the lowest mean
temperature in Figure 8.12?
(f) What relationship do you see between the distribution of
temperature and pressure in both the maps?




Data Its Source and Compilation

1 12

Data Processing

13 31

Graphical Representation of Data

32 54

Use of Computer in Data
Processing and Mapping

55 70

Field Surveys

71 84

Spatial Information Technology

85 100
101 105

You must have seen and used various forms of data. For example, at the end of
almost every news bulletin on Television, the temperatures recorded on that day
in major cities are displayed. Similarly, the books on the Geography of India
show data relating to the growth and distribution of population, and the
production, distribution and trade of various crops, minerals and industrial
products in tabular form. Have you ever thought what they mean? From where
these data are obtained? How are they tabulated and processed to extract
meaningful information from them ? In this chapter, we will deliberate on these
aspects of the data and try to answer these many questions.

What is Data?
The data are defined as numbers that represent measurements from the real
world. Datum is a single measurement. We often read the news like 20 centimetres
of continuous rain in Barmer or 35 centimetres of rain at a stretch in Banswara
in 24 hours or information such as New Delhi Mumbai distance via Kota
Vadodara is 1385 kilometres and via Itarsi - Manmad is 1542 kilometres by
train. This numerical information is called data. It may be easily realised that
there are large volume of data available around the world today. However, at
times, it becomes difficult to derive logical conclusions from these data if they are
in raw form. Hence, it is important to ensure that the measured information is
algorithmically derived and/or logically deduced and/or statistically calculated
from multiple data. Information is defined as either a meaningful answer to a
query or a meaningful stimulus that can cascade into further queries.

Need of Data
Maps are important tools in studying geography. Besides, the distribution and
growth of phenomena are also explained through the data in tabular form. We
know that an interelationship exists between many phenomena over the surface
of the earth. These interactions are influenced by many variables which can be

explained best in quantitative terms. Statistical analysis of those variables has

become a necessity today. For example, to study cropping pattern of an area, it
is necessary to have statistical information about the cropped area, crop yield
and production, irrigated area, amount of rainfall and inputs like use of fertiliser,
insecticides, pesticides, etc. Similarly, data related to the total population, density,
number of migrants, occupation of people, their salaries, industries, means of
transportation and communication is needed to study the growth of a city. Thus,
data plays an important role in geographical analysis.

Presentation of the Data

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ork in Geography, P

You might have heard the story of a person who was travelling with his wife and
a five-year old child. On his way, he had to cross a river. Firstly, he fathomed the
depth of the river at four points as 0.6, 0.8, 0.9 and 1.5 metres. He calculated the
average depth as 0.95 metres. His childs height was 1 metre. So, he led them to
cross the river and his child drowned in the river. On the other bank, he sat
pondering: Lekha Jokha Thahe, to Bachha Dooba Kahe ? (Why did the child
drown when average depth was within the reach of each one ?). This is called
statistical fallacy, which may deviate you from the real situation. So, it is very
important to collect the data to know the facts and figures, but equally important
is the presentation of data. Today, the use of statistical methods in the analysis,
presentation and in drawing conclusions plays a significant role in almost all
disciplines, including geography, which use the data. It may, therefore, be inferred
that the concentration of a phenomena, e.g. population, forest or network of
transportation or communication not only vary over space and time but may
also be conveniently explained using the data. In other words, you may say that
there is a shift from qualitative description to quantitative analysis in explaining
the relationship among variables. Hence, analytical tools and techniques have
become more important these days to make the study more logical and derive
precise conclusion. Precise quantitative techniques are used right from the
beginning of collecting and compiling data to its tabulation, organisation, ordering
and analysis till the derivation of conclusions.

Sources of Data
The data are collected through the following ways. These are : 1. Primary Sources,
and 2. Secondary Sources.
The data which are collected for the first time by an individual or the group
of individuals, institution/organisations are called Primary sources of the
data. On the other hand, data collected from any published or unpublished
sources are called Secondary sources. Fig. 1.1 shows the different methods
of data collection.

Sources of Primary Data

1. Personal Observations
It refers to the collection of information by an individual or group of individuals
through direct observations in the field. Through a field survey, information about
the relief features, drainage patterns, types of soil and natural vegetation, as well
as population structure, sex ratio, literacy, means of transport and
communication, urban and rural settlements, etc. is collected. However, in carrying


Secondary Data

Primary Data



Published Resources





Unpublished Resources








Fig. 1.1 : Methods of Data Collection

DataIts Source and Compilation

out personal observations, the person(s) involved must have theoretical knowledge
of the subject and scientific attitude for unbiased evaluation.
2. Interview
In this method, the researcher gets direct information from the respondent
through dialogues and conversations. However, the interviewer must take the
following precautions while conducting an interview with people of the area:
(i) A precise list of items about which information is to be gathered from
the persons interviewed be prepared.
(ii) The person(s) involved in conducting the interview should be clear about
the objective of the survey.
(iii) The respondents should be taken into confidence before asking any sensitive
question and he/she be assured that the secrecy will be maintained.
(iv) A congenial atmosphere should be created so that the respondent may
explain the facts without any hesitation.
(v) The language of the questions should be simple and polite so that
the respondents feel motivated and readily agree to give information
asked for.
(vi) Avoid asking any such question that may hurt the self respect or the
religious feelings of the respondent.
(vii) At the end of interview, ask the respondent what additional information
he/she may provide, other than what has already been provided by
(viii) Pay your thanks and gratefulness for sparing his/her valuable time
for you.

3. Questionnaire/Schedule
In this method, simple questions and their possible answers are written on a
plain paper and the respondents have to tick-mark the possible answers from
the given choices. At times, a set of structured questions are written and sufficient
space is provided in the questionnaire where the respondent write their opinion.
The objectives of the survey should be clearly mentioned in the questionnaire.
This method is useful in carrying out the survey of a larger area. Even
questionnaire can be mailed to far-flung places. The limitation of the method is
that only the literate and educated people can be approached to provide the
required information. Similar to the questionnaire that contains the questions
pertaining to the matter of investigation is the schedule. The only difference
between the questionnaire and the schedule is that the respondent himself/
herself fills up the questionnaires, whereas a properly trained enumerator himself
fills up schedules by asking question addressed to the respondents. The main
advantage of schedule over the questionnaire is that the information from both
literate and illiterate respondents can be collected.
4. Other Methods
The data about the properties of soil and water are collected directly in the field
by measuring their characteristics using
soil kit and water quality kit. Similarly,
field scientist collect data about the health
of the crops and vegetation using
transducers (Fig. 1.2).

Secondary Source of Data

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ork in Geography, P

Secondary sources of data consist of

published and unpublished records
which include government publications,
documents and reports.
Published Sources

Fig. 1.2 : Field Scientist taking

Measures of Crop Health

1. Government Publications
The publications of the various
ministries and the departments of the
Government of India,
governments and the District Bulletins
are one of the most important sources
of secondary information. These
include the Census of India published
by the Office of the Registrar General of
India, reports of the National Sample
Survey, Weather Reports of Indian
Meteorological Department, and
Statistical Abstracts published by state
governments, and the periodical reports
published by different Commissions.
Some of the government publications
are shown in Fig. 1.3.

Fig. 1.3 : Some of the Government


2. Semi/Quasi-government Publications
The publications and reports of Urban Development Authorities and Municipal
Corporations of various cities and towns, Zila Parishads (District Councils), etc.
fall under this category.
3. International Publications
The international publications
comprise yearbooks, reports and
monographs published by different
agencies of the United Nations such
as United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organisation
United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP),
World Health Organisation (WHO),
Food and Agricultural Organisation
(FAO), etc. Some of the important
publications of the United Nations
that are periodically published are
Demographic Year Book, Statistical
Year Book and the Human
Development Report (Fig. 1.4).
4. Private Publications

Fig. 1.4 : Some of the United Nations


The yearbooks, surveys, research reports and monographs published by

newspapers and private organisations fall under this category.
5. Newspapers and Magazines

6. Electronic Media
The electronic media specially internet has emerged as a major source of
secondary data in recent times.
Unpublished Sources
1. Government Documents
The unpublished reports, monographs and documents are yet another source
of secondary data. These documents are prepared and maintained as
unpublished record at different levels of governance. For example, the village
level revenue records maintained by the patwaris of respective villages serve as
an important source of village level information.
2. Quasi-government Records
The periodical reports and the development plans prepared and maintained by
different Municipal Corporations, District Councils, and Civil Services
departments are included in Quasi government records.

DataIts Source and Compilation

The daily newspapers and the weekly, fortnightly and monthly magazines serve
as easily accessible source of secondary data.

3. Private Documents
These include unpublished reports and records of companies, trade unions,
different political and apolitical organisations and resident welfare associations.

Tabulation and Classification of Data

The data collected from primary or secondary sources initially appear as a big
jumble of information with the least of comprehension. This is known as raw
data. To draw meaningful inferences and to make them usable the raw data
requires tabulation and classification.
One of the simplest devices to summarise and present the data is the
Statistical Table. It is a systematic arrangement of data in columns and rows.
The purpose of table is to simplify the presentation and to facilitate comparisons.
This table enables the reader to locate the desired information quickly. Thus, the
tables make it possible for the analyst to present a huge mass of data in an
orderly manner within a minimum of space.

Data Compilation and Presentation

Data are collected, tabulated and presented in a tabular form either in absolute
terms, percentages or indices.
Absolute Data
When data are presented in their original form as integers, they are called absolute
data or raw data. For example, the total population of a country or a state, the
total production of a crop or a manufacturing industry, etc. Table 1.1 shows the
absolute data of population of India and some of the selected states.

UT Code

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ork in Geography, P

Table 1.1 : Population of India and Selected States/Union Territories, 2001


Union territory

Total Population

Jammu & Kashmir
Himachal Pradesh
Chandigarh ##
National Capital
Territory of Delhi
Uttar Pradesh










* inclusive of all territorial boundary of India

excluding PoK
Union Territory

Some time data are tabulated in a ratio or percentage form that are computed
from a common parameter, such as literacy rate or growth rate of population,
percentage of agricultural products or industrial products, etc. Table 1.2 presents

literacy rates of India over the decades

in a percentage form. Literacy Rate is
calculated as :
Total Literates
Total Population 100
Index Number

Table 1.2 : Literacy Rate* : 1951 2001

























An index number is a statistical

measure designed to show changes in
variable or a group of related variables * as percentage of total
Source: Census of India, 2001
with respect to time, geographic
location or other characteristics. It is to be noted that index numbers not only
measure changes over a period of time but also compare economic conditions of
different locations, industries, cities or countries. Index number is widely used
in economics and business to see changes in price and quantity. There are various
methods for the calculation of index number. However, the simple aggregate
method is most commonly used. It is obtained using the following formula:




= Total of the current year production

= Total of the base year production

Generally base year values are taken as 100 and index number is calculated
thereupon. For example, Table 1.3 shows the production of iron ore in India and
the changes in index number from 1970 71 to 2000 01 taking 1970-71 as
the base year.
(in million tonnes)










Index Number









Source India : Economic Year Book, 2005

Processing of Data
The processing of raw data requires their tabulation and classification in selected
classes. For example, the data given in Table 1.4 can be used to understand how
they are processed.
We can see that the given data are ungrouped. Hence, the first step is to
group data in order to reduce its volume and make it easy to understand.

DataIts Source and Compilation

Table 1.3 : Production of Iron ore in India

Table 1.4 : Score of 60 Students in Geography Paper











Grouping of Data
The grouping of the raw data requires determining of the number of classes in
which the raw data are to be grouped and what will be the class intervals. The
selection of the class interval and the number of classes, however, depends upon
the range of raw data. The raw data given in Table 1.4 ranges from 02 to 96. We
can, therefore, conveniently choose to group the data into ten classes with an
interval of ten units in each group, e.g. 0 10, 10 20, 20 30, etc. (Table 1.5).
Table 1.5 : Making Tally Marks to Obtain Frequency

Tally Marks

Number of Individual















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Numerical of Raw Data








= N = 60

Process of Classification
Once the number of groups and the class interval of each group are determined,
the raw data are classified as shown in Table 1.5. It is done by a method popularly
known as Four and Cross Method or tally marks.
First of all, one tally mark is assigned to each individual in the group in which
it is falling. For example, the first numerical in the raw data is 47. Since, it falls in
the group of 40 50, one tally mark is recorded in the column 3 of Table 1.5.
Frequency Distribution
In Table 1.5 we have classified the raw data of a quantitative variable and have
grouped them class-wise. The numbers of individuals (places in the fourth column
of Table 1.5) are known as frequency and the column represents the frequency

distribution. It illustrates how the

different values of a variable are
distributed in different classes.
Frequencies are classified as Simple and
Cumulative frequencies.
Simple Frequencies
It is expressed by f and represent the
number of individuals falling in each
group (Table 1.6). The sum of all the
frequencies, assigned to all classes,
represents the total number of individual
observations in the given series. In
statistics, it is expressed by the symbol N
that is equal to f . It is expressed as

= N = 60 (Table 1.5 and 1.6).

Table 1.6 : Frequency Distribution






















= N = 60

Cumulative Frequencies
It is expressed by Cf and can be obtained by adding successive simple
frequencies in each group with the previous sum, as shown in the column 3 of
Table 1.6. For example, the first simple frequency in Table 1.6 is 4. Next frequency
of 5 is added to 4 which gives a total of 9 as the next cumulative frequency.
Likewise add every next number until the last cumulative frequency of 60 is
obtained. Note that it is equal to N or f .

Exclusive Method
As shown in Table 1.6, two numbers are shown in its first column . Notice that
the upper limit of one group is the same as the lower limit of the next group. For
example, the upper limit of the one group (20 30) is 30, which is the lower limit
of the next group (30 40), making 30 to appear in both groups. But any
observation having the value of 30 is included in the group where it is at its lower
limit and it is excluded from the group where it is the upper limit as (in 20-30
groups). That is why the method is known as exclusive method, i.e. a group is
excluded of its upper limits. You may now make out where all the marginal
values of Table 1.4 will go.
The groups in Table 1.6, are interpreted in the following manner
0 and under 10
10 and under 20
20 and under 30
30 and under 40
40 and under 50
50 and under 60
60 and under 70
70 and under 80
80 and under 90
90 and under100
Hence, in this type of grouping the class extends over ten units. For example,
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 are included in the third group.

DataIts Source and Compilation

Advantage of cumulative frequency is that one can easily make out that there
are 27 individuals scoring less than 50 or that 45 out of 60 individuals lie below
the score of 70.
Each simple frequency is associated with its group or class. The exclusive or
inclusive methods are used for forming the groups or classes.

Inclusive Method

Table 1.7 : Frequency Distribution

In this method, a value equal to the

upper limit of a group is included in
the same group. Therefore, it is known
10 19
as inclusive method. Classes are

mentioned in a different form in this
method, as is shown in the first
30 39
column of Table 1.7. Normally, the
40 49
upper limit of a group differs by 1 with
50 59
the lower limits of the next group. It
60 69
is important to note that each group
70 79
spreads over ten units in this method
80 89
also. For example, the group of 50
90 99
59 includes the ten values i.e. 50, 51,
f = N = 60
52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 and 59
(Table 1.7). In this method both
upper and lower limit are included to find the frequency distribution.


Frequency Polygon

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ork in Geography, P


A graph of frequency
distribution is known
as the frequency
polygon. It helps in
comparing the two or
frequency distributions
(Fig.1.5). The two
frequencies are shown
using a bar diagram
and a line graph
When the frequencies
are added they are
Fig. 1.5 : Frequency Distribution Polygon
frequencies and are
listed in a table called cumulative fre