What is physical geography?

We explain what physical geography is, its history, characteristics and examples. In addition, differences with human geography.

  1. What is physical geography?

Physical geography is called the branch of geography that deals with the study of the earth’s surface , understood as a natural geographical space . This means that it cares about the natural aspects of geography only, without taking into account human populations and their relationships with the environment.

Physical geography is interested in geographic patterns and processes derived from energy flows in the environment , whether in the geosphere , hydrosphere or atmosphere . To understand them, it isolates them methodologically from the rest of the globe, although in nature , as we know, the elements are interconnected.

Physical geography emerged as a discipline at the beginning of the 20th century , but its subjects of study interested humanity since ancient times. Thanks to the theory of evolution of Charles Darwin , and the normalization of the interest of European imperialism in the nineteenth century by the global description, this discipline came into existence as a body of study in itself.

One of the great responsible for the emergence of physicals geography was the American William Morris Davis (1850-1934), whose efforts allowed the formal entry of geography to the academy.

  1. Characteristics of physical geography

Physical geography is dedicated to the study of the physicals components of the planet , such as the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, as well as their reciprocal relationships , global distribution and development over time. This ranges from orography, hydrography , glaciology, oceanography, climatology and pedology, to paleogeography and the study of natural hazards.

  1. Examples of physical geography

physical geography example meteorology
The study of meteorological phenomena is part of physical geography.

Some examples of application of physical geographys are:

  • The short and medium term weather forecasts .
  • The study of the distribution of world natural reserves and their main threats.
  • The understanding of the geographical changes of the planet from the geological evidence.
  • The study of the distribution of certain animal or plant species within a given region, or in the world.
  1. Auxiliary sciences of physical geography

Like many other disciplines , physical geography borders other sciences that often come to its aid or to provide tools that enlarge or specialize its object of study. These auxiliary sciences can be:

  • Earth sciences (geosciences) , which provide specialized geological knowledge to understand the nature of the earth’s crust.
  • Geodesy , responsible for the study of the planet in terms of its size, shape and characteristics.
  • Physics , whose knowledge of energy , change and movement are useful for understanding geographical processes.
  • Ecology , necessary for the study of communities of living beings and their geographical distribution.
  • Environmental sciences , especially in regard to the preservation of the planet.
  1. Physical geography and human geography

Unlike physical geography, human geography focuses on human populations , their relationships with the environment and their social, political and economic distribution .

Physical geography forms, together with human geography, the two major divisions of the field of geography studies, whose specific perspectives are complementary to each other.

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