Physical Geography

Geography is derived from the Greek word geo, meaning “earth, ground, or land” and graph, meaning “to write.” Geography is writing about the earth. Greek mathematician Eratosthenes (276–194 BCE) was the first to coin the term and establish the study of geography. Geography is the study of the physical characteristics of and the arrangement of places on Earth. As a science, geography has many fields and subfields but the main branches of geography are physical geography and human geography. Cartography, or mapping and map making, is also a scientific discipline within geography. It is the creation of maps through mapping a physical location to show and analyze the relationship of a location and human population.

Classical geography as it was practiced from the ancient Greek period through the nineteenth century was primarily physical geography. Physical geography encompasses the study of the land, oceans, seasons, climate, atmosphere, and Earth’s soil. It looks at how these elements change and have changed over time, the spatial relationships they have with shaping current environments. Subfields of physical geography are as vast as the Earth and include meteorology (the study of weather), glaciology (the study of glaciers), hydrology (the study of water and the water cycle), climatology (the study of Earth’s climate), biogeography (the study of biodiversity and the effects the environment has on biodiversity), oceanography (the study of the oceans), geomorphology (the study of landforms), pedology (the study of soils), coastal geography (where land and water meet), paleogeography (the study of past geography to see how continents have changed over time), quaternary science (the study of the past to see how climate has affected Earth’s geography), and astronomical geography (the study of how the moon and sun affect the Earth).

It was the expansion of colonial powers into Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America and the need for natural resources to fuel the Industrial Revolution that established geography as an academic discipline in universities. The Royal Geographic Society was established in Great Britain in 1830. The National Geographic Society in the United States was founded in 1888. That need has never dissipated. With it and the vastness of Earth and its everchanging geography has made physical geography a science of infinite inquiry.

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Physical Geography Resources

Gale resources guide interdisciplinary physical geography research. Gale's collections of databasesprimary source archives, and eBooks provide physical geography journals, books, archives, literature, and more to library users, K-12 students, and university researchers.


Gale databases include collections of publications, such as newspapers, scholarly journals, periodical articles, and journal articles as well as primary source documents and multimedia, such as images, audio, and videos that support users interested in physical geography research and studies.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains archives and articles that present researchers with firsthand content. Users can access historical documents, archives, and manuscripts to examine topics and create reports. 

Gale eBooks

Gale eBooks offer a variety of books online that support physical geography studies. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized library and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download content.

  • E-Learning for Geographers: Online Materials, Resources, and Repositories

    E-Learning for Geographers: Online Materials, Resources, and Repositories

    Information Science Reference  |   2018   |   ISBN-13: 9781599049816

    This text provides information on developing learning materials from an international team of geographers, educators, and computer scientists. It includes descriptions of the learning resources developed in geography topic areas and provides general guidance relevant to all who intend to work in the field of electronic or online learning.

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  • Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture and Aquaculture

    Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture and Aquaculture

    Engineering Science Reference  |   2021   |   ISBN-13: 9781799833451

    Climate change is expected to influence several productive sectors, the most significant of which is agriculture. Agriculture comprises an important sector of the global economy that includes crops, livestock, and seafood. Agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries are closely linked to the climate, with changes in climatic conditions able to drastically affect animal and plant productivity, which in turn has a direct impact on human well-being. This book is a critical scholarly publication that provides an integrated assessment of climate change impacts on agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries and explores a set of strategies to secure sustainable food security. While highlighting the associations between climate change, food security, and socio-economic development, the book establishes an inventory of good agricultural practices for the adaptation to climate change and presents solutions for making agricultural and food systems more sustainable. Featuring a wide range of topics such as carbon sequestration, ecosystem management, and desertification, this book is ideal for agriculturalists, environmentalists, fisheries, marine biologists, ichthyologists, government officials, academicians, policymakers, scientists, professionals, researchers, and students.

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  • Landforms and How They Are Made

    Landforms and How They Are Made

    Blue Door Education  |   2019   |   ISBN-13: 9781947632370

    Landforms make up our Earth. Landforms are underwater and on mountains. They are everywhere we look and make up different habitats. Most are changing every day.

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