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Courses : Syllabi : 101

Geography 101 Principles of Physical Geography


Dr. Molly Pohl-Costello

Course Description

Physical geography is the study of the processes, forms, and spatial components of natural systems operating at and near the surface of the earth. These natural systems are manifestations of the transfers of matter and energy among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere (air, water, land, and life.) The emphasis of this class is on developing a conceptual understanding of how earth surface processes shape the landscape, as well as how humans interact with these processes.

This course begins with developing an understanding of what shapes the earth’s weather and climate and hydrologic cycle. Next, we examine the earth’s lithosphere, including the rock cycle, plate tectonics, volcanism, and earthquakes. After discussing this geologic foundation, we will examine how chemical and physical processes alter the earth’s surface through agents such as wind, glacial ice, and rivers. This course concludes by integrating these concepts and utilizing them to discuss the physical geography of the San Diego area.




Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

Grade breakdown:
This scale may be curved at the end of the semester if a reasonable distribution of grades is not obtained from the straight scale.

Exams will be multiple-choice. The test material is not cumulative, but the course does build on an understanding of physical processes. Thus, it is difficult to master topics discussed later in the class if you do not have a solid understanding of the physical processes discussed at the beginning of the semester. There are no make-up exams given without prior arrangement with the instructor (requires exceptional circumstances.)

Homework assignments offer you the opportunity to test your knowledge and apply your skills. Assignments can be downloaded from the class Blackboard site. The assignments this semester include: (1) earth-sun relationships and the seasons, (2) ocean currents and how they influence climate, and (3) earthquake processes and measurements.

Books and Materials

Robert W. Christopherson 2009.Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography, Seventh edition. Prentice Hall.
Study Guide for the textbook is also available at the bookstore (optional, but helpful).

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Class structure and organization; introduction to course
Essentials of Geography
Solar Energy to the Earth and the Seasons
Week Two Labor Day, no class
Week Three Solar Energy and the Atmosphere
Week Four Air Temperature and Air Temperature Cycles
Week Five Atmospheric and Ocean Circulations (and ENSO)
Week Six Exam One
Water and Atmospheric Moisture
Week Seven Water and Atmospheric Moisture (cont)
Week Eight Weather
Week Nine The Dynamic Planet
Week Ten Exam Two
Tectonics, Earthquakes and Volcanism
Week Eleven Tectonics, Earthquakes and Volcanism (cont)
Weathering, Kart Landscapes, Mass Movements
Week Twelve River Systems and Landforms
Week Thirteen Oceans and Coastal Landforms
Week Fourteen Glacial and Processes and Landforms
Week Fifteen Exam Three
The Physical Geography of San Diego: Integrating Class Concepts

The statements found on this page/site are for informational purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the university publications.