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Courses : Syllabi : 101

Geography 101 Principles of Physical Geography


Dr. John O'Leary

Course Description

Physical geography seeks to describe and explain the spatial distributions of climate, water, soil, biota, and relief at the earth's surface, the functional interactions between these phenomena, and their relationships with people. We will develop and apply a set of common principles explain these distributions and their interdependencies as consequences of energy and material flows within the earth system.

Explanations of earth-system processes embody the core concepts and principles of physical science: force, energy, work, heat and temperature, the structure of matter, the electromagnetic spectrum, and conservation principles. In this course you will learn not only about these topics as fundamentals of physical science, but also about their roles in our understanding of the earth's physical environment.

This understanding of nature derives from the accumulation of scientific knowledge. We will consider the nature of science, especially the ways in which scientists collect data and develop explanations.




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

All examinations will be of multiple choice formats with all questions worth two points each. Each of the two midterm exams will contain 50 questions, respectively, from the first five and middle five weeks of class. The final examination will be comprised of 70 multiple choice questions. Ten of the 70 questions will be taken verbatim from the first midterm exam and an additional 10 questions will also be taken verbatim from the second midterm exam. The remaining 50 questions on the final exam will address material covered during the last five weeks of class (since the second midterm exam). Your final grade will be based on what percentage of points you earn on the examinations.

I will drop your lowest midterm exam score from your overall point total (making it 240 points) or include both midterm exam scores as part of your overall point total (making it 340 points.) - whichever is most to your advantage. HOWEVER, YOU MUST TAKE ALL EXAMINATIONS. FAILURE TO TAKE AN EXAM WILL AUTOMATICALLY RESULT IN AN EXAM SCORE OF 0 POINTS UNLESS A TRULY LEGITIMATE EXCUSE IS PRESENTED BEFORE THE EXAM. ALSO, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DROP THAT EXAM SCORE AS PART OF YOUR FINAL POINT TOTAL.

Your overall percentage score will be part of an overall grading curve from which final course grades are derived. While grade cutoffs on the curve may vary slightly from semester to semester, one needs to accumulate at least 50% of all possible points to pass the class and at least 90% to earn a straight 'A' grade.

Steady attendance is essential for success in this (and just about any other!) class. The great majority of exam questions will be taken directly from lecture information. The assigned readings in the textbook should be viewed as important supplementary information and should be kept up with steadily as presented chronologically on the syllabus. In addition, take advantage of office hours to seek assistance or clarification on any material from the lectures or textbook that may have been unclear. Please bear in mind that the 2007-2008 SDSU General Catalog (pg. 275) states that “One unit or credit hour represents 50 minutes of recitation or lecture, together with the required preparation, or three hours of laboratory work or two hours of activities, each week for a semester.”

Books and Materials

A. Strahler and A. Strahler, 2006. Introducing Physical Geography, 4th ed

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Introduction
The Earth in Space
The Geographic Grid
Atmospheric and Oceanic Structure
Week Two Earth-Sun Relationships
Properties of Solar and Terrestrial Radiation
Week Three Earth's Radiation Budget
Local and Global Temperature Patterns
Week Four Winds and Global Circulation
Week Five Atmospheric Moisture and Precipitation
Week Six Midterm One
Weather Systems: Fronts and Depressions
Week Seven Weather Systems: (cont.)
Week Eight Global Climates and Climatic change
Week Nine Earth Materials
The Lithosphere and Plate Tectonics
Week Ten Principles of Hydrology
Week Eleven Midterm Two
Landforms Made by Running Water
Week Twelve Landforms Made by Running Water (cont.)
Week Thirteen Fluvial Processes and Landforms of Arid Lands
Week Fourteen Coastal Landforms
Week Fifteen Glacial Landforms and the Ice Age

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.