Introducing Geomorphology: A Guide to Landforms and Processes

Introducing Geomorphology: A Guide to Landforms and Processes

Introducing Geomorphology: A Guide to Landforms and Processes

Introducing Geomorphology: A Guide to Landforms and Processes


Geomorphology is the study of the earth's landforms and the processes that made the landscape look the way it does today. What we see when we look at a scenic view is the result of the interplay of the forces that shape the earth's surface. These operate on many different timescales and involve geological as well as climatic forces. This book introduces the varying geomorphological forces and differing timescales from the global, which shapes continents and mountain ranges; through the regional, producing hills and river basins; to the local, forming beaches, glaciers, and slopes; and to those micro scale forces which weather rock faces and produce sediment. Finally, it considers the effect that humans have had on the world's topography. Introducing Geomorphology provides a structured and easily accessible introduction for those with a curiosity about the landscape and for those contemplating a course of formal study in physical geography, geology, or environmental studies. Technical terms are kept to a minimum and a glossary is provided. "Presented in full color with plenty of photographs and diagrams throughout, Introducing Geomorphology is recommended for community and college library collections looking to expand their Earth Science driven offerings." The Midwest Book Review, October 2012.


Many people enjoy scenery, and see landscapes as beautiful. Landscapes have inspired painters and photographers, even poets and composers of music. What is it about scenery that inspires people? For some it is clearly related to a scene with a ‘natural’ vegetation cover, for others it might relate to a mood created by the weather, or atmospheric conditions. For most, the physical landscape (mountains, hills, rocks, rivers, the sea) is the basis of ‘scenery’. Geomorphology is the science that deals with landforms and physical landscapes. As a study it lies between the traditional disciplines of physical geography and geology, draws from both, and contributes to both.

The purpose of this book is to introduce the reader to the science of geomorphology. The book is not intended as a textbook; there are many of these at every level. I make no bibliographic references in the text, but in the end pages I make suggestions for further reading. In writing I have tried to present a broad and reasonably comprehensive view of the conceptual basis of the subject. I have tried to avoid mathematical treatments and to keep the level of physics and chemistry to a minimum.

Geomorphology inevitably involves a great range of spatial scales, from the global scale (continents and mountain systems) to the regional scale (individual mountain and hill ranges, river basins) to the local scale (conventional scenery: rivers, hillslopes, beaches, glaciers) and the micro-scale (weathering phenomena, sedimentary details). Partly related to spatial scales are timescales (geological time – millions of years; the timescales of the ice ages – half a million to tens of thousands of years; modern timescales – the last ten thousand years; timescales of individual events, e.g. landslides, floods – hours or days). The form of the earth’s surface, at all scales, results from the interplay between two sets of forces, though the relative importance of each varies with scale. The two sets of forces are internal (essentially geologically driven) and external (essentially climatically driven).

This book is organised from the ‘top down’, initially introducing the concepts related to spatial and temporal scales and the two main drivers of landform evolution (internal and external forces). Then the bulk of the material is organised by spatial scale, dealing first with global and regional scales, then with local and (to some extent) micro-scales. There are two final short chapters, one dealing with the integration of timescales and landscape evolution, the other dealing with interactions between human society and geomorphology.

Note: all terms highlighted in bold are defined in the Glossary at the end of the book.

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