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Geographical Space Components and Characteristics

Geographical Space Characteristics

Geography studies the humanized space ( Where a human society is in interaction with the environment).
Geographical Space is the perceived space and continuously transformed by the relationship between its
natural, social, economic, politic and cultural characteristics. The geographical space has changed
through time because of natural processes as well as human intervention.

Geographical Space Characteristics Components

Each characteristic is formed by a group of components, for example the ones shown on the chart below:

* soil




* artistic

- growth
- migration

* cultural globalization

* water
* climate

* ethnics

* peoples cultural



* economic activities

* political organization

* trade flows

* international conflict

* communication channels
and means

* international organizations

* relief
* flora

- languages
- religions

* fauna

Geographical Space Categories

Diversity means variety and is the result of the combination of natural, social, cultural, economic and politic
aspects to local, national or worldwide levels. Climate, relief, natural resources, how population uses them,
etc., produce a great diversity of the geographical space and that is why there are different regions,
landscape, views and territories with environmental, cultural and economic characteristics that make them
Analysing these components and characteristics we will know if the space we are talking about is
urban, rural, semi- rural, etc.

Spatial Analysis Categories

Geography studies thehumanized space ( Where a human society is in interaction with the environment).
Geographical Space is the perceived space and continuously transformed by the relationship between its
natural, social, economic, politic and cultural characteristics. The geographical space has changed
through time because of natural processes as well as human intervention.

Analysis of the geographical space will lead you to understand that you belong to a time and a space and
that we are related with the natural and social changes that surround us. There are 5 main categories for
spatial analysis and they are:
Place or Site: Is the smallest unit of analysis, is any place where a human can carry out his/her daily
activities, it can be a neighborhood, a park a city. It is a place which creates a feeling of belonging and
identity with a community. (room, house, school, neighborhood, club, park, etc.).
Environment: is the surrounding area of where we live. When we refer to the physic or biologic
characteristics of a place we are talking about the natural environment, for example the jungle around the
Amazon River. The social or human environment is which contains cultural or economic demonstrations
like Chichen Itz or te petroleum zone of Minatitln. You can also talk about a rural or urban environment.
Landscape: Is the group of components perceived by the eyes and that has specific characteristics like
vegetation, climate, relief, etc. It can be natural (woods, desert, jungle, etc.) or social or modified (rural,
urban, semi urban, etc.)
Region: Is a geographical space characterized by some natural, cultural or economic elements that
differentiates it from others. For example close areas that share the same climate may form a climate region
(cold, warm, tropical, etc.). We can also talk about agricultural regions, language regions or cultural regions.
Territory: Is the space that shares the same government. It is limited by artificial or natural frontiers (state,
country, municipality, etc.). Its study belongs to national or local scale.

Relationship of Geographical Space Components in a Place, Environment,

Landscape, Region and Territory.
The interaction between the components results in all the elements (natural, social, cultural, economic and
politic) being related. For example the different climates influence the variety of natural regions, in the
economical activities of each place and the social and politic organization of its inhabitants.
There is an enormous diversity in our country and world. This diversity is so big because the combinations of
the components vary and the people who inhabit them gives each special characteristics. ( Broadway Street
in New York, Garibaldis Square in Mexico City, etc. where the demonstration of artistic folklore gives each a
characteristic aspect that distinguishes them from other places.
The main division form of recognizing an environment is urban or rural, but urban or rural zones can be very
different according to the country , region territory, etc.

Utility of Graph and Number Scales on maps (link for extra information)

Geographic Space can be analysed to different scales: worldwide, national or local.

A map can show continents, countries, states, and cities or show the roads and landmarks of a town. It can
show routes of a transportation system, such as bus or subway lines, different landforms and elevations,
different kinds of natural resources, or varying temperatures in a specific area. A map can also show
historical data, such as changes in population, housing development, or crime. A globe is a map on a round
model that shows places on Earth.
A map key or map legend is a chart that explains what symbols mean on a map. On many navigational
maps, a black dot stands for a city, a star stands for a states capital, and a star inside a circle stands for a
countrys capital. Airplanes stand for airports and black or yellow lines stand for highways, roads, or streets.
Different maps have different symbols, though many share the same basic symbols.

Many maps have a compass rose, which is a tool that displays directions. The cardinal directions
are north, east, south, and west. The intermediate directions are the points in between the cardinal
directions: northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.

Many maps also have a scale, which is a tool that compares distance on a map to distance on Earth. The
scale helps the user figure out real-life distances by looking at a map. For example, suppose there is a map
where 1 inch represents 1 mile. Two landmarks that are 3 inches apart on the map are 3 miles apart on
Earth. Different maps have different scales so you should always refer to the map key or legend to look for
the scale.

Remember that a map is a visual representation of a much larger area of land. In order to be useful, a map
must by necessity be small enough to be handled by an individual.
Because the Earth is round and maps are flat, it is impossible to create a map with a perfect scale. Some
parts of the map will be too large, while others will be too small. The larger a territory represented by a map,
the greater that the distortions in scale will be.
It is important that we recognize how to read, understand, and utilize scale as we examine the various maps
that we encounter. There are three common methods used by map makers to depict scale. These methods
are referred to as the graphic method, the verbal method, and the fractional method.

The Graphic Method

A Graphic Scale depicts scale using a line, with separations marked by smaller intersecting lines, similar to a
ruler. One side of the scale represents the distance on the map, while the other side represents the true
distances of objects in real life. By measuring the distance between two objects on a map and then referring
to the graphic scale, it is easy to calculate the actual distance between those same items.

There are many benefits to using a graphic scale. First and foremost, it is a straight forward, easy way to
determine scale. Secondly, if a maps size is enlarged or decreased, the scale is also enlarged or reduced,
meaning that it is still accurate.

The Verbal Method

The verbal method of depicting scale simply uses words to describe the ratio between the map's scale and
the real world. For example, a map might say something like, one inch equals one hundred and fifty miles.
Calculating scale on a map using the verbal method is easy. Simply measure the distance on the map and
then follow the verbal directions to calculate the actual distance.

The Fractional Method

The fractional method for portraying the scale of a map uses a representative fraction to describe the ratio
between the map and the real world. This can be shown as 1:50,000 or 1/50,000. In this example, 1 unit of
distance on the map represents 50,000 of the same units of distance in the real world. This means that 1 inch
on the map represents 50,000 inches in the real world, 1 foot on the map represents 50,000 feet on the map.

Large Scale Map Versus Small Scale Map

A map which depicts a small territory is referred to as a large scale map. This is because the area of land
being represented by the map has been scaled down less, or in other words, the scale is larger. A large scale
map only shows a small area, but it shows it in great detail. A map depicting a large area, such as an entire
country, is considered a small scale map. In order to show the entire country, the map must be scaled down
until it is much smaller. A small scale map shows more territory, but it is less detailed.

Map Reading Measuring Distances

1. Scale:
Objects on the map are drawn to scale: this means the length is changed by the same proportion as the
The most used are usually 1:50000 (most common) or 1:25000 scale maps.
For a 1:50000 map: 1 cm on the map equals 50000 cm on the ground (which is the same as saying 1 cm =
500 m or 2 cm = 1000 m).
For a 1:25000 map: 1 cm on the map equals 25000 cm on the ground (which is the same as saying 1 cm =
250 m or 4 cm = 1000 m).
In map reading we usually measure distances in kilometres (km) instead of metres (m).
1 km = 1000 m.

2. Estimating Distances:
As said above, a grid square measures 1 km by 1 km. The diagonal distance(from bottom left to top right
say) on a grid square is approximately 1.5 km. A quick method of measuring a straight line on the map is to
count grid squares:
If a straight road covers 4 grid squares on the map, it will measure approximately 4 km on the ground.
If the straight edge of a forest covers 3.2 grid squares on the map, it will measure approximately 3.2 km on
the ground.
If a road runs diagonally across two grid squares it will measure about 3 km on the ground.
Please note this is a rough method only. It is not suitable for accurate measurements.

3. Accurate Measurement of Distances

Height = 3 cm
Length = 6 cm
Reduced by 50%:
Height = 1.5 cm
Length = 3 cm

Part A: To measure a straight line between two points:

Use a ruler and convert the ruler measurement to the distance on the ground.
Alternatively, lay the straight edge of a piece of paper between the points and mark the paper
where they are. Transfer the paper edge to the scale bar at the bottom of the map and read off the
distance on the ground.

Part B: To measure a winding route:

Use a piece of paper with a straight edge and work it along the route on the map.

Remember which mark on your paper strip is the start of the route.
Dont take the paper strip off the map just mark it and rotate it when you get to a bend on your route.
When youve put the last mark on your paper strip (eg. the end of your route) lay the strip over the
scale bar at the bottom of the map.
Read off the distance between the start and end marks on your paper strip.
You can also use string to measure distances on the map. Knot or mark your string at the start of the
route and work it round in the same way you would the paper strip. Proper map measurers can also be
purchased from outdoor shops.
Practice this method to get good at it. Measuring distances is a very important.

Geographic Coordinates and Time Zones

Latitude and Longitude
Latitude and longitude lines are use to locate coordinates on the earth or on a map.
In classical Greece and China, attempts were made to create logical grid systems of the world to answer this
question. The ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy created a grid system and listed the coordinates for places
throughout the known world in his book Geography. But it wasn't until the middle ages that the latitude and
longitude system was developed and implemented. This system is written in degrees, using the symbol .

When looking at a map, latitude lines run horizontally. Latitude lines are also known as parallels since they
are parallel and are an equal distance from each other. Each degree of latitude is approximately 69 miles
(111 km) apart; there is a variation due to the fact that the earth is not a perfect sphere but an oblate ellipsoid
(slightly egg-shaped). To remember latitude, imagine them as the horizontal rungs of a ladder ("ladder-tude").
Degrees latitude are numbered from 0 to 90 north and south. Zero degrees is the equator, the imaginary
line which divides our planet into the northern and southern hemispheres. 90 north is the North Pole and 90
south is the South Pole.

The vertical longitude lines are also known as meridians. They converge at the poles and are widest at the
equator (about 69 miles or 111 km apart). Zero degrees longitude is located at Greenwich, England (0). The
degrees continue 180 east and 180 west where they meet and form the International Date Line in the
Pacific Ocean. Greenwich, the site of the British Royal Greenwich Observatory, was established as the site of
the prime meridian by an international conference in 1884.

How Latitude and Longitude Work Together

To precisely locate points on the earth's surface, degrees longitude and latitude have been divided into
minutes (') and seconds ("). There are 60 minutes in each degree. Each minute is divided into 60 seconds.
Seconds can be further divided into tenths, hundredths, or even thousandths. For example, the U.S. Capitol
is located at 3853'23"N , 7700'27"W (38 degrees, 53 minutes, and 23 seconds north of the equator and 77
degrees, no minutes and 27 seconds west of the meridian passing through Greenwich, England).

Three of the most significant imaginary lines running across the surface of the Earth are the equator, the
Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn. While the equator is the longest line of latitude on the Earth
(the line where the Earth is widest in an east-west direction), the tropics are based on the sun's position in
relation to the Earth at two points of the year. All three lines of latitude are significant in their relationship
between the Earth and the sun.

The Equator
The equator is located at zero degrees latitude. The equator runs through Indonesia, Ecuador, northern
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kenya, among other countries The equator divides the
planet into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. On the equator, the length of day and night are equal
every day of the year - day is always twelve hours long and night is always twelve hours long.

The Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn

The Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn each lie at 23.5 degrees latitude. The Tropic of Cancer is
located at 23.5 North of the equator and runs through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and
southern China. The Tropic of Capricorn lies at 23.5 South of the equator and runs through Australia, Chile,
southern Brazil (Brazil is the only country that passes through both the equator and a tropic), and northern
South Africa.
The tropics are the two lines where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the two solstices - near June and
December 21. The sun is directly overhead at noon on the Tropic of Cancer on June 21 (the beginning of
summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere) and the sun is
directly overhead at noon on the Tropic of Capricorn on December 21 (the beginning of winter in the Northern
Hemisphere and the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere).
The reason for the location of the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.5 north and south
respectively is due to the axial tilt of the Earth. The Earth is titled 23.5 degrees from the plane of the Earth's
revolution around the sun each year.
The area bounded by the Tropic of Cancer on the north and Tropic of Capricorn on the south is known as the
"tropics." This area does not experience seasons because the sun is always high in the sky. Only higher
latitudes, north of the Tropic of Cancer and south of the Tropic of Capricorn, experience significant seasonal
variation in climate.

Prime Meridian
While the equator divides the Earth into Northern and Southern Hemispheres, it is the Prime Meridian at zero
degrees longitude and the line of longitude opposite the Prime Meridian (near the International Date Line) at
180 degrees longitude that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Eastern
Hemisphere consists of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia while the Western Hemisphere includes North and
South America. Some geographers place the boundaries between the hemispheres at 20 West and 160
East so as to not run through Europe and Africa. The Prime Meridian and all lines of longitude are completely
imaginary lines and have no significance with regard to the Earth or to its relationship with the sun.
Links for more information:

Time Zones
Time zones are areas of the Earth that follow the same definition of time. Formerly, people were using
apparent solar time, resulting in the time differing slightly from town to town. Time zones partially rectified the
problem by setting the clocks of a region to the same mean solar time. Time zones are generally centered on
meridians of a longitude that is a multiple of 15; however as the map below shows, the shapes of time zones
can be quite irregular because of boundaries of countries. All time zones are defined relative to Coordinated
Universal Time (UTC), the time zone containing London. (Underlined words take you to links for further

Location of Places and Time Zones on Maps

To exactly locate a place in the world is done using the geographical coordinates given by its latitude,
longitude and altitude.
To know the time of a place located at the east you need to add an hour for each 15 of longitude (to the
west- to the left in a map) and to know the time of a place located to the west you need to subtract an hour
for each degree (to the east to the right on a map).

Croquis: simplified form of a small area map.
Plan: Small representation of portions of geographical space ( city, neighborhood).
Map: Earths surface representation.
Atlas: Collection of maps.
Globe: 3D Representation of Earth






(Robinson ,
Mercator and Peters
projections are all

A cylindrical projection
map is the most
common type of map.

Areas close to the

equator have very little
distortion. All areas on
the map are
proportional to the
same areas on the
Earth. Directions are
reasonably accurate in
limited regions.
Distances are true on
both standard parallels.
The projection works
well for mapping areas
that extend equally from
the center point, such
as North America

The closer to the poles

that one travels, the more
distorted the map
appears to be many times
larger than it really
is.Areas and shapes
of large areas are
distorted. Distortion
increases away from
Equator and is extreme in
polar regions. Map,
however, is conformal in
that angles and shapes
within any small area
(such as that shown by
USGS topographic map)
is essentially true.

Any straight line on the

map is a rhumb line
(line of constant
direction). Directions
along a rhumb line are
true between any two
points on map.Good for

Distances are true only

along Equator. Areas and
shapes of large areas are
distorted. Distortion
increases away from
Equator and is extreme in
polar regions. Map,
however, is conformal in
that angles and shapes
within any small area. The
map is not perspective,
equal area, or equidistant.
A rhumb line is usually
not the shortest distance
between points.

It has the useful

properties that all
points on the map are at
proportionally correct
distances from the
center point, and that all
points on the map are at
the correct azimuth
(direction) from the
center point.

Distances and directions

to all places are true only
from the center point of
projection. Distances are
correct between points
along straight lines
through the center. All
other distances are
incorrect. Distortion of
areas and shapes
increases with distance
from center point.

projected on a
Cyllinder conceptually
tangent to the Equator.
Best Uses: To
represent all earth.
Best Uses: To
represent all earth.


A conic projection map

is created by placing a
cone shaped screen on
a globe. The resulting
projection is more
accurate than the
cylindrical projection
map discussed above.
However, the further
we travel down the
map, the more
distorted and less
accurate the map
projected on a cone
secant at two standard
Parallels are semicircles and meridians
get all together at the

Best Uses: To
represent parts of the
world, speially middle

Azimuthal (Planar)

A plane projection is
created by placing an
imaginary screen
directly above or below
a globe. The image that
would result is called a
plane projection. This
type of map projection
is not commonly used.
Best Uses:
-Equatorial: To
represent eastern and


western hemispheres.
- Polar: For
representing Artic and
Antartic areas.

Mercators Projection: Exaggerates surfaces over 80 latitude. Polar continental zones look bigger than
they really are.
Robinsons Projection: Pseudo-cylindrical projection in which continents appear longer but show more
precise dimensions. Shows good shape of continents and oceans.
Peters Projection: Its advantage is to show a more realistic dimension of continents, with less distortion at
middle latitudes, but deforms equatorial and polar zones.
There are two other common forms of representing the Earth:
Mollweide: Has and elliptical shape and areas look very deformed. Used to represent exactly zones close to
Greenwich meridian.
Goode: Oceans are very deformed. Maintains good shape of continents but oceans are very deformed.


Peters (Peterson)


Satellite images, GPS and GIS

What are satellite photographs?

Satellite photographs are a type of photograph used by geographers

Satellite photographs are images of the Earth's surface. The information for these images is captured and
transmitted using specialised cameras, scanners or sensors which are fitted to an artificial satellite (ie not
moons or stars). These man-made satellites orbit the Earth from a distance of up to 1000 kilometres above
the surface.

In 1960, the first satellite photographs of the Earth were created by a weather satellite . This was less
than a year after the first satellite images of the moon were captured. Since then, satellite images have been
used for a wide variety of purposes. Owing to satellite photographs being able to show cloud patterns
with great clarity, they are often seen on television as a part of the weather forecast. Popular action
movies and television programs have also made satellite imagery synonymous with military and government
intelligence and security agencies. Satellite imagery is also used in the fields of cartography (creating
maps of the Earth's surface) geology, engineering, oceanography (scientific study of the ocean) and

Advantages and disadvantages

One main advantage of satellite imagery is that it can show a large area. While oblique and aerial photographs may
have a scale in which one centimetre on the page represents a few hundred metres on the ground, satellite images can
represent tens of kilometres in a single centimetre.
Satellite images can also provide more information than conventional photographs. Scanners and sensors not
only show vegetation and settlement patterns, but also make measurements of the Earth's surface and detect
different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. Collected information ranges from the amount of water vapour in
the atmosphere, to the temperature of the land and sea.
Although satellite imagery is very useful, it does have some downfalls. Satellite imagery is time consuming, since it
takes a long time to process the large pictures using such a high resolution. To create an adequate image from space,
optimum conditions are also required. Weather patterns can be unpredictable and the sun, which is the major
source of light, needs to be in an ideal position. If the conditions are not optimum, it may be days or even weeks
until the satellite will return to the area which is required to be photographed.

What is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of
24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for
military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use. GPS
works in any weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.

How it works

GPS satellites circle the earth twice a day in a very precise orbit and transmit signal information to earth.
GPS receivers take this information and use triangulation to calculate the user's exact location. Essentially,
the GPS receiver compares the time a signal was transmitted by a satellite with the time it was received. The
time difference tells the GPS receiver how far away the satellite is.The receiver can determine the user's
position and display it on the unit's electronic map. GPS allows people to determine the time and
their speed anywhere in the world.

A GPS receiver must be locked on to the signal of at least three satellites to calculate a 2D position
(latitude and longitude) and track movement. With four or more satellites in view, the receiver can
determine the user's 3D position (latitude, longitude and altitude). Once the user's position has been
determined, the GPS unit can calculate other information, such as speed, bearing, track, trip distance,
distance to destination, sunrise and sunset time and more.

How accurate is GPS?

Today's GPS receivers are extremely accurate, thanks to their parallel multi-channel design. Garmin's
12 parallel channel receivers are quick to lock onto satellites when first turned on and they maintain strong
locks, even in dense foliage or urban settings with tall buildings. Certain atmospheric factors and other
sources of error can affect the accuracy of GPS receivers. Garmin GPS receivers are accurate to
within 15 meters on average.

Newer Garmin GPS receivers with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) capability can improve
accuracy to less than three meters on average. No additional equipment or fees are required to take
advantage of WAAS. Users can also get better accuracy with Differential GPS (DGPS), which corrects GPS
signals to within an average of three to five meters. The U.S. Coast Guard operates the most common DGPS
correction service. This system consists of a network of towers that receive GPS signals and transmit
a corrected signal by guide transmitters. In order to get the corrected signal, users must have a
differential guide receiver and guide antenna in addition to their GPS.

The GPS satellite system

The 24 satellites that make up the GPS space segment are orbiting the earth about 12,000 miles
above us. They are constantly moving, making two complete orbits in less than 24 hours. These satellites
are travelling at speeds of roughly 7,000 miles an hour.

GPS satellites are powered by solar energy. They have backup batteries onboard to keep them running in
the event of a solar eclipse, when there's no solar power. Small rocket boosters on each satellite keep them
Here are some other interesting facts about the GPS satellites (also called NAVSTAR, the official U.S.
Department of Defense name for GPS).

What Is GIS?

Maps have been used for thousands of years, but it is only within the last few decades that the technology
has existed to combine maps with computer graphics and databases to create geographic information
systems or GIS. The themes in the above graphic are only a small example of the wide array of information
that can view or analyze with a GIS. GIS is used to display and analyze spatial data which are tied to
databases. This connection is what gives GIS its power: maps can be drawn from the database and data can
be referenced from the maps. When a database is updated, the associated map can be updated as well. GIS
databases include a wide variety of information including: geographic, social, political, environmental, and
demographic. GIS uses layers , called "themes," to overlay different types of information, much as
some static maps use mylar overlays to add tiers of information to a geographic background. GIS is a
series of overlapped maps.Each theme represents a category of information, such as roads or forest
cover. As with the old mylar maps, the layers which are underneath remain visible while additional
themes are placed above.

How GIS Works

It is estimated that approximately 80% of all information has a "spatial" or geographic component. In
other words, most information is tied to a place. So when making decisions about siting new
facilities, creating hiking trails, protecting wetlands, directing emergency response vehicles,
designating historic neighborhoods or redrawing legislative districts, geography plays a significant
role. This is where GIS comes in. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is a computer-based
data collection, storage, and analysis tool that combines previously unrelated information into easily
understood maps. But GIS is much more than maps. A GIS can perform complicated analytical

functions and then present the results visually as maps, tables or graphs, allowing decision-makers
to virtually see the issues before them and then select the best course of action. Add the Internet, and
GIS offers a consistent and cost-effective means for the sharing and analysis of geographic data among
government agencies, private industry, non-profit organizations, and the general public.

Earth Layers, Plate Tectonics, Seismic and Volcanic Areas

The earth think it's solid as a rock? Our planet might seem fixed and rigid, but a closer look reveals that it
is constantly shifting under our feet. Delve into the earth's interior, learn about its tectonic plates and their
movements, and discover how mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes are formed.

What's inside the earth?

In the early part of the 20th century, geologists studied the vibrations (seismic waves) generated by
earthquakes to learn more about the structure of the earth's interior. They discovered that it is made up of
these distinct layers: the crust, the mantle, and the core.

Plate Tectonics
Scientist Alfred Wegener In the early 1900s, the German scientist Alfred Wegener noticed that the
coastlines of Africa and South America looked like they might fit together. He also discovered evidence that
the same plant and animal fossils were found along the coasts of these continents, although they were now
separated by vast oceans. In addition, he noticed that geologic formations, like mountain ranges, on the two
continents also matched up. In 1915, Wegener published his book, The Origin of Continents and Oceans,
suggesting that the earth's continents were once joined together in one large mass. He called the original
landmass (or supercontinent) "Pangaea," the Greek word for "all the earth."

200 million years


135 million years


65 million years ago 50-40 million years


Pangaea begins to
break up and splits
into two major
Laurasia in the north,
made up of North
America and Eurasia,
and Gondwana in the
south, made up of the
other continents.

Gondwana splinters
further the South
landmass separates
from the AntarcticaAustralia landmass.

Major rifting of
Laurasia, with the
North American
landmass separating
from Eurasia.

The Indian landmass

breaks away from the

South America and

Madagascar separate
from Africa.

Greenland separates
from North America.
Australia separates
from Antarctica and
moves north.
The Indian landmass
collides with Asia.

According to Wegener, over time "Pangaea" split apart and the different landmasses, or continents, drifted to
their current locations on the globe. While other scientists of the time vehemently rejected Wegener's ideas,
they became the basis for the development of the theory of plate tectonics. Continents on the Move 200
million years ago 135 million years ago 65 million years ago 50-40 million years ago Pangaea begins to
break up and splits into two major landmasses Laurasia in the north, made up of North America and
Eurasia, and Gondwana in the south, made up of the other continents. Gondwana splinters further the
South America-Africa landmass separates from the Antarctica-Australia landmass. The Indian landmass
breaks away from the Antarctica-Australia landmass. Major rifting of Laurasia, with the North American
landmass separating from Eurasia. South America and Madagascar separate from Africa. Greenland
separates from North America. Australia separates from Antarctica and moves north. The Indian landmass
collides with Asia. The modern plate tectonics theory, which has become widely accepted since the 1960s,
states that the earth's outer layer, or lithosphere, is broken into several large slabs called plates. These
plates, which hold the continents and oceans, are slowly but constantly moving around the plane t.

The movement of the plates not only supports our understanding that continents are not fixed and moved
over time, but also explains how and why earthquakes, volcanoes, and other geologic events occur. Plates &
Boundaries The earth's continents are constantly moving due to the motions of the tectonic plates. Closely
examine the map below, which shows the 15 major tectonic plates. As you can see, some of the plates
contain continents and others are mostly under the ocean. The type of crust that underlies the continents is
called continental crust, while the type found under the oceans is called oceanic crust. Continental crust is
thicker about 20 to 40 miles (35 to 70 km) thick and usually older than oceanic crust, which is only 4 to
6 miles (7 to 10 km) thick. All the plates have names, usually referring to landmasses, oceans, or regions of
the globe where they are located. The border between two tectonic plates is called a boundary. All the
tectonic plates are constantly moving very slowly around the planet, but in many different directions.
Some are moving toward each other, some are moving apart, and some are sliding past each other. Because
of these differences, tectonic plate boundaries are grouped into three main types.

Slip, Slide, & Collide

Red-hot lava and plumes of ash spew out of a volcano in the Philippines. An undersea earthquake in the
Indian Ocean spawns a tsunami that crashes into Indonesia. The Himalayan Mountains grow taller every
year. Many of the most dramatic geological phenomena we experience on Earth volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes, tsunamis, and more are caused by the slipping, sliding, and colliding of tectonic plates. As
you might expect by now, most major geologic events occur at the boundaries between tectonic plates,
where huge, massive pieces of the earth's crust interact. Each kind of plate boundary is associated with
particular events, so if you know about the movements taking place at a plate boundary, you can often
predict what's likely to occur there volcanoes, earthquakes, mountains, trenches in the future! Slip,
Slide, & Collide Convergent Boundaries Colliding Plates At convergent boundaries, tectonic plates collide
with each other.

The events that occur at these boundaries are linked to the types of plates oceanic or continental that
are interacting. Subduction Zones and Volcanoes At some convergent boundaries, an oceanic plate collides
with a continental plate. Oceanic crust tends to be denser and thinner than continental crust, so the denser
oceanic crust gets bent and pulled under, or subducted, beneath the lighter and thicker continental crust. This
forms what is called a subduction zone. As the oceanic crust sinks, a deep oceanic trench, or valley, is
formed at the edge of the continent. The crust continues to be forced deeper into the earth, where high heat
and pressure cause trapped water and other gasses to be released from it. This, in turn, makes the base of
the crust melt, forming magma. The magma formed at a subduction zone rises up toward the earth's surface
and builds up in magma chambers, where it feeds and creates volcanoes on the overriding plate. When this
magma finds its way to the surface through a vent in the crust, the volcano erupts, expelling lava and ash. An
example of this is the band of active volcanoes that encircle the Pacific Ocean, often referred to as the Ring
of Fire. Illustration depicting how island arcs are formed. A subduction zone is also generated when two
oceanic plates collide the older plate is forced under the younger one and it leads to the formation of
chains of volcanic islands known as island arcs. Examples include the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific
Ocean and the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska. Since the collision and subduction of plates is not a
smooth process, large, powerful earthquakes are another phenomenon that result from this type of

Earthquakes generated in a subduction zone can also give rise to tsunamis. A tsunami is a huge ocean wave
caused by a sudden shift on the ocean floor, such as an undersea earthquake. If the wave reaches land, it
can cause incredible destruction, like the Asian Tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people in 11
countries across the Indian Ocean region in December 2004. Collision Zones and Mountains What happens
when two continental plates collide? Because the rock making up continental plates is generally lighter and
less dense than oceanic rock, it is too light to get pulled under the earth and turned into magma. Instead, a
collision between two continental plates crunches and folds the rock at the boundary, lifting it up and leading
to the formation of mountains and mountain ranges.

Slip, Slide, & Collide Divergent Boundaries Spreading Plates

At divergent boundaries, tectonic plates are moving away from each other. But if these huge masses of crust
are moving apart, what happens in the space left between them? Seafloor Spreading Divergent boundaries
in the middle of the ocean contribute to seafloor spreading. As plates made of oceanic crust pull apart, a
crack in the ocean floor appears. Magma then oozes up from the mantle to fill in the space between the
plates, forming a raised ridge called a mid-ocean ridge. The magma also spreads outward, forming new
ocean floor and new oceanic crust. Rifts When two continental plates diverge, a valleylike rift develops. This
rift is a dropped zone where the plates are pulling apart. As the crust widens and thins, valleys form in and
around the area, as do volcanoes, which may become increasingly active. Early in the rift formation, streams
and rivers flow into the low valleys and long, narrow lakes can be created. Eventually, the widening crust
along the boundary may become thin enough that a piece of the continent breaks off, forming a new tectonic
plate. At this point, water from the ocean will rush in, forming a new sea or ocean basin in the rift zone.

Transform Boundaries Grinding Plates

At transform boundaries, tectonic plates are not moving directly toward or directly away from each other.
Instead, two tectonic plates grind past each other in a horizontal direction. This kind of boundary results in a
fault a crack or fracture in the earth's crust that is associated with this movement. Faults and Earthquakes
Transform boundaries and the resulting faults produce many earthquakes because edges of tectonic plates
are jagged rather than smooth. As the plates grind past each other, the jagged edges strike each other,
catch, and stick, "locking" the plates in place for a time. Because the plates are locked together without
moving, a lot of stress builds up at the fault line. This stress is released in quick bursts when the plates
suddenly slip into new positions. The sudden movement is what we feel as the shaking and trembling of an
earthquake. The motion of the plates at a transform boundary has given this type of fault another name a
strike-slip fault. The best-studied strike-slip fault is the San Andreas Fault in California. It is located at the
boundary between the Pacific and North American plates and runs roughly 800 miles (1,300 km) through

Northern and Southern California. As the two plates grind past each other the Pacific Plate moving
northwest and the North American Plate moving southeast the motion produces numerous earthquakes
along the fault. While many are small and cause only minor trembling, the San Andreas Fault has also been
the site of major events: the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and
the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Many scientists believe that the San Andreas Fault is due to unleash
another large earthquake a "big one" in the coming decades.

1. Which of these layers is found directly above the earth's core?

a. Asthenosphere
b. Inner Core
c. Mantle
d. Outer Core
2. Which scientist is credited with proposing the ideas that led to the development of the plate tectonics
a. Charles Darwin
b. Albert Einstein
c. Isaac Newton
d. Alfred Wegener

3. Mid-ocean ridges are places where tectonic plates are doing what?
a. Colliding
b. Sliding past each other

c. Spreading apart
d. None of the above
4.What is happening at the subduction zone of the Juan de Fuca and North American Plates?
a. Plates are sliding past each other.
b. Plates are spreading apart.
c. One plate is being pulled under another.
d. None of the above.
5. What type of crust is found under the continents?
a. Continental crust
b. Oceanic crust
c. Geologic crust
d. None of the above

6. What is the name of this tectonic plate?

a. African Plate
b. Antarctic Plate
c. Arabian Plate
d. Indian Plate

7. Mountain formation can result when which of the following occurs?

a. Two oceanic plates collide.
b. Two continental plates collide.
c. Two oceanic plates spread apart.
d. None of the above..

8. California's San Andreas Fault is identified as which of the following?

a. Blind thrust fault
b. Dip-slip fault
c. Normal fault
d. Strike-slip fault
9. Which of these statements is correct?
a. Continental crust is thicker than oceanic crust.
b. Continental crust is thinner than oceanic crust.
c. Oceanic crust is thicker than continental crust.
d. Continental and oceanic crusts have the same thickness.
10. Which of the following geologic events can occur at a transform boundary?

a. Earthquake
b. Mountain formation
c. Volcanic eruption
d. Rift formation
11. When did the Himalayan Mountain Range begin to form?
a. 5,000-6,000 years ago
b. 20-30 million years ago
c. 40-50 million years ago
d. 100-150 million years ago
12. Which of the earth's layers is broken into several large tectonic plates?
a. Asthenosphere
b. Crust
c. Lithosphere
d. Outer Core

13. What is the name of this tectonic plate?

a. Cocos Plate
b. Nazca Plate
c. Scotia Plate
d. South American Plate

14. What is the earth's outermost layer?

a. Crust
b. Lithosphere
c. Mantle
d. Outer Core

15. What leads to the creation of island arcs?

a. Collision of two oceanic plates.
b. Collision of two continental plates.

c. Collision of a continental and an oceanic plate.

d. All of the above.

16.What type of crust is found under the oceans?

a. Continental crust
b. Oceanic crust
c. Geologic crust
d. None of the above
17. When did the supercontinent Pangaea start to break up?
a. 20 million years ago
b. 40 million years ago
c. 100 million years ago
d. 200 million years ago

18. What kind of plate boundary is found at the meeting point of the Philippine and Pacific Plates?
a. Asian boundary
b. Convergent boundary
c. Divergent boundary
d. Transform boundary

19. This animation depicts which of the following?

a. Earthquake
b. Mountain formation
c. Subduction zone
d. Rift formation

20. What is the earth's only liquid layer?

a. Asthenosphere
b. Inner Core
c. Mantle
d. Outer Core

21. This solid layer of the earth is made of mostly iron and nickel.

a. Crust
b. Inner Core
c. Mantle
d. Outer Core

22. Which of these concepts is part of the theory of plate tectonics?

a. Continents are fixed and don't move.
b. A great flood shaped the earth's surface.
c. Continents are in slow constant motion.
d. None of the above.

23. What is NOT likely to happen at a divergent boundary?

a. Mountain formation
b. Rift valley
c. Seafloor spreading
d. Volcano formation
24. What is the name of this tectonic plate?
a. Australian Plate
b. Indian Plate
c. Pacific Plate
d. Philippine Plate

25. Approximately 225 million years ago, the earth's continents were grouped into one landmass. What is the
landmass called?
a. Europa
b. Jurassic
c. Pangaea
d. Pangaea Ultima

26. The tectonic plates float on which semiliquid layer?

a. Asthenosphere
b. Crust
c. Inner Core
d. Lithosphere

27. What kind of plate boundary is found where the North American and Caribbean Plates meet?
a. Caribbean boundary
b. Convergent boundary
c. Divergent boundary
d. Transform boundary

28. What is the border between two tectonic plates called?

a. Boundary
b. Collision zone
c. Rift
d. Trench

29. What kind of plate boundary runs across Iceland?

a. Convergent boundary
b. Divergent boundary
c. Nordic boundary
d. Transform boundary

Volcanic Regions of the World

About 550 volcanoes have erupted on Earth's surface since recorded history; about 60 are active each year.
Far more have erupted unobserved on the ocean floor. Most volcanoes exist at the boundaries of Earth's
crustal plates, such as the famous Ring of Fire that surrounds the Pacific Ocean plate.

From the outside, a volcano looks exactly like a mountain would with a tall conical shape. However, inside
the mountain there is a vent or a crater that connects magma or molten rock that is found deep under the
earths surface to the top of the mountain.
When the magma travels through the vent and erupts outside the volcano, it is called lava and in addition to
lava, the volcano can spit out gases and pieces of rock. Geologists and scientists often study volcanic
eruptions but they can be sudden, unexpected and destructive since the flowing lava will destroy anything
and everything within its reach. The statuses of volcanoes can be of three types: dormant, extinct and
active. A dormant is a volcano that has not erupted for a very long time but there are chances that it might
erupt again in the future. A volcano that is extinct has no possibility of erupting anytime in the future while an
active volcano erupts regularly, normally once every couple of years or even more often than that.
Volcanic eruptions happen because of the high temperature that exists under the surface of the Earth. This
high temperature can cause the Earths mantle to melt into molten rock or magma. Since this is a denser and

lighter form, it has a tendency to float upwards to the magma chambers. Later on, this magma is likely to
push itself upwards towards the vent of the volcano and cause an eruption. Apart from that, the pressure of
the gases that becomes dissolved in the magma is another reason why the magma is pressurized to push
upwards. In addition, when the quantity of magma in the magma chambers increases there is likelihood that
magma will rise upwards causing an eruption.
Shield volcanoes have wider rims, gentle slopes and their lava is very hot and very runny.
Composite volcanoes have steep slopes and thick lava. The pressure in this kind of lava can build up over
time so when the volcano does erupt, the scene is spectacular
Stratovolcanoes are made from different types of lava and their eruptions, rock and ash shoot up to large
heights. that are made from different types of matter, matter meaning rock, ash and lava, and their eruptions
usually shoot up to high heights
Cinder cone volcano are comparatively smaller and they come from eruptions of short-time eruptions, making
a cone of only about 400 meters.

Volcano latest news

Volcanoes are both a majestic beauty of nature and a terrible force of destruction, which is why geologists
and experts around the world monitor and study volcano latest news to predict their eruptions and plan
The Volcano latest news revolves around the Nyamuragira volcano in the Demographic Republic of Congo
where volcanic eruptions began on 6 November 2011. The volcanic eruptions at Nyamuragira volcano
continued on 15th of November 2011. According to volcano latest news, the lava fountains increased in
height and the volcano showed no signs or eruption abatement. In addition to this, on 19 November 2011.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

An earthquake is different from a volcano. An earthquake, which is also called a tremor, is caused by an
unexpected release of energy within the crust of the Earth that eventually leads to seismic waves. These
waves are energy waves that travel through Earth because of an earthquake. Earthquakes occur when the
plates of the earth start moving due to a wave of energy leading to shaking the ground with a noticeable
force. Within one year, there are about half a million earthquakes that occur all over the world. Out of the
total 500,000 earthquakes that can be detected by seismographs, only 100,000 of these are felt and 100
caused damage.

Mexicos Volcanic Axis

Mexicos active seismic zones have created numerous volcanoes, many of which are still active. Virtually all
the countrys active and recently dormant volcanoes are located in a broad belt of high relief which crosses
Mexico from west to east: the Volcanic Axis.

Altitudes in this region vary from a few hundred to several thousand meters. The principal peaks are shown
on the map. They include many of Mexicos most famous mountains, such as Popocatepetl and Ixtlaccihuatl,
near Mexico City; Pico de Orizaba, Mexicos highest peak; Paricutn, the only completely new volcano in the
Americas in recent times; and Colima, considered the most active at present. Many of the volcanoes are
surprisingly young. For instance, a study using Carbon-14 dating on the palaeosoils (ancient soils) under 12
volcanoes in the Toluca area yielded ages ranging from 38,600 to 8400 years before present.
It is unclear precisely why this broad belt of Mexico should be so active. Elsewhere in the world all major
tectonically active areas have been linked in terms of their location to the margins of tectonic plates. Some
Mexican geologists believe that Mexicos Volcanic Axis is a rare example of activity associated with a plate

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

by Basil Booth
On April 18, 1906, a disastrous earthquake struck San Francisco. Lasting less than a minute, it destroyed most of
the city and killed 700 people. In 1976 the worst known earthquake killed over 650,000 people in Tientsin
Province, China. Volcanoes and Earthquakes tells us about famous earthquakes and describes the natural
forces that created them. VIDEO

You probably know that earthquakes can be huge natural disasters. But why do they happen? The Earth's
surface is formed of massive slabs of rock called plates. These plates, also called tectonic plates, are always
moving. Sometimes they just slide past one another. At other times they actually collide with one another.
Plate movement causes the buildup of tremendous quantities of energy in the rock. When the energy is
released, it produces vibrations that travel through the rock, leading to earthquakes. During earthquakes,
faults, or giant cracks, are produced by the pressure of the moving rock.
Earthquakes and volcanoes occur along the edges of the plates. Scientists have developed a theory that
explains how these giant plates move, thereby creating, destroying, and re-forming continents and oceans
over long periods of time. This theory is called the theory of plate tectonics.
According to the theory, there are two types of plates, oceanic and continental. Various types of movement
occur along the different kinds of plate boundaries. Plate collisions create landforms such as coastal
volcanoes, island arcs, and mountain chains. When plates move apart, they produce new ocean floor as
magma from the mantle rises up through volcanoes and deposits new rock along the plate boundaries. In
some areas plates slide alongside each other, neither creating nor destroying land.
When the plates move, they cause vibrations that produce earthquakes. Thousands of earthquakes take
place every year, but only a few of them are destructive enough to be considered disasters. Many
earthquakes are so mild that few people notice them. Scientists have developed an instrument called a
seismograph, which measures and records the intensity of earthquakes. Because seismographs are very
sensitive, they help scientists predict earthquakes, too. They can record even minor shocks and changes in
the Earth's layers, and this helps to monitor the build-up of stresses that lead to earthquakes. By comparing
the data from seismographs in different locations over the world, scientists can get a better picture of the
forces at work underground.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

Have you ever felt the floor below you shake? The ground we walk on seems solid until an earthquake
strikes. Suddenly the earth heaves and slides. Things topple off shelves. Deep cracks open in the ground
where none were before. In the past few years, people everywhere have witnessed these events as major
earthquakes struck their countries. The activity below will help you better understand how earthquakes affect
people around the world.
1. Choose a partner. Imagine that you are both investigative reporters. You have been asked to write a
news story about the major earthquakes that took place in Taiwan and Turkey in 1999. Your news
story must give your audience enough information to understand how earthquakes work and to
visualize the destruction earthquakes cause. Remember that your story should also answer who,
what, where, when, why and how.
2. Research the earthquakes that happened in Taiwan and Turkey. Use newspaper and magazine
articles, and visit the Yahoo! Web site at to learn more about these
3. Answer the questions below to help organize your information.

Earthquake Information Chart

When did the earthquakes take place?

Where did the earthquakes happen? Describe the

places, the people who live there, and the types of
buildings that are found there. What happened to the
places during the earthquake?

Why did the earthquakes happen? Describe the type of

land formations in the area. Could the two earthquakes
be related?

Describe the recovery efforts, and how people are

preparing for possible future earthquakes.


Use your answers to help you write your story. Then review what you have written. Make
sure your work includes enough detailed information to explain what happened during these


Create storyboards to illustrate your news story. Choose the most interesting parts of the
story and create pictures to highlight these parts. If available, use a drawing or painting
program to create your storyboards.


Present your news story and storyboards to your classmates as if you were broadcasting
your story on the evening news. Make sure you pay close attention to your classmates'
stories as they may help you present your own.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is the most famous American earthquake. Visit the Museum of
the City of San Francisco Web site at to learn more about
this deadly quake. Read eyewitness accounts, see photos of the quake and its aftermath, and read
newspaper articles. Then, with your family, compare the 1906 earthquake to a modern quake. How
are the two similar? How are they different?
Plate tectonics
Plate simple rev_


The relief (or terrain) is the different shapes that the surface of the Earth has adopted over millions of years.
It can divided into continental (surface relief) and oceanic (submarine relief).
The relief is the result of internal internal forces, which form it and external forces, which transform it.
Mountains: elevations of the terrain above the surrounding land with steep slopes or sides and an altitude of
more than 600 metres. When they are together in rows they are knows as sierras or mountain ranges, as
the Himalayas (Asia), that is the worlds highest one.
Valleys: are areas of low land between mountains. Rivers flow through many valleys.
Plains: low, flat areas of land., no higher than 200 metres above sea level. They are formed by large rivers.
Plateaus: large plains raised more than 200 metres above sea level. The highest plateaus are the Tibetan
High Plateau (Asia) and the Bolivian (South America).
Basins (or depressions): sunken or drepressed areas below the surrounding areas. Some are below sea
level .
Coastal relief: coasts are where the continents meet oceans and seas. The coastal relief forms are:
Peninsula: an area of land surrounded by water on all sides except one.
Isthmus: connects a peninsula to a continent.
Cape: part of the coast which extends into the sea
Gulf: a large area of sea or ocean partially enclosed by land. A bay is a small gulf
Island: an area of land surrounded by water on all sides
Archipelago: is a group of islands

Beaches: flat coastal area with sand or stones.

Cliffs: high coastal area with steep rock formations.
Estuary: area formed when the sea flows into de mouth of a river
Fiord: strip of sea that comes into the valley of a river / land between high cliffs.

Continental shelf: is the extension of the continents under the seas or oceans. They are vast plateaus which
reach a depth of 150-200 metres.
Continental slope: is a steep incline found between the continental shelf and the abyssal plain.
Abyssal plains: are large flat areas of the deep ocean floor (4,000 or 5,000 metres below sea level). In them
we can find:
Oceanic ridges: large mountain ranges that rise up 3000 metres from the ocean floor. Some of the highest
peaks rise above the surface and form islands such as the Hawaiian Islands.
Oceanic trenches: are large, deep depressions in the ocean floor. The deepest one is the Challenger Deep
(11000 metres) in the pacific Ocean.
Continental drift
In 1912 Alfred Wegener developed the continental drift theory. According to it, there was only one continent,
which broke up millions of years ago. This continent was called Pangea
Tectonic plates
The Earths crust is divided into different plates called tectonic plates. They are in continous movement
(speed of two to ten centimeters per year).
Some plates from move apart letting the magma come out. Some other plates collide, creating folds when
the terrain is flexible or faults when it is extremely rigid. Also, the collison of plates has produced many
mountains, such as the Himalayas range which is still rising.
The movement of tectonic plates can produce volcanoes and earthquakes:
A volcano is an opening in the surface of the Earth through which very hot rocks, magma comes out. When
magma is outside the volcano it is called lava. Volcanoes are generally found on the edge of tectonic p lates.
Earthquakes are also caused by plate tectonics; when two plates crash, the ground vibrates. This vibration
is called an earthquake. When the crashing is on the ocean floor the earthquake can produce waves called
External forces shape the relief. This transformation involves three types of action:
Erosion: is the fragmentation and dissolution of rocks, soil and mud.
Transportation: eroded materials are transported by wind or water.
Sedimentation: is the accumulation of sediments such as mud, sand or mud.

There are four main agents of erosion: temperature, water, wind and living things.

1. Temperature: abrupt changes in it can break rocks. It happens in mountains or deserts, where there is a
great difference between daytime and night time temperatures.
2. Water:
When it infiltrates through rocks and freezes, water expands and breaks the rocks.
Solution is when water dissolves some kinds of rocks, such as limestone producing caves.
Fluvial erosion: In the upper course the river erodes materials creating deep valleys and canyons/ In the
middle course the slopes are gentler and rivers transport the eroded materials/ In the lower course, near the
sea, land is flat and water deposit sediments on the rivers banks forming alluvial. plains.
Marine erosion: waves and currents wear away coasts creating cliffs. Sediments transported by the sea
water are deposited and form beaches.
3. Wind: transports particles of sand or soil from their original place and deposits them. Sand dunes are
formed this way.
4. Living things: Plants and animals transform the relief through their activities./ Human beings make the
fastest and more dangerous impact through activities such as farming, mining, deforestation, building roads,
tunnels or reservoirs.

Earth's Ocean
Earth's ocean covers more than 68% of our planet's surface. There are five major ocean basins. The Pacific
Ocean is the largest. Its so large that it covers a third of the Earth's surface. The Atlantic Ocean is east of the
Americas and west of Europe and Africa. The Indian Ocean is south of Asia and the Middle East and east of
Africa. The Arctic Ocean is in the north polar region. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica in the south
Seawater is salty. Anyone who has taken a gulp of water while swimming in the ocean knows that. The
saltiness of the water is called salinity. The chemistry of the seawater includes more than salt. It depends on
Ocean water is always moving. It moves around surface ocean currents in the upper 400 meters of the
ocean. Water moves around the ocean by upwelling, a process that brings water from the deep ocean to
shallow areas, as well as down welling, a process that sends water from the surface to the deep ocean.
Currents along coastlines move water as well as sand. Moving water transports heat from the Sun around
the planet, which has an effect on climate. Complex climate models called coupled ocean-atmosphere
models take into account both the atmosphere and the ocean to describe the Earth.
Each day ocean water moves with the tides, shifting where the water meets the shore in an endless cycle.
Tidal cycles are perhaps most easy to see at estuaries. The ocean's tides are one type of tide created by



Over a long time water circulates from the deep ocean to shallow ocean and back again to the deep. This
circulation of seawater is called the global ocean conveyor or thermohaline circulation. As Earths climate
The height of the ocean surface is called sea level. Over a long time, sea level can change for a number of
Coral reefs are affected as the ocean changes because of global warming and other changes such as
pollution. As the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide becomes dissolved in seawater the ocean becomes more
acidic, which is harmful to corals and other marine life.

Waves, tides and currents are what drive the sea. Waves we associate with the beach and having fun. Tides
signal the stages of the moon and the time of day. Currents provide passage for international boats that bring
us food and goods from faraway lands. All three contain energy of motion and potential energy. The slightest
change in any of these affects us in many more ways than you think.

Fill in the names

Ocean Currents
Ocean currents have a serious impact on our lives in other ways as well. They are responsible for the
accumulation of nutrients in rich patches, which are prime fishing grounds. Many species of marine life take
advantage of ocean currents for their seasonal migrations. Even modern problems such as the accumulation
of debris in "garbage patches" on the oceans is driven by currents.
The movement of ships is also impacted by currents - traveling along a current saves fuel, while traveling
against it costs more fuel. In the old days of sail ships, this impact could be even more serious -- the Agulhas
Current in the southwest Indian Ocean was a serious obstacle to Portuguese sailors trying to reach India.
Typically, ocean currents are divided into two types: surface currents (which usually extend no more than
about 400 meters below the surface), and deep water currents (also known as the thermohaline circulation)
which occur in much deeper layers of the ocean.

Everyone has seen waves on a lake or oceans. But what are they? Waves are actually energy. Energy, not
water, moves across the ocean's surface. Water particles only travel in a small circle as a wave passes.
Tsunamis, often erroneously called tidal waves, result when underwater earthquakes and volcanic eruptions
disrupt the water's surface. Most other waves are caused by wind driving against water. When a breeze of
two knots or less blows over calm water, small ripples form and grow as the wind speed increases until
whitecaps, comprised of millions of tiny air bubbles, appear in the breaking waves. Waves may travel
thousands of miles before rolling ashore and dissolving as surf.
A wave's size and shape reveals its origins. A steep, choppy wave out at sea is fairly young and was probably
formed by a local storm. Slow, steady waves near shore which rear high crests, and plunge into foam come
from far away, possibly another hemisphere.
No two waves are identical, but they all share common traits. Every wave, from a tiny ripple to a huge
tsunami, has a measurable wave height, the vertical distance from its crest (high point) to its trough (low
point). Wind speed, duration, and fetch (the distance it blows over open water) determine how high a wave
grows. The maximum height in feet is usually one half or less the wind speed in miles per hour. Wave height
decreases gradually as the wind dies and the wave approaches shore. When it touches bottom, it slows, the
back overtakes the front, forcing it into a peak, curves forward, and dissolves into a tumbling rush of foam
and water called a breaker.

Rivers are very important to Earth because they are major forces that shape the landscape. Also, they
provide transportation and water for drinking, washing and farming. Rivers can flow on land or underground

A river's contribution to the water cycle is that it collects water from the ground and returns it to the ocean.
A delta is where a river meets the sea. A special environment is created when the fresh water from the river
The longest river is the Nile River in Africa, and the Amazon River in South America carries the most water.
The muddiest river is the Yellow River in China.

Geographic Conditions that Favor Biodiversity in the World and Mexico

A biome is made of many similar ecosystems. An ecosystem is often much smaller than a biome, although
the size varies.

Ecosystems are the interactions between the living things and the nonliving things in a place. In an

ecosystem, the plants, animals, and other organisms rely on each other and on the physical environment
Even though they are living in the same place, each species in an ecosystem has its own role to play. This
role is called a niche. The niche for one species might be to climb trees and eat their fruit, while the niche for
another species might be to hunt for small rodents. For a tree, a niche might be to grow tall and make food
with the Suns energy through the process of photosynthesis. If the niche of two species is very similar, they
Sometimes ecosystems get out of balance. If, for example, it rains a lot and a type of bird that thrives with
extra water increases in numbers, other species in the ecosystem might be crowded out. The birds might
take food or space or other resources from other species. They might eat all the food. Sometimes an
ecosystem naturally gets back into balance. Other times an ecosystem will become more and more out of
balance. Today, human actions are having an impact on ecosystems all over the world. Making buildings and
roads, fishing and farming all have an impact on ecosystems. Pollution on land, air pollution, and water
pollution is sending many ecosystems out of balance too.

In the very cold places of the world, survival isn't easy. The soil is frozen, its top surface thawing only during
summer, and no trees can grow. Yet plants and animals that are adapted for the harsh conditions thrive. This
biome is called tundra. Most of the world's tundra is found in the north polar region. It is called Arctic tundra.
There is a small amount of tundra on parts of Antarctica that are not covered with ice. Plus, tundra is found
on high altitude mountains and is called alpine tundra.

Permafrost is the term given to frozen soil. During the winter months, permafrost reaches the surface of the
tundra. It is very cold during the winter, with temperatures reaching -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51 degrees
Celsius). Very few animals are active in these harsh conditions.
In the summer time, the tundra changes. The Sun is out almost 24 hours a day, so the tundra starts to warm
up. The permafrost melts at the surface, and plant life grows. However, the permafrost only disappears for a
few inches below the surface. There isn't enough soil for trees to grow, so only small plants are found in the
At the same time, a variety of animals come out to feast on the plants. Insects come to feed on the animals,
and birds appear to enjoy the insects.

Taiga is a Russian word meaning dense evergreen forest. The taiga biome, the largest biome on land, is full
of dense evergreen forests. Located just south of the tundra in the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North
America, these forests of conifer trees are also known as boreal forests.
It is very cold and snowy in the taiga during winter, with below freezing average temperatures. While it is not
uncommon for temperatures to dive below freezing during the summer as well, it is generally warmer then.
Days are long during summer in the taiga, ice thaws, snow melts, and it is often rainy.
Conifer trees like spruce and fir thrive in this climate. The trees grow close together. This protects them from
cold and wind. Their dark color makes their albedo low and they absorb solar energy readily, keeping them a
bit warmer. There are a few deciduous tree species that can live in the taiga as well including birch and
aspen, but they are not common.
Many animals make their home in the taiga for at least part of the year. Some stay year-round. In the
summer, birds and insects are abundant. Many bird species migrate to the taiga and breed and nest there
during summer. Other birds, such as sparrows and crows, stay in the taiga year-round. Mammals include
herbivores like rabbits and voles as well as carnivores such as lynx, wolverines, and bobcats.

Temperate Forests
The temperate forest biome is found in regions where winters are cold and summers are warm. Regions with
this climate are common in the mid-latitudes, far from both the equator and the poles. Tropical rainforests are
in regions that are consistently warm all year long, close to the equator.
Temperate forests are almost always made of two types of trees, deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees
are trees that lose their leaves in the winter. Evergreens are trees that keep their leaves all year long, like
pine trees. Forests can either have deciduous trees, evergreens, or a combination of both. Another kind of
forest is a temperate rain forest. These are found in California, Oregon and Washington in the United States.
These forests are made of redwoods and sequoias, the tallest trees in the world.
The amount of rainfall in an area determines if a forest is present. If there is enough rain to support trees,
than a forest will usually develop. Otherwise, the region will become grassland.

Coniferous forests
Coniferous forests are made up mainly of cone-bearing or coniferous trees, such as spruces, hemlocks,
pines and firs. The leaves of these trees are either small and needle-like or scale-like and most stay green all
year around (evergreen). All are softwoods able to survive cold termperatures and acidic soil.
Coniferous forests are found mainly in the northern hemisphere, although some are found in the southern
The northern coniferous forests are called taiga or boreal forests. They cover vast areas of North America
from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and range across northern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and across Asia

Short summers and long winters

Coniferous trees thrive where summers are short and cool and winters long and harsh, with heavy snowfall
that can last as long as 6 months. The needle-like leaves have a waxy outer coat which prevents water loss
in freezing weather and the branches are soft and flexible and usually point downwards, so that snow slides
off them. Larches are one example of a coniferous tree found in some of the coldest regions. Unusually for













Life on the forest floor

Even evergreen trees eventually shed their leaves and grow new ones. The needles fall to the forest floor
and form a thick springy mat. Thread-like fungi help to break down or decompose the fallen needles. These
fungi provide nutrients from the decomposed needles back to the roots of the trees. But because pine
These forests grow under widely differing conditions of climate and soil - from the tropics to the subarctic,
and from heavy clays to poor sands. However, coniferous trees are especially conditioned to the winter
climate. The trees of the taiga grow at the highest latitude of any forest. The most common are spruce, pine

Reach for the sky!

Cypresses, cedars and redwoods grow upright; the tallest of them can reach 20m in height. The trees are
usually pyramid-shaped. Short, lateral branches grow quite close together but they are so flexible that the
Little light penetrates the thick canopy of trees to reach the forest floor. Because of this gloom, only ferns and
a few herbaceous plants grow here. Mosses, liverworts and lichens are also found on the forest floor and
grow on tree trunks and branches. There are few flowering plants.

Tropical Rainforests
Tropical rainforests are home to thousands of species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes. Scientists
suspect that there are many species living in rainforests have not yet been found or described.
There are areas of rainforests where plants are densely packed. Areas where sunlight can reach the surface
are full of interesting plants. In other areas a canopy, made from the branches and leaves of tall trees,
shades the ground below, preventing smaller plants from growing.
Rainforests get their name because they receive a lot of rain - an average of 80 inches (203 cm) a year!
Rainforests are found at and near the equator, where it is always warm and muggy. The temperature doesn't
change very much during the year.

The Desert
Deserts are full of interesting questions. How can anything survive in a place with hardly any water? Why is it
so dry to begin with?
You can find at least one desert on every continent except Europe. Each desert is different in some way, but
they all have one thing in common. In order for an area of land to be considered a desert, it must receive less
than 10 inches of water a year.
Clouds are scarce in deserts. Without clouds, there can't be rain, snow, or any other precipitation. Clouds
also shade the land, so without them, the desert gets mighty hot as the Sun beats down during the day. At
night, the desert can become very cold, because there isn't moisture in the air to hold onto the heat.
The geology of each desert is unique. Some deserts have sand dunes - great waves of sand weathered from
rock, that move over time as wind blows the sediment. Other deserts have no dunes but instead have unique
rock formations carved by wind and streams that only flow at times when there is moisture.
Many plants and animals survive in these vast, dry lands. Learn more about life in the desert by exploring the
links below

Over one quarter of the Earth's surface is covered by grasslands. Grasslands are found on every continent
except Antarctica, and they make up most of Africa and Asia. There are several types of grassland and each
one has its own name. Prairies, plains and savannas are all grasslands.
Grasslands develop where there isn't enough rain for forests but too much rain for deserts. Grasslands are
filled with - you guessed it - grass. There are many types of grass, though. Fields of wheat are considered
grasslands, even though they are often cultivated by people. Grass is special because it grows underneath
the ground. During cold periods the grass can stay dormant until it warms up.

The Savanna
A savanna is a rolling grassland scattered with shrubs and isolated trees, which can be found between a
tropical rainforest and desert biome. Not enough rain falls on a savanna to support forests. Savannas are

also known as tropical grasslands. They are found in a wide band on either side of the equator on the edges
of tropical rainforests.
Savannas have warm temperature year round. There are actually two very different seasons in a savanna; a
very long dry season (winter), and a very wet season (summer). In the dry season only an average of about 4
inches of rain falls. Between December and February no rain will fall at all. Oddly enough, it is actually a little
cooler during this dry season. But don't expect sweater weather; it is still around 70 F.
In the summer there is lots of rain. In Africa the monsoon rains begin in May. An average of 15 to 25 inches of
rain falls during this time. It gets hot and very humid during the rainy season. Every day the hot, humid air
rises off the ground and collides with cooler air above and turns into rain. In the afternoons on the summer
savanna the rains pour down for hours. African savannas have large herds of grazing and browsing hoofed
animals. Each animal has a specialized eating habit that reduces compitition for food.
There are several different types of savannas around the world. The savannas we are most familiar with are
the East African savannas covered with acacia trees. The Serengeti Plains of Tanzania are some of the most
well known. Here animals like lions, zebras, elephants, and giraffes and many types of ungulates(animals
with hooves) graze and hunt. Many large grass-eating mammals (herbivores) can survive here because they
can move around and eat the plentiful grasses. There are also lots of carnivores (meat eaters) who eat them
in turn.
South America also has savannas, but there are very few species that exist only on this savanna. In Brazil,
Colombia, and Venezuela, savannas occupy some 2.5 million square kilometers, an area about one-quarter
the size of Canada. Animals from the neighboring biomes kind of spill into this savanna. The Llanos of the
Orinoco basin of Venezuela and Columbia is flooded annually by the Orinoco River. Plants have adapted to
growing for long periods in standing water. The capybara and marsh deer have adapted themselves to a
semi-aquatic life.
Brazil's cerrado is an open woodland of short twisted trees. The diversity of animals is very great here, with
several plants and animals that don't exist anywhere else on earth.
There is also a savanna in northern Australia. Eucalyptus trees take the place of acacias in the Australian
savanna. There are many species of kangaroos in this savanna but not too much diversity of different
Plants of the savannas are highly specialized to grow in this environment of long periods of drought. They
have long tap roots that can reach the deep water table, thick bark to resist annual fires, trunks that can store
water, and leaves that drop of during the winter to conserve water. The grasses have adaptations that
discourage animals from grazing on them; some grasses are too sharp or bitter tasting for some animals, but
not others, to eat. The side benefit of this is that every species of animal has something to eat. Different
species will also eat different parts of the grass. Many grasses grow from the bottom up, so that the growth
tissue doesn't get damaged by grazers. Many plants of the savanna also have storage organs like bulbs and
corms for making it though the dry season.
Most of the animals on the savanna have long legs or wings to be able to go on long migrations. Many
burrow under ground to avoid the heat or raise their young. The savanna is a perfect place for birds of prey
like hawks and buzzards. The wide, open plain provides them with a clear view of their prey, hot air updrafts
keep them soaring, and there is the occasional tree to rest on or nest in. Animals don't sweat to lose body
heat, so they lose it through panting or through large areas of exposed skin, or ears, like those of the

The savanna has a large range of highly specialized plants and animals. They all depend on the each other
to keep the environment in balance. There are over 40 different species of hoofed mammals that live on the
savannas of Africa. Up to 16 different species of browsers (those who eat leaves of trees) and grazers can
coexist in one area. They do this by having their own food preferences, browsing/grazing at different heights,
time of day or year to use a given area, and different places to go during the dry season.
These different herbivores provide a wide range of food for carnivores, like lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals
and hyenas. Each species has its own preference, making it possible to live side by side and not be in
competition for food.
In many parts of the savannas of Africa people have started using it to graze their cattle and goats. They
don't move around and soon the grasses are completely eaten up. With no vegetation, the savanna turns into
a desert. Huge areas of savanna are lost to the Sahara desert every year because of overgrazing and

The Steppe
The Steppe is usually found between the desert and the forest. If it got more rain, it would become a forest.
If it got less rain, it would become a desert. The average rainfall is 10-30 inches per year. But in May, June,
and August, the Steppe can get up to 4-5 inches a month.
There are many plants in Steppe. The main ones are different grasses. The grasses are separated into 3
different groups, depending on how much rain they get. The tall grasses grow up to 4 1/2 feet because they
live closer to the forest. The short grasses can be less than 1 1/2 feet. They are closer to the dessert. 1 1/2
feet is a small amount, considering that people don't cut the grasses. The last group is the mixed grasses.
They grow 2-3 feet high and get 15-20 inches of rain per year.
Very few people live in the Steppe climate because it's only grass and it has very few other traits. Farmers
would have a hard time growing crops because the soil is so poor and its so cold. There is also a lot of wind
in the Steppe because there are few trees.
Steppe has warm summers and really cold winters. There is often a lot of snow in the northern Steppes. All
the Steppes experience long droughts and violent winds. Sometimes the summers are so hot that the
grasses catch on fire. That is more dangerous than usual because the grass is so dry that it spreads quickly.
A lot of the animals that live in Steppe are grazing animals, such as rabbits, mice, antelopes, horses, etc.
Smaller animals have little defense from predators. Since it is such an open environment and predators can
find animals fast, they either form herds or make burrows. There are many endangered animals on the
Steppe. More and more people are trying to protect them.
A true natural grassland is becoming harder and harder to find because people are taking them over. They
are plowing the grass for farming and digging holes in search of oil. The Steppe biome is becoming
endangered, just like the animals.

Definition of Biodiversity
Biodiversity has been most generally defined as the "full variety of life on Earth". More specifically,
biodiversity is the study of the processes that create and maintain variation. It is concerned with the variety of
individuals within populations, the diversity of species within communities, and the range of ecological roles

Importance of biodiversity
Environmental problems : Earth functions like a complex system with very complex components that affect
each other. Each species -- from the lowliest microbe to humans -- plays a part in keeping the planet running
smoothly. In this sense, each part is related. If a lot of those parts suddenly vanish, then the machine that is
Earth can't function properly.
For example, the crops that we grow though our clever use of agriculture are enabled by the nitrogen present
in the soil. This nitrogen nourishes and strengthens our crops. But where does it come from? Worms,
bacteria and other life found within the soil love to decompose vegetation. When they eat, these organisms
produce nitrogen as waste. This nitrogen is used to make soil rich.
If we have a small bottle with a group of dominating predators and prey together, soon they will both die out
because there is no sustainability. Likewise, if humans manipulate the environment and decrease
biodiversity, our environmental sustainability significantly decreases.

Economic Importance of Biodiversity

Biologically diverse ecosystems are typically more productive than non-diverse ones because they contain
a wider array of resources, and it is impossible for us to use up all of them at once.
Biodiversity provides many different resources that can be exploited economically, such as fibres wood,
fuels, rubber, and silk.
Many medicines are made from extracts taken from the Amazon rainforest.
Biodiverse environments can often be used as tourist attractions.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most dominant rubber-producers in the world.
Illegal biological trade exploiting wildlife.
Wood industry payments for ecological services rendered by the Amazon such as the carbon retaining in its
forests could go a long way to preserving them, a new study has found.

Geographic Conditions that Favor Biodiversity

According to how geographical natural components are combined, different sceneries are created for the
development of species; depending on the combination of features biodiversity is distributed in our planet.
Biodiversity is a result of the evolution of life through millions of years, due to geological processes, as the
formation and arrangement of continents, climate changes, ice age, and evolution of species. There are
around 30 million of different species in the world. Some of the geographical conditions that favor biodiversity
in the world are:

Geographic location
The inter tropical zone (between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) is the one that as the biggest amount
of species because warm stripes due to latitude are good conditions for different species that can adapt to
live in high temperatures and lots of humidity.

Having oceans and seas contributes for a broadest biodiversity in a country. These bodies of water and the
ocean currents have influence in climate, which favors diversity of vegetal and animal species.

Diversity of Landscape
It is the result of the combination of unique natural components, as well as climates with specific relief and
native vegetation.

The separation of islands and continents, together with specific natural characteristics of a region as well as
its relief hydrology, climate and vegetation, has allowed the development of unique species, called endemic,
because they cant be found in any other place on the planet.

Megadiverse Countries

The megadiverse countries are a group of countries that harbor the majority of the Earth's species and are
therefore considered extremely biodiverse. Conservation International identified 17 megadiverse countries in
1998.[1][2][3] All are located in, or partially in, the tropics.

In 2002, Mexico formed a separate organization focusing on Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries, consisting
of countries rich in biological diversity and associated traditional knowledge. This organization does not
include all the megadiverse countries as identified by Conservation International.

In alphabetical order, the 17 countries are:

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Papua New Guinea
South Africa
United States