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Physical Geography



Rewrite and answer all of the following questions in detail for extra credit.


1.  What is physical geography? How does it differ/relate to human geography?

2.  What are the “four great spheres?” How are they related?

The Geographic Grid

1. In what ways are maps distorted in the map projection process?

2.  What is the “geographic grid”?

3.  What is the logic behind the starting points (0°) for the lines of latitude and longitude?

4.  Compare and contrast lines of latitude and lines of longitude (names, max, converge or not, etc.)?

5.  Practice reading the geographic grid by practice using the map provided on page 2 of this handout (staple it with your answers if you are turning a packet in for extra credit)

6.  Explain how degrees are broken down into “minutes” and “seconds” on the geographic grid (how much distance does each cover); sketch the breakdown for clarity.

7.  What are Isolines? (isotherms, isobars,  contour lines). What is a gradient?

8.  Practice visualizing contour lines and the representation of profile views of landforms on a map and vice versa. Make sure you understand our work on page 3 and maybe do the computer exercise linked for this lecture on our website.

9.  What is a Geographic Information System? Explain the basics of how geographic information systems work and provide examples of varied uses for GIS.


1.  Explain what the ultimate goal of science is. How do scientists go about accomplishing that goal?

2.  What is the scientific method?

3.  What is a scientific theory? Explain the “hallmarks” of scientific theories.

4.  Why are the foundational laws we discussed in class important for this course?

5.  Explain the law of conservation of mass.

6.  Explain the 1st law of thermodynamics (be sure to differentiate between open and closed mass systems)

7.  List and explain the different forms of energy covered in class.

8.  Explain the 2nd law of thermodynamics? What is entropy? Provide multiple real world examples.

9.  Explain all of the energy transfers that take place (as we did in class with the pen) when you kick a ball.


1.  Describe the earth’s place in the universe (age, theory of formation, “early earth,” location within the solar system, galaxy and universe, etc.)

2. List the observable evidence we covered in class that points to the fact the earth is both rotating and revolving (be sure to differentiate between the two).

3.  What direction does the Earth rotate (as describe while looking at the equator)? How can you tell that the earth rotates in this direction (what’s the evidence)?

4.  Practice determining the time in these locations using the information provided (show all work)

  • 10pm in San Diego (120°W), what is the time in Philadelphia(75°W)
  • 1 am in Greenwich, what is the time and day in Taiwan 120°E
  • Noon in San Diego, what is the time and day in Delhi (80°E)

5.  What is the difference between “sun time” and “political time?” Why is there a difference/why was political time developed?

6.  How many time zones exist? How wide is each?

7.  What is the international dateline? What happens when you cross it going in each direction (i.e. from the east side to the west side)?

8.  What were the principles of the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic model we discussed in class?

9.  What idea did Copernicus introduce on his death bed?

10.  What contribution did Kepler make to our Earth-Sun understanding?

11. How did Galileo further Coperinicus’ idea? What new claims did he make? What evidence did he have to support them? And what happened to him as a result?

12. Who came along with the math skills to prove the above observations?

13.  Explain the first of the 4 “Earth characteristics” – what is the shape of the orbit of Earth?  What is the plane of the ecliptic?

14.  Is the distance between the Earth and the Sun related to the seasons we experience on Earth? How do you know?

15.  Sketch and describe Earth’s axial inclination.

16.  Sketch and describe Earth’s axial orientation.

17.  What does the term solar declination mean? Why is it important? (This is an important concept, and often misunderstood, make sure you really understand it!)

18.  Where are the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; why are they important?

19. Use figure 3.20 from your book (pg. 53) to estimate where the solar declination is on the following dates: Jan 30, Feb 30, Mar 21, Apr 15, May 15, June 21, Aug 1, Sep 21, Nov 15, Dec 21

20.  Draw from memory the Earth-Sun relationship on the four important days of the year we discussed in class as well as where the earth is TODAY in the diagram (list the names, dates and solar declination on those days).

21.  Explain in detail (referring to the key ideas explained above) exactly why we have seasons on Earth and what is happening within the Earth-Sun relationship as the Earth revolves around the sun.

22. What would conditions on Earth look like if the axis of rotation was perpendicular to the orbital plane of the ecliptic? (For full credit refer to 1) insolation receipt, 2) the location of the solar declination and 3) the seasons.)                                                            


1.  What is the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

2.  What is Radiation? What types of things emit radiation?

3.  What is a wavelength? What is the difference between different forms of radiation?

4. Draw and label the electromagnetic spectrum. Add the following in the ranges they belong: Near Infrared, thermal infrared, radio waves, ultraviolet light, the visible portion of the spectrum and x-rays.

5.  What did the Stefan-Boltzmann radiation law explain to us? Provide some examples.

6.  What did Wien’s law explain?  Sketch the earth-sun example from class

7.  Over the long term what is the relationship between insolation and outgoing radiation?

8.  What is insolation?

9.  What are the two variables that contribute to annual insolation variation throughout the Earth (before any of the atmospheric variables are accounted for)?

10.  How is solar declination related to sun angle?

11.  How does sun angle vary daily? What does this mean in relation to energy receipt at a given spot and why is this important? Sketch a diagram illustrating this.

12.  How does sun angle vary seasonally?  What does this mean in relation to energy receipt at a given spot and why is this important? Sketch a diagram illustrating this.

13.  Why is day length important in understanding Energy receipt on Earth?

14.  How do the hours of daylight received at different latitudes vary as the Earth revolves around the sun (especially explain the general changes here at Grossmont)? Where are the drastic changes in day length/the least drastic, etc.

15.  Interpret the insolation graph from our notes and figure 4.8 in your book. What conclusions did we draw from this graph? Use your answers from Q9-15 above to explain why insolation looks the way it does at different latitudes on different dates.

16.  What is the atmosphere? Where is the most of it located?

17.  What is the composition of the atmosphere (refer to both constant and variable gases)?

18.  What is “ozone?” Why is it important? What happened to the ozone layer in the past and what is currently happening to it? (sketch a diagram)

19. With words, explain the concept of “global warming” or climate change. Do so by first explaining the greenhouse effect (for full credit be sure to name the specific greenhouse gases and use the terms longwave radiation, absorb, and emit to explain the greenhouse effect AND THEN explain how that is related to “global warming”)           (sketch a diagram)

20.  Sketch and explain the global energy balance in terms of units of incoming solar radiation. Where do they all go? How are they distributed? What happens in the big and little picture?

21. What is albedo? How does it vary? What types of things have high/low albedos? What is the average albedo of earth?  

22.  What types of mechanisms work to correct this imbalance in energy between the surface and the atmosphere?

23.  What is sensible heat?

24.  In what two ways is sensible heat transferred? Explain these and give examples of each.

25.  What is latent heat? Why is it important? Explain this concept in detail.

26. Explain in detail the molecular action that occurs when substances (ex. Water) change states (Where is heat released/absorbed/stored; in what form, etc.)

27. What is latent heat transfer? When does it occur? How does it occur. Sketch and explain the flow chart from class.

28. What is net radiation? How does it vary by latitude and how does this influence physical processes.

29. What are the mechanisms for global heat transfer covered in class? 

Last Updated: 03/04/2015
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