Physical Geography

Physical geography focuses on geography as an Earth science (and is sometimes called Earth System Science).

Physical geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of the natural features and processes of the Earth’s surface. It includes the examination of landforms, climate, vegetation, soils, and water resources. Physical geographers use a range of scientific methods and tools to analyze and understand the complex interactions between the Earth’s physical systems.

Learn about the different branches of geography that fall under the physical geography category: climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, and more.

The color of water is a by product of how light is absorbed. Mangrove islands bespeckle the bay in upper Lostman's River. Photo: Paul Nelson, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

How Mapping Mangrove Species Can Help With Coastal Erosion Mitigation

Mark Altaweel

Species-specific mangrove maps aid conservation by targeting protection efforts and resources against storm surges and coastal erosion.

An abnormal growth of leaves in a conifer tree.

Witch’s Broom in Trees: Dense Clump of Leaves and Branches

Caitlin Dempsey

Witch's broom affects trees like birch, spruce, and pine, causing dense twig and leaf clusters due to pathogens, parasites, and environmental stressors.

A map of the southwest region of the US showing in deep red extreme heat across the area.

Mapping Heatwaves from Space: How Extreme Temperatures Are Modeled

Caitlin Dempsey

The Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model can help researchers predict and map heatwaves around the world.

Side by side satellite images of a glacier in 1988 and 2015 showing the glacier shrinking.

Venezuela Becomes the First Country to Lose its Glaciers

Caitlin Dempsey

Venezuela became the first country to lose all of its glaciers as the last remaining ice on Pico Humboldt shrank to less than two hectares.

An annotated satellite image of a white icy area.

Understanding Fast Ice in Polar Ecosystems and Climate Dynamics

Caitlin Dempsey

Fast ice, found in both polar regions, is sea ice that attaches to coasts, icebergs, ice shelves, or the ocean floor.