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.

Maps showing age of forest stands (left) and estimate tree canopy heights (right).

Measuring Tree Height With a Two-Satellite Constellation

Caitlin Dempsey

Researchers are using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from colocated satellites to estimate tree canopy height.

Two maps - the top has a deep blue to deep red raster temperature layer for an area in South Africa and the bottom has deep blue to deep red dots to represent individual elephant locations with temperature sensors.

Using Animals to Collect Weather Data

Caitlin Dempsey

Scientists suggest using sensors on wildlife to collect fine-grained weather data about the environments these animals move around in.

A salt marsh pond in Plum Island, MA (on the left), alongside a tidal creek (on the right).

How Sea Level Rise Will Affect Salt Marshes

Mark Altaweel

Researchers have calculated that about 90 percent of salt marshes are under threat from rising sea levels predicted to occur by the year 2100.

A shaded relief map with green overlay showing the historic range of the American Chestnut.

American Chestnut: the Struggle to Save the ‘Redwood of the East’

Katarina Samurović

Scientists and conservationists are working to rescue the American Chestnut from going completely extinct.

A view of a surge flow on a creek with sand dunes and mountains in the background.

Surge Flows: A Rare River Phenomenon

Caitlin Dempsey

Surge flows are a rare phenomenon where shallow waters, sand or sediment, and steep topography combine to create waves in rivers.