Physical geography and geomorphology

Degree course: 
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Basic compulsory subjects
Second semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (64 hours), Exercise (16 hours)

Knowledge of geology, earth formation and on the different types of lithology and geological structures like folds, faults, volcanoes etc. Basic knowledge of maths, chemistry and geobotany are also required.

Final Examination: 

The final examination is composed by a written text of 3 wide open questions and 10 simple (yes or no) questions. Some of the latter can be also problems with graphical or mathematical answer. Each correct response of the simple questions will be evaluated with 1 point and 1.5 points if graphical or numerical problem. Each open question will be evaluated between 0 and 7 points. The test will be evaluated in a scale of 30/30.

Voto Finale

The main objectives of the course is understanding the principal processes of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere and their interactions.
The students will learn to recognize also the main landforms of the mountain landscape also through the field course. Moreover, the bases of geomorphology in order to date the landforms should be achieved

The course is divided in 5 modules:
Atmosphere: Physical and chemical divisions; Atmosphere evolution in time: ozone,CO2 e CH4. The electromagnetic spectrum: definitions, main laws and measurement methods. The surface energy balance: Radiation balance, heat fluxes. The effects of pressure: winds (baric gradient;etc) and its surface effects. Barotrophic and Baroclinic atmosphere, air masses and their dynamics. The moisture: definitions and measurements. Bergeron-Findeisen phenomena and the cloud formation. Precipitations: definitions, formation and measurement:Storms; Tornadoes, Hurricanes and other extreme phenomena. The global circulation: jet streams. Rosby wawes and the three cells model. Regional atmospheric structures; the monsoon and El Niño. (20 hours)
The hydrosphere:definitions and description of the different water types and their distribution in the ground.The water balance: hydraulic elements. Surface run off: rivers, streams, uadi et:hydraulic regime and their measure. Ground water: hydrogeology bases:different types of acquifers.Lakes: thermal regime and circulation. Fluvial geomorphology: erosion, transport and sedimentation; fluvial deposits and landforms; terraces;alluvial fans.(6 hours)
The cryosphere (10 hours): definitions. The snow: types, distribution, measurements and its influence on other cryospheric components and on the ecosystems. The glaciers: definitions and their dynamics. Mass balance. Effects of the glaciers on the landscape: erosion and accumulation landforms. The permafrost: definitions and distribution, Investigations methods. The ice types within permafrost.Permafrost landforms.
Geomorphological mapping: elements and examples.The scale problem. Weathering processes: mechanical weathering: cryoclastism; thermal weathering; thermal shock etc; chemical weathering (idrolisys; karst weathering etc); biological weathering: (lichens, fungae and bacterial actions). (6 hours)

Mountain and polar geomorphology:
Glacial landforms (erosion landforms as cirques; striae etc; accumulation landforms as drumlin, eskers, moraines. Tills.(6 hours)
Permafrost landforms: ice wedges, pingo; rock glaciers. Periglacial landforms like patterned ground, solifluction features etc.( 6 hours)
The gravity: landslides (definitions, classification and study methods).
Lithostructural landforms (definitions and main tectonic and lithostructural landforms). (4 hours)
Weathering landforms: the karst (caves, and surface karst phenomena); pseudokarst (tafoni, weathering pits etc).(4 hours)

Slides of the lectures and scientific papers will be available at the beginning of the lectures.
McKnight T.L., 2005 Geografia Fisica Comprendere il Paesaggio Piccin Ed. ISBN:

During the classes 64 hours of lectures will be provided. Exercise for solving physical geography problems will be also given.
16 hours of field course (2 days) will be given in Upper Valtellina at the end of the course in mountain, glacial and periglacial environments. The students with documented inhabilities to attend the field course could do a different activity like a presentation on a particular topic.

For any further contacts and explanation plese send an email to to have an appointment that will be possible both in Varese and in Como