Università degli studi dell'Insubria

Physical geography and geomorphology

Degree course: 
Academyc year when starting the degree: 
Academyc year when helding the course: 
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
Second semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (60 hours), Exercise (16 hours), Laboratory (8 hours)

Basic knowledge of geology in particular regarding the earth formation, structures (like folds, faults, volcanoes etc), and lithology is required. Also basic knowledge of maths, physics, chemistry and botany is requested.

Voto Finale

Aims and learning outcomes
Main goals of the course are: a)understanding of the main processes that drives the atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere dynamics and evolution; b) understanding of the interactions of the different sphere of the planet. etc) understanding of the basic concepts of the geomorphology; d)knowledge of the weathering profile description (useful also to the dating of the landform’s surfaces). Moreover through the field excercises the course aims to improve the sensibility of perception and observation capabilities of the students towards the landscape and its dynamics.

The final exams will be at the end of the field lectures: it wil be composed of a written test with 3 open questions and 10 closed-ended queries. The open questions could be also solved through numerical or graphical solutions. The final exams will be graded.

The course is structured in 6 main units:
a) The atmosphere: definitions, physical and chemical structure; atmosphere evolution in the time; ozone, CO2 and CH4. The electromagnetic radiation: definitions, laws and measurements methods. Energy balance of the atmosphere and of the surface. The wind: air pressure: baric gradient, geostrophic, thermic surface winds and their measurements. The effect of the wind on urban and rural areas. Baroclinic and barotrophic conditions, air masses and their dynamic. The moisture: definitions and measurements. Evapotraspiration and transpiration: definitions and measurements. Clouds formations processes (condensation, Bergeron-Findeisen processes), fronts. Precipitations: definitions, measurements and formation’s processes. Hurricanes, Storms, Tornadoes and Squall line, formation’s processes and distribution. Global circulation: jet stream, Rossby wawes and cells; El Nino and Monsoons.
b) The Water : definitions and distributions of the main water types. Hydrologic balance: elements of hydraulic. Surface water: rivers, streams and other type of run off: measurements methods. Underground water:confined and unconfined acquifers; lakes: thermal regime and circulation. Morphological effects of the surface water; erosion, transport and sedimentation, drainage patterns and channels morphology.
c) The Cryosphere: definitions and concepts. Snow: types, distribution measurements methods and its influence on the cryosphere and on the related ecosystems. Glaciers: definitions and main dynamic laws. Mass balance: methods and its climatic meaning. Glacial morphology; erosion and accumulation landforms.
Permafrost:definitions and distribution. Methods of identification, mapping and modelling. Ground ice and buried ice. Permafrost related processes and landforms.
d) Geomorphology: definitions and concepts. Quaternary deposits: definitions, methods of analyses and main sedimentological structures. Elements of geomorphological mapping. Weathering processes: mechanical (freeze-thaw; thermal stress; thermal shock etc ), chemical (hydrolysis, karst etc) and biological (lichen action etc).
e) Mountain and polar geomorphology: I) Fluvial landforms and deposits. Alluvial fan. Terraces. II) Glacial landforms and deposits: Erosional landforms (rouches moutonnes, cirque, striae etc);subglacial accumulation landforms (drumlin, eskers, etc), supraglacial landforms (morainic ridges etc). Tills. III) Permafrost: landforms exclusively related to permafrost (ice wedges, pingo, rock glaciers, ice blisters etc), periglacial landforms (patterned ground, geli-solifluction features). IV) Gravity related landforms: landslide (classification, definitions and methods of analyses); V Structural landforms: definitions and main lithostructural and tectonic features;VI Weathering landforms: Karst (caves and surface karst); pseudokarst landforms (Tafoni, weathering pits etc).
f) Soil Science; definitions and main soil formation processes. Weathering profile description and analyses and its use as tool for dating landforms and deposits. Soil Taxonomy.

Materials and texts
Slides and reference scientific papers will be available at the beginning of the course
Possible reference books: : Mcknight T.L., 2005 Geografia Fisica Comprendere Il Paesaggio Piccin Ed. Isbn: 978-88-299-1729-7