Geography GCSE AQA

Human and Physical Geography

Geography GCSE AQA is a new textbook essential not only for students, teachers and examiners of the Geography GCSE AQA (8035) specification, but also for anyone wanting to gain a good knowledge and understanding of modern physical and human geography.

This well-written and thoroughly researched book contains comprehensive chapters on all the topics covered in the GCSE specification. The physical geography section covers the challenge of natural hazards including tectonic and extreme weather events. The physical and human causes and effects of climate change are discussed and exemplified. The living world and ecosystems are also examined in detail, with interesting chapters on hot deserts, cold environments and tropical rainforests.

The physical geography of the UK is covered in depth, with examples drawn from across the country.  With detailed case studies, the key coastal, river and glacial processes and landforms are described and explained. The strategies used to manage these dynamic environments are outlined and evaluated.

The human geography section looks at the key urban issues and challenges arising as a result of global urbanisation and urban growth. There are two major case studies – one of Lagos and the other of Newcastle – to illustrate the opportunities and challenges facing towns and cities. In addition, ways of achieving sustainable urban living are covered.

The changing economic world chapter outlines the methods of classifying countries according to their economic development and quality of life. Ways of narrowing the development gap are suggested with examples of good practice drawn from across the world. There are two detailed case studies of countries at different levels of development – Nigeria and the UK. The way in which geography affects both economics and politics in the UK is touched upon. As global events continue to shape the world, the challenge of resource management is coming to the forefront of debate. Systems for providing resources such as water, energy and food sustainably are discussed and evaluated.

Accessible, clear and complete, Geography GCSE AQA provides comprehensive coverage of the 8035 specification. Not only are the key geographical concepts and processes described in detail, but the impacts of physical and human processes and activities on the environment are examined, and sustainable strategies forward suggested.

This book is full of interesting examples and up-to-date case studies drawn from cities and countries around the globe. A clear sense of place is maintained throughout. Readers of this book will not only improve their knowledge and understanding of physical and human geography but will go on a rewarding voyage of discovery.

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1. Living with the physical environment


The Earth is a dynamic planet, which is constantly changing, as complex processes and systems shape the physical environment. The world’s many distinct landforms and landscapes such as plains, mountains, valleys and deserts, have formed as a result of these changes and connections. Geomorphology is the study of the physical features of the Earth and its crust, and their relationship with the rocks which lie beneath. An understanding and knowledge of geomorphology helps people live with their physical environment.

Within the Earth’s crust, the movement of the plates and other tectonic processes leads to the formation of volcanoes and earthquakes. On the Earth’s surface, coastal and fluvial processes such as weathering, erosion, deposition and transportation alter the shape of rivers, coasts and glaciated highlands.

In the planet’s many different ecosystems, living organisms interact with each other and the physical environment in order to create and sustain life. The Earth has a rich biodiversity – an enormous variety of life. Biodiversity includes all the wildlife, plants, fungi and bacteria which depend on biological processes such as photosynthesis, and systems like the nutrient cycle.

In the atmosphere, the global circulation of the air helps to determine the world’s patterns of weather and climate. Meteorological processes including evaporation and condensation also influence the condition of the atmosphere. As a result of the different climatic zones, unique environments such as tropical rainforests, hot deserts and cold environments form in specific places.

Natural hazards are extreme events which are caused by the forces of nature. These dangers pose major risks to people and property because they can bring death, damage and destruction. Tectonic hazards include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Weather hazards encompass tropical storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves.

Humans interact with both the physical environment and the natural world. Human activities such as farming, building cities, burning fossil fuels and damming rivers are changing the world about us in many ways at local, national and international scales.

Climate change is the large-scale, long-term shift in the average temperatures and weather patterns of the Earth. As a result of human activities, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing. Greenhouse gases, which include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, contribute to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse  effect is like a blanket around the Earth which prevents the Sun’s heat from escaping back to space. This results in global warming which is a rise in the Earth’s surface temperature. As a result, more extreme weather events are occurring.

The UK has a range of diverse landscapes which include uplands, lowlands and river systems. There are coastal, fluvial and glacial landscapes with their associated landforms such as bays and headlands, valleys and flood plains, corries and ribbon lakes.

An understanding of the direct and indirect effects of human interactions on the physical environment and the living world, can help governments choose the right management strategies to ensure that life on Earth is sustainable for future generations.





2. The challenge of natural hazards



A definition of a natural hazard is that it is an extreme event caused by the forces of nature, which pose a major threat to human life. The likelihood that a powerful earthquake or a destructive hurricane may occur is a risk that many people take when deciding where to live or work. Natural hazards not only can kill humans and wildlife, but they also can disrupt everyday life and destroy infrastructure and ecosystems. Types of natural hazard include tectonic and weather events.

Tectonic events such as earthquakes and volcanoes are natural hazards. These dangerous occurrences are caused by the movement of the tectonic plates. Earthquakes, which are sudden or violent movements within the Earth’s crust followed by a series of shocks, are one type of tectonic hazard. Volcanic eruptions occur when volcanoes, which are openings in the Earth’s crust, erupt spewing out lava, ash and gases.

Extreme weather events are also natural hazards. Examples of extreme weather include severe snow blizzards,  heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical storms.  These hazards are significantly different from the average or usual weather because they are especially severe and maybe unseasonal.  The length of an extreme weather event can vary. Sometimes the event only lasts a few hours but at other times they may persist for many days or weeks.

In the tropics, extreme weather events such as tropical storms, which are also called hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons, can be particularly dangerous. These areas of low pressure, which are accompanied by heavy rainfall and powerful winds spiralling around the calm central point – the eye of the storm – can cause loss of life and damage to property.

The probability of a natural hazard occurring is not the same everywhere – some parts of the world are more at risk of experiencing a major natural hazard than others. For example, Japan and the other countries located along the Ring of Fire at the edge of the Pacific Plate, have a higher chance of experiencing frequent large earthquakes than other places. Tectonic activity is rare in countries such as the UK, which are located far from a plate boundary.

When a natural hazard occurs, the immediate responses are the reactions of people during and straight after the disaster. The long-term responses are the actions that people take in the weeks, months and years following the event.

In order to forecast when a natural hazard may occur, scientists monitor and record any physical changes to the ground or the atmosphere. For example, they may measure the earthquake tremors around a volcano or use satellite photographs to track the path of a tropical storm.

Steps can be taken to protect people and property before a hazard strikes to reduce its impact. These actions can include educating people or improving building design. Communities also prepare action plans which enable them to respond to, and recover from, natural disasters. These plans can include preparations to evacuate the area, broadcast information, or sound warning sirens.

Meteorologists and geologists collect data in order to be able to predict and attempt to forecast when and where a natural hazard will strike. Volcanic eruptions and tropical storms are easier to predict than an earthquake, but even so, forecasting when and where a natural hazard will occur is not an exact science.

The primary effects of a natural hazard are the initial impacts of the event on people and property. For instance, during and after an earthquake or a tropical storm, buildings may collapse or be blown away.

The secondary effects are the incidents that occur sometimes much later as an indirect result of a natural event.  For instance, earthquakes can rupture gas mains causing fires to break out. Tropical storms can wash pollutants such as raw sewage into rivers and reservoirs, thus reducing supplies of clean water and causing outbreaks of disease.

The economic impacts of a natural hazard are the effects on the wealth of an area or community. The social impacts are the effects on the lives of the people living in the affected area.  The effects of the natural hazard on the landscape and ecology are the environmental impacts. Management strategies are the techniques which can be used to control, respond to, or deal with an event.

There are environmental, economic, social and technological factors which affect hazard risk. Physical environmental factors include the size, intensity, duration and magnitude of a natural event. A large volcanic eruption which continues for a long time will cause more damage and destruction than a small short eruption.  Equally, light rain showers rarely cause any damage, but days of heavy rainfall can result in widespread flooding.

Some natural hazards occur in specific areas. For example, tropical storms form over the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and are clustered in tropical areas such as the Philippines in south-east Asia. Flooding however is a natural hazard that can happen anywhere. Although low lying countries with large floodplains, such as Bangladesh, are more likely to experience large-scale flooding than countries with lower rainfall and higher relief.

The risk of a major natural hazard occurring can vary even within an area. For example, a dormant volcano which shows few signs of activity poses a low risk. In contrast, an active volcano which is having frequent small eruptions and is growing in size, is more dangerous.

Economic factors include the wealth of a country.  A higher-income country (HIC) can afford to invest in higher quality infrastructure and buildings, which are better able to withstand the forces of nature. In addition, HICs have hazard warning systems and emergency services, which prevent the loss of life. In contrast, a low-income country may be less well prepared for a natural disaster, with poorly constructed buildings, and smaller search and rescue teams resulting in a higher number of deaths.

Social factors include the level of development and the number of people living in an area. If an earthquake hits a densely populated place like a city, the death rate is likely to be higher than if a quake occurs in a sparsely populated desert or rural area.  If a country has good emergency services and many doctors and hospitals, the impact of natural hazards can be lower, because the response to the disaster can be better, resulting in fewer deaths and injuries.

Technological factors include having the science and technology to be able to predict more accurately when a natural disaster is about to occur.  Vulcanologists, seismologists and meteorologists use historic records, and computers and scientific equipment to collect, record and analyse data. This information can help them to forecast where a major natural hazard is likely to happen, although not necessarily when.

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