Discover the rich history of geography, its diverse branches such as general geography, regional geography, and human geography, and the fascinating world of geographic phenomena. Learn about ancient beginnings, Greek contributions, the Age of Exploration, and how geography is an integrating science that studies the Earth’s surface and human-environment interactions.

Geography is the science that is responsible for studying the different elements of the earth’s surface. The term “geography” means, description of the Earth.¬†Geography is the study not only of the elements of the surface of the Earth but also of the relationship of human beings with these elements. That is to say that the study of geography is not only limited to the approach of different climates, relief, soil, hydrography, flora and fauna, but also of the relationship of these elements with the human being and their intentional or accidental modifications.

Geography, in turn, is divided into several branches: general geography, regional geography, human geography, among others. In short, one could say that geography is an integrating science that contains several areas of study in relation to planet Earth.

It is a science that is quite changeable and modifiable, which is why it requires constant research on the part of geographers, who carry out the study of this science.

Characteristics Of Geography

1. History

The field of geography has a rich history that has evolved over centuries. Here are some key characteristics of the history of geography:

  1. Ancient Beginnings: Geography as a formal discipline has its roots in ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Babylonians. These early societies developed maps, explored the Earth, and recorded their observations of the world around them.
  2. Greek Contributions: The ancient Greeks made significant contributions to geography through figures like Eratosthenes, often considered the “father of geography.” He calculated the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy, laying the foundation for modern geographic understanding.
  3. Age of Exploration: The Renaissance and the Age of Exploration in the 15th to 17th centuries led to a surge in geographic knowledge. Explorers like Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan traversed the globe, mapping new lands and expanding European understanding of the world.
  4. Geographic Thought: Throughout history, there have been various schools of thought in geography. For example, environmental determinism suggested that physical geography determines human behavior and societal development. This idea was later challenged by the concept of possibilism, which argued that while the environment sets limits, human societies can adapt and innovate.
  5. Cartography: The history of geography is closely tied to the development of cartography, or mapmaking. Maps have been essential tools for understanding and representing the Earth’s surface. The development of accurate maps was crucial for exploration, trade, and military strategy.
  6. Regional Geography: Over time, geography has evolved to include various subfields such as human geography, physical geography, and regional geography. These subfields focus on different aspects of the Earth, from the study of landforms and climates to human populations and cultures.
  7. Colonial Influence: During the colonial era, geography played a significant role in colonization and empire-building. European powers used geographical knowledge to exploit resources, establish trade routes, and control territories around the world.
  8. Technological Advances: The history of geography is marked by advancements in technology that have revolutionized the field. From the compass and sextant used by early explorers to satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) used today, technology has continually enhanced our ability to study and map the Earth.
  9. Globalization: In the modern era, geography has become increasingly important in understanding globalization and its impacts. Geographers study how interconnectedness affects cultures, economies, and the environment on a global scale.
  10. Environmental Concerns: Contemporary geography places a strong emphasis on environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, and sustainability. Geographers play a vital role in studying these challenges and developing solutions for a more sustainable future.

These characteristics provide a broad overview of the history of geography, showing its evolution from ancient civilizations to a modern, diverse discipline that continues to explore and understand our world.

2. General geography

General geography encompasses a wide range of topics and areas of study within the discipline. Here are some key characteristics of general geography:

  1. Spatial Understanding: Geography is fundamentally about understanding space and the relationships between different places. Geographers study how physical features, such as mountains, rivers, and climates, influence human activities and how societies, in turn, shape the landscape.
  2. Interdisciplinary Nature: Geography is an interdisciplinary field that draws from various other disciplines such as geology, ecology, sociology, economics, and political science. This allows geographers to examine complex issues from multiple perspectives.
  3. Physical Geography: This branch of geography focuses on the natural environment, including landforms, climates, ecosystems, and the processes that shape the Earth’s surface. It examines phenomena such as weather patterns, erosion, plate tectonics, and biodiversity.
  4. Human Geography: Human geography, on the other hand, looks at how humans interact with and shape their environment. It explores topics such as population distribution, urbanization, cultural landscapes, economic activities, and political systems.
  5. Cultural Geography: This subfield studies how cultures and societies vary across space. It examines topics such as language distribution, religious landscapes, traditions, customs, and how these aspects shape the identities of different regions.
  6. Economic Geography: Geographers analyze the spatial distribution of economic activities, resources, and industries. This includes studying factors like trade routes, agriculture, manufacturing, resource extraction, and globalization’s impact on economies.
  7. Political Geography: Political geography investigates the spatial relationships between political entities, such as countries, states, and borders. Geographers study geopolitical conflicts, boundaries, territoriality, and the impacts of political decisions on landscapes.
  8. Cartography and GIS: Cartography, the art and science of mapmaking, is a crucial aspect of geography. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) use technology to collect, analyze, and visualize spatial data. These tools are used in various fields, from urban planning to environmental conservation.
  9. Environmental Geography: With growing concerns about climate change and sustainability, environmental geography has become increasingly important. Geographers study issues like pollution, conservation, natural disasters, and the impacts of human activities on ecosystems.
  10. Geographic Methods: Geographers employ a variety of methods to study the Earth, including fieldwork, remote sensing (using satellites and other technology to gather data from a distance), surveys, interviews, and statistical analysis.
  11. Regional Studies: Geographers often focus on specific regions to understand their unique characteristics and challenges. By studying regions in-depth, geographers can analyze the interactions between physical geography, human geography, and culture.
  12. Spatial Analysis: Geographers use spatial analysis techniques to examine patterns and relationships within geographic data. This includes techniques such as spatial statistics, network analysis, and modeling to understand phenomena like transportation networks, disease spread, or urban growth.

These characteristics demonstrate the breadth and depth of general geography as a field that explores the Earth’s physical and human landscapes, their interactions, and the complex spatial patterns that emerge from these interactions.

3. Regional geography

The regional geography is responsible for the study of the regions that make up the earth’s surface. Thus, this geography takes into account the different reliefs, precipitations, climates, climatic changes, environmental modifications accidentally produced as intentionally by natural phenomena as well as by the action of man.

Characteristics Of Geography

4. Human geography

  1. Spatial Analysis of Human Activities: Human geography focuses on the spatial aspects of human activities, including how and why people distribute themselves across the Earth’s surface. It examines patterns of population distribution, migration, settlement, urbanization, and transportation.
  2. Cultural Landscapes: Human geography studies how cultures and societies shape and are shaped by the environment. It explores cultural landscapes, which are the visible, material expressions of human settlement, including architecture, agriculture, infrastructure, and religious structures.
  3. Demography: Human geographers study population dynamics, including birth rates, death rates, fertility, mortality, and migration patterns. They analyze population growth or decline, aging populations, and demographic transitions in different regions of the world.
  4. Urban Geography: This branch of human geography focuses on cities and urban areas. Urban geographers study urbanization processes, urban morphology (physical form and structure of cities), land use patterns, transportation systems, social inequalities, and the challenges faced by cities.
  5. Rural Geography: Rural geography examines human-environment interactions in rural areas. It studies agricultural practices, land use, rural economies, small towns, and the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing rural communities.
  6. Economic Geography: Human geographers analyze the spatial distribution of economic activities, resources, industries, and trade patterns. They study factors such as globalization, economic development, uneven development between regions, and the impacts of economic activities on societies and environments.
  7. Political Geography: This subfield investigates the spatial aspects of political processes and boundaries. Human geographers study geopolitics, political systems, borders, territories, conflicts, and how political decisions impact landscapes and societies.
  8. Social Geography: Social geography examines the spatial patterns of social phenomena such as ethnicity, gender, class, religion, and inequality. It studies how these factors shape identities, social interactions, and the organization of societies in different places.
  9. Cultural Geography: Human geographers explore the spatial distribution of cultural traits, including language, religion, traditions, customs, and popular culture. They analyze how cultural landscapes are created and how cultural identities are expressed and maintained in different regions.
  10. Health Geography: This emerging subfield studies the spatial patterns of health and healthcare access. Human geographers examine factors such as disease distribution, healthcare facilities, environmental health risks, and how social and economic factors influence health outcomes.
  11. Tourism Geography: Human geographers study the spatial aspects of tourism, including tourist destinations, impacts on local economies and cultures, tourism planning, and sustainable tourism practices.
  12. Environmental Perception and Behavior: Human geography also looks at how people perceive, interact with, and respond to their environments. This includes studies on environmental attitudes, environmental activism, and how individuals and societies adapt to environmental changes.

These characteristics demonstrate the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of human geography, which seeks to understand the complexities of human-environment interactions, cultural diversity, and the spatial organization of societies around the world.

5. Physical or natural geography

Physical geography, also known as natural geography, is the branch of geography that deals with the study of natural features and processes occurring on Earth’s surface. Here are some characteristics of physical or natural geography:

  1. Study of Earth’s Physical Environment: Physical geography focuses on the natural aspects of the Earth, including landforms, water bodies, climates, soils, vegetation, and ecosystems. It seeks to understand the processes that shape these features and their spatial distribution.
  2. Interdisciplinary Nature: Physical geography is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing knowledge from geology, meteorology, climatology, ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, and other natural sciences. This interdisciplinary approach helps in understanding the complex interactions within Earth’s systems.
  3. Landforms: Physical geography examines the variety of landforms found on Earth, such as mountains, valleys, plains, plateaus, deserts, and coastal features. Geographers study the processes of their formation, including tectonic activity, erosion, weathering, and deposition.
  4. Climates and Weather: Physical geographers analyze climate patterns, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and atmospheric pressure. They study factors like latitude, altitude, proximity to water bodies, and global circulation patterns that influence climate variations.
  5. Biogeography: This subfield studies the spatial distribution of plant and animal species and their ecosystems. Geographers analyze factors such as climate, soil types, topography, and human impacts on biodiversity. Biogeography also explores how species adapt to different environments.
  6. Hydrology: Hydrology is the study of Earth’s water, including its distribution, movement, and properties. Physical geographers examine rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, glaciers, and the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation). They investigate water availability, quality, and its role in shaping landscapes.
  7. Soils: Physical geography studies the formation, composition, and distribution of soils. Geographers analyze factors such as parent material, climate, organisms, topography, and time (known as the CLORPT factors) that influence soil properties. Soils are crucial for agriculture, ecosystems, and human habitation.
  8. Atmosphere and Weather Systems: Physical geographers study the Earth’s atmosphere, including its composition, structure, and behavior. They examine weather systems, such as fronts, storms, pressure systems, and atmospheric circulation patterns like the Hadley, Ferrel, and Polar cells.
  9. Natural Hazards: Physical geography includes the study of natural hazards and disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, landslides, and wildfires. Geographers analyze the causes, impacts, and mitigation strategies for these events.
  10. Geomorphology: This branch of physical geography studies the processes that shape the Earth’s surface landforms. Geomorphologists investigate erosion, weathering, mass movement, and sediment transport. They also analyze landforms such as mountains, valleys, dunes, and karst landscapes.
  11. Remote Sensing and GIS: Physical geographers use technologies like remote sensing (satellites, aerial photography) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect, analyze, and visualize spatial data. These tools help in mapping, monitoring environmental changes, and studying Earth’s features from a distance.
  12. Environmental Change: Physical geography addresses environmental change over time, including natural and human-induced changes. Geographers study topics like climate change, deforestation, desertification, glacier retreat, sea-level rise, and their impacts on ecosystems and societies.
  13. Regional Studies: Physical geography often involves regional studies to understand the unique characteristics and processes of specific areas. Geographers may focus on regions like tropical rainforests, arid deserts, polar regions, or coastal zones, examining their climates, landforms, ecosystems, and human-environment interactions.

These characteristics demonstrate the broad scope of physical or natural geography, which explores the Earth’s physical environment and the interconnected systems that govern it.

6. Geographic methods

Being a science that studies the place where human beings live and its relationship with the environment that surrounds it, the different branches of geography are related to each other. Therefore, there is a geographical method that geographers have established as a research method. It consists of five steps or stages:

  • Location of the phenomena. Geography is responsible for finding different phenomena; climatic, accidental, produced, etc. Without this prior location, a subsequent geographical study could not be carried out.
  • Description and explanation. The description and explanation refers to the need to analyze, interpret and respond to previously observed phenomena.
  • Comparison of similar phenomena. In the face of certain observations similar to each other, the comparison can result in the establishment of physical or biological laws to then theorize about something determined.
  • Coordination. The next step states that geographic phenomena are interconnected with each other. Therefore, the alteration of one of these affects the rest of them in one way or another.
  • Evolution. Since it is a science that contemplates the environment, it is constantly exposed to change.

7. Geographic phenomena

Geographic phenomena encompass the various natural and human-made occurrences, processes, and patterns that occur on Earth’s surface. Here are some characteristics of geographic phenomena within the realm of physical or natural geography:

  1. Landforms: Geographic phenomena include the diverse landforms found on Earth, such as mountains, valleys, plateaus, plains, deserts, and coastlines. These landforms are shaped by geological processes such as erosion, weathering, volcanic activity, and tectonic movements.
  2. Climatic Patterns: Weather and climate phenomena are integral parts of physical geography. This includes temperature variations, precipitation levels, humidity, wind patterns, and seasonal changes. Climate influences the distribution of ecosystems, biodiversity, and human activities.
  3. Hydrological Cycle: The movement and distribution of water on Earth form an essential geographic phenomenon. This includes processes such as evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, infiltration, and groundwater flow. Water shapes landscapes, supports ecosystems, and affects human activities.
  4. Ecosystems: Geographic phenomena encompass diverse ecosystems, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs, and tundras. These ecosystems interact with the physical environment and support a wide range of plant and animal species.
  5. Natural Hazards: Events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and landslides are considered geographic phenomena. They have significant impacts on human populations, infrastructure, and the environment.
  6. Soils: Soil formation and types are important aspects of physical geography. Geographers study soil composition, texture, fertility, erosion, and classification. Soil plays a crucial role in supporting plant growth, agriculture, and ecosystems.
  7. Geomorphology: This branch of physical geography focuses on the study of landforms and the processes that create and modify them. Geomorphologists investigate phenomena such as erosion, deposition, land subsidence, river meandering, and glacial movements.
  8. Biogeography: Biogeographic phenomena involve the distribution of plant and animal species across geographic space. Geographers study factors such as climate, habitat types, migration patterns, and human impact on biodiversity.
  9. Oceanography: This field of geography studies the oceans and seas, including their physical properties, currents, tides, marine life, and coastal processes. Oceanographic phenomena influence climate, weather patterns, and marine ecosystems.
  10. Atmospheric Phenomena: Geographic phenomena in the atmosphere include weather patterns, atmospheric circulation, storms, cloud formations, and air pollution. These phenomena impact human activities, agriculture, transportation, and ecosystems.
  11. Plate Tectonics: The movement of Earth’s lithospheric plates is a fundamental geographic phenomenon. It causes phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mountain formation, and the opening and closing of oceans.
  12. Glacial and Periglacial Phenomena: Geographers study the formation, movement, and effects of glaciers and permafrost in cold regions. Glacial phenomena include moraines, glacial lakes, and fjords, which shape landscapes over time.
  13. Weathering and Erosion: These are processes that shape the Earth’s surface over time. Weathering breaks down rocks into smaller particles, while erosion transports these particles by wind, water, or ice. These phenomena create features such as canyons, valleys, and deltas.

Understanding these geographic phenomena helps geographers analyze natural processes, predict environmental changes, and assess human impacts on the environment. It provides insights into the interconnectedness of Earth’s systems and the dynamic processes that shape the planet’s surface.

8. Measurement tools

The instruments that geography uses depend on the type of phenomenon that constitutes the geographic object of study. For example;

  • Temperature. To measure it, a thermometer or barometer is used.
  • Winds Weather vanes, anemometers and anemographs have been used.
  • Atmospheric pressure. Use the barometer.
  • Precipitation Use the rain gauge.
  • Humidity. Use a hygrometer.
  • Relief. The altimeter is used.
  • Cloudiness Use a nefoscope.

9. Data collection

The data that geographers get can be first hand. That is to say where;

They are themselves with a research team make observations and mark the observable differences by turning the results obtained into reports so that they can be used by others or;
They can use censuses, statistical studies, photographs obtained by themselves or by third parties and maps (modern or old for comparisons).

Characteristics Of Geography

10. Realization of maps

After the steps described above, the data obtained are dumped for the constitution of a map. These maps, at first were determined manually by simple and plain observation.

With the advancement of measurement methods and instruments, they have been able to be realized with the help of satellites located in the atmosphere that capture images and then process them and obtain fidelity with respect to the observed geographical object.


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