GEOG 1221: Introduction to Physical Geography

This course is an introduction to the basic processes that influence the characteristics and spatial relationships of climate, water cycle and vegetation. Students examine the interactions of solar energy with the Earth’s atmosphere and surface, and how atmospheric circulation, precipitation, and weather systems are generated. The cycling of water and other Earth resources within the living zone - the biosphere - are discussed, while students focus on how these cycles, together with the flows of energy, influence the nature and distribution of ecosystems and vegetation. Throughout the course, students look at patterns of human activity that are in response to and have an effect upon environmental processes. Students are then asked to observe and to interpret aspects of their local environment by applying what they have learned.

Learning outcomes

Introduction to Physical Geography focuses on the characteristics and spatial relationships of climate, the water cycle, and ecosystems. Specifically, by the time you have finished this course, you should be able to:

  • Describe how incoming solar radiation interacts with the earth's atmosphere and surface.
  • Understand how the global atmospheric circulation, wind systems, and ocean currents are generated.
  • Explain the important role of water in the atmosphere and the processes that lead to condensation, cloud formation, and precipitation.
  • Describe the weather and climates associated with different air masses and storm systems, and relate them to daily weather conditions in your home area.
  • Explain why weather and climate vary from region to region in British Columbia.
  • Discuss how atmospheric precipitation is transformed into surface water (rivers and lakes), soil moisture, and groundwater.
  • Explain how the characteristics and distribution of the vegetation cover of the earth vary in response to various environmental factors.

Course topics

Unit 1: Earth's Environmental Systems

Unit 2: Radiation Balance and the Thermal Environment

Unit 3: Atmospheric Circulation

Unit 4: Moisture, Air Masses, and Storms

Unit 5: Global and Regional Climates

Unit 6: Water at the Earth's Surface

Unit 7: Energy and Matter in the Biosphere

Unit 8: Biogeographic Processes

Required text and materials

Students will receive the following:

  1. Arbogast, A. F., Ford, L., & Dagesse, D. (2017) Discovering physical geography 1e CDN Edition Loose-Leaf Wiley.
    Type: Looseleaf Textbook ISBN: 978-1-119-44346-9.
  2. Ministry of Forests Research Branch, Province of British Columbia. Biogeoclimatic Zones of British Columbia. Ministry of Forests Research Branch, Province of British Columbia, 1999.
    Type: Map


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, students are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the final mandatory exam.

Assignment 1: Physical Geography Report* 25%
Assignment 2: Unit 1 10%
Assignment 3: Units 2, 3 and 4 10%
Assignment 4: Units 5 and 6 10%
Assignment 5: Units 7 and 8 10%
Final Exam (mandatory) 35%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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