This introductory Physical Geography course explores Earth's atmosphere and biosphere by examining topics ranging from day-to-day weather variations to global climate change and the distribution of plants and animals on Earth. Using an Earth-systems approach and the concepts of energy balances and radiation laws, this course seeks to answer questions such as why do certain places have particular kinds of weather? How do forecasters predict the weather? What are the causes of global climate change? Human impacts on the atmosphere and biosphere are also examined.
Systems theory and its application to planet Earth
Sun / Earth geometry
2. Solar Energy and Radiation Laws
First Law of Thermodynamics
Wien’s Displacement Law, Stephan-Boltzmann Law and the Inverse Square Law
Variation in the receipt of solar radiation
3. The Earth's Atmosphere
Evolution of the modern atmosphere
Classification of the atmosphere
Anthropogenic atmospheric pollutants and their effects
4. Energy Concepts, Energy Balance
Second Law of Thermodynamics
Energy transfer, transmission and absorption
Heat energy concepts
Radiation and energy balances
5. Temperature Variation
Influences on temperature
Measurement of temperature
6. Pressure and Atmospheric Circulation
Pressure and its variation, distribution and measurement
Forces influencing the direction and speed of upper level and surface winds
Patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation
Macro- and meso-scale winds
7. Moisture in the Atmosphere
Indices of water vapour content
Methods and forms of condensation
Mechanisms and forms of precipitation
8. Adiabatic Processes and Stability
Diabatic and adiabatic processes
Concept and types of stability
9. Air Masses, Fronts, Mid-latitude Cyclones
Air mass formation, classification and modification
Front types, formation and characteristics
Development, evolution and movement of mid-latitude cyclones
10 Severe Weather
Characteristics and life-cycles of air mass and severe thunderstorms
Tornado formation, characteristics and dimensions
Hurricane development, characteristics, structure, forecasts and damage
Ecological biogeography and its relationship to climatic patterns
Abiotic and biotic influences on primary productivity in various ecosystems
Trophic relationships in ecosystems
Stages of general ecological succession in ecosystems
12. Climate Change
Evidence for past climate variation
Urban heat island
Atmospheric greenhouse effect and critical analyses of global warming predictions
Local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Methods of Instruction
The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: lecture, labs, field work, analysis and interpretation of surface weather charts and satellite images, multimedia, individual and/or team projects and small group discussions.
Means of Assessment
The evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria during the first week of classes.
An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:
Note: This course received a standing variance from Education Council in June 2016 to allow up to a 20% lab exam during the last 14 calendar days of the semester. This is not a final exam; it is an assessment of student learning of lab work performed in the second half of the semester.
At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:
- Describe and use the frameworks of science applicable to 1st-year physical geography.
- Think critically and examine climatological, meteorological and biogeographical issues in a scientific context at local, regional and global scales.
- Describe and explain the processes that occur within earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere systems, and identify and describe interactions among these systems.
- Communicate effectively using the language, graphical presentation methods and quantitative methods employed in physical geography.
- Connect theoretical applications to “real-world” observations and measurements.
Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system.
A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.
For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.