Physical Geography Glossary

By Maria Young


  • A basin is a shallow, round shaped depression that is usually filled with water.
  • They occur in the land and the ocean.
  • Basins are formed by internal and external forces. They can form due to erosion (external force) or earthquakes (internal force).
  • The picture below shows the Endorheic Basin in Central Asia.
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  • A cape is a piece of land that protrudes into a body of water.
  • Capes are formed by the external force of erosion. Since they sit right next to the coastline, they are highly prone to tidal action, causing them to erode.
  • The picture below shows Cape Cod, located adjacent to Massachusetts, sitting right beside the Atlantic Ocean.
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  • A fault is a crack in the earth's crust that is caused by 2 plates sliding against each other.
  • Faults can cause massive earthquakes, which shows why California has many earthquakes.
  • Faults are created by internal forces because they occur when 2 of earth's tectonic plates slide against each other, creating a large crack in the crust.
  • The picture below shows the San Andreas fault, located in California.
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  • A glacier is a large mass of ice that forms due to the accumulation of snow over years.
  • Valley glaciers descend from high mountains and Continental glaciers move outward from the centers of the accumulation.
  • Glaciers are formed due to external forces. Precipitation - specifically snow - accumulates over time and eventually forms these large ice masses.
  • The picture below shows the Glacier Bay in Alaska.
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  • An island is a small, isolated piece of land that is completely surrounded by water.
  • Islands are too small to be considered continents.
  • Islands are formed due to internal forces. They form when magma from beneath earth's crust rises above the ocean. The lava forms into solids. As the solids accumulate over time, the island forms.
  • The picture below shows the island of Puerto Rico, which is east of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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  • A plateau is a piece of land with a level surface that is deeply cut by canyons.
  • Plateaus are raised very high.
  • Plateaus are formed mainly from internal forces. They occur when tectonic plates rise up and lava flows above them violently.
  • The picture below shows a plateau in the San Rafael Reef in central Utah.
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  • A valley is a very long, extended depression between hills, mountains, or other landforms.
  • Valleys often have a steam in their center.
  • Valleys form from external forces. They form due to erosion that is mainly caused by water or ice.
  • This picture shows the Yosemite Valley in the Western Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
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  • A volcano is a mountain or a hill with a vent in which lava, steam, and ashes spew from the surface.
  • Volcanoes are highly destructive when they erupt.
  • Volcanoes form from internal forces. They occur when the mantle melts and rises up, causing eruptions.
  • This picture shows a volcano on the island of Iceland. (Fun fact: Iceland has 30 active volcanoes!)
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Citations (In order of appearance)

  1. "What Is a Basin in Geography Terms?" N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  2. "Drainage Basin." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  3. "Cape.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  4. "Cape Cod Bay." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  5. "Geological fault." The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  6. "Science Buzz." That Rocks: San Andreas Fault Samples Will Give Insights on Earthquakes. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  7. "Glacier.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  8. "Find a Smithsonian Journeys Tour." Smithsonian Journeys RSS. N.p., 27 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  9. "Island.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  10. "Earth Snapshot • Virgin Islands." Earth Snapshot RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  11. "Plateau.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  12. "Landforms of the Colorado Plateau." Landforms of the Colorado Plateau. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  13. "Valley.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  14. "Yosemite Valley." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  15. "Volcano.", n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  16. "Iceland Volcano: And You Thought the Last Eruption Was Bad..." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.