What is Physical Geography – Meaning, scope, and Type



Physical geography is one of the main branches of geography. it deals with the study of natural science and various sources and patterns which are present exclusively in our natural environment.

The main motive of the study of physical geography is to know the spatial characteristics of the various happenings associated with the earth’s different spheres and layers.


physical geography

Definitions of Physical geography:

Physical geography is considered the accumulation of different branches of earth science. For example Climatology, Oceanography, Botany, etc. Thus, it includes consideration of surface relief of the globe. Different geographers have defined it in different ways.

According to Tarr and Von Engeleh, ‘Physical geography is the study of physical features of the earth and their influence on men.’

In the words of Lobeck, ‘The study of the physical environment along contributes physiographic.’

According to Strahler, ‘Physical geography is the study of unification of a number of earth sciences.’

Thus, it will include the study of all physical elements and factors which provide suitable habitats for the living organisms of the biosphere.

Physical geography also studies the spatial pattern and spatial relationship of environmental components of the globe in the original context. It also studies the causes of original patterns of such spatial relationships.

Also Read: Definition of geography – Meaning, Scope and Type

Scope of Physical Geography :

The scope of physical geography includes the study of earth relief features and physical features, such as plains, mountains, hills, etc.

The emergence of areas that branches into physical geography such as Geomorphology, Climatology, Oceanography, etc made the scope of physical geography quite extensive. The subject matter of all branches is considered as the scope of physical geography.

Branches of physical geography:

Physical Geography - Meaning, scope and Type


Geomorphology is an important branch of physical geography. it is defined as the science of landforms with an emphasis on their origin, evolution, form, and distribution across the physical landscape.  It is concerned with the scientific study of the origin and evolution of relief features of the earth’s surface and their relation to its geological structures. 

Geomorphology also has two sub-fields which are fluvial geomorphology and desert geomorphology. These fields deal with the study of some specific landforms which consists of various environments. One of the common things between these fields is the fact that these are all united by the core processes which shaped them, which were mainly tectonic or climatic processes.


Pedology study of soil, including types, formation, and regional distribution over Earth.

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Climatology deals with the study of atmospheric conditions and related climatic and weather phenomena. It also relates to studying how climate can be affected by natural and human influences. The aim of this field of study is to determine how the Earth’s climate has changed through the ages and to predict future trends in climate change. It includes the systematic and regional studies of atmospheric composition, i.e, weather, and climate.

Weather refers to the atmospheric conditions in terms of temperature, pressure, humidity, and precipitation, etc. of a particular place at any given time.

On the other hand, the climate is related to the weather conditions of any region in the long-term perspective. However, the climate is different from the weather with respect to time and space.

The study of the characteristics of both weather and climate and their influence on human activities are included in the study of physical geography.

Climatology is also sub-divided largely into the climates of various regions and the study of specific phenomena or time periods e.g. tropical cyclone rainfall climatology and paleoclimatology.

Also Read: Climatology – Introduction, meaning and branches


Oceanography includes the description and analysis of a physical and biological aspect of the hydrosphere.

The study of marine resources and their biological characteristics is included under oceanography which is an important branch of physical geography. The main aim of Oceanography is to study the various oceanic processes for a better understanding of their effects on life on Earth.

The study of seas and oceans and their characteristics of marine eco-system and their interaction with the hydrospheric environment are studied under the scope of physical geography.

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Meteorology is a field that deals with the forecasting of day-to-day weather conditions. Contrary to climatology, which aims to forecast long-term climatic conditions, meteorology pertains to short-term forecasting. It deals with the prediction of weather conditions in the immediate future, on the basis of the different atmospheric factors such as temperature, moisture, air pressure, etc.

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Biogeography concerned with the biological phenomena in space, especially in terms of the distribution of various kinds of floral and faunal species. also, it is defined as the study of the distribution of plants and animals and their relationship with the environment. 

The field can largely be divided into five sub-fields: island biogeography, paleobiogeography, phylogeography, zoogeography(the study of animal’s distribution and their relationship with their relationship) and phytogeography(the study of plants distribution)

Thus, biogeography is the study of the distribution of both plants and animals. It also includes a study of all components of the physical environment, such as land, water, air, etc. which constitute the habitat of plants and animals.

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