The processes that occur on the earth’s surface are in charge of creating the different landforms that we see around us, of slowly changing the landscape . This discipline deals primarily with the erosion and deposition of rocks and sediments by wind and water , but also includes the creation of topography through the study of plate tectonics.


What geomorphology?

Geomorphology is a branch of geology that is responsible for studying both the internal and external shape of the globe through the study of the matter that forms it and the variations in the earth since its origins.

  • What Geomorphology Studies
  • History
  • What is it for
  • Fundamental principles
  • Methods
  • Branches
  • Importance
  • Featured Geomorphologists
  • Books on geomorphology

What Geomorphology Studies

Geomorphology is the science that is responsible for studying the different geographical features , their processes , their shape and sediments that occur on the surface of the Earth and on other planets . The study carried out by geomorphology includes the observation of landscapes to determine the way in which processes on the earth’s surface, such as air, water and ice, can shape the landscape .


Landforms occur through erosion or deposition , as rock and sediment are worn away by these processes from the earth’s surface and are then transported and deposited in different locations. Different climatic environments produce different sets of landforms. The geomorphologists map the distribution of these landforms to better understand their occurrence .


Geomorphology was born at the end of the 19th century and was created by the geographer William Morris Davis, considered the father of American geography . In his time, the creation of the relief was explained by means of catastrophism as a result of the great biblical flood .

Davis and a group of geographers believed that the causes of the shaping of the earth’s surface were other and not catastrophes. Davis then developed a theory about the creation and destruction of the landscape, which he called the geographic cycle .

Some time later, Mark Jefferson , Isaiah Bowman and Curtis Marbut , were in charge of consolidating science, the context of geography as well as other sciences.

What is it for

Different geological hazards , such as volcanic eruptions , earthquakes , tsunamis, and landslides , are within the interests of geomorphologists. It is used to investigate the landscape through the study of the history of a certain place. One of its main functions is to reconstruct the history studying landforms and sediments in addition to traces of organic matter such as pollen, beetles, diatoms and macrofossil that can provide evidence on climate change, about the past and the earth’s formation processes.

Fundamental principles

The fundamental principles of geomorphology are as follows:

  • Today’s physical processes manipulated the geological past .
  • The geological structure establishes the forms of the relief.
  • The geological process is expressed in the geoform .
  • When the different agents shape the cortex, the sequential evidence of such stages is produced.
  • The complexity is more common than in the geoformas simplicity.
  • The geology of the quaternary dominates the topography .
  • The proper interpretation of the landscape requires knowing the geological and climatic changes
  • The pressure and temperature of the regional climate are necessary to understand geological processes.
  • Today’s geomorphology must be viewed in the context of past geoforms .


The methods used to carry out adequate geomorphology studies are:

  • The theoretical approach to the problem.
  • Field observations .
  • Laboratory experiments .
  • Empirical method


There are different ramifications that arise from geomorphology, among them we can mention:

  • Climatic geomorphology:  studies the influence of the climate on the relief , the atmospheric pressure , the temperature , and how they interact with the climate. The diversity of climates indicates an evolution of the climatic cycle . This knowledge is synthesized in what is called morphoclimatic domains.
  • Fluvial geomorphology : study of the geographical features , forms and reliefs formed by the fluvial dynamics. Share studies with hydrography.
  • Geomorphology of slopes : studies the phenomena that occur in the slopes of mountains , and mass movements, stabilization of slopes, etc. Also study natural hazards .
  • Wind geomorphology : studies the processes and forms of aeolian origin where wind action predominates, such as in the coasts, hot and cold deserts, and polar areas.
  • Geomorphology glacier : it is responsible for studying the formations and processes of accidents geographical , forms and reliefs glaciers and peri glaciers.
  • Structural geomorphology : gives greater importance to geological structures in the development of the relief. It works mainly in places where geological activity due to faults and folds predetermined. This branch goes hand in hand with geology .
  • Coastal geomorphology : studies the forms of relief typical of coastal areas .


Geomorphology is an important science because it deals with the treatment of environmental problems , mainly climate and anthropic change . It has been a very important science since ancient times, and today, it is applied to locate hidden formations , understand the dynamics of the seabed and the modernization of human settlements .

Featured Geomorphologists

  • Florence Bascom.
  • Charles Darwin .
  • Stephen Jay Gould.
  • Friedrich Mohs.

Books on geomorphology

Among the books that have been written on geomorphology, we can mention:

  • Geomorphology of Mateo Gutiérrez Elorza
  • Geomorphology of Max Derruau
  • Structural Geomorphology of Jesús García Fernández

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