cod. 00459

Academic year 2023/24
1° year of course - First semester
- Giovanni LEONELLI
Academic discipline
Geografia fisica e geomorfologia (GEO/04)
Ambito geomorfologico-geologico applicativo
Type of training activity
48 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit


Learning objectives

The Physical Geography module to provide students the cognitive tools for understanding and interpreting the physical-climatic environmental phenomena affecting the Eearth's surface. The module is part of the course in Physical Geography, Cartography and GIS that in the second semester has lectures of the Cartography and of GIS.

The students will learn the basic elements for understanding the phenomena that regulate the surface of the physical terrestrial environment and its interactions with atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.



Course unit content

Elements of astronomical geography. Structure of the solar system, motions of the planet Earth, solar forcing and energy balance, measures of time and seasons.
Meteorological phenomena, instruments for measuring them.
Winds, meteorological systems. Tides, sea currents.
Elements of global biogeography, the interactions between the physical and biological environment. Carbon cycle
Climates, their distribution, classification and climatic changes

Full programme

Elements of astronomical geography: the solar system, planets, main characteristics, motions, distances and dimensions.
Planet Earth’s motions, revolution and rotation, inclination of the axis, height and declination of the sun, the latitude.
Duration of day and night, time measurements and longitude.
Solar forcing, insolation, energy balance, the seasons. Earth's magnetic field, cosmic particles and aurora borealis.
ATMOSPHERE: Structure and chemical composition of the atmosphere, meteorological phenomena. Measuring instruments for temperature, precipitation, pressure, humidity, wind speed, insolation. Atmospheric pressure, isobars, convective cells, winds, meteorological systems. The greehouse effect.
TERRESTRIAL CRUST and LITHOSPHERE: plaques, distribution of the continents in the climate system.
HYDROSPHERE: seas and oceans, tides and lunar motions, mascaret, sea currents, Ekman spiral, surface and underground waters, glaciers, ice sheets and pack ice
BIOSPHERE: outline of global biogeography, the interactions between the physical and biological environment, spontaneous vegetation as a climate indicator, types of forests, grassland, savannah, steppe, desert, tundra. Carbon cycle.
The climates, their latitudinal and altitudinal distribution, classification according to W. Köppen and to A.N. Strahler, natural variability and climate change.


Strahler A. “Fondamenti di Geografia Fisica”, Zanichelli 2015.
Strahler A.N. “Geografia Fisica”, Piccin 1984.
Casati, Scienze della Terra Vol. 1.
Slides of the lectures, scientific paper given by the professor.

Teaching methods

Lectures, 6 credits, for a total of 48 hours. The slides used to support the lessons are uploaded on a weekly basis on the Elly platform. To download the slides, you need to register for the online course.
The slides are considered an integral part of the teaching material, and are to be used to integrate the information received during the course with the necessary insights to be done individually on the indicated textbooks. Non-attending students are reminded to check the didactic material available and the information provided by the professor through the Elly platform.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam takes place through an oral interview. Four questions of [8/30] each will be asked (the grade of 32/30 corresponds to 30L), for a typical duration of around 30-40 minutes. If a question is completely unanswered or completely wrong, the maximum mark achievable in the exam will be [22/30].
The grade of the oral exam is communicated immediately at the end of the exam.

The 3 exams relating to the Physical Geography, Cartography and GIS course must be passed in sequence:
- Physical Geography (one oral exam, 1 vote)
- Cartography (one practical exam, 1 vote)
- GIS (one practical exam, 1 vote)
The final grade for the Physical Geography, Cartography and GIS exam is given by the average of the 3 grades obtained in Physical Geography (1 grade), Cartography (1 grade) and GIS (1 grade). The final grade is recorded on the GIS exam, after passing it.
The grade of the oral exam is communicated immediately at the end of the exam itself

Other information