AS Geography Key Words

Although specifically related to Edexcel AS Geography Unit 1 - Global Challenges (6GE01), Topic 1 (World at Risk), these key words will be useful to all A level Geography Students. 

46 Key words.

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A perceived natural event which has the potential to threaten both life and property

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Context Hazard

Widespread (global) threat due to environmental factors such as climate change, E.g. Global warming, El Nino

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Geophysical Hazard

A hazard formed by tectonic/geological processes (Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis)


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Hydro-Meteorological Hazard

A hazard formed by hydrological (e.g. floods) and atmospheric (e.g. storms and droughts) processes


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Other Hazards

Avalanches can be placed in either group. For example, an avalanche is formed from snow and ice (atmospheric processes), yet the mass movement is a geomorphological process


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A high risk combined with an inability of individuals and communities to cope

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Natural Processes

Where the hazard results from an extreme geophysical or hydro-meteorological event, such as a flood or volcanic eruption

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Natural Technological Disaster

where natural hazards trigger environmental disaster (e.g. flooding causing a dam to burst)


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Technological accidents

Such as Chernobyl, Nuclear power plant exploding


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A hazard becoming reality in an event that causes deaths and damage to foods/property and the environment

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The probability of a hazard event occurring and creating loss of lives and livelihoods

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How much solar radiation a surface reflects

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Climate Change

Any long term trend or shift in climate (average weather over 30 years) detected by a sustained shift in the average value for any climatic element (e.g. Rainfall)

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Global Warming

A recently measured rise in the average surface temperature of the planet

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Greenhouse Effect

The warming of the Earth's atmosphere due to the trapping of heat which would otherwise be radiated back into space. It enables the survival of life on Earth.

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Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase owing to human activity

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Fossil Fuels

Energy sources that are rich in carbon which release carbon dioxide when burnt

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Tipping Point

The point at which a system switches from one state to another

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A semi-molten zone of rock underlying the Earth’s crust


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The crust of the Earth, around 80-90 km thick


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Molten material that rises towards the Earth’s surface when hotspots within the asthenosphere generate convection currents

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A localised area of the Earth’s crust with an unusually high temperature

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An upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earth’s mantle

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Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

A zone of low atmospheric pressure near the equator. This migrates seasonally


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The study of past climates

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Thermal Expansion

Increased volume of the oceans as a result of higher water temperature

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Proxy Records

Records used to reconstruct climate before the start of instrumental records. Examples include: Paintings, poems, diaries, journals etc.

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The Little Ice Age

Freezing of The Thames regularly between 1500 - 1850

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Orbital Shape (Eccentricity)

Eccentricity is a measure of the departure of the ellipse from circularity.


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Axial Tilt (Obliquity)

Axial tilt refers to the inclination of the Earth’s axis in relation to its orbit around the sun


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Axial Precession (Wobble)

Precession refers to the direction the Earth tilts in relation to its orbit around the sun


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Positive Feedback

Amplify a small change and make it larger

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Negative Feedback

Diminish the change and make it smaller

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Global Dimming

Global dimming is the net cooling of the atmosphere due to pollutants like soot and sulphur dioxide reflecting solar energy back into space

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Thermohaline Circulation

The flow of warm and cold water that circulates around the world’s oceans


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Carbon Sink

The Southern Ocean area around Antarctica that absorbs Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere


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Reducing the output of Greenhouse Gases and increasing the size of Greenhouse Gas sinks (e.g. Rainforests)

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Changing our lifestyles to cope with a new environment rather than trying to stop climate change

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Top Down Strategies

Incentives and schemes to reduce GHG emissions that are designed and implemented  by central government

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Bottom Up Strategies

Small lifestyle changes made by all individuals within a community which accumulate into large differences and improvements within the environment

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Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is a credit system, called carbon credits, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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Physical Water Scarcity

lack of available supplies to meet demand

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Economic Water Scarcity

lack of water because of poverty and poor governance

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Food Security

Populations having access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle

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Sustainable Development

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

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