Physical Geogrpahy case studies

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Fold Mountains: The Andes

the andes is a range of young fold mountains formed around 65million years ago. longest range of fold mountains in the world at 7000km & extends the length of south america. 

Farming: slopes used for farming. in bolivia, many subsitnence farmers grow a variety of crops. the use of terraces creates areas of flat lands on the slopes. terrcacing has advantages. the flat areas retain water in an area that receives little. also limit downward movement pf the soil in areas where the soils thin. most crops grown in lower valleys. llamas in the andes. pack animals, carrying materials for irrigation & buildings into inhospitable & inaccessible areas. can carry over 25% of their body weight. males used to transport, females used for meat & milk, wool used in clothes & rugs.

Mining: has a range of important minerals & the andean countries rank in top 10 for tine, nickel, silver & gold. more than half perus exports are from mining. the yanachonda gold mine is largest in the world. it is an open pit and the gold bearing rock is loosened by daily dynamite blasts. rock is then sprayed with cyanide & the gold extracted from the resulting solution - can lead to contamination of water supplies. nearby town of cajamarca has grown from 30,000 inhabitants to about 300,000 in 2010. brings many sources of jobs. 

hydroelectric power (HEP): steep slopes & narrow valleys that limit farming are an advantage for HEP. can be more easily dammed than wider valleys & relief encourages rapid flow of water needed to ensure generation of electricity. melting snow in spring increases supply of water. 2009 the el platanal HEP power plant began to generate electricity. second largest in peru. 

tourism: many natural attractions such as mountain peaks, volcanoes, glaciers & lakes. the inca trail shows how people settled in inhospitable areas 

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Volcanic Eruption: Eyjafalljokull, Iceland

Iceland lies on mid-atlantic ridge, constructive plate margin seperating Eurasian plate from north american plate. as plates move magma rises to surface forming several volcanoes. Eyjafalljokull located beneath an ice cap. In march 2010, magma broke through crust of Eyjafalljokullf glacier. the eruptions in march were mainly lava. over period of several days in april, ash was belched into atmosphere. 

local impacts & repsponses: particles of ash fell to ground, people evacuated from farms & villages. rescuers wore face masks to prevent from choking on the dense cloud of ash. flooding. eruption caused beneath glacier, meltwater produced. sections of embankment deliberately breached preventing expensive bridges from being destroyed. 

International impacts & responses: large sections of european airspace closed down. passenger & freight traffic came to a halt. business people & tourists stranded. industrial production affected - raw materials couldn't be flowin in & products not exported by air. as far as kenya, farm workers lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts. airline companies & airport operators lost huge amounts of money. 

posititve impacts: become a new tourist attraction, new visitor centre. lava & ash rich in nutrietns making soils very fertile & good for agricultural use. rocks used for building. source of geothermal energy relatively easy to access. can be used to produce electricity & provide hot water for industrial processes, heating swimming pools. small quantities of valuable minerals often found in volcanic regions. 

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The Kobe Earthquake: Japan

on 17th January, the phillipines plate sifted uneasily beneath the eurasian plate along yhr nojma fault line that runs beneath kobe. collision of plates lead to an earthquake - 7.2 on richter scale. 


  • claimed lives of 6,434 & seriously injured over 40,000. 300,000 people made homeless. 
  • gas mains ruptured, water pipes fractured, sections of roads collapsed & railway lines ruptured
  • 2 million homes left w/out electricity & 1 million people had no water for 10 days 
  • fires engulfed parts of city, damage to road & water supply made extinguishing them impossible
  • damage caused was in excess of $220 billion & economy suffered, companies closed temporary


  • friends & neighbours searched for survivors, joined by emergency services when gained access
  • hospitals struggled to cope w injured, treating & operating in corridors
  • major retailers helped to provide essentials, & motorola maintained telephone connections for free
  • railways 80% operational within a month, most of the road network operational by July
  • after a year the port was 80% operational 
  • new buildings built further apart, to prevent domino effect, high-rise buildings had to have flexible steel frames
  • rubber blocks put under brudges to absorb shocks 
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The Tohoku Tsunami, Japan 2011

earthquake triggered the tsunami occured at destructive plate margin where pacific plates being subducted beneath north american plate. believed a segment of rock slipped suddenly, causing an upwards 'flick' of the earth's crust - triggering the tsunami 


  • over 20,000 people killed, high death toll due to the power of the surge of water
  • 500km^2 of coastal plains were inundated, destroying farmland, settlements & communications. 200,000 buildings damaged/destroyed 
  • ruptured gas pipes led to fires 
  • explosions occured at the fukushima nuclear power plant 
  • electricity was cut off in almost 6 million homes & over 1 million people had no running water
  • heavy snow, roads blocked by debris & landslides & over 1000 afterhsocks. stocks of food, water & medical supplies ran low


  • over 100,000 japanese soldiers deployed in search & rescue, distributed blankets, water & food 
  • specialist search & resuce teams flown into area from overseas 
  • exclusion zone set up around the powerplant
  • huge re-building & reconstruction programme
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Uses of Rocks: Farming on Dartmoor

Over the last 5000 years farming has been the main land use on dartmoor. over 90% of the land within the national park is farmed; over half of this is open moorland, which is used for grazing livestock, & rest made up of fringe farmland & improved grassland. 

the whole of dartmoor is now designated as an environmentally sensitive area and farmers enter into management agreements, for payment, to carry out agricultural practices that conserve the upland landscape & wildlife habitats. this may include reducing the numbers of livestock grazing sensitive areas, but they must also restrict the use of fertilisers & pesticiides. farmers are paid to maintain stone walls & hedgerows, to develop hay meadows & to adopt agricultural practices that help to protect the area's archeological & historcial interest. 

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Uses of Rocks: London Basin Chalk Aquifie

the rocks underneath london form a basin called a syncline. water soaks into the chalk where it is exposed on either side of london and then percolates through the chalk to form a giant underground reservoir called an aquifier. for hundreds of years this water has supplied london with its water. 

the aquifier is carefully managed by the environment agency to ensure that its use is sustainable. in the 1960s, industrial use caused the water table to drop 88m below sea level, which resulted in some seawater contamination. following careful management and reduced demand from industry since the 1990s, the water table has risen by as much as 3m a year. 

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Uses of Rocks: Limestone Scenery: Yorkshire Dales

the yorkshire dales is a national park largely made up of carboniferous limestone. the landscape is spectacular, w steep valleys, cliffs & extensive grassy plateaux. 

the yorkshire dales offers many opportunities for leisure & recreation. the area is criss-crossed w footpaths. there are opportunities for nature tourism, as wall as more advernturous outdoor pursuits such as climbing, mountain biking & caving. the area around malham is a particular focus for tourism. 

tourism brings both benefits & costs to the yorkshire dales. toursits bring money into the area, which they spend in shops, cafes and hotels. many local people benefit from employment opportunities, working in restaurants & hotels or acting as guides. local craft industries & farms also benefit from the visitors. however, there are costs associated w tourism. traffic jams form in the narrow roads & cause additional pollution. people leave litter, which spoils the area & can be harmful to wildlife. farm gates may be left open & animals worried by dogs. shop prices may be higher than elsewhere as people cash in on the tourists, which is bad news for local residents. house prices may also be higher than elsewhere due to a demand for holiday homes. 

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Issues With Quarrying: Hope Quarry, Castleton

Hope Quarry is 1 of largest limestone quarries in Peak District. It supplies 2m tonnes of limestone a year to Hope cement works. which produces 1.3m tonnes of cement a year. Quarry & cement works employs about 200 local people. The local economy is benefitted

Quarrying & the Environment:

Hope Quarry - huge hole in the ground, having a massive visual impact on the landscape. several initiatives undertaken to minimise the effects of the quarry & cement works on the environment: 

  • landscaping & tree planting have reduced the visual impact of the quarry
  • efforts have been made to reduce dust
  • £20m spent to improve transport. rail used rather than road to reduce impact of heavy traffic.
  • hope cement works produces 1m tonnes of CO2 a year but, in 2003 7000s trees were planted to attempt to reduce the impact of this
  • one old quarry now managed as a wetland reserve
  • 2010 larage granted permission to burn processsed sewage pellets as a sustainable fule in the cement works - reduce carbon emissions 
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Restoration after Extraction: Hollow Banks Quarry

Hollow Banks is a 20ha quarry near catterick, north yorkshire where sand & gravel were extracted between 1999 & 2003. soon after the quarry closed in 2003, owners; tarmac ltd began restoration. 

  • the site was contoured to create aa gentlu undulating landscape with small ponds bordered by grass & woodland
  • after soil had been added. it was loosended & had stones removed. then divided intp seperate parcels of lands, some which was used for farming, others for woodland. habitats created for animals & birds by planting different plants & trees 
  • woodland areas hvae been fenced to prevent trees being damaged by farm animals 
  • over 20,000 shrubs & trees raised locally were planted during 2005 & 2005
  • aquatic plants have been planted at the edge of ponds
  • footpaths established to provide public access to woods & ponds 
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Glaciers: The Rhone Glacier

the rhone glacier is retreating. its located in the swiss alps. currently the glacier is 7.8km long. it has been retreating since the 19th century. 

Evidence of glacial retreat:

  • pictures - there are pictures that show the different sizes & position of the glacier in different years. 
  • monitoring data - the length of the rhone glacier has been measured since 1879. graphs have been plotted to show the decrease in length
  • amount of meltwater - as the glacier retreats it produces more meltwater. the meltwater has formed a new ,ake in front of the glacier which has been retreating in size. this shows the glacier has been melting more rapidly. 

global warming is the main cause of glacial retreat:

  • theres general agreement among scientisits that glacial retreat is caused by global warming. there has been an average global temperature increase of about 9 degrees celcius in the last 150 years
  • in recent decades, parts of switzerland have had above average temperature rises - a weather station near the rhone glacier recorded an increase of about 1.8 degrees celcius between 1937 & 2005. this is thought to be bc switzerland has no coastline - the sea has a cooling effect on the land
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Tourism in Glacial Areas: Chamonix, Alps

Been a tourist area for 250 years. receives up to 100,000 visitors a day in summer & 60,000 in winter. Winter attractions inlcude; skiing & snowboarding opportunities, ice climbing, free riding, paragliding, walking. Caters for winter tourists by providing hotels, restaurants, heated swimming pools & spas.  Summer attractions include; railway to mer ge glace, 350km of marked hiking trails, 40km of mountain bike tracks, paragliding, rafting, canyoning, pony trekking  summer luging. 

Impacts of tourism in the french alps: benefits: 

  • tourists bring huge ecnomic benefits, provides employment for locals in hotels & restaurants, in sports facilities & as guides & instructors. construction & maintenance jobs
  • extra income supports local services such as shops. local can benefit from improvements in public transport & health care 
  • maintained as an attractive town, town is well clean & well lit. pedestrian streets. 

problems of tourism: 

  • town can become noisy & congested at peak times. roads in chamonix are narrow 
  • mountain footpaths become eroded 
  • shops, cafes & restaurnants are aimed at tourists, & expensive. houses are expensive
  • conflicts can arise between different groups of people 
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