Fundamentals of the Physical Environment

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Fundamentals of the Physical Environment has established itself as a well-respected core introductory book for students of physical geography and the environmental sciences. Taking a systems approach, it demonstrates how the various factors operating at Earth's surface can and do interact, and how landscape can be used to decipher them. The nature of the earth, its atmosphere and its oceans, the main processes of geomorphology and key elements of ecosystems are also all explained. The final section on specific environments usefully sets in context the physical processes and human impacts.

This fourth edition has been extensively revised to incorporate current thinking and knowledge and includes:

  • a new section on the history and study of physical geography
  • an updated and strengthened chapter on climate change (9) and a strengthened section on the work of the wind
  • a revised chapter (15) on crysosphere systems - glaciers, ice and permafrost
  • a new chapter (23) on the principles of environmental reconstruction
  • a new joint chapter (24) on polar and alpine environments
  • a key new joint chapter (28) on current environmental change and future environments
  • new material on the Earth System and cycling of carbon and nutrients
  • themed boxes highlighting processes, systems, applications, new developments and human impacts
  • a support website at with discussion and essay questions, chapter summaries and extended case studies.

Clearly written, well-structured and with over 450 informative colour diagrams and 150 colour photographs, this text provides students with the necessary grounding in fundamental processes whilst linking these to their impact on human society and their application to the science of the environment.

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About the author (2008)

Peter Smithson is former Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield. His research interests include: precipitation climatology (applications in UK, Sri Lanka and Brazil); cave climatology; and climate change, especially in semi-arid environments. He has over 50 publications, and over 40 refereed research papers in journals.

Ken Addison is Senior Lecturer at the School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, and Fellow and Tutor in Physical Geography at St Peter's College, University of Oxford. His research interests include: Quaternary stratigraphy and geomorphology, with special interest in Wales; geotechnical and geomorphological studies of recent and contemporary slope stability; earth science conservation strategy and practice; and Medieval environmental change.

Ken Atkinson is former Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Leeds. His research interests include: soil science; ecosystems; and resource management. He has worked on environmental management in Canada for a number of years, and has co-organised six international conferences on Canadian resource management and planning.

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