Geomorphic Processes - Revision Notes

 Class 11 Geography

Fundamental of Physical Geography
Chapter-6 Geomorphic Processes

This chapter deals with: Geomorphic process, exogenic, endogenic processes, diastrophism, volcanism, weathering, types of weathering mechnical(unloading, expansion, temperature change expansion freezing thawing frost wedging salt weathering ), chemical (solution, carnonation, hydration oxidation and reduction),biological (plants, animals man).biological activity and weathering, special effects of weathering, significance of weathering, mass movement, slow movement, rapid movementland slide, erosion , deposition, soilformtion, process of soil formation soil forming factors, parent material, topography, climate, biological activity, time.

Why earth is uneven?

The earth’s crust is dynamic. It moved and moves vertically and horizontally. The differences in the internal forces operating from within the earth which built up the crust have been responsible for the variations in the outer surface of the crust. The earth’s surface is being continuously subjected to external forces induced basically by energy. The earth’s surface is being continuously subjected to by external forces originating within the earth’s atmosphere and by internal forces from within the earth.

GEOMORPHIC PROCESSES: Geomorphic processes refer to the chemical and physical interaction between the earth’s surface and the natural forces acting on it. This interaction produces various landforms. Geomorphic processes can be classified into exogenic and endogenic processes. Endogenic forces are generated in the interior of the earth. Endogenic processes can be classified into diastrophic and sudden movements. Diastrophic forces can be classified into epeirogenic and orogenic forces. Sudden forces comprise of earthquake and volcanic eruptions. Exogenic forces are the forces generating outside the earth’s surface. These forces can be classified into o weathering, mass movement, erosion and deposition. Weathering is the process of breaking down, or the disintegration and decomposition of rocks. It is a static process. Weathering can further be classified into chemical, physical and biological weathering.
Mass movement involves downhill movement of the weathered rock materials. The movement includes: creeping, flowing, sliding, slumping, and falling. Mass movements can be slow or rapid.
Erosion is the Displacement of weathered material through different agents of gradation. Deposition is a geological process by which material is added to a landform or landmass. Geomorphic agents are the mediums through which the eroded materials are transported from the place of origin to the destination. These agents are – Running water Groundwater Glaciers Wind Wave and currents. The endogenic and exogenic forces cause physical stress and chemical actions on the earth material and bring the changes in the configuration of the earth surface is called GEOMORPHIC PROCESSES.
Diastrophism and volcanism are endogenic processes

Weathering, Masswasting, Erosion & Deposition Are Exogenic Processes Any Exogenic Element Of Nature Capable Of Acquiring And Transporting Earth Materials Can Be Called A Geomorphic Agent.
They Become Mobile When There Is Gradient
The Erosional Agents Are :

  1. Running Water,
  2. Waves
  3. Underground Water,
  4. Wind,
  5. Moving Ice,

A process is a force applied on earth materials affecting the same. An agent is a mobile medium which removes, transports and deposits earth materials, avity also causes directional forces activating downslope movements of matter raves and tides are indirect movements of the earth caused by gravitation With out gravity and gradient there is no mobility for erosional agents as a result there is no erosion transportation, and deposition on the earth surface.
All the movements on/in the earth are due to gravitation and gradient. from higher level to lower level and high pressure to low pressure areas

The energy genarated due to :The energy emanating from within the earth is the main force behind endogenic geomorphic processes. This energy is mostly generated by radioactivity, rotational and tidal friction and primordial heat from the origin of the earth. This energy due to geothermal gradients and heat flow from within induces diastrophism and volcanism in the lithosphere. Due to variations in geothermal gradients and heat flow from within, crustal thickness and strength, the action of endogenic forces are not uniform and hence the tectonically controlled original crustal surface is uneven.

1. Radioactivity 2. Rotational Force 3. Tidal Friction 4. Primordial Heat From The Origin Of The Earth.
Diastrophism And Volvanism Are Due To Geothermal Grdients And Heat Flow From Within The Earth.
Crustal Thickness, Strength, Action Of Endogenic Forces Are Due To Variations In Geothermal Gradients And Heat Flow Are Uneven.
DIASTROPHISM: Diastrophism refers to deformation of the Earth's crust, and more especially to folding and faulting. Diastrophism can be considered part of geotectonics. Diastrophism comes from the Greek word meaning a twisting. Diastrophism, also called tectonism, large-scale deformation of Earth's crust by natural processes, which leads to the formation of continents and ocean basins, mountain systems, plateaus, rift valleys, and other features by mechanisms such as lithospheric plate movement (that is, plate tectonics). In the process of orogeny, the crust is severely deformed into folds. Due to epeirogeny, there may be simple deformation. Orogeny is a mountain building process whereas epeirogeny is continental building process.


  1. OROGENIC PROCESSES: An orogen or orogenic belt develops when a continental plate crumples and is pushed upwards to form one or more mountain ranges; this involves many geological processes collectively called orogenesis. Orogeny is the primary mechanism by which mountains are built on continents. mountain building through folding
  2. PLATE TECTONICS: Plate tectonics is the theory that Earth's outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core. The plates act like a hard and rigid shell compared to Earth's mantle. This strong outer layer is called the lithosphere. Involve horizontal movements.
  3. EARTH QUAKES: An earthquake (also known as a quaketremor or temblor) is the shaking of the surface of the Earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth 's lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to toss people around and destroy whole cities.
  4. EPEROGENIC PROCESS: In geology, epeirogenic movement (from Greek epeiros, land, and genesis, birth) is upheavals or depressions of land exhibiting long wavelengths and little folding apart from broad undulations. The broad central parts of continents are called cratons, and are subject to epeirogeny. uplifting large part of earth crust.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OROGENY AND EPEROGENY: Orogenic movements are Mountain building movements whereas Epeirogenic movements are Continent building movements. 3. In Orogenic movements crust moves in tangential direction causing folding or faulting. ... In Orogenic process crust is severely deformed, whereas in Epeirogenic process there may be a a simple deformation.

Crust is severely damaged Mountain building and faulting cause tension and compressionSimple deformation continental formation upliftment of landmass verticals force

VOLCANISM: Volcanism is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma). Volcanism includes the movement of molten rock (magma) onto or toward the earth’s surface and also formation of many intrusive and extrusive volcanic forms. Many aspects of volcanism have already been dealt in detail under volcanoes in the Unit II and under igneous rocks in the preceding chapter in this unit.

It is the process in which volcanoes takes place Volcanoes are the land forms formed due to volcanic process.

EXOGENIC PROCESSES: Exogenic processes include geological phenomena and processes that originate externally to the Earth's surface. They are genetically related to the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, and therefore to processes of weathering, erosion, transportation, deposition, denudation etc. The exogenic processes derive their energy from atmosphere determined by the ultimate energy from the sun and also the gradients created by tectonic factors.
Gravitational force create gradient towards down slope direction.
Force applied per unit area is called

STRESS :Stress is a force acting on a rock per unit area. Any rock can be strained. Strain can be elastic, brittle, or ductile. Ductile deformation is also called plastic deformation. Structures in geology are deformation features that result from permanent (brittle or ductile) strain. Stress can be produced in a sold body pushing or pulling.
This includes deformation. Forces acting along the faces of earth materials are shear stresses. (separating forces). It is this stress that breaks rocks and other earth materials. the shear stress result in angular displacement/slippage. Besides gravitational stress there is molecular stress which is caused by temperature change, crustallisation and melting. chemical processes normally lead to loosening of bonds between grains, dissolving of soluble minerals or cementing materials.
The basic reason for weathering, mass movement erosion and deposition is the development of stress in the earth materials.
Since there are different climatic regions there is variation in the exogenic process from region to region. Temperature and precipitation are the two major elements that control various processes.
All the exogenic process are covered under general term DENUDATION.
The word denude means uncover. Weathering, masswasting erosion and transportation are included in denudation.


This Chart We Observe That For Each Process There Is Driving Force Called Energy On The Earth Surface Thermal Gradient Is Caused By
1. Latitude 2. Seasons 3. Land And Water Distribution 4. Angle Of Earth’s Inclination The Density of Natural Vegetation Is Greatly Influenced By The Temperature And Precipitation Helps Indirectly The Exogenic Processes.


  1. Altitude: Altitude, like elevation, is the distance above sea level.
  2. Angle Of Slope: The slope or gradient of a line describes its steepness.
  3. Ocean Currents: An ocean current is a continuous movement of ocean water from one place to another.
  4. Amount Of Insolation Received By The Region
  5. Wind Velocity And Direction
  6. Direcion Of The Slope
  7. Amount And Kind Of Precipitation
  8. Relation Between Precipitaion And Evaportion
  9. Daily Rang Of Temperature
  10. Freezing And Thawing Frequency
  11. Depth Of Frost Penetration
    The Sole Driving Force Behind All The Exogenic Process Is The Sun

When Climatic Factors Are Common The Intensity Of Action Depend On Type And Structure Of Rocks
 folds, faults, orientation inclination of beds, presence or absence of joints ,bedding planes hareness, softness of constituent minerals, chemical susceptibility of mineral constituents , the permeability or impermeability.
Different types of rocks offer varying resistances to various geomorphic processes.
Particular rock may be resistant to one process and nonresistant to other process As a result there is varied relief over the earth surface
The effects of exogenic forces may be small and slow but inlong run they have greater effects Finally the surface of the earth is operated by different geomorphic processes and at varying rates

WEATHERING: Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soil, and minerals as well as wood and artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, waters, and biological organisms. It is the action of elements of weather on earth materials
Weathering is defined as mechanical disintegration and chemical decomposition of rocks through the actions of various element so weather and climate

In weathering there is no motion of materials takes place so it is in-situ or on site process


Chemical weathering is the weakening and subsequent disintegration of rock by chemical reactions. These reactions include oxidation, hydrolysis, and carbonation. These processes either form or destroy minerals, thus altering the nature of the rock's mineral composition. A group of weathering processes viz; solution , carnonation, hydration , oxidation and reduction asc on the rocks to decompose, dissolve orreduce them to a fine clastic state through chemical reactions by oxygen ,surface /soil water and other acids. Water and air along with heat must be present to speed up all chemical reactions.
Over and above the carbon dioxide present in the air, decomposition of plants and animals increases the quantity of carbon dioxide underground. these chemical reactions on various minerals are very much reactions on various minerals are very much similar to the chemical reactions in a laboratory.

SOLUTION: The water /acid with dissolved content is called solution. This process involves removal of solids in solution and depends upon solubility of a mineral in water or weak acids. when water reacts with any solid many solids may become solution. Ex. Sulphates, nitrates, potassium.
When rain comes these solids dissolve into solution without leaving any residue.
Calcium carbonate, magnesium bicorbonate present in the lime stone are dissolved in and form carbonic acid, CO2 produced by decaying organic matter along with soil water greatly aids in this reaction. Common salt is also suceptible to this process.

CARBONATION: Carbonation is another type of chemical weatheringCarbonation is the mixing of water with carbon dioxide to make carbonic acid. This type of weathering is important in the formation of caves. Dissolved carbon dioxide in rainwater or in moist air forms carbonic acid, and this acid reacts with minerals in rocks. It is the reaction of carbonate and bicarbonate with minerals such as feldspar, & carbonate minerals CO2 from atmosphere and soil air is absorbed by water to form carbonic acid. Ca CO3& Mg CO3 are dissolved in carbonic acid and washed away to form the caves in lime stone region.
Clay minerals are easily eroded due to the presence of minerals which can exchange the ions with the water.

HYDRATION: Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction caused by water. Water changes the chemical composition and size of minerals in rock, making them less resistant to weathering. It is the chemical addition of water. minerals take up water and expand. This expansion increases the volume of material. ex. calcium sulphate takes water and convert into is unstabel than calcium is reversible reaction and when this process continuous for longer time the materials disintegrates.
Many clay minerals swell and contract during wetting and drying and a repetition of this process results in cracking of overlying materials. salts inpore spaces undergo rapid and repeated hydration and help in physical weathering through exfoliation and granular disintegration

Oxidation means combination of minerals with oxygen to form oxides and hydroxides.
Oxidation occurs when there is sufficient water and atmosphere. EX. Iron, manganes, sulphur,
In the process of oxidation breakdown occurs due the addition of oxygen. red colour of iron becomes into yellow colour. when oxidised minerals re kept in the places where there is no oxygen reduction takes place. ex. such conditions occurs below water table waterlogged areas. Red colour of iron becomes greenish or bluish grey.

Factors Influencing The Physical Weathering

  1. Gravitational Force Overburden Pressure, Load And Shearing Stress
  2. Expansion Forces Due To Temperature Changes, Crystal Growth Or Animal Activity
  3. Water Pressures Controlled By Wetting And Drying Cycles.

They are mostly due to thermal expansion, and pressure release. The repeated action of these processes cause damage to the rocks

UNLOADING AND EXPANSION: Removal of overlying rock load because of continued erosion causes vertical pressure release with the result that the upper layers of the rock expand producing disintegration of rock masses. fractures will develop parallel to the ground surface. In areas of curved ground surface arched fractures tend to produce massive sheets or exfoliation slabs of rock. exfoliation sheets resulting from expansion due to unloading and pressure release my measure hundreds or even thousands of metres in horizontal extent. large smooth rounded domes called exfoliation domes result due to this process

TEMPERATURE CHANGES AND EXPANSION: Various minerals found in the rocks expand at different rates when temperature increases. Each one pushes others. When temperature falls contraction takes place. Because of diurnal changes in the temperature, the effects is mostly on superficial layers of the rocks. The effects of this process is significant in hot deserts and cold deserts. Though it is small the continuous process for longer time and larger area the effect is greater. The effect is greater at the depth of the rocks. Fractures occurs parallel to the surface. Due continuous expansion and contraction the rock layers become lose and exfoliation takes place. A large dome shaped structures are formed due to this process. Tores which are large boulders also form due this process. exfoliated domes are big insize where as exfoliated tores are varied sizes. In rocks like granites, smooth surfaced and rounded small to big boulders called tors form due to such exfoliation.


Frost weathering occurs due to growth of ice within pores and cracks of rocks during repeated cycles of freezing and melting. This process is most effective at high elevations in mid-latitudes where freezing and melting is often repeated. Glacial areas are subject to frost wedging daily. In this process, the rate of freezing is important. Rapid freezing of water causes its sudden expansion and high pressure.

SALT WEATHERING: Salts in the rocks expand due to thermal action hydration and crystallisation. ex. Calcium sodium magnesium potassium and barium. High temperature between 30°C to 50°C of surface temperature indesertes favour such salt expansion. Salt crystals in near surface porescause splitting of individual grains within rocks. Which eventually fall off. This process of falling off of individual grains may result in granular disintegration or granular foliation.
Salt crystallization is most effective of all salt weathering processes, in areas with alternating wetting and drying conditions salt crystal growth is favoured and the neighbouring grains are pushed aside. sodium chloride and gypsum crystals in desert areas heave up overlying layers of materials and with the result polygonal cracks develop all over the heaved surface. With salt crystal growth, chalk breaks down most readily followed by Limstone, Sandstone ,Chalk ,Gneiss And Granite .

BIOLOGICAL WEATHERING: Biological weathering is contribution to or removal of minerals and ions from the weathering environment and physical changes due to growth or movement of organisms. Burrowing and wedging by organisms like earthworms, termites, rodents etc., help in exposing the new surfaces to chemical attack and assists in the penetration of moisture and air. Human beings by disturbing vegetation, ploughing and cultivating soils, also help in mixing and creating new contacts between air, water and minerals in the earth materials.

SOME SPECIAL EFFECTS OF WEATHERING: Exfoliation is a is a result but not a process. Removal of layers from curved surfaces result into rounded occurs due to expansion and contraction induced by temperature changes. exfoliation domes occur due to unloading where as tors occurs due to thermal expansion.

SIGNIFICANCE OF WEATHERING: Responsible for the formation of soils and erosion and deposition. biodiversity is basically depending on depth of weathering. erosion may not be significant when there is no weathering. weathering aids mass wasting, erosion and reduction of relief and changes in landforms. weathering of rocks and deposition helps in the enrichment and concentrations of certain valuable ores of iron manganaese, aluminium is an important process of soil formation.

ENRICHMENT: when rocks undergo weathering some materials are removed through chemical or physical leaching by ground water and thereby the concentration of remaining materials increases. Without such a weathering taking place, the concentration of the same valuable material may not be sufficient and economically viable to exploit, process and refine, this is what is called enrichment.

MASS MOVEMENT: These movements transfer the mass of rock debris down the slopes under the direct influence of gravity. Air water ice donot carry debris, but debris carry them. the movements of mass may range from slow to rapid.

TYPES OF MASS MOVEMENTS: Creep, flow, slide and fall. mass movements are active over weathered slopes than unwethered slopes. mass movements are aided by gravity not any erosional agent. Mass movements do not come under erosion though there is shift of material.
When force is greater than resistance mass movement occurs. Ex. Weak unconsolidated material, thinly bedded rocks, faults, steeply diffing beds, vertical cliffs, steep slopes, abundant precipitation and torrential rains and scarcity of vegetation.

Activating causes precede mass movements:

  1. removal of support from below to materials above through natural or artificial means
  2. increase in gradient and height of slopes
  3. overloading through addition of materials naturally or by artificial filling
  4. overloading due to heavy rainfall saturation and lubrication of slope materials
  5. removel of material or load from over the original slope surfaces.
  6. occurrence of earthquakes, explosions or macunery
  7. excessive natural seepage
  8. heavy draw down of water from lakes, reservoirs and rivers
  9. indiscriminate removal of natural vegetation


Heave, flow and slide are the three forms of movements the relationship is shown in the figure no. The mass movements can be grouped into three types
1. slow movements 2. Rapid movements 3. Land slide


CREEP: It generally occurs on moderately steep, soil covered slopes.
Movement of material is extremely slow. Material may be rockdebris or soil
Ex. Bending of telephone pole, and fence poles.

Types of creep: soil creep, talus creep rock creep rock glacier creep

Solifluction: slow down slope flowing soil mass or fine grained rock debris saturated or lubricated with water. It is common in moist temperate areas where surface melting of deeply frozen ground and long continued rain respectively occur frequently.


  1. Humid climatic regions
  2. Gentle to steep slopes
  3. Heavy rain
  4. Loose soils

EARTH FLOW: movements of water saturated clayey or silty earth materials down low angle terraces or hillsides.

In the absence of vegetation cover and with heavy rainfall, thick layers of weathered materials get saturated with water and either slowly or rapidly flow down along definite looks like a channels of mud. when they overflow the channels they engulf the roads and rail bridges.
They generally occur due to volcanic eruptions. Volcanic ash dust and other fragments turn into mud due to heavy rains and flow down as tougues or streams of mud causing great

DEBRIS AVALANCHES: Found in humid regions with or without vegetation in narrow tracks of steep slopes. It is much faster than mud flow, it is similar. to snow avalanches.

LANDSLIDES: these are rapid and perceptible movements. dry materials are found. the size and shape of the materials are depending on the nature of the rock, degree of weathering, steepness of slope. slipping of one or several units of rock debris with a backward rotation with respect to the slope over which the movement takes place

DEBRIS SLIDE: rapid rolling or sliding of earth debris without backward rotation of mass is known as debris slide.
Debris slide


Rockslide sliding of individual rock masses down bedding joint or fault surfaces. it generally occurs at the steep slopes. Superficial layers of the rock generally fall.

Mass movement
Reasons for land slides along the Himalayas

  1. Tectonically active
  2. Made of sedimentary rocks
  3. Steep slopes
  4. Heavy rains
  5. Unconsolidated material is found

Erosion involves acquisition and transportation of rock debris. When massive rocks break into smaller fragments through weathering and any other process, erosional geomorphic agents like running water, groundwater, glaciers, wind and waves remove and transport it to other places depending upon the dynamics of each of these agents. Abrasion by rock debris carried by these geomorphic agents also aids greatly in erosion. By erosion, relief degrades, i.e., the landscape is worn down.
Erosion and transportation are controlled by kinetic energy. wind running water and glaciers are controlled by climate.
Comparison of wind running water and glacier

WindRunning waterGlacier
Predominent in hot desertsFound most parts of the earthFound only in high latitude and altitude
Sand dunes are common featuresValleys and deltas are common featuresU shaped valleys and morians are common
Ex. Sahara, atacama KalahariAmazon.Nile, BramhaputraGreenland, Antarctica
Air is gasWater is liquidGlacier is solid
Limited land formsExtensive land formsLimited land forms
High speedNormal speedVery slow movement

EROSION: “application of kinetic energy associated with the agent to the surface of the land along which it moves”. It is computed as KE =½ mv2
M=mass v= velocity KE= kinetic energy

SOIL FORMATION: Soil is the collection natural bodies on the earth’s surface containing living matter and supporting or capable or supporting plants.
Soil is a dynamic material in which many chemical, biological, and physical activities go on constantly. It is the result of decay, it is also a medium of growth. It is changing and developing body. Characteristics are changing from season to season.
Too cold, too hot, and dry areas biological activity stops. organic matter increases when leaves fall and decompose.

PROCESS OF SOIL FORMATION: weathering is basic process for soil formation. The weathered material is transported and decomposed due to bacteria lichens and moss. The dead remains increases the humus of the soil. minor grasses and ferns can grow. Bushes, trees also grow. plants roots and burrowing animals help the soil formation.

PEDOLOGY: is science of soil formation

PEDOLOGIST: is the scientist of soil formation


  1. Parent material
  2. Topography
  3. Climate
  4. Biological activity.
  5. time

PARENT MATERIAL: passive control factor, it is insitu, onsite, or depends on texture, structure, chemical composition of the soil. Nature and depth of weathering is an important factor. chemical composition, texture are the characteristics derived from patent material

TOPOGRAPHY: passive control factor, amount of exposer to the sun light, drainage system, steep slopes have less deposition, gentle slopes have thick soils. Plains have thick and dark coloured soils. In mid latitude southern slopes expose to the sun light and get decomposed more.

CLIMATE: it is an active factor in soil formation. Climatic elements are (i) moisture (interms of its intensity, frequency and duration of precipitation -evaporation and humidity (II) Temperature in terms of seasonal and diurnal variation.
Precipitation increases the biological activity.
Excess of water helps to transport the dissolved particles to downward (eluviation)

Deposition of these particles is called ‘Illuviation’
Heavy rainfall removes the calcium, magnesium, sodium, potasium along with silica.
Removal of silica is called desilication
In dry areas excess of evaporation leads to deposition of salts on the surface of the soil These salt layers are called ‘hard pans’ in the hot deserts
In tropical climates, under moderate rainfall conditions calcium carbonate nodules are formed.

Biological activity: plants and animals add organic matter to the soil. also helps in moisture retention. Dead plants add humus to the soil In humid areas, the bacterial activity is higher than cold areas As a result undecomposed material is found in cold areas In hot areas bacteria fix the nitrogen in the soil which is used by the plants Rhizobium is the bacteria fix the nitrogen in the soil and live in the roots of legumenace plantsants, temites, rodents, earthworms change the chemical composition of the soil.

Time: Important controlling factor of soil formation. Longer the time, thicker the soil layers. No time limit for the formation of the soil layers.