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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography
Glossary A - C
Glossary D - F
Glossary G - I
Glossary J - L
Glossary M - O
Glossary P - R
Glossary S - U
Glossary V - Z

Glossary A - C

Abiotic 
The non-living parts of an ecosystem.

Ablation 
The erosion of snow or ice, especially by melting.

Abrasion 
The process of wearing down or rubbing away by means of friction.

Absolute Poverty 
A state of living in poverty such that one's basic human needs are not being met.

Accretion 
The slow addition to land by deposition of water-borne sediment or an increase of land along the shores of a body of water, as by alluvial deposit.

Accumulation 
The net gain in an ice mass. This can be sourced from direct snowfall and avalanche activity.

Acid Rain 
Precipitation that possesses elevated levels of nitric and sulphuric acids which can have harmful effects on vegetation, aquatic habitats, human health and infrastructure.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) 
A set of deadly symptoms associated with a severe infection and a lack of immunity due to having the human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Adaptation (Hazard) 
The action of accepting that natural hazards or natural phenomena are going to happen and adapting one's life and home to cope with those changes rather than prevent them.

Adiabatic  
A change in temperature due to expansion or contraction of a parcel of air.

Adiabatic Cooling
 A decrease in temperature caused by a rising parcel of air expanding as it encounters decreasing atmospheric pressure which allow air molecules to spread out.

Adiabatic Warming (Adiabatic Heating)  
An increase in temperature caused by a descending parcel of air becoming compressed by increasing atmospheric pressure.

Affluence Cycle 
A model to show how once the processes for poverty alleviation are in place people living in poverty start to benefit due to their interconnectedness and the effect of trickle down.

Afforestation
The process by which trees and shrubs are planted in order to grow a new section of forest.

After-Shock  
Ground tremors occurring after a major earthquake that can persist over a period of weeks, months or years following the earthquake.

Ageing Population 
A population of a country where there is a growing proportion of people aged 65 or more.

Agency 
The capability of a person or a group of people to change something about their lives.

Agrarian Movement 
Upholding farming and living from the land as the cornerstone of one’s personal wealth.

Agricultural Intensification 
An increase in agricultural production per unit of inputs, including labour, fertiliser, land and time.

Agriculture 
Industry that is concerned with farming the land for crops, animals or their products.

Aid
A voluntary transfer of needed resources from one country or region to another.

Air Mass  
A body of air with uniform weather conditions, such as temperature, humidity and cloud type.

Albedo Effect 
A measure of the reflectivity of the Earth's surface to incoming solar radiation.

Albinism 
A genetic condition characterised by a lack of melanin production and subsequent partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

Alternative Energy 
Power from an energy source that does not involve the combustion of fossil fuels.

Altitude 
The height of a point on the land above sea level.

Anemometer  
A common weather station instrument used to measure wind speed.

Antarctic Treaty 
A collection of agreements that are designed to protect all land and sea south of the 60°S latitude.

Anticyclone  
An area of high atmospheric pressure characterised by stable weather conditions.

Anti-Natalist Policy 
A birth control policy that seeks to reduce the number of babies born in a particular country.

Appropriate Technology 
Innovations for sustainability and development that are designed and maintained by the people whom they serve, made specifically for the locality in which they are used.

Aquaculture 
The farming of fish and crustaceans in controlled conditions such as freshwater or seawater ponds.

Aquifer 
An underground store of water that is usually used as a source for extraction.

Arable Farming 
The primary production of crops both for food and raw materials.

Archipelago  
An extensive group of islands, sometimes caused by sub-oceanic tectonic effects.

Arete 
A thin, sharp ridge of rock that is left separating two valleys, typically formed by glacial erosion.

Argillaceous 
Made of or resembling clay.

Aridity 
The degree of dryness of a climate in a given location.

Artisan 
A craftsman who generally manufactures goods using their hands and simple tools.

Aseismic  
Activity that is not characterised by tectonic movements.

Asian Tiger 
Countries that during the 1960s and 1970s increased their manufacturing industries with both speed and aggression.

Aspect 
The direction a slope of buildings faces in relation to wind and solar radiation.

Asylum Seeker 
Someone who has fled their country of origin and is making a claim for citizenship as they cannot return home.

Atmosphere 
A layer of gases surrounding the Earth.

Atoll 
A ring shaped coral reef that encircles a lagoon

Attrition 
The grinding down of rock particles by friction and collision during transportation.

Avalanche 
A sudden, mass movement of snow down a mountain side.

Azonal  
A young soil that lacks marked horizons, commonly because insufficient time has elapsed for climate and vegetation to create them.

Backwash 
The movement of water back towards the sea after a wave has broken.

Barometer  
An instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure; used in weather forecasting and in determining altitude.

Bay 
A curved indentation of a coastline resulting from great erosion rates than neighbouring parts of the coast.

Beach Nourishment 
The process of replenishing beaches that have been depleted by erosion, with sand and shingle, often forming part of a coastal defence scheme.

Bearing 
The precise direction of motion which acts as an alternative to the main compass points.

Beaufort Scale  
An empirical measure for describing wind intensity and speed based on observed sea conditions.

Bilateral Aid 
Aid where both parties stand to benefit from the agreement as conditions are attached to the agreement.

Biocapacity 
The capacity of an ecosystem to produce useful biological materials and to absorb human generated waste materials.

Biodiesel 
Fuel that comes from the oil that can be harvested from certain plants.

Biodiversity 
The wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environments.

Biodiversity Hotspot
An area of the Earth where there is a particularly high concentration of plant and animal species.

Biofuel  
Fuel produced from biological and organic material.

Biological Hazard 
Pathogens, parasites and predators that directly threaten human life or interfere with agricultural systems.

Biological Weathering 
The weakening and subsequent degradation of rock by living organisms and biological processes.

Biomass 
The amount of living matter in a given habitat.

Biome 
A climatic zone of the Earth that is associated with a particular ecosystem.

Biosecurity 
The protection of one group of species from an invasive one or from an infectious agent such as a virus or parasite.

Biosphere 
The regions of the earth surface and atmosphere occupied by living organisms.

Biotic 
The living parts of an ecosystem.

Birth rate 
The number of births per 1,000 people in the population in a given year.

Black Smoker  
A hydrothermal vent found on ocean floor which ejects geothermally heated water and suspended particles which is commonly found near volcanically active areas, ocean basins and hotspots.

Blow Hole 
A hole formed in a cliff top when a joint between a sea cave and the land surface above becomes enlarged and air can pass through.

Blue Revolution 
The rise of fish farming and aquaculture to the point at which it exceeds the output from commercial fishing.

Bluff Line 
The outer limits of a floodplain found before the gradient of the valley sides start to increase.

Boreal Forest / Taiga 
Largely coniferous forests  characteristic of the subarctic climate in the Northern Hemisphere.

Böserupians  
People who believe that the combined intelligence of a growing population will solve problems associated with diminishing resources.

Botanist 
A scientist who specialises in the study of plants.

Brain Drain 
The migration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge from an area where they have been trained to one where they are usually paid more for their work.

Brandt Line 
A visual depiction of the division between the more economically developed (North) and less economically developed (South) countries.

Break Point 
The point at which the speed of the top of a wave overtakes the bottom of a wave as it moves into increasingly shallow water and spills forward (breaks).

Breakwater 
A structure built along coasts as part of coastal defence to protect a shore or harbour from the force of waves by absorbing energy.

BRIC Nation 
The nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China which represent the next wave of countries who are making the transition from developing to developed nations.

Brownfield Site 
A piece of ex-industrial or ex-commercial land that is abandoned or underused, but which can be considered as a potential site for redevelopment.

Burgess Model
The concentric land use model representing the idea that land values are highest in the centre of a town or city.

Business Park 
An area of land where many company offices are grouped together for commercial activity.

Butler Model 
A model used to understand how a tourist resort grows, often showing six key stages of development.

By Catch 
The fish unintentionally caught as part of trawling and dredging practices.

Bypass 
A route passing a town, city centre or congested area to provide an alternative route for through traffic.

Calcareous 
A material or substance that contains or resembles calcium carbonate.

Caldera  
A volcanic crater usually formed by the collapse of land following a major volcanic eruption.

Campbell-Stokes Recorder  
An instrument used to record hours of sunshine per day by utilising heat from the sun's rays to char a trace on a card using a glass sphere.

Canopy 
The uppermost layer of tree branches and foliage in a forest, rich in biodiversity.

Capita 
A person who is a resident of the given area of investigation.

Capital 
The money needed for companies to start a business.

Capitalism 
A world system that encourages private ownership of industry and its associated profits.

Carbon Farming 
Farming in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or captures and holds carbon in soils and vegetation.

Carbon Footprint 
A measure of the impact human activities have on the environment.

Carbon Neutral 
A way of describing an activity if it produces zero amounts of carbon dioxide overall (i.e. zero net carbon).

Carbon Sink 
A natural or artificial reservoir, such as a forest or ocean, which can absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Carbon Trading 
Countries buying and selling tradable carbon or pollution permits - a fixed amount of greenhouse gases that a company is allowed to emit -  to try to reduce global carbon emissions.

Carrying Capacity 
The optimum number of people or species that can be sustained by an environment and its resources.

Cartography 
The study and practice of making maps.

Cash Crop 
A crop produced for its commercial value rather than for the sustenance of the farmer.

Catchment Area  
The area drained by a river or body of water.

Cattle Ranch 
An area of land devoted to raising grazing livestock.

Cave 
A large, natural, underground hollow in the ground, often formed by the natural weathering of rock.

Census 
An official gathering of information about the population in a particular area to allow a government to plan effectively and monitor changes.

Central Business District 
The commercial and business centre of a city, characterised by high land values and easy accessibility by public transport, often synonymous with the city's financial district.

Channel  
A landform that contains flowing water and confined by banks which is often relatively shallow and narrow.

Chaparral 
A dense, dry scrubland or heathland plant community, predominantly shaped by mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Chemical Weathering 
The weakening and subsequent degradation of rock caused by chemical reactions including oxidation, hydrolysis and carbonation.

Child Labour 
Working conditions where under sixteen year olds are employed illegally.

Choropleth Shading 
A method used in mapping using different densities of shading in proportion to the measurement of the statistical variable being displayed on the map.

Circulation Cell 
The circular movement of air between the upper and lower altitudes of the Earth.

Clannism 
A political system that prioritises the power and status of clans. 

Clarke Fisher Model 
A model showing how the relative importance of the sectors of employment change as an economy develops over time. 

Clean Coal Technology 
A range of technologies being developed to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of the burning of fossil fuels, including coal energy generation.

Climate   
The weather conditions prevailing in an area over a long period of time, allowing for the designation of seasonal patters and future weather expectations.

Climate Change 
A substantial change in the long term weather patterns of a particular place.

Climate Change Refugee 
A person who is forced to move as a result of the impact climate change is having on their home environment.

Climate Graph  
A graph showing the average rainfall and temperatures typically experienced in a particular location over the course of a year.

Climate Tipping Point 
The threshold when global climate changes irreversibly from one stable state to another.

Climax Community 
A stable ecological community that has reached an overall steady state following the final stage of succession.

Cloud Seeding  
A form of weather modification used to change the amount of precipitation from clouds, often achieved by dispersing substances into the air.

Clustering 
The grouping together of one particular section of society in a place.

Coal Gasification 
The chemical transformation of coal into synthetic natural gas.

Coca-colonisation 
The spread and dominance of a developed world (particularly American) good or cultural value into another country or region.

Cod Wars 
The, at times armed, conflicts between the UK and Iceland over the right to commercially fish in certain waters in the North Atlantic.

Colonialism  
The acquisition of full or partial political control over other territories and their people, followed by subsequent colonisation and possible expansion.

Combustion 
The burning of a fuel, the process of which releases heat energy.

Commodity 
A good that is manufactured and sold for profit.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 
A European Union agricultural policy which implemented a system of agricultural subsidies and other programmes covering farming, environmental measures and rural development.

Commons 
Land or water that is open to the public for their use and often has a shared ownership between them.

Communism 
The political and economic principle of communal (often state) ownership and control of a society's resources, production and property, replacing private property and a profit-based economy.

Composite Cone / Volcano 
A volcanic cone made up of many layers of lava and ash.

Concordant Coastline 
A coastline comprised of the same type of rock along its length subsequently characterised by fewer bays and headlands.

Condensation 
The process by which water vapour cools and turns into a liquid.

Conduction 
The process by which heat energy is transmitted through collisions between neighbouring molecules.

Confluence 
The meeting of two or more bodies of water, typically where two river channels join.

Coniferous 
Plants that do not drop their foliage throughout the seasons.

Conservation 
The act of preserving, protecting and managing biodiversity or a resource.

Conservative Margin 
A point on the Earth's surface where two or more tectonic plates try to move past each other, either in the same direction at different speeds or in opposite directions.

Conservative Plate Boundary 
A plate boundary where the movement of two crustal places is lateral - in opposite directions or the same direction at differing speeds.

Constructive Plate Boundary 
A plate boundary where the plates move apart due to convection currents inside the Earth, allowing magma to rise from the mantle and solidify forming new crust.

Constructive Wave 
A wave low in height and frequency where the net movement of material is up the beach as the swash is stronger than backwash.

Consumerism 
A system which encourages the buying of goods for one’s personal use.

Containerisation 
The process by which goods are shipped all over the world using container based shipping.

Contamination 
Pollution by unwanted or damaging material, often bacterial, chemical or radioactive.

Continental Crust  
The layer of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks which form the continents and areas of shallow seabed close to their shores, known as continental shelves.

Continental Drift  
The theory that the Earth's land mass was once held as a single continent, which has subsequently split and drifted into the modern configuration of the continents.

Continental Shelf  
The shallow sea floor fringing continents, forming part of the continental crust.

Contour Line 
A line on a map showing joined points at the same height.

Conurbation 
A group of towns with no gaps between them, so forming one continuous urban area.

Convection 
The transfer of heat energy by the circulation or movement of a heated material.

Convection Rainfall  
Precipitation formed  by the sun heating the land and the air above it, which causes air to expand and rise.

Convergent Plate Boundary 
A point on the Earth's surface where two or more tectonic plates move toward one another and collide.

Coral Reef 
A set of marine invertebrates (corals) held together by their own calcium carbonate secretions to make up a marine ecosystem.

Core 
The name given to the interior Earth which displays very high temperatures and pressures.

Core Region 
An area at the heart of economic activity, where innovation, technology and employment are at a high level.

Core-Periphery Model 
A model that shows the relationship between the core, (as a user) and the periphery, (as a supplier) of labour and resources.

Corrasion 
The process of mechanical erosion and land degradation caused by the scouring action of materials as they are transported across the Earth's surface.

Corrie 
A semi-circular hollow with a steep back-wall at the head of a glacial valley, formed by glacial erosion (also known as a cirque or cwm).

Corruption 
The illegal use of power or public funds to further a person or groups of people's personal wealth or influence.

Counter Urbanisation  
The decentralisation of population from large, urban areas into smaller surrounding countryside or rural areas.

Cove 
A small, sheltered bay or coastal inlet, often situated within a larger bay, characterised by their circular or oval shape and narrow, restricted entrance.

Cross-Section 
A slice through a particular feature showing its shape viewed from the side, as if it has been cut through.

Crowdfunding 
Sourcing capital for a new industry from many smaller investors, usually through social media and the internet.

Crust  
The solid, outermost layer of the Earth comprised of a variety of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks which exist in large sections called plates.

Cryosphere 
The parts of the Earth's surface where water is held in a solid form such as snow or ice.

Cultural Diversity 
The existence of a variety of different societies or people of different origins, religions and traditions, living and interacting together.

Culture 
The ideas, customs, beliefs, values, knowledge and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

Cumulative Causation 
The process whereby a significant increase in economic growth can lead to further growth as money circulates in the economy.

Cycle of Deprivation 
A situation where it is difficult for one to break out of poverty given the previous and subsequent circumstances in which one finds oneself.

Cyclone  
An extreme low pressure weather system.

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