The Physical Environment
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Chapter 21
Ocean and Coastal Systems

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock, Point Reyes, CA
Source: Michael Ritter

The oceans have a significant impact on the Earth system. Ocean water serves as a reservoir of heat, the source of energy to fuel hurricanes, and constantly sculpts the edges of the continents. Coasts are an interface between the lithosphere and hydrosphere. The erosional and depositional work of ocean water creates spectacular landscapes and habitats for flora and fauna. In this chapter you will investigate the physical properties of oceans and their impact on the physical geography of Earth.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • Describe the characteristic of water waves and how they travel.
  • Explain how tides form.
  • Identify characteristic coastal landforms created by erosion and deposition.
  • Describe the characteristics of and explain how various coasts are formed.
  • Compare and contrast the various types of reefs.

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For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
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Michael Ritter (
Last revised 1/22/14

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