Physical Geography,
12th Edition

James F. Petersen, Dorothy Sack, Robert E. Gabler

ISBN-13: 9780357142448
Copyright 2022 | Published
672 pages | List Price: USD $156.95

Take a unique look at the Earth as you examine its natural processes, complex systems and the reciprocal relationship between people and Earth’s natural environment. Written by three of today's most respected geographers, Petersen/Sack/Gabler’s PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY, 12E introduces geography from three perspectives: as a physical science, a spatial science and an environmental science. A reader-friendly presentation demonstrates the processes and interactions among Earth’s systems and emphasizes environmental sustainability -- highlighting how natural systems are affected by human activities and how natural processes impact human lives. Updated, compelling visuals illustrate concepts with vivid photos, helpful figures and information-rich maps. This edition also explores dynamic areas of the Earth, such as the Pacific Ring of Fire, and examines the latest digital and drone technologies used in geographical research. MindTap digital tools and videos are available to assist in review.


1. Physical Geography: Physical, Spatial, and Environmental Science.
2. Representations of Earth.
3. Earth-Sun Relationships and Solar Energy.
4. The Atmosphere and Earth's Energy Budget.
5. Atmospheric Pressure, Winds, and Circulation Patterns.
6. Moisture, Condensation, and Precipitation.
7. Air Masses and Weather Systems.
8. Global Climates and Climate Change.
9. Low-Latitude and Arid Climate Regions.
10. Middle-Latitude, Polar, and Highland Climatic Regions.
11. Biogeography.
12. Soils and Soil Development.
13. Earth Materials and Plate Tectonics.
14. Tectonism and Volcanism.
15. Weathering and Mass Wasting.
16. Subsurface Water and Karst.
17. Fluvial Processes and Landforms.
18. Arid Region and Eolian Landforms.
19. Glacial Systems and Landforms.
20. Coastal Processes and Landforms.
Appendix A: SI Units and Unit Conversions.
Appendix B: Topographic Maps.
Appendix C: Understanding and Recognizing Some Common Rocks.

  • James F. Petersen

    James F. Petersen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography at Texas State University in San Marcos, is a broadly trained physical geographer with strong interests in geomorphology and Earth science education. He enjoys writing about physical geography topics for the public and has written guidebooks and trail guides for parks. Dr. Petersen is a past president of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and a recipient of a national teaching award. He has received the NCGE’s highest honor for distinguished service to geography education. Dr. Petersen has written for and served as a senior consultant for nationally published educational materials, ranging from middle school through university level. His published articles address education in geomorphology, climate history and climate change; the environmental history of central Texas; the role of field methods in geography; earthquake hazards and geography education. Believing in the value of experiential learning in the field, Dr. Petersen has conducted extended field courses every year during his career, enabling students to learn about Earth environments, processes, features and locations through firsthand experience.

  • Dorothy Sack

    Dorothy Sack, professor and department chair of geography at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is a physical geographer who specializes in geomorphology. Her primary research interests emphasize arid region landforms, particularly the geomorphic evidence of paleolakes, which contribute to understanding Earth’s paleoclimate. Other research themes include the impact of off-road vehicles on the landscape and the history of geomorphology. Dr. Sack has published research in a variety of professional journals and academic volumes as well as within Utah Geological Survey publications. Her work has been funded by numerous professional groups, including the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, American Association of Geographers (AAG) and American Chemical Society. She is active in professional organizations, having served as chair of both the Geomorphology and the History of Geography Specialty Groups of the AAG. She has also served in other offices for the AAG, Geological Society of America and History of Earth Sciences Society. In addition, she serves on the editorial boards for the journals Geomorphology and Physical Geography. Dr. Sack enjoys teaching as well as research and has received the Outstanding Teacher Award from Ohio University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

  • Robert E. Gabler

    Robert E. Gabler has nearly five decades of professional experience. He has taught for five years in public elementary and secondary schools, in addition to teaching geography at Hunter College, City of New York, Columbia University, and Western Illinois University. At times in his lengthy career at Western, he served as chairperson of the Department of Geography and Department of Geology, and University director of International Programs. He received three University Presidential Citations for Teaching Excellence and University Service, served two terms as chairperson of the Faculty Senate, edited the Bulletin of The Illinois Geographical Society, and authored numerous articles in state and national periodicals. He is a past president of the Illinois Geographical Society, former director of coordinators and past president of the National Council for Geographic Education, and the recipient of the NCGE George J. Miller Distinguished Service Award. During his tenure at Western, Dr. Gabler traveled widely throughout the United States, western and southern Europe, eastern Asia, and India, planning, organizing, and leading university exchange programs, conducting field research, and compiling extensive slide photograph files. His major publications include, editor: A HANDBOOK FOR GEOGRAPHY TEACHERS (Illinois Office of Public Instruction); co-author: FOLLETT ELEMENTARY SOCIAL STUDIES SERIES (Follett Publishing Company); senior author: INTRODUCTION TO PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY (Rinehart Press); and senior author: ESSENTIALS OF PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY.

  • NEW AND REVISED ILLUSTRATIONS AND VISUALS: Almost 250 new or improved illustrations, graphs, maps, line art and photographs visually reinforce content. Carefully selected, updated photos visually exemplify principles from the text while attracting the reader's interest and encouraging students to closely examine and carefully consider the content. Many figures also pose thought-provoking questions and explore relevant answers that invite student interaction.

  • UPDATED MAPS AND NEW MAP PROJECTIONS: Numerous revised and improved maps throughout this edition now offer visual clarity. All examples of map projections have been recreated. The revisions are also designed to improve projection on a monitor or a screen -- ideal for presentation online or in class.

  • UPDATED CLIMOGRAPHS: This edition presents more than 30 updated and re-created climographs that illustrate current monthly and annual weather conditions of places around the world. All climographs now include the latest temperature and precipitation data, which reflects ongoing climate change. Students learn how to use these graphics to better understand the range of climate types on Earth as well as how to differentiate the types and recognize their seasonal weather regimes.

  • NEW COVERAGE OF THE PACIFIC RING OF FIRE: New discussion in this edition's coverage of Earth materials and plate tectonics (Ch. 13) now introduces the Pacific Ring of Fire with its abundant earthquakes and volcanoes. Students learn why and how this area around the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where tectonic plates meet, prompts most of the world's seismic and volcanic activity.

  • NEW CONTENT HIGHLIGHTS USE OF DRONES AND THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY IN GEOGRAPHY APPLICATIONS AND RESEARCH: Updated discussions on remote sensing and geospatial technology sections in Chapter 2 are expanded and now address the increasing use of drones (UAS) in field research. New and updated content also discusses ever-increasing applications and use of LiDAR in geography and the making of high-resolution maps. In addition, updates examine the use of remote sensing in battling recent wildfires.

  • UPDATED "UNDERSTANDING MAP CONTENT" AND "THINKING GEOGRAPHICALLY" FEATURES: These updated, illustrated features ask probing questions that encourage readers to carefully consider the content of an illustration or map. Students learn to interpret the extensive information and data packed into today's thematic maps. Readers also learn to visually evaluate images, recognizing geographic forms in landscape, their significance and how they relate to one another.

  • Earth’s glaciers are rapidly disappearing due to climate warming, yet evidence of major and geologically recent glaciations (ice ages) cover significant areas of the midlatitudes and elevated regions that are now ice-free. The latest understanding of how modern glaciers form and function helps us recognize evidence of these previous ice ages and better understand the role of moving ice in creating Earth surface topography.

  • Waves are also powerful landforming agents that can also be associated with hazardous conditions. The chapter Coastal Processes and Landforms explains the origin of the major types of waves, and how waves work to shape and reshape coastlines.

  • Arid regions are frequently discounted as unimportant wastelands. With one third of Earth’s land surface occupied by arid and semiarid environments, and a growing number of people living in those regions, this book gives due emphasis to the major landforming processes acting in these fragile and beautiful regions.

  • Water flowing over Earth’s surface in streams is a critical natural resource as well as an occasional hazard. How and why streams flow and the features they form on Earth’s surface receives significant attention in the important chapter on Fluvial Processes and Landforms.

  • DIGITAL AND GEOSPATIAL TECHNOLOGY: Students review technology advancements as well as related careers and skills. A full chapter examines maps, geospatial technologies and their applications. Students also learn techniques used to analyze and display locational and environmental characteristics, including remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), digital cartography and global positioning systems (GPS). Digital visuals from NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey reinforce content.

  • MEANINGFUL END-OF-CHAPTER ACTIVITIES: Each chapter concludes with exercises and resources that reinforce the text and provide opportunities for review, retention and test preparation. Terms for Review offer quick reference to clarify key terminology, while Questions for Review prompt thoughtful discussions. Each chapter also provides critical-thinking problems and proven hands-on activities that emphasize practical applications. Several chapters include engaging Google Earth exercises that encourage students to explore further.

  • UNIQUE "GEOGRAPHY'S PERSPECTIVE" BOXES ILLUSTRATE PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY AS A SPATIAL SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND PHYSICAL SCIENCE: The spatial science perspective emphasizes Earth's features, while the environmental science perspective examines Earth's processes and humans interaction. The physical science perspective reviews physical features and relationships among Earth's systems. Intriguing examples range from natural hazard warnings on cellphones and mapping the paths of hurricanes to the theory of island biogeography and the importance of watersheds in environmental management.

  • The illustrations were very carefully selected to enhance textbook learning, with clear, interesting and generally attractive examples, that when projected, will engage students during class, or on monitors if teaching on line.

  • Selected images have geographic coordinates with an invitation for students to use Google Earth to further investigate the area where the illustrated feature is located. Instructors can easily adapt these as student activities. What do students see at those locations by zooming in or out?

  • Many geography instructors would like students to gain some experience in map reading and understanding map content. A problem is having enough copies of the same map on hand so that each student has the same one to work with—this book supplies Map Interpretation activities at many chapter ends. Nearly every landform chapter (e.g., volcanoes, fluvial, glacial, karst/etc.) has a map activity at the end with a topographic map excerpt aimed at student recognition of Earth’s surface features on a map. There is a topographic map use activity in Chapter 2, and Chapter 7 has a weather map reading activity with a comparative GOES weather satellite image. Chapter 8, which deals with global climates, has an activity for students to use temperature and precipitation data and classify regional climate types. These activities are complete and ready to go, but could also be adapted and modified by instructors to fit their needs.

  • Two Illustrated Features include questions that invite student inquiry about the content of an illustration, these are: Understanding Map Content and Thinking Geographically. Examples of one or the other feature appear where appropriate.

  • Geography and Digital Technologies: The importance of ever-evolving technologies that support geographic studies and developing career skills is emphasized, and up to date. A full chapter is devoted to maps, geospatial technologies, and their applications. This includes discussions of the techniques geographers use to analyze and display locational and environmental characteristics, including remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), digital cartography, and the global positioning system (GPS). The career possibilities that these skills offer for graduating geography students are stressed. The text makes extensive use of scientific visualization products (digital visual models) generated by NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other government agencies, and where appropriate for learning some have been modified specifically for this text.

  • Robust end-of-chapter activities support either group or individual study. These include: key terms listed in the order that they appear in the chapter (Terms for Review), discussion questions (Questions for Review), critical thinking problems (Consider and Respond), hands-on activities (Practical Applications) and for some chapters, Google Earth exercises (Locate and Explore) reinforce the text and provide ample opportunities for review, retention, and test preparation.

  • Unique "Geography's Perspective" boxes illustrate physical geography as a spatial science (how features are distributed and why), an environmental science (the processes of the Earth system and how humans interact with them), and a physical science (the properties and relationships among the Earth system's physical features). These compelling boxes grab students' attention with interesting, timely examples, ranging from natural hazard warnings presented on cellphones, to mapping the paths of hurricanes, to the theory of island biogeography and the importance of watersheds to environmental management.

Cengage provides a range of supplements that are updated in coordination with the main title selection. For more information about these supplements, contact your Learning Consultant.

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