Geomorphology is concerned with the surface processes that create the landscapes of the world—namely, weathering and erosion. Weathering is the alteration and breakdown of rocks at the Earth’s surface caused by local atmospheric conditions, while erosion is the process by which the weathering products are removed by water, ice, and wind. The combination of weathering and erosion leads to the wearing down or denudation of mountains and continents, with the erosion products being deposited in rivers, internal drainage basins, and the oceans. Erosion is thus the complement of deposition. The unconsolidated accumulated sediments are transformed by the process of diagenesis and lithification into sedimentary rocks, thereby completing a full cycle of the transfer of matter from an old continent to a young ocean and ultimately to the formation of new sedimentary rocks. Knowledge of the processes of interaction of the atmosphere and the hydrosphere with the surface rocks and soils of the Earth’s crust is important for an understanding not only of the development of landscapes but also (and perhaps more importantly) of the ways in which sediments are created. This in turn helps in interpreting the mode of formation and the depositional environment of sedimentary rocks. Thus the discipline of geomorphology is fundamental to the uniformitarian approach to the Earth sciences according to which the present is the key to the past.

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