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Geomorphology (from Greek: γῆ, ge, "earth"; μορφή, morfé, "form"; and λόγος, logos, "study") is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them, and more broadly, the evolution of processes controlling the topography of any planet. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, to understand landform history and dynamics, and to predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling. Geomorphology is practiced within geography, geology, geodesy, engineering geology, archaeology, and geotechnical engineering, and this broad base of interest contributes to a wide variety of research styles and interests within the field.

The form of the Earth's surface evolves in response to a combination of natural and anthropogenic processes, and responds to the balance between processes that add material and those that remove it. Such processes may act across very many lengthscales and timescales. On the broadest scales, the landscape is built up through tectonic uplift and volcanism. Denudation occurs by erosion and mass wasting, which produces sediment that is transported and deposited elsewhere within the landscape or off the coast.[1] On progressively smaller scales, similar ideas apply, where individual landforms evolve in response to the balance of additive (tectonic or sedimentary) and subtractive (erosive) processes. Modern geomorphology can be thought of as the study of the divergence of flux of material on a planetary surface, and as such is closely allied with sedimentology, which can equally be seen as the convergence of that flux.

Geomorphic processes are influenced by tectonics, climate, ecology, and human activity, and equally, many of these drivers can be affected by the ongoing evolution of the Earth's surface, for example, via isostasy or orographic precipitation. Many geomorphologists are particularly interested in the potential for feedbacks between climate and tectonics mediated by geomorphic processes.[2]

Practical applications of geomorphology include hazard assessment including landslide prediction and mitigation, river control and restoration, and coastal protection.


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