Global Environmental Systems


Section 1 Mondays and Wednesdays, 10-11:50, Stevenson 3072
Section 2 Mondays and Wednesdays, 2-3:50, Stevenson 3036

This course satisfies GE Area B-3, and is also a required core course for the Geography major

Course Description: This course explores the different aspects of the natural environment, including the atmosphere and hydrosphere (weather and climate, oceans), lithosphere (landforms, earth processes), and biosphere (plants and animals, primarily), and emphasizes the fundamental relationships between these spheres. The primary goal of the course is for the student to gain a deeper understanding of how these systems work and how they are so intimately connected in the earth's natural environment as a whole. Woven into the class are daily discussions of current events in the world associated with natural phenomena and human interactions with and impacts on the natural world. Global Climate Change will be an almost daily topic. Satisfies GE category B3, CAN Geog 2.

This year all faculty and staff are required to take two days per month FURLOUGHS. This means that each class will be cut by approximately 10% of instruction, grading, and advising time. Please try to be patient with this situation. We're all going to do our best to make this a rewarding learning experience, but it does mean you will have to work harder on your own time to master the material.

Instructor: Dr. Dorothy E. Freidel, Professor. Office: 3056 Stevenson; 664-2314, email:

Office Hours:
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Tuesdays 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Textbook: Christopherson (2010) Elemental Geosystems, 6th Edition. Available at NorthLight Books and the SSU Bookstore.

Class Listserv: Will be set up the first week of class. This list will use your SSU email address, so be sure to check it regularly (once a day).

Course Website: All course materials (syllabus, schedule, assignments, study guides) are available on the course web page. If you need a copy of any of these documents, you can print it for yourself at any of the campus computer labs. The classroom is a wireless zone, if you'd like to bring your laptop for note taking and following web explorations in class. No extraneous surfing, emailing, games, will be tolerated during class.

Grading: The lecture portion is worth 85% of your total grade, consisting of weekly quizzes, two midterms, plus a final exam. The final exam is half comprehensive, half on material since the second midterm. Weekly quizzes and participation will constitute 30% of your grade. There will be one end of semester report worth 15% of your final grade. There are also may be two optional extra credit reports that can increase your midterm grades. You may notice, then, that Presence and Participation are an extremely important part of your grade.

Summary of points for final grade:

End of term report


Weekly Quizzes (~10)


First Midterm


Second Midterm


Final Exam




You can learn a lot about the natural environment, and get a good grade in this class, if you follow these simple suggestions:

Never miss class, and don't arrive late. If you need to be absent, please email Professor Freidel, and arrange to get notes from another student. Read your text assignments (from Christopherson) before the lecture for which they are assigned, and ask questions in class. The schedule of topics and readings will be followed as closely as possible. Homework assignments may include use of computers and the Internet; there is a 24 hour lab in the lower level of Schultz Library for your convenience. Be sure to check your SSU email account regularly. Don't miss quizzes and turn in homework on time. Late homework will lose 10% per day late.There are no make up quizzes. If you must turn in homework late, or miss an exam, there must be serious extenuating circumstances such as a death in the family or doctor-required absence. (Doctor's notes and other documentation will be required for a make-up exam.) If you're having difficulties with the course, seek help early -- don't wait until right before the midterm! Please note carefully the dates of scheduled exams. There are no scheduled make-up exams. Cheating and Plaigarizing will not be tolerated. Students cheating on an exam will receive an F for the final grade. If you plaigarize you will receive 0 points for your assignment. All cell phones will be turned off during class. Use laptops only for lecture notes and class activities -- no surfing, games, or email.

IF AT ANY TIME YOU NEED HELP, PLEASE ASK FOR IT. (See office hours, above.)

If you are a student with a disability and think you may need accommodations in this course, you must contact the Disabled Students Services located in Stevenson 1038 (664-2677). Please contact Prof. Freidel before the first midterm.


Read the assignments in order, not by date. If we skip a topic I will let you know. Some readings will be skimmed.

Day Lecture topic Readings 5th ed 6th ed
M 2/1 Introduction, What is Geography?, Four spheres pages 1 to 12 pages 1-14
W 2/3 Basic concepts, systems, equilibrium, feedbacks 6 to 13 7 to 14
M 2/8 Geographic Grid System, Latitude, Longitude, Time 12 to 22 15 to 23
W 2/10 Solar energy, electromagnetic spectrum 39 to 50 40 to 50
M 2/15 The Atmosphere, composition, temperature, structure, ozone depletion 51 to 60 50 to 62
W 2/17 Solar energy in atmosphere, Earth's energy balance   76 to 87
M 2/ 22 Air temperature, Regional, seasonal, 87 to 106
W 2/24 Air pressure, winds, driving forces 112 to 121
M 3/1 General atmospheric circulation, high and low pressure systems, Exam Review 122 to 126
M 3/8 Local winds, Ocean currents, water on earth 126 to 138
W 3/10 Humidity, latent and sensible heat (begin Extra Credit 1) 146 to 158
M 3/15 Clouds, fog, air masses, uplift mechanisms 158 to 171
W 3/17 Westerly cyclones, cold and warm fronts, thunderstorms, tornadoes 171 to 188
M 3/22 Water resources, drought, water budget 194 to 205
W 3/24 Climate Classification, 222 to 251
M3/29 Climate change, global warming 251 to 259

Campus Closed Cesar Chavez Day

M 4/5 - 4/9 Spring Break, Furlough days, campus closed
M 4/12 Lithosphere, Earth's crust, rock cycle, rocks. (Ex Credit 1 due), Review for Exam 2 266 to 280
M 4/19

Plate tectonics, faults and earthquakes, volcanoes,

281 to 292, 304 to 333
W 4/21 Weathering, Mass movements (begin Extra Credit 2) 338 to 361
M 4/26 Fluvial processes and landforms, River systems 366 to 395
W 4/28 Wind processes and landforms, desertification (begin Field Observation report) 402 to 426
M 5/3 Coastal processes and landforms 430 to 456
W 5/5 Glacial processes and landforms 462 to 483
M 5/10 Ecosystems and Biomes 526 to 542
W 5/12 Biomes, continued 542 to 572
M 5/19 Biodiversity, climate change, terrestrial biomes (Field Observation due today) 542 to 572
W 5/21 The Human Denominator (Extra Credit 2 due today); Review for Final Exam 578 to 585
M 5/24 Final Exam,
Section 1: 11 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. in STV 3072
Section 2: 3-3:50 p.m. in STV 3036

This is a GE class: The General Education (GE) Mission at Sonoma State University investigates the complexity of human experience in a diverse natural and social world, and promotes informed and ethical participation as citizens of the world. To help achieve this mission, Geog 204, Physical Geography will help students to reach the following fundamental Goals for all GE approved classes:

I. Help you to learn to think independently, ethically, critically and creatively
II. Help you to learn to communicate clearly to many audiences (e.g. participating in class discussions and group presentations)
III. Help you to gain an understanding of connections between the past and the present, and to
look to the future (particularly in the natural and human environment)
IV. Help you to learn to appreciate intellectual, scientific, and artistic accomplishment
V. Help you to build upon your reading, writing, research, and critical thinking skills (e.g. Do you believe everything you read in a newspaper or blog or hear on TV? Why or Why Not?)

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Last updated 2/8/10