- A -
The mass of water vapor in the atmosphere per unit of volume of space.
A locational characteristic that permits a place to be reached by the
efforts of those at other places.
A naturally occurring landscape feature that facilitates interaction
Rain that has become more acidic than normal (a pH below 5.0) as certain
oxides present as airborne pollutants are absorbed by the water
droplets. The term is often applied generically to all acidic
A very large body of atmosphere defined by essentially similar
horizontal air temperatures. Moisture conditions are also usually
similar throughout the mass.
Clay, silt, gravel, or similar detrital material deposited by running
Soils deposited through the action of moving water. These soils lack
horizons and are usually highly fertile.
Before the war; in the United States, belonging to the period
immediately prior to the Civil War (1861-1865).
A hard coal containing little volatile matter.
A sharp, narrow mountain ridge. It often results from the erosive
activity of alpine glaciers flowing in adjacent valleys.
A deep gully cut by a stream that flows only part of the year; a dry
gulch. A term normally used only in desert areas.
- B -
Very irregular topography resulting from wind and water erosion of
The lowest level to which a stream can erode its bed. The ultimate base
level of all streams is, of course, the sea.
A very large body of igneous rock, usually granite, that has been
exposed by erosion of the overlying rock.
The solid rock that underlies all soil or other loose material; the rock
material that breaks down to eventually form soil.
The ability to use either one of two languages, especially when
A concept recognizing the variety of life forms in an area of the Earth
and the ecological interdependence of these life forms.
The animal and plant life of a region considered as a total ecological
A soft coal that, when heated, yields considerable volatile matter.
A small, greyish beetle of the southeastern United States with
destructive larvae that hatch in and damage cotton bolls.
Commonly, a transfer point on a transport route where the mode of
transport (or type of carrier) changes and where large-volume shipments
are reduced in size. For example, goods may be unloaded from a ship and
transferred to trucks at an ocean port.
An isolated hill or mountain with steep or precipitous sides, usually
having a smaller summit area than a mesa.
- C -
A strata of erosion-resistant sedimentary rock (usually limestone) found
in arid areas. Caprock forms the top layer of most mesas and buttes.
The number of people that an area can support given the quality of the
natural environment and the level of technology of the population.
The central business district of an urban area, typically containing an
intense concentration of office and retail activities.
A dense, impenetrable thicket of shrubs or dwarf trees.
A warm, dry wind experienced along the eastern side of the Rocky
Mountains in the United States and Canada. Most common in winter and
spring, it can result in a rise in temperature of 20C (35 to 40F) in a
quarter of an hour.
The vegetation that would exist in an area if growth had proceeded
undisturbed for an extended period. This would be the "final"
collection of plant types that presumably would remain forever, or until
the stable conditions were somehow disturbed.
The place at which two streams flow together to form one larger stream.
Bearing cones; from the conifer family.
The type of climate found in the interior of the major continents in the
middle, or temperate, latitudes. The climate is characterized by a great
seasonal variation in temperatures, four distinct seasons, and a
relatively small annual precipitation.
The line of high ground that separates the oceanic drainage basins of a
continent; the river systems of a continent on opposite sides of a
continental divide flow toward different oceans.
The quality or state of being a continent.
A dry canyon eroded by Pleistocene floods that cut into the lava beds of
the Columbia Plateau in the western United States.
An extensive urban area formed when two or more cities, originally
separate, coalesce to form a continuous metropolitan region.
The portion of a country that contains its economic, political,
intellectual, and cultural focus. It is often the center of creativity
and change (see Hearth).
A farm financing scheme whereby money is loaned at the beginning of a
growing season to pay for farming operations, with the subsequent
harvest used as collateral for the loan.
The accumulated habits, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people that
define for them their general behavior and way of life; the total set of
learned activities of a people.
The area from which the culture of a group diffused (see Hearth).
The manufacture of basic ready-to-wear clothing. Such facilities usually
have a small fixed investment in the manufacturing facility.
- D -
Forests in which the trees lose their leaves each year.
De Facto Segregation:
The spatial and social separation of populations that occurs without
Deviation of one degree temperature for one day from an arbitrary
standard, usually the long-term average temperature for a place.
De Jure Segregation:
The spatial and social separation of populations that occurs as a
consequence of legal measures.
The systematic analysis of population.
Discriminatory Shipping Rates:
A transportation charge levied in a manner that is inequitable to some
shippers, primarily because of those shippers' location.
An uplifted area of sedimentary rocks with a downward dip in all
directions; often caused by molten rock material pushing upward from
below. The sediments have often eroded away, exposing the rocks that
resulted when the molten material cooled.
A type of farming practiced in semi-arid or dry grassland areas without
irrigation using such approaches as fallowing, maintaining a finely
broken surface, and growing drought-tolerant crops.
- E -
Economies of Agglomeration:
The economic advantages that accrue to an activity by locating close to
other activities; benefits that follow from complementarity or shared
Economies of Scale:
Savings achieved in the cost of production by larger enterprises because
the cost of initial investment can be defrayed across a greater number
of producing units.
A shoreline resulting from a rise in land surface elevation relative to
A tract or territory enclosed within another state or country.
A boulder that has been carried from its source by a glacier and
deposited as the glacier melted. Thus, the boulder is often of a
different rock type from surrounding types.
A long cliff or steep slope separating two comparatively level or more
gently sloping surfaces and resulting from erosion or faulting.
The broad lower course of a river that is encroached on by the sea and
affected by the tides.
The water lost from an area through the combined effects of evaporation
from the ground surface and transpiration from the vegetation.
A stream found in an area that is too dry to have spawned such a flow.
The flow originates in some moister section.
A family that includes three or more generations. Normally, that would
include grandparents, their sons or daughters, and their children, as
opposed to a "nuclear family," which is only a married couple
and their offspring.
A region or district that lies outside a city and usually beyond its
- F -
The physiographic border between the piedmont and coastal plain regions.
The name derives from the river rapids and falls that occur as the water
flows from hard rocks of the higher piedmont onto the softer rocks of
the coastal plain.
Agricultural land that is plowed or tilled but left unseeded during a
growing season. Fallowing is usually done to conserve moisture.
A fracture in the Earth's crust accompanied by a displacement of one
side of the fracture.
Fault Block Mountain:
A mountain mass created either by the uplift of land between faults or
the subsidence of land outside the faults.
A fracture in the Earth's crust along which movement has occurred. The
movement may be in any direction and involve material on either or both
sides of the fracture. A "fault zone" is an area of numerous
A form of government in which powers and functions are divided between a
central government and a number of political subdivisions that have a
significant degree of political autonomy.
A wild or untamed animal, especially one having reverted to such a state
A series of shallow steps down which water is allowed to flow; designed
to permit salmon to circumvent artificial barriers such as power dams as
the salmon swim upstream to spawn.
The characteristic of a place that follows from its interconnections
with more than one other place. When interaction within a region comes
together at a place (i.e., when the movement focuses on that location),
the place is said to possess "focality."
The characteristic of a place where a variety of different activities
(economic, political, social) occur; most often associated with urban
- G -
The study of the arrangement and form of the Earth's crust and of the
relationship between these physical features and the geologic structures
Originally, the section of a European city to which Jews were
restricted. Today, commonly defined as a section of a city occupied by
members of a minority group who live there because of social
restrictions on their residential choice.
The mass of rocks and finely ground material carried by a glacier, then
deposited when the ice melted. Creates an unstratified material of
Having been covered with a glacier or subject to glacial epochs.
Great Circle Route:
The shortest distance between two places on the Earth's surface. The
route follows a line described by the intersection of the surface with
an imaginary plane passing through the Earth's center.
The period from the average date of the last frost (in the United
States, this occurs in the spring) to the first frost in the fall.
- H -
Unwanted by-products remaining in the environment and posing an
immediate potential hazard to human life.
The source area of any innovation. The source area from which an idea,
crop, artifact, or good is diffused to other areas.
Manufacturing activities engaged in the conversion of large volumes of
raw materials and partially processed materials into products of higher
value; hallmarks of this form of industry are considerable capital
investment in large machinery, heavy energy consumption, and final
products of relatively low value per unit weight (see Light Industry).
The area tributary to a place and linked to that place through lines of
exchange, or interaction.
A distinct layer of soil encountered in vertical section.
Partially decomposed organic soil material.
The study of the surface waters of the Earth.
The growing of plants, especially vegetables, in water containing
essential mineral nutrients rather than in soil.
- I -
A time of widespread glaciation (see Pleistocene).
Rock formed when molten (melted) materials harden.
Work performed according to a binding contract between two parties.
During the early colonial period in America, this often involved long
periods of time and a total work commitment.
A plant that yields a blue vat dye.
Inertia Costs of Location:
Costs borne by an activity because it remains located at its original
site, even though the distributions of supply and demand have changed.
Either of an island, or suggestive of the isolated condition of an
The existence of a closer, less expensive opportunity for obtaining a
good or service, or for a migration destination. Such opportunities
lessen the attractiveness of more distant places.
Intracoastal Waterway System:
A waterway channel, maintained through dredging and sheltered for the
most part by a series of linear offshore islands, that extends from New
York City to Florida's southern tip and from Brownsville, Texas, to the
eastern end of Florida's panhandle.
A line on a map connecting points that receive equal precipitation.
- J -
The right and power to apply the law; the territorial range of legal
authority or control.
- K -
An area possessing surface topography resulting from the underground
solution of subsurface limestone or dolomite.
A vine, native to China and Japan but imported into the United States;
originally planted for decoration, for forage, or as a ground cover to
control erosion. It now grows wild in many parts of the southeastern
- L -
A nearly level land area that was formed as a lake bed.
A measure of distance north or south of the equator. One degree of
latitude equals approximately 110 kilometers (69 miles).
A process of soil nutrient removal through the erosive movement and
chemical action of water.
A plant, such as the soybean, that bears nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its
roots, and thereby increases soil nitrogen content.
Life Cycle Stage:
A period of uneven length in which the relative dependence of an
individual on others helps define a complex of basic social relations
that remains relatively consistent throughout the period.
Manufacturing activities that use moderate amounts of partially
processed materials to produce items of relatively high value per unit
weight (see Heavy Industry).
A low-grade brownish coal of relatively poor heat-generating capacity.
A soil made up of small particles that were transported by the wind to
their present location.
A measure of distance east and west of a line drawn between the North
and South Poles and passing through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich,
- M -
A climate strongly influenced by an oceanic environment, found on
islands and the windward shores of continents. It is characterized by
small daily and yearly temperature ranges and high relative humidity.
A climate characterized by moist, mild winters and hot, dry summers.
An isolated, relatively flat-topped natural elevation, usually more
extensive than a butte and less extensive than a plateau.
A spiny deep-rooted leguminous tree or shrub that forms extensive
thickets in the southwestern United States.
Rock that has been physically altered by heat and/or pressure.
Metes and Bounds:
A system of land survey that defines land parcels according to visible
natural landscape features and distance. The resultant field pattern is
usually very irregular in shape.
The merging of the urbanized areas of separate metropolitan regions;
Megalopolis is an example of this process.
An isolated hill or mountain of resistant rock rising above an eroded
The rocks and soil carried and deposited by a glacier. An "end
moraine," either a ridge or low hill running perpendicular to the
direction of ice movement, forms at the end of a glacier when the ice is
The ability to use more than one language when speaking or writing (see
Bilingual). This term often refers to the presence of more than two
populations of significant size within a single political unit, each
group speaking a different language as their primary language.
Unwanted by-products of modern life generated by people living in an
- N -
A region characterized by a set of places connected to another place by
lines of communication or movement.
The northeastern United States.
See Extended Family.
- O -
A cattle- or sheep-ranching area characterized by a general absence of
Precipitation that results when moist air is lifted over a topographic
barrier such as a mountain range.
Rocky and sandy surface material deposited by meltwater that flowed from
Material covering a mineral seam or bed that must be removed before the
mineral can be removed in strip mining.
- P -
A line of bold cliffs.
A narrow projection of a larger territory (as a state).
A permanently frozen layer of soil.
A portion of the Earth's surface with a basically common topography and
Lying or formed at the base of mountains; in the United States, an area
in the southern states at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A situation in which two or more culture groups occupy the same
territory but maintain their separate cultural identities.
Geologic theory that the bending (folding) and breaking (faulting) of
the solid surface of the earth results from the slow movement of large
sections (plates) of that surface.
Land that has been divided into surveyed lots.
Period in geologic history (basically the last one million years) when
ice sheets covered large sections of the Earth's land surface not now
covered by glaciers.
An economy that gains its basic character from economic activities
developed primarily after manufacturing grew to predominance. Most
notable would be quaternary economic patterns.
The oldest rocks, generally more than 600 million years old.
A military post (Spanish).
A product that is important as a raw material in developed economies; a
product consumed in its primary (i.e., unprocessed) state (see Staple
That portion of a region's economy devoted to the extraction of basic
materials (e.g., mining, lumbering, agriculture).
A type of Indian village constructed by some tribes in the southwestern
United States. A large community dwelling, divided into many rooms, up
to five stories high, and usually made of adobe. Also, a Spanish word
for town or village.
- Q -
That portion of a region's economy devoted to informational and
idea-generating activities (e.g., basic research, universities and
colleges, and news media).
- R -
The distance between the two rails of a railroad.
An area of diminished precipitation on the lee (downwind) side of a
mountain or mountain range.
An area having some characteristic or characteristics that distinguish
it from other areas. A territory of interest to people and for which one
or more distinctive traits are used as the basis for its identity.
Anything that is both naturally occurring and of use to humans.
The rights of water use possessed by a person owning land containing or
bordering a water course or lake.
Located on or inhabiting the banks or the area near a river or lake.
- S -
Also "escarpment." A steep cliff or steep slope, formed either
as a result of faulting or by the erosion of inclined rock strata.
The North American descendants of Protestants from Scotland who migrated
to northern Ireland in the 1600s.
That portion of a region's economy devoted to the processing of basic
materials extracted by the primary sector.
A seasonally occupied dwelling that is not the primary residence of the
owner. Such residences are usually found in areas with substantial
opportunities for recreation or tourist activity.
Rock formed by the hardening of material deposited in some process; most
commonly sandstone, shale, and limestone.
A form of agricultural tenancy in which the tenant pays for use of the
land with a predetermined share of his crop rather than with a cash
A broad area of very old rocks above sea level. Usually characterized by
thin, poor soils and low population densities.
Fodder (livestock feed) prepared by storing and fermenting green forage
plants in a silo.
Usually a tall, cylindrical structure in which fodder (animal feed) is
stored; may be a pit dug for the same purpose.
Crater formed when the roof of a cavern collapses; usually found in
areas of limestone rock.
Features of a place related to the immediate environment on which the
place is located (e.g., terrain, soil, subsurface, geology, ground
Features of a place related to its location relative to other places
(e.g., accessibility, hinterland quality).
Mixture of particulate matter and chemical pollutants in the lower
atmosphere, usually over urban areas.
SMSA - Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area:
A statistical unit of one or more counties that focus on one or more
central cities larger than a specified size, or with a total population
larger than a specified size. A reflection of urbanization.
Capable of being dissolved; in this case, the characteristic of soil
minerals that leads them to be carried away in solution by water (see
The locational pattern of economic activities and their interconnecting
The occurrence of location pairing such that items demanded by one place
can be supplied by another.
Movement between locationally separate places.
A product that becomes a major component in trade because it is in
steady demand; thus, a product that is basic to the economies of one or
more major consuming populations (see Primary Product).
The amount of a naturally self-reproducing community, such as trees or
fish, that can be harvested without diminishing the ability of the
community to sustain itself.
- T -
A moist subarctic coniferous forest that begins where the tundra ends
and is dominated by spruces and firs.
An increase in temperature with height above the Earth's surface, a
reversal of the normal pattern.
A specific area or portion of the Earth's surface; not to be confused
That portion of a region's economy devoted to service activities (e.g.,
transportation, retail and wholesale operations, insurance).
The minimum-sized market for an economic activity. The activity will not
be successful until it can reach a population larger than this threshold
A time measure of how far apart places are (how long does it take to
travel from place A to place B?). This may be contrasted with other
distance metrics such as geographic distance (how far is it?) and
cost-distance (how much will it cost to get there?).
Township and Range:
The rectangular system of land subdivision of much of the agriculturally
settled United States west of the Appalachian Mountains; established by
the Land Ordinance of 1785.
The extent to which a good or service can be moved from one location to
another; the relative capacity for spatial interaction.
The seasonal movement of people and animals in search of pasture.
Commonly, winters are spent in snow-free lowlands and summers in the
Either the latitudinal or elevational limit of normal tree growth.
Beyond this limit, closer to the poles or at higher or lower elevations,
climatic conditions are too severe for such growth.
Technically, the area between the Tropic of Cancer (21-1/2 N latitude)
and the Tropic of Capricorn (21-1/2 S latitude), characterized by the
absence of a cold season. Often used to describe any area possessing
what is considered to be a hot, humid climate.
A treeless plain characteristic of the arctic and subarctic regions.
- U -
A condition among a labor force such that a portion of the labor force
could be eliminated without reducing the total output. Some individuals
are working less than they are able or want to, or they are engaged in
tasks that are not entirely productive.
Economically, a situation in which an increase in the size of the labor
force will result in an increase in per worker productivity.
A territory with one or more features present throughout and absent or
- W -
The level below the land surface at which the subsurface material is
fully saturated with water. The depth of the water table reflects the
minimum level to which wells must be drilled for water extraction.
- Z -
The public regulation of land and building use to control the character
of a place.
Source: U.S. Department of State