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14: Physiographic Provinces

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    Learning Objectives

    After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

    • Distinguish the different physiographic provinces of the United States based on their topography, geology, and other features
    • Identify the physiographic features of the different geological provinces of Georgia
    • Describe the major natural resources within Georgia including minerals, building rock, and water

    • 14.1: Introduction
      If you took a road trip across the continental United States of America you would see significant changes in the landscape in terms of the topography, rocks, soils, geological structures, and plant life that are evident even through the car window on the highway. Regions vary in their geologic history, from the rocky coastline of New England to the flat plains of the Midwest, to the sharp peaks of the Rocky Mountains. These can be broken into physiographic provinces.
    • 14.2: Physiographic Provinces of the United States of America
      The physiographic provinces of the United States of America can be broken into three different broad areas: Western, Central, and Eastern regions. Adjacent provinces will share features or will at least be affected by the geologic events that define the nearby region. The Western Provinces are shaped by relatively young events (Post-Paleozoic), which are mostly the result of an active plate tectonic margin (the edge of the continent is also the edge of a tectonic plate).
    • 14.3: Lab Exercise (Part A)
      We will explore the various physiographic provinces of the United States of America by looking closely at the National Parks that showcase iconic geologic and topological features within each region. For each park, examine the area using Google Earth. To get a better view of the features, making sure to zoom in and out and also click on multiple photographs posted (make sure that photos are checked in the layers box). More information about these and other parks can be found at
    • 14.4: Geology of Georgia
      Georgia is a wonderful natural laboratory for the study of geology. The rocks within this state span over a billion years of history and through this lens we can study all of the topics presented within this lab manual. Within the state, we have mountains, coastlines, faults, earthquakes, fossils, a diversity of rocks, and evidence of ancient volcanic eruptions. As would be expected with this geologic diversity, Georgia contains multiple physiographic provinces that have been discussed above.
    • 14.5: Lab Exercises (Part B and C)
      Download the file “GA Geologic Cross Section N-S.gif” from your course website. This cross-section runs north to south through the state of Georgia showing the subsurface geology across the Valley and Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain physiographic provinces. This cross-section will be used to answer question 25-28. This cross-section was provided for use with permission from Geological Highway Map, Southeastern Region, American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
    • 14.6: Student Responses
      The following is a summary of the questions in this lab for ease in submitting answers online.

    Thumbnail: The major physiographic divisions of the 48 conterminous United States. This map is based on public domain data from the USGS (CC BY 3.0 Unported; Fenneman, N.M., and Johnson, D.W. via Wikipedia).

    This page titled 14: Physiographic Provinces is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deline, Harris & Tefend (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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