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Named landforms of the World: A geomorphological and physiographic compilation

May 15, 2023

Prior to the current era of digital geomorphological mapping, global and regional-scale land surface characterization was advanced by qualitative interpretations that relied on human visualization aided by disciplinary knowledge of geophysical processes combined with extensive field study. In the early twentieth century, Fenneman proposed to devise systematic physiographic divisions of the United States and in 1916 produced what is still regarded as an authoritative map of these divisions. His physiographic regions were developed to provide context when describing land surface characteristics of smaller areas using well-known regional characteristics and descriptors. In 1968, geographer Richard E. Murphy published a large-format map of the “Landforms of the World” to fill a gap in the suite of standard classroom maps. In 1990, the British geomorphologist E. M. Bridges published World Geomorphology, providing the first global treatment and description of divisions, provinces, and sections—the same hierarchical land partitioning concepts that Fenneman used decades earlier. In the twenty-first century, geographic information systems (GIS) technologies are nearly ubiquitous, yet neither Murphy’s nor Bridges’s work existed as GIS data. To further illuminate their pioneering work, we (1) recompiled Murphy’s landforms as a spatial combination of modern existing data layers, and (2) used the recompiled Murphy’s landforms as a basis for the boundaries of the divisions, provinces, and sections described by Bridges. Our aggregation yields a new resource, Named Landforms of the World, version 2.0, which provides a reference-level, basemap-quality data layer that can significantly facilitate mapping, assessing, and understanding Earth surface features.

Publication Year 2023
Title Named landforms of the World: A geomorphological and physiographic compilation
DOI 10.1080/24694452.2023.2200548
Authors Charlie Frye, Roger Sayre, Alexander Murphy, Deniz Karagulle, Moira Pippi, Mark Gilbert, Jaynya Richards
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Annals of the AAG
Index ID 70251083
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Land Change Science