Geologic Features: Overview

Geologic Features: Overview
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  • 0:01 What is a Geologic Feature?
  • 1:58 Geologic Processes & Features
  • 2:32 Examples of Geologic Features
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Spencer

Charles teaches college courses in geology and environmental science, and holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies (geology and physics).

Geologic features are all around us, on the earth's surface and beneath our feet, and they are part of the landscape. In this lesson, learn more about geologic features, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What is a Geologic Feature?

If you do an online search for the term geologic feature, you might be surprised at the lack of specific information you'll find. That's because it isn't a single thing with a single definition.

Moraine Lake in Three Sisters, Oregon. The lake, the glacier-deposited ridge (at left), and the mountain in the distance are all examples of geologic features.
Morain Lake

The term can be defined as any physical feature of the earth's surface - or of the rocks exposed at the surface - that is formed by a geologic process. Note that the same definition can be applied to the features of any planet or moon.

Many geologic features influence the shape of the ground's surface and can be described by the perhaps more familiar terms topography, landscapes, or landforms. They are the visible expressions of the relationships between the geologic forces acting to elevate the land surface and those wearing it away.

The term is also used to describe physical features of rocks themselves, usually related to the rock-forming process or to something that has affected the rock's appearance (such as tectonic uplift or bending of rock layers).

The term is not typically used in the context of what a rock is actually made of. For example, while a volcano is a geologic feature, and the lava flows on its flanks are also geologic features, the rock that the lava flows are made of is not a geologic feature. Similarly, a river's delta and sand bars are both geologic features; but the mud and sand they are made of are not. Additionally, the term carries no implication of size. The Himalayan mountain range is a geologic feature, but so are the small ripples of sand you might see in the bed of the Brahmaputra River running at the feet of the mountains.

Ripples created in the sand by the flow of Medano Creek (foreground) are just as much a geologic feature as the gigantic sand dunes (middle) at Great Sand Dunes National Park or the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance.
Medano Creek

Obviously, it would be impossible to catalogue in this lesson all of the geologic features and processes on the planet. So, let's discuss a few more examples to help you get the general idea. With that knowledge, you can delve into specific examples in your particular part of the world.

Geologic Processes and Features

Volcanic eruptions along with wave erosion and deposition are geologic processes that created the geologic features of the southeastern coast of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.
Maui

A geologic process is any natural process related to the geologic environment. Some of them operate on the planet's surface and are driven by solar energy (stream erosion and deposition, for example). Others operate within the planet and are driven by internal heat flow (such as plate tectonics).

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