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The Geography of Western Canada

The Geography of Western Canada

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The Geography of Western Canada

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  1. The Geography of Western Canada

  2. Introduction • Geography is something that surrounds us on a daily basis. • Geography looks at location, but it can also look and shape many other things that take place in your day to day life. • i.e. weather, economy, and sports you choose to play. • Geography explores human behaviour, and how humans react with their environment in certain situations.

  3. Introduction • The Royal Geographic Society was founded in 1830 in London, England. • It had a goal to promote an “important and entertaining branch of knowledge – geography.” • Geographers try to unlock the mysteries of Earth. • Geographers are interested in the why and how of the physical world, as opposed to, discovering unknown places. • Geography draws on a wide variety of fields, such as climate, geology, hydrology, economics, and biology. • While looking at the above it draws on spatial patterns on Earth in order to understand how human lives work.

  4. Introduction

  5. Importance of Place • Geography begins with the posing of questions. • Geographers use five organizing principles to help them gather, organize, and analyze their information. • Places have a location. • Places have physical and cultural characteristics. • Places change. • Places interact with other places. • Places are in regions.

  6. Places Have a Location • Location is the first step in the process of geography. • Every place can be located in precise terms using latitude and longitude. • Latitude: the distance of any point north or south of the equator, measured up to 90 degrees. • Longitude: the distance of any point east or west of the Prime Meridian, measured up to 180 degrees. • Along with knowing longitude and latitude it is important to know the spatial location, and the understand the other four organizing principles that geographers use.

  7. Places Have a Location

  8. Places Have Physical and Cultural Characteristics • Physical characteristics include the landforms and bodies of water found in a place, as well as its soil and mineral deposits. • These impact how people live, and present advantages and disadvantages, or a combination of both. • All human activity leaves a mark on the physical environment. • These visual results of activity are known as the cultural landscape. • People of different cultures usually impact the landscape in different ways. • i.e. aboriginal peoples vs. white settlers.

  9. Places Have Physical and Cultural Characteristics

  10. Places Change • Nothing in nature stays the same. • Landforms, vegetation, political boundary's, patterns of settlement, all are changing all of the time. • Geographers want to know how the natural environment changes through human actions. • i.e. How does a highway affect the development of nearby real estate or industry? • Knowledge of past changes help people to make informed decisions about future changes.

  11. Places Change 1960’s 1965

  12. Places Change 1973

  13. Places Interact With Other Places • A places size and location determined the level of contact it would have with the world in the past. • With new technology contact between places has become easier, and now the most remote locations still have some form of contact with neighbouring communities and the rest of the world. • Because of technology, the places we inhabit have impacts on one another.

  14. Places Are In Regions • A region is a area where certain characteristics prevail. • Regions allow for geographers to organize information based on Earth’s surface. • Regions can also be based on politics and economic, as well as a bunch of other things. • No two places in a region are the same, but they are similar enough to be classified together.

  15. Places Are In Regions

  16. Places Are In Regions

  17. The Physical Regions of Western Canada • The landscape of Canada has made it difficult in the development of the country. • Western Canada is dominated by three distinct regions. • Canadian Shield. • Interior Plains. • Western Mountains. • Rocky Mountains and Coastal Mountains. • Each region has distinct geological features, landforms, and climatic conditions.

  18. The Physical Regions of Western Canada

  19. The Canadian Shield • Geologically speaking, Canada is one of the oldest countries around. • Shields are large masses of rock which are the oldest parts of the Earth. • They are the hard rigid blocks around which the rest of the continents are formed. • The Canadian Shield stretches from the Arctic islands around Hudson Bay to the Adirondack Mountains in the US, and east across Labrador. • At one point in time the shield was a volcanic mountain range as high as the Himalayas.

  20. The Canadian Shield • Over millions of years it has been weathered and eroded down to a landscape of exposed rock and lakes. • The original make up of the shield was igneous rock, but this has changed by heat and/or pressure making it into metamorphic rock. • These changes in the rock make up have made the shield a vast storehouse of mineral like copper, gold, lead, and nickel. • As a result of the exposed rock, agriculture and large scale settlement have been difficult on the shield.

  21. The Canadian Shield

  22. Interior Plains • The Interior Plains stretches from the Canadian Shield to the Rocky Mountains. • It covers almost all of Alberta. • The plains have been formed as eroded material from the shield was deposited in layers at its edges. • The horizontal layers are made up of sedimentary rock. • Millions of years ago when there was a tropical climate in the area, and water covered some of it, occasional flooding left deposits of plants and animals. • The deposits have turned into fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, and potash. • They were formed by being compressed between sedimentary layers of rock.

  23. Interior Plains

  24. The Western Mountains • The western mountains are made up of parallel mountain ranges that are separated by a series of plateaus and valleys. • The Rockies and the Coastal Mountains, along with the interior Plateau, were formed when plate collision caused the Earth’s crust to buckle lifting sections into the air. • The pressure of the collision and plate tectonics also formed valley’s, plateaus, and trenches. • Glaciers and rivers sculpted the mountainous territory we see today. • The sediments carried away by the rivers formed the rich river valley we know like the Fraser River Valley. • They are rich in minerals like copper, gold, molybdenum, and coal.

  25. The Western Mountains Pg. 101 Figure 3-11 of your text.

  26. The Climates of Western Canada • Most of the areas in Western Canada experience a continental climate of temperature extremes, and low precipitation. • Coastal areas, such as those in BC, experience maritime climate with mild temperature changes and high precipitation. • Temperature and precipitation of communities depends on the location and local conditions of the community.

  27. Latitude This determines the intensity and amount of sunlight an area receives Te farther north a community is the lower the angle the sun’s rays strike at. This also results in a greater seasonal variation in the length of daylight and night. The closer to the equator the warmer the weather because of a greater angle of the sun in the sky. Altitude The higher the altitude the lower the temperatures. For every 150 meters rise in altitude, temperature drops approx. 1 degree Celsius. Factors Affecting Temperature

  28. Distance from the Sea The surface of land heats and cools faster than water does. Interior areas will have more dramatic temperature variations as a result. Coastal areas tend to have more moderate variation in temperatures because they are by water. Wind Direction Winds coming from the ocean increase the moderating effect of the water on the temperature. The reverse is true for winds coming off land. Prevailing winds are those winds that are blowing most regularly. Western Canada normally has westerly (from the west) or northerly (from the north). West Coast communities are the only one in Canada that have winter temperatures above freezing. Factors Affecting Temperature

  29. Ocean Currents The currents are either warm or cold depending on there origin. They affect the temperature of land by either warming or heating the air blowing over them. Warm air absorbs more water than cold air. Precipitation Precipitation is determined by the distance from the sea, and the prevailing winds. Heavy precipitation is often confined to a season or seasons. Western Canada experiences three basis types of precipitation. Orographic, convectional, and frontal. Factors Affecting Temperature

  30. Factors Affecting Temperature • Orographic • The prevailing westerly winds push warm most air up against the coastal mountains, allowing the air to cool and shrink creating precipitation. • The air then warms coming down the other side of the mountainside creating an area called rain shadow. • The same happen on the Rockies, but the precipitation is less, and in the winters the air warming coming down the easterly mountainsides creates Chinooks that can raise temperatures 20 degrees in a mater of hours.

  31. Factors Affecting Temperature • Convectional • It is caused by convection currents in the atmosphere. • Falls primarily on the prairies in the hot months. • As the ground heats up it heats the air, and the warm air rises and expands meeting coolers air which then also warms, rises and expands. • When the air begins to cool it forms clouds of rain or hail. • It provides much needed moisture, but also can damage the crops.

  32. Factors Affecting Temperature • Frontal • Most of Canada lies in a zone between cold polar air from the north, and warm tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. • The two air masses can’t not mix and where they meet is called a front. • The warm, less dense air rises over the cold air, and as the warm air rises it condenses and forms clouds resulting in prolonged precipitation. • There is more frontal activity during the winters because the two air masses have more variance, and the polar air extends farther south. • Cyclonic storms result from fierce frontal activity, and they are push west to east by prevailing winds.

  33. Water Resources of Western Canada • Most of the rivers and water sources start in the cordillera. • High levels of precipitation and melting of snowpacks provide constant flow. • The rivers flow east or west from the Rockies and the Coastal Mountains until they reach major body of water like the Pacific Ocean or Hudson Bay. • Along the way they meet up with other bodies of water, river, lakes, etc. • The abundance of water in Western Canada has made some people complacent.

  34. Water Resources of Western Canada • Population and developments have created threats to water quality. • i.e. Lower Fraser River Basin has been a dump sit for industrial and municipal sewage, and agricultural run-off. • For many Canadians, water quality, and not water quantity, will be the issue in the future.

  35. Ecosystems and Biomes • Biomes: an ecological community of plants and animals extending over a large area. • The environment of Western Canada is made up many different biomes. • Each of the biomes has its own characteristics. This can be vegetation, and animal species. • A biome contains a number of smaller ecosystems. • Natural area where the life cycles of plant, animals, etc, are linked to their physical surroundings. • Smaller ecosystems are made up of habitats. • Habitats are places where plants and animals have adopted a specific set of conditions. • Ecosystems are interdependent on each other. • Altering one thing can set of chain reactions.

  36. The Western Biomes • Boreal Forest • Most of the region is made up of coniferous trees. • Needle leaf evergreen trees are able to survive the cold winters, and the erratic precipitation. • The needles do not freeze, and very little moisture is lost through them. • They make the most of the growing season by starting early in the spring. • The soil type of the region is known as podzol. • It is acidic and not very fertile because of the lack of humus (remains of decomposed plants). • Deer, moose, black bear, wolves, and other fur bearing animals inhabit this biome. • Blue jays , owls, and other birds frequent the forests.

  37. The Western Biomes

  38. The Western Biomes • Parkland • It is a transitional area between the dry prairie grasslands and the coniferous forest region of the north. • Natural vegetation is long grass, with isolated stands of trees. • The trees are mainly aspen, willow, and pines. • The long grass provides lots of humus after it decays over many years. • In return the soil is rich and black. • The parkland is the ideal region for growing wheat because of the rich soil and the sufficient precipitation.

  39. The Western Biomes • The Prairie • Sometimes called the grasslands. • Covers an area between Winnipeg and Calgary. • It is very dry in the southeast around the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. • The driest of areas is know as Palliser Triangle. • The prairie is sufficiently moist in the northwest to support ranching and agriculture, but not moist enough to support the growth of trees.

  40. The Western Biomes • The Prairie con’t • Natural vegetation is short grasses, and some areas of long grass. • Some indigenous grasses have been destroyed as a result of human activity. • Human activity has also resulted in wind erosion. • The soils of the region are brown in color and high in mineral content. • The darker soil is ideal for growing wheat and grains. • Common animals are gophers, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, hawks, owls, badgers, deer, and antelope. • Bison were common before their extermination.

  41. The Western Biomes • Interior Mountain Region • Consists of a variety of different landforms. • Meadows, plateaus, and mountains. • Vegetation is highly varied, and includes pine forests, sub alpine forests, and in the high meadows, areas of tundra the are similar to the arctic with shrubs, lichens, and grass. • The region has many different soil types. • Soils of coniferous region on the mountains, prairie soils in the grasslands, and tundra soils in the meadows. • Wild life consists of bears, deer, mountain goats, and sheep, as well as, owls, woodpeckers, and bluebirds. • Canada’s only preying mantis – the ground mantis – is found in this region, along with the rattlesnake.

  42. The Western Biomes

  43. The Western Biomes • Coastal Forests • These forests on the Pacific Northwest are rain forest, but they are coniferous trees. • This makes them different from the other rain forest which have trees with a more broad leaf canopy. • They receive most of their rain from November to March, and grow during the mild winters. • The trees today mainly consist of Douglas firs, red cedars, and hemlock. • The largest trees are close to 90 meters tall, with diameters of 1-2 meters. • The soil and wildlife found in the region are similar to those of the boreal forests.

  44. The Cultural Landscape • Environments that have been used and altered by humans are called cultural landscapes. • Culture determines how people use the land. • Opposing cultures may have different attitudes on how to use the land, and this may result in crisis. • i.e. the extinction of the bison, or the conflict between the environmentalists and BC loggers.

  45. Settlement and Population • The beginning of the 20th Century was when Western Canada first began to see the effect of large scale settlement. • Prior to this the Native peoples of the land had used the environment they lived in without significantly changing it. • They used the land and water resource where ever they lived in a way they respected the environment. • The Laurier era brought large scale settlement to the Canadian West, and by doing so it upset the harmonious balance that had been in place for millennia.

  46. Settlement and Population • Immigrants have changed the way the land looks by bringing their traditional ways of life. • i.e. Métis farmers in Manitoba followed French practices of dividing the land into long narrow strips. • Extensive farming, cattle ranching, mining, manufacturing, and urban development have al contributed to the alteration of the natural environment. • The physical environment and economic possibilities play a role in where people decide to settle. • Landforms and climate play roles in the permanent settlement of people. • Flat land, mild winters, adequate precipitation, and good soil are some of the factors that often entice people to settle in an area. • i.e. prairies and the interior of BC.

  47. Settlement and Population • People go where they can find work. • This means that other areas may experience growth, but it may not be as permanent as in other areas. • Resource towns go through boom and bust phases. • i.e. Barkerville, Uranium City. • Resource towns do not employ as many people as the manufacturing and service industries, and this is why a majority f population is concentrated around major cities. • ¾ of the population of Canada lives in urban centers. • Resources affect the patterns of settlement. • Soil type, energy resources, mineral, etc, all play a role in where people will settle. • This becomes know as population distribution, and the number of people settling in an area is known as population density. • Generally speaking, the bigger the urban center, the bigger the population density.

  48. Settlement and Population 1996 2001

  49. Boundaries: The Lines on a Map • The provincial and territorial boundaries are what geographers call artificial boundaries. • Prior to European settlement, the Native peoples, Métis, early explorers, and fur trappers divided Western Canada by its natural boundaries. • These boundaries are ill-suited for political purposes because leaders like to have clear and defined lines. • As time past, the natural boundaries were replaced by political boundaries. • In some cases dividing boundaries led to conflict. • i.e. Alaskan Boundary dispute.

  50. Boundaries: The Lines on a Map • Natives in frontier regions did not have the power to draw line on a map, but in the last few decades this has changed. • 1982 Constitutional Act addressed concerns with aboriginal title, and began to recognize it by law. • This led to more aboriginal groups becoming successful in reclaiming control of their traditional territories. • New line markings of First Nations land claims appear on some BC maps.