Earth s Landforms. reflect. look out!

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1 reflect If you could go anywhere you like on vacation, where would you go? Would you choose to go the mountains to go skiing? Or take a trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon? What makes places like mountains, rivers, and canyons so special? All are different kinds of landforms. What other kinds of landforms can you think of? How do you think they are formed? What is a landform? A landform is a natural structure on Earth s surface. Most landforms are formed slowly over millions of years. They form Earth s geography, or physical structure. Scientists who study geography are called geographers. The Grand Canyon is a 277-mile gorge in northern Arizona. In some places the canyon is a mile deep! Landforms are always changing. Most changes happy so slowly, you would never notice them without special tools. Scientists use these tools to make very precise measurements over long periods of time. look out! Have you or your friends ever described something that happened a long time ago? You probably meant something that happened a few years ago. Geographers also describe things that happened a long time ago. However, they may mean things that happened millions of years ago. That s a pretty long time! On the other hand, sometimes Earth changes very quickly. These changes may happen in days or even hours. Fast changes require strong forces, such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. 51

2 What are different types of landforms? Landforms come in different shapes and sizes. Four common landforms are mountains, hills, valleys, and plains. You can use certain characteristics to identify each type. Mountains: Mountains are large rock structures with pointed tops. Some mountains are so tall that their upper heights are covered in snow year round even during the summer! Groups of mountains are called mountain ranges. The longest mountain range in the western United States is the Rocky Mountains. The longest mountain range in the eastern United States is the Appalachian Mountains. In Texas, the tallest peaks are in the Guadalupe Mountains. The Guadalupe Mountains are not as tall as the Rocky Mountains. Hills: Hills are land formations that are similar to mountains. Unlike mountains, however, hills are not peaked on top. Instead, hills have soft, rounded tops. They are made of grass, dirt, and rocks. Hills are usually not as tall as mountains. Northern California and Texas Hill Country are good examples of hilly regions. Valleys: Valleys are mostly flat areas between two mountains or hills. A valley can be large or small. It depends on the distance between the two mountains or hills. Rivers flow through many valleys. The Rio Grande River runs through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. As water runs through the valley, the valley gets wider over time through weathering and erosion. Weathering is the breakdown of rock into smaller particles by the water.erosion is the movement of soil from one place to another. 52

3 try now You can cause erosion on a small scale at home. Fill a watering can with water. Go outside, and push together a mound of dirt a few inches tall. Use the watering can to slowly pour water down one side of the dirt hill. The water may look like a small river. The water will carry away dirt. This erosion is a small version of how a river gets wider over time when running through a valley. Plains: Plains are the flattest landforms. Just like valleys, plains are flat. But unlike valleys, plains are not surrounded by mountains or hills nearby. Plains can be very large. The Great Plains of the United States stretch from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The Panhandle area of northern Texas is also a plain. What are some landforms where you live? How do you think they formed over time? Career Corner: What does a surveyor do? A surveyor is a person who measures landforms to create detailed drawings called surveys. Surveys give information about the height and width of each landform. Surveys are important when planning new buildings or roads. How are landforms created? Landforms are made as rocks and soil are added or removed from a place over millions of years. For instance, mountains form when pieces of Earth are pushed upward. When rocks and soil are added from above, it is called deposition. Think of it as depositing (or putting) stuff somewhere. Where does the soil come from that is deposited? It is soil moved to a new place by erosion. Remember that moving water can cause erosion. Wind can also cause erosion as it blows over a region. Moving sheets of ice called glaciers can also cause erosion. Earth can push a landform upward to create hills. Water, wind, or ice can move the land at the top. As the land erodes away, or is pushed away, that force smoothes the tops of hills. 53

4 Valleys are also made by erosion and deposition. Water and a glacier, a large piece of moving ice, moving down mountains causes erosion. This creates a valley between the two mountains. The dirt that is carried away is deposited downstream. The deposited dirt forms plains. The shape of a valley tells scientists how the valley was created. A new river moving through mountains makes a V-shaped valley because the water moves very fast. Over time, erosion around the river makes the river wider. Glaciers can also form valleys. As a glacier melts, it creates a U-shaped valley. The valleys are in spaces where the ice was pushing against nearby mountains. Over time, erosion makes the valleys wider. Discover Science: The Rio Grande The Rio Grande River is the second longest river in the United States. Only the Mississippi River is longer. When the river moves through the southern tip of Texas, it goes through the Rio Grande Valley. The Rio Grande Valley surrounds the Rio Grande River. Most rivers create the valleys they flow through, but the Rio Grande Valley is unusual. Originally, it was a dry valley. When the Rio Grande River began to flow through the land, it flowed into a valley that was already there. Slowly, the river has been filling the valley with dirt through deposition. 54

5 What Do You Know? Take a look at the pictures below. Below each picture, write the name of the type of landform shown in the picture. 55

6 connecting with your child Naming Landforms Take a trip with your child to a local national park. If you do not live near a national park, find another scenic area where you know there are at least two landforms of the types studied in this lesson, such as hills and a valley. Be sure to bring along a notebook and crayons or colored pencils. While at the park, ask your child to identify the types of landforms you both observe. After identifying each type of landform, ask your child to create a drawing of the landform in their notebook. Be sure to label the drawing as a mountain, hill, valley, or plain. You may wish to ask questions, such as: How do you know that landform is a hill and not a mountain? (Or, how do you know that landform is a mountain and not a hill?) If you are in a valley, do you see a river? Do you think the river created the valley? If you are in a valley, what is the shape of the valley? Do you think a river or a glacier was the main shaper of this valley? If possible, find a map of the area at the park ranger station. Review the map with your child, noting places where the specific features of the area are named for landforms (e.g., Davis Mountains, Rio Grande Valley). Discuss with your child how place names can give information about the types of landforms in an area. 56

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