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Geography - Gradation | 9th Social Science : Geography : Lithosphere – II Exogenetic Processes

Chapter: 9th Social Science : Geography : Lithosphere – II Exogenetic Processes


Gradation is the process of levelling of the land by means of natural agents like rivers, ground water, winds, glaciers, and sea waves.


Gradation is the process of levelling of the land by means of natural agents like rivers, ground water, winds, glaciers, and sea waves. These agents produce various gradational relief features in due course of time. Gradation takes place in two ways: degradation and aggradation Degradation or denudation is the wearing down of the land surface by various natural agents.


Aggradation is building up of landforms due to natural agents.


Gradation = Erosion + Transportation + Deposition


Agents of Gradation

Running water (River)


The work of running water (rivers) is the most extensive among all the other agents of gradation. Rivers originate on higher landforms like, mountains, hills and plateaus that receive water from various sources like the rain, glaciers, springs, lakes, etc.The place where the river originates is called its source and where it joins the sea is known as its mouth.

The primary functions of a river are (i) erosion (ii) transportation and deposition. The work of a river depends on various factors such as volume of water, velocity of the river, slope of land, load of sediment and structure of rock, and load of sediment.


Courses of River:


Rivers generally originate from mountains and end in a sea or lake. The whole path that a river flows through is called its course. The course of a river is divided into:

i.        The upper course

ii.        The middle course and

iii.        The lower course


i. The Upper Course


Erosion is the most dominant action of river in the upper course. In this course, a river usually tumbles down the steep mountain slopes. The steep gradient increases the velocity and the river channel performs erosion with great force to widen and deepen its valley. The land features carved by a river in its upper course are V- shaped valleys, gorges, canyons, rapids, pot holes, spurs, and waterfalls.


ii. The Middle Course-


The river enters the plain in its middle course. The volume of water increases with the confluence of many tributaries and thus increases the load of the river. Thus, the predominant action of a river is transportation. Deposition also occurs due to the sudden decrease in velocity. The river in the middle course develops some typical landforms like alluvial fans, flood plains, meanders, ox-bow lakes etc.,


iii. The Lower course


The river, moving downstream across a broad, level plain is loaded with debris, brought down from its upper and middle courses. Large deposits of sediments are found at the level bed and the river, splits into a number of channels called distributaries. The main work of the river here is deposition and it develops typical landforms like delta and estuary.


Erosional Landforms of River

Gorges and Canyons:


When the river flows through a mountainous region made up of hard rocks, it forms a valley with almost vertical sides called gorge. In India, deep gorges have been formed by Brahmaputra and Indus in the Himalayas.


A deep gorge with steep sides that runs for hundreds of kilometres is referred to as canyon e.g. Grand Canyon of the river Colorado in the U.S.A




When a river flows in a region where hard rocks lie over soft rocks horizontally, the soft rocks get eroded quickly and the hard rocks projects outwards. Thus, the river falls vertically from a steep slope to form a waterfall. When the water falls with great force, it erodes the rock material beneath and creates a depression called a plunge pool. Shallow fast flowing water in a stream is called a rapid


V-shaped valley


A ‘V’- shaped valley is formed by the vertical erosion of the river where the valley is deepened and widened.


Pot hole


Due to the river action, cylindrical holes are drilled vertically in the river bed, with varying depth and diametre. These are called pot holes.




As the river loaded with debris flows slowly, it forms sweeping loops and bends. It is referred to as meanders.


Ox bow lake


Meanders in due course of time become almost a complete circle with narrow necks. This in turn gets abandoned and forms a lake. This is called an Ox-bow lake.


Depositional Landforms of River


Alluvial Fan


A fan shaped deposition made by the river at the foothills is called an alluvial plain


Flood Plain


Fine sediments are deposited on river banks when a river floods. These sediments make the region rich and fertile. This is called a flood plain. As the height of the river banks gets increases due to continuous deposition of a flooded river, levees are formed.


Estuary: Estuary is formed where the rives meets the sea. Deposition of silt by the river is not possible here in the estuaries like delta as if the waves keep on eroding the deposits. Ex. River Narmada and Tapti.




A triangular shaped low lying area formed by the river at its mouth is called delta. Deltas have fine deposits of sediments enriched with minerals. Eg. Cauvery Delta, Tamil Nadu.




Water that percolates through the pores and fissures of rocks gets collected beneath the earth’s surface. This is normally referred to as groundwater or sub-surface water. The rate of percolation depends on the nature of the rocks.

·        The rocks that allow water to percolate are called porous rocks or permeable rocks.

·        The rocks that does not allow water to seep through them are called non-porous rocks or impermeable rocks.

The percolated water in course of time returns back to the surface in the form of springs, geysers, hot springs, wells, tanks, artesian wells etc. that are useful for human activities.

As an agent of gradation, under-ground water creates distinct ­landforms in limestone regions called Karst Topog-raphy.


Karst Topography


Ground water is an active agent in limestone regions. Karst topography is formed due to the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite and gypsum.

Limestone topography of Western Slovenia extends for a distance of 480 km in length and 80 km in width which is termed as Karst in the Slavic language. The world’s largest karst area is the Nullarbar located on the Great Australian Coast.


Karst regions are also found in Southern France, Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Western Cuba, Central New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.


Karst topography also exhibits both erosional and depositional features.


Erosional Landforms of Underground Water


Most of erosion takes place due to the process of solution. When rain water mixes with carbon-di- oxide and enters into a limestone region, it dissolves and destroys much of the limestone. As a result, landforms such as Terra rossa, Lappies, sinkholes, swallow holes, dolines, uvalas, poljes, caves and caverns are formed.


Terra Rossa (Italian term for Red soil)


Deposition of red clay soil on the surface of the Earth is due to the dissolution of limestone content in rocks. The redness of the soil is due to the presence of iron oxide.




When the joints of limestone rocks are corrugated by groundwater, long furrows are formed and these are called LAPPIES.




A funnel shaped depressions formed due to dissolution of limestone rock is called sinkholes. Their average depth ranges between three and nine meters


Caves and Caverns


Caves and caverns are subterranean features of karst topography. Caves are hollows that are formed by the dissolution of limestone rocks when carbon di oxide in air turns into carbonic acid after its reaction with water. They vary in size and shape. Caverns are the caves with irregular floors. Eg. Guptadham caves in Western Bihar.

All types of deposits in the caves and caverns are collectively called speleothems which includes travertines, tufa, dripstones.


Swallow Holes, Uvalas, Dolines, Poljis are other erossional Features of karst regions predominant in other parts of the world.


Depositional Landforms Underground Water


It is interesting to know that a variety of depositional features are formed on the floor, ceiling and walls of the caves and caverns of the Karst Topography.


Stalactite, Stalagmite and Column


When the water containing dissolved calcite gradually drips from the ceiling of the caves, water evaporates and the remaining calcite hangs from the ceiling. Thus Stalactites are formed. When the calcite deposits rises upward like a pillar Stalagmites are formed. Sometimes, Stalactites and Stalagmites meet together to form Columns and Pillars




A Glacier is a large mass of ice that moves slowly over the land, from its place of accumulation. It is also known as ‘River of ice’. The place of accumulation is called snowfield. The height above which there is a permanent snow cover in the higher altitude or latitude is called snowline.

Higher the latitude, lower the snowline from sea level.

The gradual transformation of snow into granular ice is called ‘firn’ or ‘ neve’ and finally it becomes solid glacial ice.


Movement of Glacier


The large mass of ice creates pressure at its bottom and generates heat. Due to this, the glacier melts a little and starts to move .The rate of movement of a glacier varies from a few centimetres to several hundred meters a day. The movement of glaciers depends on slope, volume of the glacier, thickness, roughness at the bottom (friction) etc., and Temperature. Like the rivers, glaciers also carry out erosion, transportation and deposition.


Types of Glacier


Glaciers are broadly divided into two types based on the place of occurrence, such as Continental glacier and valley glacier.


Erosional Landforms of glacier


Glaciers are powerful erosive agents. Some of the important erosional landforms are Cirque, Aretes, Matterhorn, U-shaped valley, Hanging valley, Fiords etc., Most of these glacial features are predominantly seen in countries like Switzerland, Norway etc.,





The glacier erodes the steep side walls of the mountain and forms a bowl-shaped armchair like depression, it is termed as Cirque




Aretes are narrow ridges formed when two cirque walls joined together back to back, and forms narrow knife like ridges.




The pyramidal peaks formed when three or more cirques meet together, are referred as Matterhorns.


U-Shaped Valley


When the glacier moves down along a river valley, the valley further gets eroded deep and wide to form a ‘U’ shaped valley.


Hanging Valley


These are valleys eroded by tributary glacier and that hangs over the main valley.




Fjords are glacial valleys that are partly submerged in the sea.


Depositional Landforms of glacier


After getting eroded, fragments of rocks and boulders along with dirt form glacial debris. Glacial debris gets deposited in the low lying areas and form depositional features like moraines, drumlins, eskers, kames and outwash plains.




Landforms formed by the glacial deposits of valley or continental glaciers are termed as moraines. They are of various shapes and sizes, like ground, terminal and lateral moraines etc




Drumlins are deposits of glacial moraines that resemble giant inverted teaspoons or half cut eggs.




Long narrow ridges composed of boulders gravel and sand deposited by streams of melting water which run parallel to a glacier are called eskers.


Outwash Plain


An outwash plain consists of glacial sediments deposited by the melting ice at the terminus of a glacier. It appears as an extensive accumulation of sand, gravel and silt.




When air blows horizontally at or near the earth’s surface is called wind. The erosional, transportational and depositional action of wind is predominant in arid regions. This is called as Aeolian Process.


Erosional Landforms of wind


Some of the erosional landforms of wind are mushroom rocks, Inselbergs and yardangs.


Mushroom Rock


Rocks are made up of hard and soft layers. When a rock’s bottom is soft, the sand-laden winds blow against it and wear it down. By the constant wearing down action of the wind, the bottom gets eroded away to form a mushroom like structure. This is called a mushroom or pedestal rock. Such rocks are found near Jodhpur in Rajasthan.




Inselberg is a German term which means an island mountain. Certain hard rocks like igneous rocks are more resistant to wind action. Such isolated residual hills rising abruptly from their surroundings are termed as inselbergs. Eg. Uluru or Ayers Rock, Australia.




In arid regions, certain rocks have hard and soft layers arranged vertically. When winds blow over these rocks, the soft layers get eroded leaving irregular crests. These are called yardangs.


Depositional Landforms of wind


Deposition occurs when the speed of wind is reduced by the presence of obstacles like bushes, forests and rock structures. The sediments carried by wind get deposited on both the wind ward and leeward sides of these obstacles.


Some of the depositional landforms are sand dunes, barchans and loess.


Sand Dune


In deserts, during sandstorms, wind carries loads of sand. When the speed of wind decreases, huge amount of sand gets deposited. These mounds or hills of sand are called sand dunes. There are different types of sand dunes.




Barchans are isolated, crescent shaped sand dunes. They have gentle slopes on the windward side and steep slopes on the leeward side.


Transverse Dunes


Transverse dunes are asymmetrical in shape. They are formed by alternate slow and fast winds that blow from the same direction


Longitudinal Dunes


Longitudinal dunes are long narrow ridges of sand, which extend in a direction parallel to the prevailing winds. These dunes are called Seifs in Sahara




The term loess refers to the deposits of fine silt and porous sand over a vast region. Extensive loess deposits are found in Northern and Western China, the Pampas of Argentina, in Ukraine and in the Mississippi Valley of the United States.




A steady up (crest) and down (trough) movement of surface water are called waves. Sea waves are the most powerful agents of gradation and their erosional, transportational and depositional processes are confined to a very narrow belt along coastal areas


Erosional Land Forms of Waves


Some of the erosional landforms of sea waves are sea cliff, sea cave, arch, stack, beach, bar and spit and wave cut platform.


Sea Cave


Prolonged wave attack on the base of a cliff erodes rock materials, which result in the formation of caves.


Sea Arch


When two caves approach one another from either side of a headland and unite, they form an arch. (Eg.) Neil Island, Andaman and Nicobar.


Sea Stack


Further erosion by waves ultimately leads to the total collapse of the arch. The seaward portion of the headland will remain as a pillar of rock known as stack. Eg the Old man of Hoy in Scotland.


Sea Cliffs


Sea cliffs are steep rock faces formed when sea waves dash against them. The rocks get eroded to form steep vertical walls.


Wave Cut Platforms


Flat surface found at the foot of sea cliffs are called as wave cut platforms. Wave cut platform is also referred as beach, shelf, terrace and plain.


Depositional Landforms of Waves



Sand and gravel are moved and deposited by waves along the shore to form beaches. This is the most dominant and constructive work of the sea. (Eg.) Juhu beach along Mumbai coast, Puri beach in Odisha and Marina beach in Chennai.




A bar is an elongated deposit of sand, shingle or mud found in the sea, almost parallel to the shoreline.




A spit is a ridge or embankment of sediment, attached to the land on one end and terminating in open water on the other end. Spits are common at the mouth of estuaries. Eg. Kakinada spit


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