Physical geography (also known as geosystems or physiography) is one of the two major subfields of geography. Physical geography is that branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the domain of human geography.
Within the body of physical geography, the Earth is often split either into several spheres or environments, the main spheres being the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and pedosphere. Research in physical geography is often interdisciplinary and uses the systems approach.
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator.
The Southern Hemisphere is part of a rotating astronomical body that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere (from the Greek word σφαιρα (sphere) +ημι (half)) literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere". It is also that half of the celestial sphere south of the celestial equator.
The four cardinal directions or cardinal points are the directions of north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials: N, E, S, W. East and west are at right angles to north and south, with east being in the clockwise direction of rotation from north and west being directly opposite east. Intermediate points between the four cardinal directions form the points of the compass. The intermediate (intercardinal, or ordinal) directions are northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW). Further, the intermediate direction of every set of intercardinal and cardinal direction is called a secondary-intercardinal direction, the eight shortest points in the compass rose to the right, i.e. NNE, ENE, ESE, and so on.
On Earth, upright observers facing north will have south behind them, east on their right, and west on their left. Most devices and methods for orientation therefore operate by finding north first, although any other direction is equally valid, if it can be reliably located. Several of these devices and methods are described below.
The geostrophic wind (// or //) is the theoretical wind that would result from an exact balance between the Coriolis effect and the pressure gradient force. This condition is called geostrophic balance. The geostrophic wind is directed parallel to isobars (lines of constant pressure at a given height). This balance seldom holds exactly in nature. The true wind almost always differs from the geostrophic wind due to other forces such as friction from the ground. Thus, the actual wind would equal the geostrophic wind only if there were no friction and the isobars were perfectly straight. Despite this, much of the atmosphere outside the tropics is close to geostrophic flow much of the time and it is a valuable first approximation. Geostrophic flow in air or water is a zero-frequency inertial wave.
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