Despite numerous precursors, real quantification in geomorphology did not take hold until after Horton's (1945) paper outlining a new approach to the study of drainage basins. The use of quantitative methods in landform analysis has varied for different geomorphic processes.
Quantitative studies in weathering have been done mostly in the fields of geochemistry, pedology, and soil mechanics. Little has been done to quantify weathering forms. Quantitative analyses on slopes and mass movements have included both processes and morphology, leading to geometric and mathematical models. In contrast, quantitative analyses of arid regions and aeolian forms and processes are immature and tentative. Although great strides have been taken in using physics and mathematics for understanding glacier flow, little has been done on morphometry of glacial landforms. Progress in quantitative coastal research has been most rapid since World War II, although the mathematical basis for understanding coastal processes was laid in the 19th century. As a result of Horton's (1945) provocative study, fluvial geommorphology has perhaps made the most advances in quantitative analyses in geomorphology.
The infusion of ideas from physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, pedology, soil mechanics, hydraulics, hydrology, and geography and the application of statistics and mathematics in analysis accomplished the quantitative revolution. In addition to changing techniques of analysis, quantification has altered the fundamental approach to the study of landforms and affected basic concepts. The dynamic approach (Strahler, 1952) became focused on process and mechanics rather than history and description. Landscape units are treated as open systems in equilibrium where any change in the system causes an adjustment to offset effects of the change.
Electronic instrumentation, remote sensing, and advanced methods of data processing and storage by high-tech computers will open even more vistas for exploration by quantitative geomorphologists of the future.
Figures & Tables
Geologists and Ideas
An unusually coherent, well-written volume. Prepared for DNAG by the History of Geology Division of GSA. Spotlights events, ideas, and people, and sheds light on the history of North American geology as a whole. With its many intellectual jewels on the evolution of scientific concepts, this book will provide many happy hours of entertainment and instruction for anyone interested in the history of science, especially that of the earth sciences. Thirty-four papers are organized into four categories: (1) The Evolution of Significant Ideas; (2) Contributions of Individuals; (3) Contributions of Organized Groups; and (4) Application of Significant Ideas. Excellent as a course-book or for additional reading for classes related to the history of geology or general science.