Interactions within the physical environment
Formal research in physical geography began with programmes of detailed observation in small areas. Over time the results were collated and generalised to ever-larger scales, culminating in such seminal work as Davis's model of landform development, Koppen's classification of climate, and Schimper's vegetation map of the world. By the 1940s and 1950s, increasing dissatisfaction with what had been produced saw a return to research in small areas, and a greater focus on natural processes and their environmental effects. By the early 1980s, physical geographers had again become interested in scaling up the results of research in small areas to model what happens at the continental and global scales. Growing recognition of the global nature of society's environmental problems, readily available satellite imagery, and powerful computers facilitated this shift in emphasis. Much of what follows in this chapter draws on new thinking about global environments, as a basis for discussing the implications for New Zealand. Even though there is broad agreement on the principles, many of the predictions are highly speculative. The geographer's search for understanding about interactions within the physical environment has scarcely begun.