How Soil is Formed
Soil formation is a dynamic process that takes place in different environments. It is strongly influenced by the parent material, climate (largely vegetation and temperature and water exchanges), topography (the elevations, depressions, directions and angles of slopes, and other surface features of the landscape), and time.
The parent material is the unconsolidated mass on which soil formation takes place. This material may or may not be derived from the on-site geological substrate or bedrock on which it rests. Parent materials can be transported by wind, water, glaciers, and gravity and deposited on top of bedrock. Because of the diversity of materials involved, soils derived from transported parent materials are commonly more fertile than soils from parent materials derived in place. Whatever the parent material, whether derived in place from bedrock or from transported material, it ultimately comes from geological materials, such as igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, and the composition of the rocks largely determines the chemical composition of the soil.
Climate is most influential in determining the nature and intensity of weathering and the type of vegetation that further affects soil formation. The soil material experiences daily and seasonal variations in heating and cooling. Open surfaces exposed to thermal radiation undergo the greatest daily fluctuations in heating and cooling, soils covered with vegetation the least. Hill slopes facing the sun absorb more heat than those facing away from the sun. Radiant energy has a pronounced effect on the moisture regime, especially the evaporative process and dryness. Temperature can stimulate or inhibit biogeochemical reactions in soil material.
The Climate of Japan
At the most general level, two major climatic forces determine Japan’s weather. Prevailing westerly winds move across Eurasia, sweep over the Japanese islands, and continue eastward across the Pacific Ocean. In addition, great cyclonic airflows (masses of rapidly circulating air) that arise over the western equatorial Pacific move in a wheel-like fashion northeastward across Japan and nearby regions. During winter months heavy masses of cold air from Siberia dominate the weather around Japan. Persistent cold winds skim across the Sea of Japan from the northwest, picking up moisture that they deposit as several feet of snow on the western side of the mountain ranges on Honshu Island. As the cold air drops its moisture, it flows over high ridges and down eastern slopes to bring cold, relatively dry weather to valleys and coastal plains and cities.
In spring the Siberian air mass warms and loses density, enabling atmospheric currents over the Pacific to steer warmer air into northeast Asia. This warm, moisture-laden air covers most of southern Japan during June and July. The resulting late spring rains then give way to a drier summer that is sufficiently hot and muggy, despite the island chain’s northerly latitude, to allow widespread rice cultivation.
Effects of the Commercial Revolution
In the third and the second millennia B.C. long-distance trade supposedly had the character of an expedition. By the start of the last millennium B.C., however, a new approach to engaging in such trade emerged. Based on the principle of colorization, it was pioneered by the Phoenicians and Greeks, who established colonies along the Mediterranean Sea. The new approach to long-distance trade, known as the commercial revolution, led to changes in a number of political and economic patterns
For the first time, the planting of colonies in distant lands became possible. The Phoenician settlements in the central and western Mediterranean, such as Carthage, and the slightly later establishment of Greek colonies are early examples, while the settlement of south Arabians in Eritrea around the middle of the last millennium marks the subsequent spread of this sort of commercial consequence to the Horn of Africa. In the third or second millennia B. C., a state such as Egypt might colonize areas outside its heartland, such as Nubia. But this colonization comprised military outposts and ethnic settlements that were planted to hold the contiguous territories of a land empire, not distant localities far separated from the home country.
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