Geomorphic Processes

  • The processes that bring about changes on the earth’s surface are known as geomorphic processes. These processes are divided into two: Exogenic and Endogenic processes.
  • Diastrophism and volcanism are endogenic geomorphic processes.
  • Weathering, mass wasting, erosion, and deposition are exogenic geomorphic processes.
  • Geomorphic agent: mobile medium (like running water, moving ice masses, wind, waves, and currents, etc.) which removes, transports, and deposits earth materials.

Endogenic forces

  • Endogenic forces or endogenetic forces are the pressure that originates inside the earth, therefore also called internal forces. These internal forces lead to vertical and horizontal movements and result in subsidence, land upliftment, volcanism, faulting, folding, earthquakes, etc.
  • The interaction of matter and temperature generates these forces or movements inside the earth’s crust.
  • The earth movements are mainly of two types: diastrophism (Slow Movements) and sudden movements.
  • The energy emanating from within the earth is the main force behind endogenic geomorphic processes.
  • This energy is mostly generated by radioactivity, rotational and tidal friction and primordial heat from the origin of the earth. This energy due to geothermal gradients and heat flow from within induces diastrophism and volcanism in the lithosphere.


  • Diastrophic forces can be defined as the pressure that is created due to the motion of the solid material on the earth’s surface.
  • Diastrophism is the general term applied to slow bending, folding, warping, and fracturing.
    • Warp==make or become bent or twisted out of shape, make abnormal; distort.
  • All processes that move, elevate or build up portions of the earth’s crust come under diastrophism.
  • They include:
    • orogenic processes involving mountain building through severe folding and affecting long and narrow belts of the earth’s crust; In the process of orogeny, the crust is severely deformed into folds.
    • epeirogenic processes involving uplift or warping of large parts of the earth’s crust; Due to epeirogeny, there may be simple deformation.
  • Orogeny is a mountain-building process whereas epeirogeny is a continental building process.
  • Through the processes of orogeny, epeirogeny, earthquakes, and plate tectonics, there can be faulting and fracturing of the crust. All these processes causes pressure, volume, and temperature (PVT) changes which in turn induce metamorphism of rocks.
Epeirogenic or Continent forming movements [Vertical Movements]
  • Epeirogenic movement refers to upheavals or depressions of land exhibiting long wavelengths [undulations] and little folding.
  • The broad central parts of continents are called cratons and are subject to epeirogeny.
  • Epeirogenic or continent forming movements act along the radius of the earth; therefore, they are also called radial movements.
  • Their direction may be towards (subsidence) or away (uplift) from the center. The results of such movements may be clearly defined in the relief.


  • Raised beaches, elevated wave-cut terraces, sea caves and fossiliferous beds above sea level are evidences of uplift.
  • Raised beaches, some of them elevated as much as 15 m to 30 m above the present sea level, occur at several places along the Kathiawar, Nellore, and Thirunelveli coasts.
  • Several places which were on the sea some centuries ago are now a few miles inland.
  • For example, Coringa near the mouth of the Godavari, Kaveripattinam in the Kaveri delta and Korkai on the coast of Thirunelveli were all flourishing seaports about 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.


  • Submerged forests and valleys, as well as buildings, are evidences of subsidence.
  • In 1819, a part of the Rann of Kachchh was submerged as a result of an earthquake.
  • The presence of peat and lignite beds below the sea level in Thirunelveli and the Sunderbans is an example of subsidence.
  • The Andamans and Nicobars have been isolated from the Arakan coast by the submergence of the
    intervening land.
  • On the east side of Bombay island, trees have been found embedded in the mud about 4 m below the low watermark. A similar submerged forest has also been noticed on the Thirunelveli coast in Tamil Nadu.
  • A large part of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait is very shallow and has been submerged in geologically recent times. A part of the former town of Mahabalipuram near Chennai (Madras) is submerged in the sea.
Orogenic or the mountain-forming movements [Horizontal Movements]
  • Orogenic or the mountain-forming movements act tangentially to the earth’s surface, as in plate tectonics.
  • Tensions produce fissures (since this type of force acts away from a point in two directions) and compression produces folds (because this type of force acts towards a point from two or more directions).
  • In the landforms so produced, the structurally identifiable units are difficult to recognize.
  • In general, diastrophic forces that have uplifted lands have predominated over forces that have lowered them.
Orogenic or the mountain-forming movements

Sudden Movements

  • Sudden geomorphic movements occur mostly at the lithospheric plate margins (tectonic plate margins).
  • The plate margins are highly unstable regions due to pressure created by pushing and pulling of magma in the mantle (convectional currents).
  • These movements cause considerable deformation over a short period.


  • It occurs when the surplus accumulated stress in rocks in the earth’s interior is relieved through the weak zones over the earth’s surface in form of the kinetic energy of wave motion causing vibrations (at times devastating) on the earth’s surface. Such movements may result in an uplift in coastal areas.
  • An earthquake in Chile (1822) caused a one-meter uplift in coastal areas.
  • Earthquakes may cause a change in contours, change in river courses, ‘tsunamis’ (seismic waves created in the sea by an earthquake, as they are called in Japan) which may cause shoreline changes, spectacular glacial surges (as in Alaska), landslides, soil creeps, mass wasting, etc.

Read the Earthquake in detailed Click Here


  • Volcanism includes the movement of molten rock (magma) onto or toward the earth’s surface and also the formation of many intrusive and extrusive volcanic forms.
  • A volcano is formed when the molten magma in the earth’s interior escapes through the crust by vents and fissures in the crust, accompanied by steam, gases (hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, carbon dioxide, etc.), and pyroclastic material. Depending on the chemical composition and viscosity of the lava, a volcano may take various forms.
  • Pyroclastic => Pyroclastic flow is a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash, and hot gases. It occurs as part of certain volcanic eruptions. A pyroclastic flow is extremely hot, burning anything in its path. It may move at speeds as high as 200 m/s.
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Aswin K

Very nice article with good examples


I think the example of subsidence caused in Rann of Kutch in 1819, should be a part of sudden movements, since it was caused by earthquake and should not come under diastrophism, which is a gradual process. Correct me, if wrong.