Western Europe
Physical Systems and Processes

Geographical Terms of Western Europe

Satellite Map of Europe
Satellite Map of Europe

Although Europe is technically its own continent, if you look closely at a map of Europe, you will notice there is no clear delineation between the continent of Europe and Asia. In fact, Europe is, essentially, the western peninsula of the Eurasian landmass. As we have learned, a peninsula is a landmass surrounded on three sides by water. There are many peninsulas that are part of Europe.

Think and ClickCan you think of a Western European country that is also a peninsula?
Did you say Italy or Greece? Good job!


Many would say that the continent of Europe is actually a collection of peninsulas. Look closely. How many peninsulas do you see? The countries of Portugal and Spain make up what is known as the Iberian Peninsula; Norway and Sweden are part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Even the country of Spain itself has its own peninsula —Cape Finisterre—believed to be the westernmost point of Spain, is also a peninsula.

Loess in Germany
Loess in Germany

The continent of Europe rests on a continental shelf that it shares with Asia. As in many parts of the world, glaciations have had a marked impact on the region. In the Netherlands, for example, glaciations created numerous small lakes which gradually filled with humus to make marshes. Some of these were later drained to make mucklands, which are primarily used for high value crops such as vegetables due to the richness of the soil. The potential loss of glaciations in the Alps is a considerable concern for all of Europe due to the fact that glaciers provide fresh drinking water, they are a source of hydro power, and are also visited annually by tourists looking for adventures in skiing and snowboarding.

Linked to this glacial presence, the region of Western Europe is also known for its abundance of loess sediments. Thick loess deposits generally formed over time in areas bordering large, continental glaciers. Loess is a geologic term that refers to deposits of silt left behind by receding glaciers. Loess sediments are some of the most fertile soils there are. Although loess soils and sediments cover about 1/10 of the Earth, approximately 1/5 of Europe contains loess.

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