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Earth Science, field of study concerned with the planet Earth or one or more of its parts. Earth science includes the sciences used to study the lithosphere (the solid portion of Earth), the atmosphere (the gaseous envelope surrounding Earth), the hydrosphere (the ice, water, and water vapor at or near Earths surface), the biosphere (the zone at or near Earths surface that supports life), and space beyond the atmosphere. College courses in earth science cover a range of subject matter. Usually they include geology, geophysics, meteorology, climatology, oceanography, hydrology, biogeography, zoogeography, astronomy, and astrophysics. Some aspects of these subjects are covered in courses taught in junior high school and high school. Geology is the study of Earth, its rocks, and the changes that have occurred or are occurring in the planet. In geophysics classes students learn to apply experimental physics to the study of Earth. Students interested in climate and weather might take courses in meteorology and climatology. Meteorology is the investigation, especially over short periods, of physical processes in the lower atmosphere, where Earths weather is produced. Climatology is the study of the lower atmosphere over long periods, and especially of how it gets and loses energy and moisture. In oceanography courses students learn about the sea in all its aspects (see Ocean and Oceanography). Hydrology is the investigation of all aspects of waternormally fresh waterat or near Earths surface. Courses in biogeography deal with the distribution of plants, while courses in zoogeography look at the distribution of animals. In astronomy classes, students learn about heavenly bodies, including Earth in its role as a planet. Astrophysics is the study of the properties of stars. It can be applied to the investigation of Earths upper atmosphere, which has many features in common with the atmospheres of stars. All of the above sciences have further subdivisions. Geology, for example, includes five subdivisions. Petrology is the study of the composition and origin of rocks and the classification of different kinds of rocks. Stratigraphy is the study of rock layers, particularly their ages, compositions, and relationships to other rock layers. Structural geology is the study of rock deformation and mountain building. Paleontology is the study of prehistoric animal and plant life through the analysis of fossil remains. Mineralogy is the study of minerals.
Earth science is a very popular course of study, mainly because of interest in environmental problems. Courses of study in earth science, physical geography, and environmental science usually cover similar subject matter. The earth sciences examine the structure and composition of our planet, and the

physical processes that have helped to shape it. Geology focuses on the structure of Earth, while geography is the study of everything on the planet's surface, including the physical changes that humans have brought about from, for example, farming, mining, or deforestation. Scientists in the field of geomorphology study Earth's present landforms, while mineralogists investigate the minerals in Earth's crust and the way they formed.

What Earth Science Do? The earth sciences examine the structure and composition of our planet, and the physical processes that have helped to shape it. Geology focuses on the structure of Earth, while geography is the study of everything on the planet's surface, including the physical changes that humans have brought about from, for example, farming, mining, or deforestation. Scientists in the field of geomorphology study Earth's present landforms, while mineralogists investigate the minerals in Earth's crust and the way they formed. Water dominates Earth's surface, making it an important subject for scientific research. Oceanographers carry out research in the oceans (see Ocean and Oceanography), while scientists working in the field of hydrology investigate water resources on land, a subject of vital interest in areas prone to drought. Glaciologists study Earth's icecaps and mountain glaciers, and the effects that ice has when it forms, melts, or moves. In atmospheric science, meteorology deals

with day-to-day changes in weather, but climatology investigates changes in weather patterns over the longer term. When living things die their remains are sometimes preserved, creating a rich store of scientific information. Paleontology is the study of plant and animal remains that have been preserved in sedimentary rock, often millions of years ago (see Fossil). Paleontologists study things long dead and their findings shed light on the history of evolution and on the origin and development of humans. A related science, called palynology, is the study of fossilized spores and pollen grains. Scientists study these tiny structures to learn the types of plants that grew in certain areas during Earths history, which also helps identify what Earths climates were like in the past.

Earth Facts and Figures Equatorial radius Equatorial inclination Mass Average density Rotational period
Orbital period

6,378 km 23.5 5.971024 kg 5.5 g/cm3 0.997 days

1 year

Average distance from the Sun 149.6 million km Perihelion 147.1 million km Aphelion 152.1 million km Orbital eccentricity 0.0167 Orbital inclination 0.0003 Moons 1

Earth (planet), third planet in distance from the Sun in the solar system, the only planet known to harbor life, and the home of human beings. From space Earth resembles a big blue marble with swirling white clouds floating above blue oceans. About 71 percent of Earths surface is covered by water, which is essential to life. The rest is land, mostly in the form of continents that rise above the oceans. Unlike the other planets, Earth has a unique set of characteristics ideally suited to supporting life as we know it. It is neither too hot, like Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, nor too cold, like distant Mars and the even more distant outer planets. I-Earths Atmosphere Without our atmosphere, there would be no life on Earth. A relatively thin envelope, the atmosphere consists of layers of gases that support life and provide protection from harmful radiation. The layers of the atmosphere are the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, and the exosphere. The troposphere is the layer in which weather occurs and extends from the surface to about 16 km (about 10 mi) above sea level at the equator. Above the troposphere is the stratosphere, which has an upper boundary of about 50 km (about 30 mi) above sea level. The layer from 50 to 90 km (30 to 60 mi) is called the mesosphere. At an altitude of about 90 km, temperatures begin to rise. The layer that begins at this altitude is called the thermosphere because of the high temperatures that can be reached in this layer (about 1200C, or about 2200F). The region beyond the thermosphere is called the exosphere. The thermosphere and the exosphere overlap with another region of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere, a layer or layers of ionized air extending from almost 60 km (about 50 mi) above Earths surface to altitudes of 1,000 km (600 mi) and more. II-Earths Surface Earths surface is the outermost layer of the planet. It includes the hydrosphere, the crust, and the biosphere. The hydrosphere consists of the bodies of water that cover 71 percent of Earths surface. The largest of these are the oceans, which contain over 97 percent of all water on Earth. Glaciers and

the polar ice caps contain just over 2 percent of Earths water in the form of solid ice. Only about 0.6 percent is under the surface as groundwater. The crust consists of the continents, other land areas, and the basins, or floors, of the oceans. The dry land of Earths surface is called the continental crust. It is about 15 to 75 km (9 to 47 mi) thick. The oceanic crust is thinner than the continental crust. Its average thickness is 5 to 10 km (3 to 6 mi). The crust has a definite boundary called the Mohorovii discontinuity, or simply the Moho. The boundary separates the crust from the underlying mantle, which is much thicker and is part of Earths interior. Oceanic crust and continental crust differ in the type of rocks they contain. There are three main types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Igneous rocks form when molten rock, called magma, cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rocks are usually created by the breakdown of igneous rocks. They tend to form in layers as small particles of other rocks or as the mineralized remains of dead animals and plants that have fused together over time. The remains of dead animals and plants occasionally become mineralized in sedimentary rock and are recognizable as fossils. Metamorphic rocks form when sedimentary or igneous rocks are altered by heat and pressure deep underground. Oceanic crust consists of dark, dense igneous rocks, such as basalt and gabbro. Continental crust consists of lighter-colored, less dense igneous rocks, such as granite and diorite. Continental crust also includes metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. The biosphere includes all the areas of Earth capable of supporting life. The biosphere ranges from about 10 km (about 6 mi) into the atmosphere to the deepest ocean floor. For a long time, scientists believed that all life depended on energy from the Sun and consequently could only exist where sunlight penetrated. In the 1970s, however, scientists discovered various forms of life around hydrothermal vents on the floor of the Pacific Ocean where no sunlight penetrated. They learned that primitive bacteria formed the basis of this living community and that the bacteria derived their energy from a process called chemosynthesis that did not depend on sunlight. Some scientists believe that the biosphere may extend relatively deep into Earths crust. They have recovered what they believe are primitive bacteria from deeply drilled holes below the surface. III-Earths Interior The interior of Earth plays an important role in plate tectonics. Scientists believe it is also responsible for Earths magnetic field. This field is vital to life because it shields the planets surface from harmful cosmic rays and from a steady stream of energetic particles from the Sun known as the solar wind. Earths interior consists of the mantle and the core. The mantle and core make up by far the largest part of Earths mass. The distance from the base of the crust to the center of the core is about 6,400 km (about 4,000 mi). The mantle consists of three parts: the lower part of the lithosphere, the region below it known as the asthenosphere, and the region below the asthenosphere called the lower mantle. The entire mantle extends from the base of the crust to a depth of about 2,900 km (about 1,800 mi). Scientists believe the asthenosphere is made up of mushy plastic-like rock with pockets of molten rock. The term asthenosphere is derived from Greek and means weak layer. The asthenospheres soft, plastic quality allows plates in the lithosphere above it to shift and slide on top of the asthenosphere. This shifting of the lithospheres plates is the source of most tectonic activity. The asthenosphere is also the source of the basaltic magma that makes up much of the oceanic crust and rises through volcanic vents on the ocean floor. The core is divided into two parts, the outer core and the inner core. The outer core is about 2,260 km (about 1,404 mi) thick. The outer core is a liquid region composed mostly of iron, with smaller amounts of nickel and sulfur in liquid form. The inner core is about 1,220 km (about 758 mi) thick. The inner core is solid and is composed of iron, nickel, and sulfur in solid form. Because the inner core is surrounded by a liquid region, it can rotate independently. Recent scientific studies indicate that the inner core may actually rotate faster than the rest of the planet, making one full extra spin over a period of 700 to 1,200 years. The inner core and the outer core also contain a small percentage of radioactive material. The existence of radioactive material is

one of the sources of heat in Earths interior because as radioactive material decays, it gives off heat. Temperatures in the inner core may be as high as 6650C (12,000F). Geologic Time, time scale that covers Earths entire geologic history from its origin to the present. Before the growth of a geologic time scale in the 19th century natural historians recognized that Earth has a lengthy history, but the scale used today developed over the last 200 years and continues to evolve. A geologic time scale helps scientists think about the history of the planet in manageable sections of time. Geologists divide the history of the Earth into three eons: the Archean Eon, which lasted from around 4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago; the Proterozoic Eon, which lasted from 2.5 billion to 543 million years ago; and the Phanerozoic Eon, which lasted from 543 million years ago to the present. Each eon is subdivided into different eras. For example, the Phanerozoic Eon includes the Paleozoic Era, the Mesozoic Era, and the Cenozoic Era. In turn, eras are further divided into periods. For example, the Paleozoic Era includes the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian Periods. The Archean Eon is subdivided into four eras, the Eoarchean, the Paleoarchean, the Mesoarchean, and the Neoarchean. The beginning of the Archean is generally dated as the age of the oldest terrestrial rocks, which are about 4 billion years old. The Archean Eon ended 2.5 billion years ago when the Proterozoic Eon began. The Proterozoic Eon is subdivided into three eras: the Paleoproterozoic Era, the Mesoproterozoic Era, and the Neoproterozoic Era. The Proterozoic Eon lasted from 2.5 billion years ago to 543 million years ago when the Phanerozoic Eon began. The Phanerozoic Eon is subdivided into three eras: the Paleozoic Era from 543 million to 248 million years ago, the Mesozoic Era from 248 million to 65 million years ago, and the Cenozoic Era from 65 million years ago to the present. 1. The Precambrian is a time span that includes the Archean and Proterozoic eons and began about 4 billion years ago. The Precambrian marks the first formation of continents, the oceans, the atmosphere, and life. The Precambrian represents the oldest chapter in Earths history that can still be studied. Very little remains of Earth from the period of 4.6 billion to about 4 billion years ago due to the melting of rock caused by the early period of meteorite bombardment. Rocks dating from the Precambrian, however, have been found in Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Scandinavia. Some zircon mineral grains deposited in Australian rock layers have been dated to 4.2 billion years. During the Precambrian, continents began to form and grow, driven by a mechanism similar to what is now called plate tectonics. Also during this time, the oceans and the atmosphere started forming from the gases escaping the extremely hot, semiliquid interior of the planet. Life in the form of primitive bacteria may have originated as early as four billion years ago, perhaps at hot springs on the sea floor. The Precambrian is divided into pre-Archean time (from the formation of the earth to 3.8 billion years ago), the Archean Eon (3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years ago), and the Proterozoic Eon (2.5 billion to 570 million years ago). Eon-main division of geologic time. Eons are the largest units that geologists use to measure the age of the Earth. Eons are divided into eras. Each era has a number of periods, each of which is divided into epochs. The eons of the Earth are the Archean (about 3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years before present), the Proterozoic (about 2.5 billion to 542 million years before present), and the Phanerozoic (about 542 million years before present to present). The Archean and Proterozoic eons and pre-Archean time (from Earths formation about 4.6 billion years before present to 3.8 billion years before present) are often called Precambrian time. Era-term used in physical science and history. In geology an era is a major division of time. Eons, the longest division of time, are subdivided into eras and eras are subdivided into periods. The present, or Cenozoic Era, the shortest of all eras, has already covered a period of about 65 million years. In a historical sense, an era is a period of time computed from a specific moment or event.

Period-On the geologic time scale, a period is longer than an epoch and shorter than an era. Life originated during the Precambrian.The earliest fossil evidence of life consists of prokaryotes, one-celled organisms that lacked a nucleus and reproduced by dividing, a process known as asexual reproduction. Asexual division meant that a prokaryotes hereditary material was copied unchanged. The first prokaryotes were bacteria known as archaebacteria. Archaebacteria were followed about 3.46 billion years ago by another type of prokaryote known as cyanobacteria or blue-green algae. These cyanobacteria gradually introduced oxygen in the atmosphere as a result of photosynthesis. In shallow tropical waters, cyanobacteria formed mats that grew into humps called stromatolites. Fossilized stromatolites have been found in rocks in the Pilbara region of western Australia that are more than 3.4 billion years old

2. The Paleozoic Era began about 540 million years ago and ended about 250 million years ago. The evolution of life, from primitive, multicellular, free-floating forms in the sea to advanced groups on land, can be traced by fossil remains in rock strata of the Paleozoic Era. At the start of the Paleozoic Era about 543 million years ago, an enormous expansion in the diversity and complexity of life occurred. This event took place in the Cambrian Period and is called the Cambrian explosion. Nothing like it has happened since. Almost all of the major groups of animals we know today made their first appearance during the Cambrian explosion. Almost all of the different body plans found in animals todaythat is, the way an animals body is designed, with heads, legs, rear ends, claws, tentacles, or antennaealso originated during this period. Fishes first appeared during the Paleozoic Era, and multicellular plants began growing on the land. Other land animals, such as scorpions, insects, and amphibians, also originated during this time. Most of the early complex life forms of the Cambrian explosion lived in the sea. The creation of warm, shallow seas, along with the buildup of oxygen in the atmosphere, may have aided this explosion of life forms. The shallow seas were created by the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia. During the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian periods, which followed the Cambrian Period and lasted from 490 million to 354 million years ago, some of the continental pieces that had broken off Rodinia collided. These collisions resulted in larger continental masses in equatorial regions and in the Northern Hemisphere. The collisions built a number of mountain ranges, including parts of the Appalachian Mountains in North America and the Caledonian Mountains of northern Europe. Toward the close of the Paleozoic Era, two large continental masses, Gondwanaland to the south and Laurasia to the north, faced each other across the equator. Their slow but eventful collision during the Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era, which lasted from 290 million to 248 million years ago, assembled the supercontinent Pangaea and resulted in some of the grandest mountains in the history of Earth. These mountains included other parts of the Appalachians and the Ural Mountains of Asia. At the close of the Paleozoic Era, Pangaea represented over 90 percent of all the continental landmasses. Pangaea straddled the equator with a huge mouthlike opening that faced east. This opening was the Tethys Ocean, which closed as India moved northward creating the Himalayas. The last remnants of the Tethys Ocean can be seen in todays Mediterranean Sea. The Paleozoic came to an end with a major extinction event, when perhaps as many as 90 percent of all plant and animal species died out. The reason is not known for sure, but many scientists believe that huge volcanic outpourings of lavas in central Siberia, coupled with an asteroid impact, were joint contributing factors. 3. The Mesozoic Era, beginning 248 million years ago, is often characterized as the Age of Reptiles because reptiles were the dominant life forms during this era. Reptiles dominated not only on land, as dinosaurs, but also in the sea, in the form of the plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, and in the air, as pterosaurs, which were flying reptiles. The Mesozoic Era is divided into three geological periods: the Triassic, which lasted from 248 million to 206 million years ago; the Jurassic, from 206 million to 144 million years ago; and the Cretaceous, from 144 million to 65 million years ago. The dinosaurs emerged during the Triassic

Period and were one of the most successful animals in Earths history, lasting for about 180 million years before going extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The first birds and mammals and the first flowering plants also appeared during the Mesozoic Era. Before flowering plants emerged, plants with seed-bearing cones known as conifers were the dominant form of plants. Flowering plants soon replaced conifers as the dominant form of vegetation during the Mesozoic Era. The Mesozoic was an eventful era geologically with many changes to Earths surface. Pangaea continued to exist for another 50 million years during the early Mesozoic Era. By the early Jurassic Period, Pangaea began to break up. What is now South America began splitting from what is now Africa, and in the process the South Atlantic Ocean formed. As the landmass that became North America drifted away from Pangaea and moved westward, a long subduction zone extended along North Americas western margin. This subduction zone and the accompanying arc of volcanoes extended from what is now Alaska to the southern tip of South America. Much of this feature, called the American Cordillera, exists today as the eastern margin of the Pacific Ring of Fire. During the Cretaceous Period, heat continued to be released from the margins of the drifting continents, and as they slowly sank, vast inland seas formed in much of the continental interiors. The fossilized remains of fishes and marine mollusks called ammonites can be found today in the middle of the North American continent because these areas were once underwater. Large continental masses broke off the northern part of southern Gondwanaland during this period and began to narrow the Tethys Ocean. The largest of these continental masses, present-day India, moved northward toward its collision with southern Asia. As both the North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean continued to open, North and South America became isolated continents for the first time in 450 million years. Their westward journey resulted in mountains along their western margins, including the Andes of South America. 4. The Cenozoic Era, beginning about 65 million years ago, is the period when mammals became the dominant form of life on land. Human beings first appeared in the later stages of the Cenozoic Era. In short, the modern world as we know it, with its characteristic geographical features and its animals and plants, came into being. All of the continents that we know today took shape during this era. A single catastrophic event may have been responsible for this relatively abrupt change from the Age of Reptiles to the Age of Mammals. Most scientists now believe that a huge asteroid or comet struck the Earth at the end of the Mesozoic and the beginning of the Cenozoic eras, causing the extinction of many forms of life, including the dinosaurs. Evidence of this collision came with the discovery of a large impact crater off the coast of Mexicos Yucatn Peninsula and the worldwide finding of iridium, a metallic element rare on Earth but abundant in meteorites, in rock layers dated from the end of the Cretaceous Period. The extinction of the dinosaurs opened the way for mammals to become the dominant land animals. The Cenozoic Era is divided into the Tertiary and the Quaternary periods. The Tertiary Period lasted from about 65 million to about 1.8 million years ago. The Quaternary Period began about 1.8 million years ago and continues to the present day. These periods are further subdivided into epochs, such as the Pleistocene, from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago, and the Holocene, from 10,000 years ago to the present. Early in the Tertiary Period, Pangaea was completely disassembled, and the modern continents were all clearly outlined. India and other continental masses began colliding with southern Asia to form the Himalayas. Africa and a series of smaller microcontinents began colliding with southern Europe to form the Alps. The Tethys Ocean was nearly closed and began to resemble todays Mediterranean Sea. As the Tethys continued to narrow, the Atlantic continued to open, becoming an ever-wider ocean. Iceland appeared as a new island in later Tertiary time, and its active volcanism today indicates that seafloor spreading is still causing the country to grow. Late in the Tertiary Period, about 6 million years ago, humans began to evolve in Africa. These early humans began to migrate to other parts of the world between 2 million and 1.7 million years ago.

The Quaternary Period marks the onset of the great ice ages. Many times, perhaps at least once every 100,000 years on average, vast glaciers 3 km (2 mi) thick invaded much of North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. The glaciers eroded considerable amounts of material that stood in their paths, gouging out U-shaped valleys. Anatomically modern human beings, known as Homo sapiens, became the dominant form of life in the Quaternary Period. Most anthropologists (scientists who study human life and culture) believe that anatomically modern humans originated only recently in Earths 4.6-billion-year history, within the past 200,000 years. See also Human Evolution. GEOLOGY Geology, study of the planet earth, its rocky exterior, its history, and the processes that act upon it. Geology is also referred to as earth science and geoscience. The word geology comes from the Greek geo, earth, and logia, the study of. Geologists seek to understand how the earth formed and evolved into what it is today, as well as what made the earth capable of supporting life. Geologists study the changes that the earth has undergone as its physical, chemical, and biological systems have interacted during its 4.5 billion year history. Geology is an important way of understanding the world around us, and it enables scientists to predict how our planet will behave. Scientists and others use geology to understand how geological events and earths geological history affect people, for example, in terms of living with natural disasters and using the earths natural resources. As the human population grows, more and more people live in areas exposed to natural geologic hazards, such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides. Some geologists use their knowledge to try to understand these natural hazards and forecast potential geologic events, such as volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. They study the history of these events as recorded in rocks and try to determine when the next eruption or earthquake will occur. They also study the geologic record of climate change in order to help predict future changes. As human population grows, geologists ability to locate fossil and mineral resources, such as oil, coal, iron, and aluminum, becomes more important. Finding and maintaining a clean water supply, and disposing safely of waste products, requires understanding the earths systems through which they cycle. The field of geology includes subfields that examine all of the earth's systems, from the deep interior core to the outer atmosphere, including the hydrosphere (the waters of the earth) and the biosphere (the living component of earth). Generally, these subfields are divided into the two major categories of physical and historical geology. Geologists also examine events such as asteroid impacts, mass extinctions, and ice ages. Geologic history shows that the processes that shaped the earth are still acting on it and that change is normal. Many other scientific fields overlap extensively with geology, including oceanography, atmospheric sciences, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and microbiology. Geology is also used to study other planets and moons in our solar system. Specialized fields of extraterrestrial geology include lunar geology, the study of earths moon, and astrogeology, the study of other rocky bodies in the solar system and beyond. Scientific teams currently studying Mars and the moons of Jupiter include geologists. GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY Geologists use three main principles, or concepts, to study earth and its history. The first concept, called plate tectonics, is the theory that the earths surface is made up of separate, rigid plates moving and floating over another, less rigid layer of rock. These plates are made up of the continents and the ocean floor as well as the rigid rock beneath them. The second guiding concept is that many processes that occur on the earth may be described in terms of recycling: the reuse of the same materials in cycles, or repeating series of events. The third principle is called uniformitarianism. Uniformitarianism states that the physical and chemical processes that have acted throughout geologic time are the same processes that are observable today. Because of this, geologists can use their knowledge of what is happening on the earth right now to help explain what happened in the past. A. Plate tectonics is the unifying theory of geology. It was established in the 1960s, making it one of the most recent revolutions in all of science. The theory describes the lithosphere (the outer

rocky layer of the earth) as a collection of rigid plates that move sideways above a less rigid layer called the asthenosphere. The asthenosphere is made up of rock that is under tremendous pressure, which softens it and allows it to move and circulate slowly. Plate tectonics is useful in the field of geology because it can be used to explain a variety of geologic processes, including volcanic activity, earthquakes, and mountain building.

B. Geologic Cycles A second guiding principle of geology is the principle of recycling materials, or using materials many times. All processes in geology can be viewed as a series of mostly closed cycles, meaning the materials of the cycles are found on earth, and very few materials from outside our world are introduced into these cycles. The energy that drives geologic recycling comes from two sources: the sun and the earth's interior. Two examples of geologic cycles are the rock cycle and the water cycle. The rock cycle begins as rocks are uplifted, or pushed up by tectonic forces. The exposed rocks erode as a result of surface processes, such as rain and wind. The eroded particles, or sediment, travel by wind or moving water until they are deposited, and the deposited material settles into layers. Additional sediment may bury these layers until heat and pressure metamorphose, or change, the underlying sediment to metamorphic rock. Additional sediment may compact the layers into sedimentary rocks. Rocks can also be subducted (sunk down into the lower layers of the earth) by plate tectonic processes. Buried and subducted rocks may also melt and recrystallize into igneous rocks (see Magma). Metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks may then be uplifted, starting the rock cycle again. The water cycle is also known as the hydrologic cycle. Phases of the water cycle are storage, evaporation, precipitation, and runoff. Water is stored in glaciers, polar ice caps, lakes, rivers, oceans, and in the ground. Heat from the sun evaporates water from the earths surface and the water then condenses to form clouds. It falls back to the earth as precipitation, either as rain or snow, then runs into the oceans through rivers or underground and begins the cycle again. C. Uniformitarianism or actualism, helps geologists use their knowledge of modern processes and events to reconstruct the past. The principle of uniformitarianism depends on the 'uniformity of laws,' which assumes that the laws of physics and chemistry have remained constant. To test uniformity of laws, geologists can examine preserved one-billion-year-old ripples that look very much like ripples on the beach today. If gravity had changed, water and sand would have interacted differently in the past, and the ripple evidence would be different. Also, minerals in three-billion-year-old rocks are the same as minerals forming in rocks today, confirming the uniformity of chemical laws. Uniformitarianism contrasts with, for example, the idea that past events such as floods or earthquakes were caused by divine intervention or supernatural causes. Catastrophism, which calls on major catastrophes to explain earths history, is also sometimes contrasted with uniformitarianism. However, uniformitarianism can include past catastrophes. FIELDS OF GEOLOGY Geologists have found it useful to divide geology into two main fields: physical geology, which examines the nature of the earth in its present state, and historical geology, which examines the changes the earth has undergone throughout time. A. Physical Geology Physical geology can be subdivided into a number of disciplines according to the way geologists study the earth and which physical aspects they study. Fields such as geophysics, geochemistry, mineralogy and petrology, and structural geology apply the sciences of physics and chemistry to study aspects of the earth. Hydrology, geomorphology, and marine geology incorporate the study of water and its effects on weathering into geology, while environmental, economic, and engineering geology apply geologic knowledge and engineering principles to solve practical problems.

1. Geophysics Geophysics, branch of science that applies physical principles to the study of the earth. Geophysicists examine physical phenomena and their relationships within the earth; such phenomena include the earths magnetic field, heat flow, the propagation of seismic (earthquake) waves, and the force of gravity. The scope of geophysics also broadly includes outer-space phenomena that influence the earth, even in subtle ways; the effects of the sun on the earths magnetic field; and manifestations of cosmic radiation and the solar wind. In the field of geophysics, geologists apply the concepts of physics to the study of the earth. Geophysics is such a broad field that scientists sometimes consider it a separate field from geology. The largest subdiscipline in geophysics is seismology, the study of the travel of seismic waves through the earth. Seismic waves are generated naturally by earthquakes, or they can be made artificially by explosions from bombs or air guns. Seismologists study earthquakes and construct models of the earth's interior using seismic techniques. Geophysics also includes the study of the physics of materials such as rocks, minerals, and ice within the fields of petrology, mineralogy, and glaciology. Geophysicists study the behavior of the planets oceans, atmosphere, and volcanoes. Specialists called volcanologists study the worlds volcanoes and try to predict eruptions by using seismology and other remote sensing techniques, such as satellite imagery. Monitoring active volcanoes is especially important in highly populated areas. 2. Geochemistry Geochemistry, the application of chemical principles and techniques to geologic studies, to understand how chemical elements are distributed in the crust, mantle, and core of the earth. Over a period of several billion years, chemical differentiation of the earth's crust has created vast rafts of silica-rich rocks, the continents, which float on iron- and magnesium-rich rocks of the ocean basins. Geochemistry is the application of chemistry to the study of the earth, its materials, and the cycling of chemicals through its systems. It is essential in numerical dating and in reconstructing past conditions on the earth. Geochemistry is important for tracing the transport of chemicals through the earths four component systems: the lithosphere (rocky exterior), the hydrosphere (waters of the earth), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (the system of living things). Biogeochemistry is an emerging field that examines the chemical interactions between living and nonliving systemsfor example, microorganisms that act in soil formation. Geochemistry has important applications in environmental and economic geology as well as in the fields of mineralogy and petrology. 3. Mineralogy and Petrology The fields of mineralogy (the study of minerals) and petrology (the study of rocks) are closely related because rocks are made of minerals. Mineralogists and petrologists study the origin, occurrence, structure, and history of rocks or minerals. They attempt to understand the physical, chemical, and less commonly, biological conditions under which geologic materials form. Mineralogy is important for understanding natural materials and is also used in the materials engineering field, such as in ceramics. Petrology focuses on two of the three rock types: igneous rocksrocks made from molten materialand metamorphic rocksthose rocks that have been changed by high temperatures or pressures. The third rock type, sedimentary rocks, are the focus of sedimentary geology, commonly classified under historical geology. 4. Structural geology deals with the form, arrangement, and internal structure of rocks, including their history of deformation, such as folding and faulting. Structural geology includes everything from field mapping to the study of microscopic deformation within rocks. Most geologic reconstructions require an understanding of structural geology. The term tectonics is commonly used for large-scale structural geology, such as the study of the history of a mountain belt, or plate tectonics (the study of the crustal plates). Neotectonics is the study of recent faulting and deformation; such studies can reconstruct the history of active faults, and the history can be used in hazard analysis and land-use planning.

5. Hydrology and Geomorphology

Hydrology, science that deals with the waters of Earththeir properties, behavior, and distribution. Hydrologists, as scientists in this field are called, study the occurrence, distribution, and circulation of Earths waters as well as their chemical and physical properties and their interaction with the environment and living things. The science of hydrology grew out of the desire to know why the oceans do not rise even though the worlds rivers continually empty great volumes of water into them. Once people came to realize that water could change its state from a liquid to a vapor (gas) through the application of heat, it became clear that the heat of the Sun on the ocean surfaces continually converts water to vapor. Meanwhile, the science of meteorology was lifting the veil of superstition from the causes of changes in weather. People knew that rain came from clouds and learned that clouds were made up of minute particles of water or ice. Ultimately, scientists identified the cloud particles with the invisible water vapor in the atmosphere. Hydrologists soon mapped out the series of movements of water above, on, and below the surface of Earth that is known as the water cycle or the hydrologic cycle. In this endless cycle, water is stored temporarily in the ground; in oceans, lakes, and rivers; and in ice caps and glaciers. It evaporates (see Evaporation) from Earths surface, condenses (see Condensation) in clouds, falls back to the surface as precipitation (rain, snow, or hail), and eventually either runs into the sea or reevaporates into the atmosphere. Essentially, the sea is the source of all water found on the land. When seawater is heated enough by the Sun, it evaporates, or turns into water vapor. The water vapor rises into the air. The air into which it rises circulates about the planet because of differences in heating at the poles and the tropics, differences in atmospheric pressure, and the rotation of Earth. Within the circulating air, parcels (small volumes) of warm, moist air rise and cool until the air can no longer hold its moisture as vapor. At this point the vapor condenses, turning into tiny droplets of liquid water. The minute water droplets are suspended in the air and appear as clouds. Eventually, tiny droplets coalesce into bigger drops around a solid core, such as a particle of ice or dust. When these drops attain weight sufficient to overcome the resistance of the air, they fall to the surface as precipitation (rain, snow, or hail). Water Cycle or Hydrologic Cycle, series of movements of water above, on, and below the surface of the earth. The water cycle consists of four distinct stages: storage, evaporation, precipitation, and runoff. Water may be stored temporarily in the ground; in oceans, lakes, and rivers; and in ice caps and glaciers. It evaporates from the earths surface, condenses in clouds, falls back to the earth as precipitation (rain or snow), and eventually either runs into the seas or reevaporates into the atmosphere. Almost all the water on the earth has passed through the water cycle countless times. Very little water has been created or lost over the past billion years. Evaporation is the process by which liquid water changes to water vapor and enters the atmosphere as a gas. Evaporation of ice is called sublimation. Evaporation from the leaf pores, or stomata, of plants is called transpiration. Every day about 1,200 cu km (about 290 cu mi) of water evaporates from the ocean, land, plants, and ice caps, while an equal amount of precipitation falls back on the earth. If evaporation did not replenish the water lost by precipitation, the atmosphere would dry out in ten days. The evaporation rate increases with temperature, sunlight intensity, wind speed, plant cover, and ground moisture, and it decreases as the humidity of the air increases. The evaporation rate on the earth varies from almost zero on the polar ice caps to as much as 4 m (as much as 13 ft) per year over the Gulf Stream. The average is about 1 m (about 3.3 ft) per year. At this rate, evaporation would lower sea level about 1 m per year if the water were not replenished by precipitation and runoff. Precipitation occurs when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into clouds and falls to the earth. Precipitation can take a variety of forms, including rain, snow, ice pellets, and hail. About 300 cu km (about 70 cu mi) of precipitation falls on the land each day. Almost two-thirds of this precipitation reevaporates into the atmosphere, while the rest flows down rivers to the oceans. Individual storms can produce enormous amounts of precipitation. For example, an average winter low-pressure system drops about 100 cu km (about 24 cu mi) of water on the earth during

its lifetime of several days, and a severe thunderstorm can drop 0.1 cu km (0.02 cu mi) of water in a few hours over a small area.

Geomorphology Geomorphology, scientific study of landforms and landscapes. The term usually applies to the origins and dynamic morphology (changing structure and form) of the earth's land surfaces, but it can also include the morphology of the seafloor and the analysis of extraterrestrial terrains. Sometimes included in the field of physical geography, geomorphology is really the geological aspect of the visible landscape. The science has developed in two distinctive ways that must be integrated in order for the whole picture of landscapes to emerge. The earth's surface processes are the focus of hydrology and geomorphology. Hydrology is the study of water on the earth's surface, excluding the oceans. Hydrogeology is the study of groundwater (water under the ground) and the geologic processes of surface water. As water is necessary for life, hydrology and hydrogeology are important for economic and environmental reasons, such as maintaining a clean water supply. Geomorphology is the examination of the development of present landforms; geomorphologists attempt to understand the nature and origin of these landforms. They may work from the large scale of mountain belts to the small scale of rill marks (small grooves in sand). Geomorphologists commonly specialize in one of many areas, such as in glacial or periglacial (near glaciers), fluvial (river), hillslope, or coastal processes. Their work is important for a basic understanding of the active surface that humans live on, a surface that is subject to erosion, landslides, floods, and other processes that affect our daily lives. 6. Marine Geology Geology specific to the ocean environment is called marine geology. Marine geologists may be specialists in a number of fields, including petrology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, paleontology, geochemistry, geophysics, and volcanology. They may take samples from the ocean while out at sea or make measurements through remote sensing techniques. Drilling platforms and drilling ships allow earth scientists to make more-detailed studies of the history of the oceans and the ocean floor. For example, in 1984 an international team of geoscientists from 20 nations formed the Ocean Drilling Program, an outgrowth of the earlier Deep Sea Drilling Program. This program is designed to set up drilling through the top sedimentary layer and the ocean crust in deep-sea sites around the world. This work has helped the field of paleoceanography (the reconstruction of the history of the oceans, including ancient ocean chemistry, temperature, circulation, and biology). 7. Environmental, Economic and Engineering Geology The application of geologic knowledge to practical problems is the focus of the fields of environmental, economic, and engineering geology. Environmental geology involves the protection of human health and safety through understanding geological processes. For example, it is critically important to understand the geology of areas where people propose to store nuclear waste products. The study of geologic hazards, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, can also be considered part of environmental geology. Economic geology is the use of geologic knowledge to find and recover materials that can be used profitably by humans, including fuels, ores, and building materials. Because these products are so diverse, economic geologists must be broadly trained; they commonly specialize in a particular aspect of economic geology, such as petroleum geology or mining geology. Engineering geology is the application of engineering principles to geologic problems. Two fields of engineering that use geology extensively are civil engineering and mining engineering. For example, the stability of a building or bridge requires an understanding of both the foundation material (rocks, soil) and the potential for earthquakes in the area.
B. Historical Geology

Historical geology focuses on the study of the evolution of earth and its life through time. Historical geology includes many subfields. Stratigraphy and sedimentary geology are fields that investigate layered rocks and the environments in which they are found. Geochronology is the study of determining the age of rocks, while paleontology is the study of fossils. Other fields, such as paleoceanography, paleoseismology, paleoclimatology, and paleomagnetism, apply geologic knowledge of ancient conditions

to learn more about the earth. The Greek prefix paleo is used to identify ancient conditions or periods in time, and commonly means the reconstruction of the past.

1. Stratigraphy is the study of the history of the earth's crust, particularly its stratified (layered) rocks. Stratigraphy is concerned with determining age relationships of rocks as well as their distribution in space and time. Rocks may be studied in an outcrop but commonly are studied from drilled cores (samples that have been collected by drilling into the earth). Most of the earth's surface is covered with sediment or layered rocks that record much of geologic history; this is what makes stratigraphy important. It is also important for many economic and environmental reasons. A large portion of the world's fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal, are found in stratified rocks, and much of the world's groundwater is stored in sediments or stratified rocks. Stratigraphy may be subdivided into a number of fields. Biostratigraphy is the use of fossils for age determination and correlation of rock layers; magnetostratigraphy is the use of magnetic properties in rocks for similar purposes. Newer fields in stratigraphy include chemostratigraphy, seismic stratigraphy, and sequence stratigraphy. Chemostratigraphy uses chemical properties of strata for age determination and correlation as well as for recognizing events in the geologic record. For example, oxygen isotopes (forms of oxygen that contain a different number of neutrons in the nuclei of atoms) may provide evidence of an ancient paleoclimate. Carbon isotopes may identify biologic events, such as extinctions. Rare chemical elements may be concentrated in a marker layer (a distinctive layer that can be correlated over long distances). Seismic stratigraphy is the subsurface study of stratified rocks using seismic reflection techniques. This field has revolutionized stratigraphic studies since the late 1970s and is now used extensively both on land and offshore. Seismic stratigraphy is used for economic reasons, such as finding oil, and for scientific studies. An offshoot of seismic stratigraphy is sequence stratigraphy, which helps geologists reconstruct sea level changes throughout time. The rocks used in sequence stratigraphy are bounded by, or surrounded by, surfaces of erosion called unconformities. 2. Sedimentology, or sedimentary geology, is the study of sediments and sedimentary rocks and the determination of their origin. Sedimentary geology is process oriented, focusing on how sediment was deposited. Sedimentologists are geologists who attempt to interpret past environments based on the observed characteristics, called facies, of sedimentary rocks. Facies analysis uses physical, chemical, and biological characteristics to reconstruct ancient environments. Facies analysis helps sedimentologists determine the features of the layers, such as their geometry, or layer shape; porosity, or how many pores the rocks in the layers have; and permeability, or how permeable the layers are to fluids. This type of analysis is important economically for understanding oil and gas reservoirs as well as groundwater supplies. 3. Geochronology The determination of the age of rocks is called geochronology. The fundamental tool of geochronology is radiometric dating (the use of radioactive decay processes as recorded in earth materials to determine the numerical age of rocks). Most radiometric dating techniques are useful in dating igneous and metamorphic rocks and minerals. One type of non-radiometric dating, called strontium isotope dating, measures different forms of the element strontium in sedimentary materials to date the layers. Geologists also have ways to determine the ages of surfaces that have been exposed to the sun and to cosmic rays. These methods are called thermoluminescence dating and cosmogenic isotope dating. Geologists can count the annual layers recorded in tree rings, ice cores, and certain sediments such as those found in lakes, for very precise geochronology. However, this method is only useful for time periods up to tens of thousands of years. Some geoscientists are now using Milankovitch cycles (the record of change in materials caused by variations in the earth's orbit) as a geologic time clock. 4. Paleontology is the study of ancient or fossil life. Paleobiology is the application of biological principles to the study of ancient life on earth. These fields are fundamental to stratigraphy and are used to reconstruct the history of organisms' evolution and extinction throughout earth history. The oldest fossils are older than 3 billion years, although fossils

do not become abundant and diverse until about 500 million years ago. Different fossil organisms are characteristic of different times, and at certain times in earth history, there have been mass extinctions (times when a large proportion of life disappears). Other organisms then replace the extinct forms. The study of fossils is one of the most useful tools for reconstructing geologic history because plants and animals are sensitive to environmental changes, such as changes in the climate, temperature, food sources, or sunlight. Their fossil record reflects the world that existed while they were alive. Paleontology is commonly divided into vertebrate paleontology (the study of organisms with backbones), invertebrate paleontology (the study of organisms without backbones), and micropaleontology (the study of microscopic fossil organisms). Many other subfields of paleontology exist as well. Paleobotanists study fossil plants, and palynologists study fossil pollen. Ichnology is the study of trace fossilstracks, trails, and burrows left by organisms. Paleoecology attempts to reconstruct the behavior and relationships of ancient organisms. 5. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Paleoceanography (the study of ancient oceans) and paleoclimatology (the study of ancient climates) are two subfields that use fossils to help reconstruct ancient conditions. Scientists also study stable isotopes, or different forms, of oxygen to reconstruct ancient temperatures. They use carbon and other chemicals to reconstruct aspects of ancient oceanographic and climatic conditions. Detailed paleoclimatic studies have used cores from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland to reconstruct the last 200,000 years. Ocean cores, tree rings, and lake sediments are also useful in paleoclimatology. Geologists hope that by understanding past oceanographic and climatic changes, they can help predict future change. Paleoclimatology, study of past climates on Earth by examining Earth's crust, fossil records, and other physical evidence. The climate of a region is defined by the range of temperature and precipitation (rain or snow) occurring there. These factors result in characteristic patterns of vegetation, animal life, sedimentation (layers of sediment that eventually form rock), and land forms and features. Paleoclimatologists search for the reasons behind climatic change throughout Earth's history so that scientists may better predict future climate change and evaluate the influence of humankind's activities on the atmosphere and climate. Paleoclimatologists must find and date past events to piece together climatic history. The further they look into the past, the more climatic evidence has faded as a result of erosion and chemical processes. Paleoclimatologists have been able to assemble a detailed picture of climatic variation over the past 20,000 years and a more general knowledge about climatic variation over the past 150,000 years. Further back in time the evidence is less complete, but major, often catastrophic, climatic events have been identified at various times throughout Earth's 4.6-billion-year history. Questions and Answers About Geology Q1: What are the three main types of rock? A: Geologists recognize three fundamental rock types: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Igneous rocks are formed by the solidification or crystallization of magma (molten rock). Magma forms deep under the ground as a result of melting in Earths mantle. Igneous rocks include all the rock types formed by eruption of magma at the surface, known as the volcanic rocks (obsidian, pumice, and volcanic ash, for example). Igneous rocks also include the products of magma crystallization and solidification within the Earth (gabbro, diorite, and granite, for example). The term igneous is derived from the Latin ignis, meaning fire, which refers to the high-temperature origin of these rocks. Sedimentary rocks are divided into two major classes: chemical sediments and detrital sediments. Chemical sedimentary rocks are mainly formed by minerals formerly dissolved in seawater, mainly from seawater. They include limestone and gypsum. Detrital sedimentary rocks are formed where sand, silt, and mud are deposited after being carried by water or wind. These rocks include sandstone, mudstone, and siltstone.

Metamorphic rocks originate as either igneous or sedimentary rocks. After being buried and subjected to high temperatures and pressures within the Earth, they change in appearance and chemical composition and recrystallize. Limestone, for example, will change to marble when subjected to high pressures and temperatures. Q2 What is the most common type of rock on Earths surface? A: Basalt is the most common rock type on Earths surface. It is a black or dark gray volcanic rock that is produced mainly by eruptions that take place on the submarine mid-ocean ridge mountain chain that snakes its way through Earths ocean basins. The ocean basins form about 70 percent of Earths surface area, and basalt rocks underlie them all. Basalt lavas also flow from many volcanoes above sea level, such as the volcanoes of Hawaii and Iceland. It is probably the most common volcanic rock in the solar system, and it is abundant as lava flows on the Moon and on Mars. Q3: What causes continental drift? A: Continental drift is a consequence of plate tectonic motion. Earths surface is composed of about 15 major crustal plates that move at rates of a few centimeters per year. The continents sit on top of the moving tectonic plates and drift with the plates motion. There are two factors responsible for plate motion and continental drift. The major driving force is subduction. Subduction is the process by which one plate slips beneath another plate, returning into Earths mantle. Subduction occurs because the descending plate is denser and therefore heavier than the upper plate. Gravity pulls the heavier plate down into the mantle. The pull of the subducting portion moves the entire plate, including any continents located on top of it. The second cause of plate motion is the convective flow of the mantle, the layer that lies beneath the plates. The heat causes very slow currents in the mantle as less dense material moves upward. Convection occurs in the mantle because of heat deep within the Earth. Q4: Why is a deep quake less damaging than a shallow one with the same rating? A: The damage caused by an earthquake depends on both the depth of origin and on the Richter magnitude of the quake. Two earthquakes of the same magnitude but occurring at different depths will release the same amount of energy. However, more of the energy released in a shallow earthquake reaches the surface, where it can cause damage to buildings and other surface structures. On the other hand, the energy released by a deep earthquake is largely dissipated or wasted before the earthquake waves reach the surface of the Earth, so it causes less damage. Q5: Why does the ocean appear blue when a glass of seawater is clear? A: The color of the ocean is normally blue because the ocean reflects the color of the daytime sky. The sky is blue, on the other hand, because of the scattering of tiny particles and gas molecules in the atmosphere. However, even on a cloudless day, the ocean is not all blue. Its color is determined by the interaction of the light with particles and microscopic organisms in the water, including tiny plantlike particles called phytoplankton. The microscopic organisms contain chlorophyll, which gives the ocean a greenish color. Water with a high concentration of plankton appears blue-green. Very pure water appears deep blue, almost black. A glass of seawater is simply too small a sample to show these color effects. Q6: What is the Ring of Fire? A: If you look at a map that shows the distribution of volcanoes on the Earth, you may notice the great number of volcanoes that occur at the margins of the Pacific Ocean. This great feature is called the Ring of Fire. The ring includes the long chain of volcanoes that stretches through the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, down the west coast of the North American continent, through the volcanic peaks of the Cascades, into Mexico and down the backbone of Central America and the Andes of South America, and all the way into the South Sandwich Islands and Antarctica. On the other side of the Pacific Basin, the Ring of Fire begins in the Kamchatka volcanoes in easternmost Russia and extends south through the Kuril Islands, Japan, the Philippines, and the Mariana Islands, extending south all the way through the New Zealand volcanic belt. The Ring of Fire originated because the plates that make up the Pacific basin are generally subducting beneath continental plates, causing subduction-zone volcanism at the surface. Consequently, the Pacific basin is very slowly but steadily shrinking in size.

Q7: How does salt get into the ocean? A: The most concentrated chemical in the ocean is chlorine, and the second most abundant is sodium. In combination, they make up the chemical compound we know as salt (sodium chloride). The concentration of salt in the ocean is 35 parts per thousand. The amount of salt in the worlds oceans is truly enormous. In fact, the oceans contain enough salt to bury the North American continent in a layer of salt 10 km (6 mi) thick! Until recently it was thought that rivers carried most of the salt from the continents into the ocean over geologic time. This occurs because sodium and chlorine are released during weathering of the rocks on land and carried in solution in runoff by streams into the sea. But new explorations of the seafloor have led to the discovery of another source of chlorine that is very large. Deep-diving expeditions on the volcanic mid-ocean ridges have shown that the ocean also receives chlorine from hot fluids that issue from submarine volcanic vents. These chemical-rich hydrothermal fluids are discharged onto the ocean floor and mix with seawater. Ultimately, the chlorine carried by these fluids comes from the Earths mantle: the hot inner layer of the Earth that gives rise to magma and volcanic activity. Exploration of the submarine hydrothermal vents is still in its infancy. Therefore, we do not yet know which of these two factors has been more important to the evolution of salt in the sea: transport of salt in rivers from the continents, or input of chlorine from submarine hydrothermal vents.

METEOROLOGY Meteorology, study of the earths atmosphere and especially the study of weather. A meteorologist is a person who studies the atmosphere. Meteorology is divided into a number of specialized sciences. Physical meteorology deals with the physical aspects of the atmosphere, such as the formation of clouds, rain, thunderstorms, and lightning. Physical meteorology also includes the study of visual events such as mirages, rainbows, and halos. The study of the winds and the laws that govern atmospheric motion is called dynamic meteorology. Synoptic meteorology is the study and analysis of large weather systems that exist for more than one day. Weather forecasting is part of synoptic meteorology. Agricultural meteorology deals with weather and its relationship to crops and vegetation. The study of atmospheric conditions over an area smaller than 1 sq km (0.4 sq mi) is called micrometeorology. Climate describes the average weather of a region. (Weather forecasting, weather prediction or weather casting).
Special Meteorological Instrument

Meteorologists have developed several sophisticated instruments that measure multiple physical characteristics of the air simultaneously and at more than one location. The most important of these special instruments are radiosondes, Doppler radar, and weather satellites. 1. A radiosonde measures air temperature, air pressure, and humidity from the earths surface up to an altitude of about 30,000 m (about 100,000 ft). The radiosonde consists of a small box attached to a gas-filled balloon. As the balloon rises, a barometer measures air pressure, a thermometer measures temperature, and a hygrometer measures humidity. All of this information is transmitted by radio back to the ground. Special tracking equipment monitors the movement of the radiosonde, and this tracking information is then converted into wind speed and wind direction. When the balloon bursts, the radiosonde descends to the earth by parachute. 2. Doppler Radar Radar provides meteorologists with information about precipitation and storms. A radar unit sends out a pulse of microwaves. When the microwaves strike objects, such as falling precipitation, some of the microwaves are reflected back to the radar unit, where they are detected by an antenna and displayed on a screen. The elapsed time between transmission and return indicates how far away the precipitation is. Doppler radar can determine wind speed by measuring the speed at which precipitation is moving horizontally toward or away from the radar antenna. It does this by measuring the change in frequency of the returning microwavesthe frequency of the returning waves decreases if the rain is moving away from the radar unit and increases if the rain is moving toward it. This change in frequency is called the Doppler effect. Meteorologists also use Doppler radar to peer into severe thunderstorms and locate tornadoes. Presently,

there is a network of 135 Doppler radar units at selected sites within the continental United States. 3. A weather satellite is a cloud-observing platform in space. Satellites provide cloud observations day and night over vast regions. There are two main types of weather satellites: geostationary satellites and polar orbiting satellites. Geostationary satellites orbit the earth at the same rate that the earth spins. Hence, they remain about 36,000 km (about 22,000 mi) above a fixed spot on the equator and constantly monitor a specific region below them. Successive cloud photographs from geostationary satellites provide meteorologists with valuable information about the development, movement, and dissipation of weather fronts, storms, and clouds. Polar orbiting satellites, situated about 850 km (about 530 mi) above the earths surface, pass over the North and South poles on each orbit photographing the clouds directly beneath them. Because the earth rotates beneath the satellite, each orbit enables the satellite to monitor an area that is west of its previous pass. Thus, the satellite photographs the entire surface of the earth every 12 hours. Since polar orbiting satellites observe clouds at a much lower altitude than geostationary satellites, they provide more photographic detail of cloud systems. Questions and Answers About Meteorology Q1: Why is the sky blue? A: Answer:Molecules of nitrogen and oxygen, which account for more than 98 percent of the gases that make up air, are just the right size to scatter blue light. The light from the sun is white; that is, it has all of the colors. But the blue colors bounce off of molecules of air, going in all directions. No matter what direction you look in during the day, blue light is coming toward you from the sky, unless clouds hide the sky. Q2: What factors classify a tropical storm as a typhoon? Please explain in detail the difference between a typhoon, a hurricane, and a cyclone. A: A typhoon is a tropical cyclone with winds of 120 km/h (74 mph) or faster that forms over the Pacific Ocean west of the International Date Line and north of the equator. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds of 120 km/h or faster that forms over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line and north of the equator. Elsewhere, these storms are just called tropical cyclones or cyclones. They form in the southern and northern Indian Ocean, north of Australia, and over the southern Pacific Ocean. The term tropical storm is used in many parts of the worldincluding the hurricane regionsfor storms with sustained winds between 63 and 117 km/h (39 and 73 mph). Many but not all of these grow into hurricanes or typhoons. As you can see, tropical cyclone is the general name for a kind of storm, while typhoon and hurricane are the names applied to these storms in particular locations. All tropical cyclones form over warm oceans and begin losing strength when they move over cool water or land. Meteorologists call them warm core storms because their centers are warmer than the surrounding air. Extratropical cyclones form over land or oceans away from the tropics. While tropical cyclones contain only warm, humid air at the Earths surface, extratropical cyclones have both warm and cool, or even cold, air. Winter storms are extratropical cyclones. Q3: Can tornadoes cross water? A: Tornadoes definitely can cross water; in fact, tornadoes can form over the water and move onto land. The idea that tornadoes dont cross water is one of those myths you often hear, but its hard to understand how it got started. Tornadoes over water even have their own name: waterspouts. A waterspout can be a tornado that forms over land and happens to cross a pond, a river, or a lake. It can also be a tornado that forms over the water and either stays over the water or moves to hit land. All tornadoes are formed by thunderstorms, and they go where the parent thunderstorm goes. The thunderstorm, in turn, goes where winds in the upper atmosphere push it. Nothing on the ground, whether its a lake or a hill, is going to stop the thunderstorm and its tornado from going where they are pushed by the winds.

CLIMATOLOGY Climatology, a division of meteorology, is the study of a regions average daily and seasonal weather events over a long period. The scientific study of climates. OCEANOGRAPHY Ocean and Oceanography, great body of salt water comprising all the oceans and seas that cover nearly three-fourths of the surface of the earth, and the scientific study of the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the so-called world ocean. The major goals of oceanography are to understand the geologic and geochemical processes involved in the evolution and alteration of the ocean and its basin, to evaluate the interaction of the ocean and the atmosphere so that greater knowledge of climatic variations can be attained, and to describe how the biological productivity in the sea is controlled. 3 MAJOR SUBDIVISIONS OF THE WOLRD OCEAN 1. Atlantic Ocean Atlantic Ocean, the second largest of the earth's five oceans and the most heavily traveled. Only the Pacific Ocean is larger, covering about twice the area of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic is divided into two nominal sections: The part north of the equator is called the North Atlantic; the part south of the equator, the South Atlantic. The ocean's name is derived from Atlas, one of the Titans of Greek mythology. 2. Pacific Ocean Pacific Ocean, largest and deepest of the worlds five oceans, covering more than a third of the earths surface and containing more than half of its free water. It is sometimes divided into two nominal sections: the part north of the equator is called the North Pacific; the part south of the equator, the South Pacific. The name Pacific, which means peaceful, was given to it by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. 3. Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, third largest of Earth's five oceans, bounded on the west by Africa, on the north by Asia, on the east by Australia and the Australasian islands, and on the south by the Southern Ocean. No natural boundary separates the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean, but a line 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long on the 20th meridian east of Greenwich, connecting Cape Agulhas at the southern end of Africa with Antarctica, is generally considered to be the boundary.


1. Southern Ocean Southern Ocean, fourth largest of the worlds five oceans. The Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean are larger, and the Arctic Ocean is smaller. 2. Arctic Ocean Arctic Ocean, smallest of the five world oceans. The Arctic Ocean extends south from the North Pole to the shores of Europe, Asia, and North America.

Deep-Sea Exploration, investigation of physical, chemical, and biological conditions at the bottom of the ocean, for scientific and commercial purposes. The depths of the sea have been investigated with precision only during comparatively recent years; compared to the other areas of geological research, they still form a relatively unexplored domain.

BIOGEOGRAPHY Study of distribution of plants and animals: the study of the geographic distribution of plants and animals. ZOOGEOGRAPHY Study of places where animals live: the scientific study of the areas where different animals live and the causes and effects of such distribution, especially distributions on a large or global scale Animal Distribution, patterns that characterize where animals are found around the globe. When scientists study the distribution of animals, they investigate why reindeer, for instance, are found only in certain parts of the arctic tundra, or why malaria-bearing mosquitoes proliferate in damp subtropical areas. Scientists study animal distribution to understand the spread of animalborne diseases, to acquire knowledge about the preservation of rare species that may have special needs, and to become informed about the changing geography of the world, and our place in its history and its future. To understand these issues, scientists need to identify the specific climates, foods, and geographic features different animals require, and what areas best provide them. The study of animal distribution is called zoogeography.

ASTRONOMY Astronomy, study of the universe and the celestial bodies, gas, and dust within it. Astronomy includes observations and theories about the solar system, the stars, the galaxies, and the general structure of space. Astronomy also includes cosmology, the study of the universe and its past and future. People who study astronomy are called astronomers, and they use a wide variety of methods to perform their research. These methods usually involve ideas of physics, so most astronomers are also astrophysicists, and the terms astronomer and astrophysicist are basically identical. Some areas of astronomy also use techniques of chemistry, geology, and biology. Astronomy is the oldest science, dating back thousands of years to when primitive people noticed objects in the sky overhead and watched the way the objects moved. In ancient Egypt, the first appearance of certain stars each year marked the onset of the seasonal flood, an important event for agriculture. In 17th-century England, astronomy provided methods of keeping track of time that were especially useful for accurate navigation. Astronomy has a long tradition of practical results, such as our current understanding of the stars, day and night, the seasons, and the phases of the Moon. Much of today's research in astronomy does not address immediate practical problems. Instead, it involves basic research to satisfy our curiosity about the universe and the objects in it. One day such knowledge may well be of practical use to humans. History of Astronomy, history of the science that studies all the celestial bodies in the universe. Astronomy includes the study of planets and their satellites, comets and meteors, stars and interstellar matter, star systems known as galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The field of astronomy has developed from simple observations about the movement of the Sun and Moon into sophisticated theories about the nature of the universe. Cosmology, study of the universe as a whole, including its distant past and its future. Cosmologists study the universe observationallyby looking at the universeand theoreticallyby using physical laws and theories to predict how the universe should behave. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy, but the observational and theoretical techniques used by cosmologists involve a wide range of other sciences, such as physics and chemistry. Cosmology is distinguished from cosmogony, which used to mean the study of the origin of the universe but now usually refers only to the study of the origin of the solar system. Astrophysics, the branch of astronomy that seeks to understand the birth, evolution, and end states of celestial objects and systems in terms of the physical laws that govern them. For each object or system under study, astrophysicists observe radiations emitted over the entire electromagnetic spectrum and variations of these emissions over time (see Electromagnetic Radiation; Spectroscopy; Spectrum). This information is then interpreted with the aid of

theoretical models. It is the task of such a model to explain the mechanisms by which radiation is generated within or near the object, and how the radiation then escapes. Radiation measurements can be used to estimate the distribution and energy states of the atoms, as well as the kinds of atoms, making up the object. The temperatures and pressures in the object may then be estimated using the laws of thermodynamics. Models of celestial objects in equilibrium are based on balances among the forces being exerted on and within the objects, with slow evolution taking place as nuclear and chemical transformations occur. Cataclysmic phenomena are interpreted in terms of models in which these forces are out of balance. GEODESY Geodesy, branch of earth science that deals with determining precise positions on the surface of Earth, the size and shape of Earth, the motions of Earth in space, and the gravity field of Earth. Scientists known as geodesists create networks of accurately measured points on Earths surface. They measure the angles, distance, and gravity differences between these points, and then compute their latitude, longitude, and height. In addition, they determine how processes such as movements of Earths crust cause the results of these measurements to vary over time. The sets of accurately measured points that geodesists create are known as control networks. These control networks are used to construct accurate maps and charts. They also provide reference grids for surveys made in building roads, bridges, pipelines, tunnels, and many other structures (see Surveying).
Geodesy is closely related to geophysics. In fact, the two sciences overlap in several significant areas, such as in the study of Earths gravity. Both geodesists and geophysicists require precise measurements and accurate mathematical models in their work. In general, geodesists focus on measurements and coordinates (sets of numbers that together describe the exact positions of things), while geophysicists focus on how and why various physical processes and effects occur.