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An Introduction

to Geology





The Science of Geology
Geology - the science that pursues an
understanding of planet Earth
Physical geology - examines the materials
composing Earth and seeks to understand
the many processes that operate beneath
and upon its surface
Historical geology - seeks an
understanding of the origin of Earth and
its development through time
The Science of Geology
Geology, people, and the environment
Many important relationships exist
between people and the natural
environment
Problems and issues addressed by geology
include
Natural hazards, resources, world population
growth, and environmental issues
Geologic time
Geologists are now able to assign fairly
accurate dates to events in Earth history
(absolute dating)
Relative dating and the geologic time scale
Relative dating means that dates are placed
in their proper sequence or order without
knowing their age in years


The
geologic
time
scale
Figure 1.7
Precambrian
4.6 billion years to 544 million years.
Represents 88% of all of the history of the earth.
Referred to as the Cryptozoic Eon.
hidden life

(prokaryotes)
(no more BIFs)
88% of
geologic time
Precambrian: The First 4 Billion
Years
Geologic time
The magnitude of geologic time
Involves vast times millions or billions of
years
An appreciation for the magnitude of
geologic time is important because many
processes are very gradual
(uniformitarianism)
Earth 4.6 Billion Years Old
The nature of
scientific inquiry
Science assumes the natural world is
consistent and predictable
Goal of science is to discover patterns in
nature and use the knowledge to make
predictions
Scientists collect data through observation
and measurements
The nature of
scientific inquiry
How or why things happen is explained
using a
Hypothesis a tentative (or untested)
explanation
Theory a well-tested and widely accepted
view that the scientific community agrees
best explains certain observable facts
Law-a general observation that holds true
without explaining why it holds true

The nature of
scientific inquiry
Scientific method involves
Gathering facts through observations (data)
Formulation of hypotheses and theories
There is no fixed path that scientists follow
that leads to scientific knowledge
A view of Earth
Earth is a planet that is small and self-
contained
Earths four spheres
Hydrosphere
Atmosphere
Biosphere
Solid Earth

Atmosphere
LITHOSPHERE Land
Contains all the cold, hard, solid
land of Earths crust (surface), the
semi-solid land underneath the crust,
and the liquid land near the center.
ATMOSPHERE Air
Contains all the air in Earths system.
BIOSPHERE Living Things
Contains all of Earths living things
microorganisms, plants, and animals.
HYDROSPHERE Water
Contains all the solid, liquid, and
gaseous water of Earth.
What is the Biosphere?
All regions of the Earth that are
capable of supporting life.
Evolved about 3.5 billion years ago
20-30 km thickness (deep ocean
trenches into the atmosphere)
Includes portions of the
hydrosphere, lithosphere,
atmosphere, and cryosphere.


The global ecosystem is called the
biosphere
It is the sum
of all the
Earth's
ecosystems
The biosphere
is the most
complex level
in ecology
The biosphere is the total of all of Earth's
ecosystems
THE BIOSPHERE
Figure 34.2A
The Biosphere
We divide the total biosphere into three
parts

the Atmosphere

the Hydrosphere

the Lithosphere
The Biosphere


It is the physical and chemical
parameters of each habitat that selects
for the autochthonous community.
The Biosphere
The Biosphere (a.k.a. Ecosphere) - the
totality of life on earth and the abiotic
surroundings that is inhabited.

Earth minus sterile areas:
strata below the crust
upper atmosphere
habitats of extreme heat or lacking liquid
water
Hydrosphere
The earths water is found as a
LIQUID in rivers, lakes, oceans, rain
GAS in our atmosphere
SOLID in snow and ice

71% of the earths surface is covered
by water
Processes of the
Hydrologic Cycle
Evaporation - the transformation of
water from a solid or liquid to a
gaseous state
Condensation - transformation of
vapor into a liquid
Precipitation - liquid or solid water
that falls from the atmosphere to
the earths surface
The Hydrosphere
Freshwater

Limnetic Habitats (Limnology)

2. Lotic Habitats (running water)
a. Springs
b. Streams
c. Rivers
The Hydrosphere
Freshwater - Lake Zonation
surface
littoral zone
limnetic zone (P>R)
profundal zone (P>R)

compensation depth
euphotic zone
Oceans
0.5% Groundwater
0.02% Rivers and Lakes
Structure of
Atmosphere
From Cunningham & Cunningham,
2004, Fig. 9.1
Atmospheric Composition % by Volume
Major Constituents
Nitrogen 78.1
Oxygen 20.9

Active Minor Constituents
Water vapor (H
2
O) variable (0.48 aver.)
Carbon Dioxide (CO
2
) 0.035
Methane (CH
4
) 0.00014
Nitrous oxide (NO
2
) 0.00005
Ozone (O
3
) 0.000007
CFCs 0.00000014
H
2
O (liq & ice) 0.00000002

Inactive Minor Constituents
Argon 0.93
Neon 0.0018
Helium 0.00052
Krypton 0.0001
Xenon 0.000009

Other Components of the
Atmosphere
Water Droplets
Ice Crystals
Sulfuric Acid Aerosols
Volcanic Ash
Windblown Dust
Sea Salt
Human Pollutants
Structure of the
Atmosphere
Defined by Temperature Profiles
Troposphere
Where Weather Happens
Stratosphere
Ozone Layer
Mesosphere
Thermosphere
Ionosphere
Troposphere
This is the layer
that is closest to
the surface of the
earth
Its elevation
ranges from 0 to
10 km
Stratosphere
This layer sits on
top of the
troposphere
Its elevation
ranges from 10 km
to around 25 km
This layer contains
the ozone layer,
which protects us
from harmful
sunlight
Mesosphere
This layer is above
the stratosphere
Its elevation
ranges from 25 to
100 km

Thermosphere
This is the highest
layer of the
atmosphere
Its height ranges
from 100 to 400 km
This is where most
small meteorites burn
up and is also the
location in the
atmosphere that the
northern lights occur
(aurora borealis)

Why is the Mesosphere so
Cold?
Stratosphere warmed because of
ozone layer
Thermosphere warmed by atoms
being accelerated by sunlight
Mesosphere is sandwiched between
two warmer layers
Composition and Altitude
Up to about 80 km, atmospheric
composition is uniform (troposphere,
stratosphere, mesosphere)
This zone is called the homosphere
Above 80 km light atoms rise
This zone is sometimes called the
heterosphere
Atmosphere
The surrounding air of the Earth

Earth as a system
Earth is a dynamic planet with many
interacting parts or spheres
Earth System Science
Aims to study Earth as a system composed
of numerous interacting parts or subsystems
Employs an interdisciplinary approach to
solve global environmental problems


Earth as a system
The Earth system is powered by the Sun
that drives external processes in the
Atmosphere
Hydrosphere
At Earths surface
The Earth system is also powered by
Earths interior
Earth as a system
What is a system
Any size group of interacting parts that
form a complex whole
Open vs. closed systems
Feedback mechanisms
Negative feedback maintains the status
quo
Positive feedback enhances or drives
changes


Early evolution of Earth
Origin of planet Earth
Most researchers believe that Earth and the
other planets formed at essentially the same
time
Nebular hypothesis
Rotating cloud called the solar nebula
Composed of hydrogen and helium
Nebula began to contract about 5 billion years
ago

Early evolution of Earth
Origin of planet Earth
Nebular hypothesis
Assumes a flat, disk shape with the protosun
(pre-Sun) at the center
Inner planets begin to form from metallic and
rocky substances
Larger outer planets began forming from
fragments of ices (H
2
O, CO
2
,

and others)
The Nebular Hypothesis

Early evolution of Earth
Formation of Earths layered structure
Metals sank to the center
Molten rock rose to produce a primitive
crust
Chemical segregation established the three
basic divisions of Earths interior
Primitive atmosphere evolved from gases in
Earths interior

How did Earth become density stratified?

Young Earth was probably homogeneous
Heat and gravitational pressure caused Earth to partially
melt
Gravity then pulled the iron present into the center of Earth
This heated Earth further
Lighter minerals migrated to Earths surface and formed
the crust
lasted ~100 million years

Early evolution of Earth
Earths internal structure
Layers defined by composition
Crust
Mantle
Core
Layers defined by physical properties
Lithosphere
Asthenosphere
Mesosphere
Inner and Outer Core

Earths
layered
structure
Figure 1.14

Mass (kg) 5.976e+24
Mass (Earth = 1)
Equatorial radius (km) 6,378.14
Equatorial radius (Earth = 1) 1.0
Mean density (gm/cm^3) 5.515
Mean distance from the Sun (km) 149,600,000
Mean distance from the Sun (Earth = 1) 1.0000
Rotational period (days) 0.99727
Rotational period (hours) 23.9345
Orbital period (days) 365.256
Mean orbital velocity (km/sec) 29.79
Orbital eccentricity 0.0167
Tilt of axis (degrees) 23.45
Orbital inclination (degrees) 0.000
Equatorial escape velocity (km/sec) 11.18
Equatorial surface gravity (m/sec^2) 9.78
Visual geometric albedo 0.37
Mean surface temperature 15C
Atmospheric pressure (bars) 1.013
Atmospheric composition
Nitrogen 77
Oxygen 21



Earth Stats
The face of Earth
Earths surface
Continents
Oceans
Continents
Mountain belts
Most prominent feature of continents
The stable interior
Also called a craton composed of shields and
stable platforms

The face of Earth
Ocean basins
Continental margins
Includes the continental shelf, continental slope,
and the continental rise
Deep-ocean basins
Abyssal plains
Oceanic trenches
Seamounts



The face of Earth
Ocean basins
Oceanic ridge system
Most prominent topographic feature on Earth
Composed of igneous rock that has been
fractured and uplifted


End of Chapter 1
Rocks and the rock cycle
Basic rock types
Igneous rocks
Cooling and solidification of magma (molten rock)
Examples include granite and basalt
Sedimentary rocks
Accumulate in layers at Earths surface
Sediments are derived from weathering of
preexisting rocks
Rocks and the rock cycle
Basic rock types
Sedimentary rocks
Examples include sandstone and limestone
Metamorphic rocks
Formed by changing preexisting igneous,
sedimentary or other metamorphic rocks
Driving forces are increased heat and pressure
Examples include gneiss and marble

Rocks and the rock cycle
The Rock Cycle: One of Earths
subsystems
The loop that involves the processes by which
one rock changes to another
Illustrates the various processes and paths as
earth materials change both on the surface and
inside the Earth
The
rock
cycle
Figure 1.21