Earth Science refers to the study of the solid part, or lithosphere, of the Earth. This is the science of geology, which encompasses a number of subspecialties. Research centers on the examination of the origin and location of the raw materials of the Earth, the minerals, which, in turn, make up aggregates called rocks, the primary constituents of the Earth’s landforms.
The science of geomorphology examines the processes by which minerals, rocks, and the solid portions of the Earth are formed. These processes include volcanic activity, dynamic earth movements or plate tectonics, and weathering, which lead to erosion and sedimentation. The study of Earth science yields an understanding of the formation and location of natural resources.
A more general definition of the term Earth Science includes studies of the other major divisions of the Earth, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere. Meteorology examines short-term atmospheric phenomena called weather, and climatology studies long-term weather behavior. The hydrologic sciences examine water on land and in the atmosphere, and oceanography studies the seas and oceans. Astronomy studies the universe beyond the Earth.
The Branches of Earth Science
Earth is difficult to study and understand because it’s so large and complex. One way to simplify the process is to divide the study of the Earth into smaller areas or branches of study. Earth Science is divided into five major areas of study:
- Meteorology is the study of the Earth’s atmosphere. Meteorologists not only forecast tomorrow’s weather, they also specialize in the relationships of weather and climate, and the forces and processes that cause it.
- Geology is the study of the solid Earth. Geologists study the forces that have shaped the Earth throughout its long history. They also study the chemical and physical characteristics of rocks and minerals.
- Oceanography is the study of the Earth’s oceans. Oceanographers study the chemistry of ocean water, the shape and depth of the ocean floor, and the living organisms, both plant and animals, that live in the ocean.
- Astronomy is the study of the universe. Astronomers study objects in space such as stars, planets, and galaxies.
- Environmental Science is the study of Earth’s environment and resources. Environmental scientists work to determine the effects of human activities on Earth’s land, water, air, and living things. While the environment has been studied for at least as long as there has been science, the recent interest in putting the pieces of understanding together to study environmental systems has become a substantive, active field of scientific investigation starting in the 1960s and 1970s.
The ultimate goals of Earth science are to unravel the mystery of the origin and evolution of the Earth, and how to maintain the natural balance while meeting the needs of the human population.
Earth Science is the study of Earth and its origin and development. It deals with the makeup and structure of the Earth and with its atmosphere and waters. Earth Science combines such related fields of geology, oceanography, meteorology, astronomy, and environmental science. Learn more at Excel High School.