What are the Earth Sciences?

Direct Knowlege Contributor Taylor Bauer
  • By Taylor Bauer, Technical Writer & Digital Marketing Expert
  • Taylor is a writer and SEO manager with a B.S. in Political Communication from Illinois State University. He also received his M.S. in Communications from Illinois State. His background comes from journalism, working at an NPR member station for three years before transitioning to blogging and search engine marketing. He lives in Illinois with his wife and two Toy Australian Sheppards.

About Earth Sciences

Even after years of research, you and I still wonder about the makeup of our planet. The natural science of Earth holds many mysteries, and dedicated scientists and researchers work diligently to answer our questions. Through articles and theoretical concepts, earth science is a valuable and important study in the natural sciences.

Earth science is a branch of study concerned with the natural construction of the planet. While related to planetary studies, the subject is much more concerned with geological elements of Earth and its chemical makeup. The study of earth science is essential to understand everything from the atmosphere to concepts of what the planet looked like billions of years ago.

Earth science articles and the study of the planet contribute to public knowledge of the Earth. You and I are among many who wonder about what mysteries lay above and below us here on Earth. The main areas of study in this subject help break down what elements make up our planet.

Four Main Branches of Earth Science

The Earth Science category explores the physical characteristics of planet Earth. The study includes processes in, on, and around the planet and how they affect us over time. But, the term Earth Science might be a tad misleading; because the Earth is, in fact, a planet. Earth Science concepts can involve the study of other planets in space as well. Scientists do this by applying the knowledge we gain by observing Earth to other worlds. Doing so helps to infer new conclusions about their unique situations.

However, the primary focus is the big rock we call home, as we depend on it directly to survive and thrive. We study it so that we can adapt to or even prevent drastic changes, thus making our lives more comfortable. Find out in the Earth Sciences concepts and articles in this category what the scientists study and how it helps us improve our lives.

Organizing Earth Science Concepts

Within the Earth Sciences articles here, areas of study split into spheres in terms of classifying the different parts of the Earth. This categorization makes it easier to isolate certain related parts of the Earth to see how they interact, and lets scientists specialize in one area. There are four main spheres, listed below, as well as some others. Each is merely a loose classification, often experiencing arguments about which parts of the Earth fit in which spheres. The critical thing to know is that each forms a part of the whole, with no actual set boundaries; the classifications just make it a bit easier for us to study such a magnificently large specimen. 

Lithosphere

Also known as the geosphere, the lithosphere typically refers to the substantial parts of the Earth. This sphere includes the oceanic and continental crustal rocks that make up the crust and the plate tectonics that drives them. The lower layers of the Earth, such as the mantle and core, aren’t typically part of the definition of the lithosphere. But, again, the lines are blurry. After all, convention in the lower layers drives the movement of crustal plates. And the mantle can form plums that rise to infiltrate and even break through the crust. Many inter-sphere relationships exist, but in general, the significant parts of the Earth are those included in this sphere.

In Earth Science, scientists study the lithosphere to explore how it changes, and how those changes affect us. They look for resources like minerals, ores, water, and fuels within it; predict and prepare for events like earthquakes or volcano eruptions; evaluate and analyze chunks of land before building large cities and structures on top of them. Through their studies, we optimize our relationship with the area on which we live. To learn more about the lithosphere, keep an eye out for Earth sciences articles on geology and related topics.

Hydrosphere

The hydrosphere includes all of the water found on Earth. Whether it’s in the oceans, under the ground, locked in masses of ice, or even trapped within rocks, it’s all part of the hydrosphere. This concept emphasizes that the spheres aren’t actual distinct physical layers separated by different boundaries. They are merely classifications. Water trapped in a pocket deep within the crust (part of the lithosphere) is still part of the hydrosphere.

Studying the hydrosphere is of great importance in Earth Science because of the dependence we have on the water as a species. Not only do we drink it, but much of our food comes from bodies of water. Freshwater lakes and rivers only make up a small portion of the total hydrosphere, and we’re using them up pretty fast (or just pouting them to the point that they aren’t useful anymore). More groundwater exists, but it, too, is being used quite quickly. The oceans will, of course, never run out, but they still feel the effects of pollution significantly. Many fish stocks are dwindling, and chemical imbalances are contributing to more considerable climate change by raising the ocean temperature. You’ll find more information on the hydrosphere in Earth sciences articles that cover the oceans and even environmental science.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere is the layer of gasses surrounding the planet and held in place only by Earth’s gravity. On Earth, the atmosphere is primarily nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and carbon dioxide. The proportion of each gas is crucial and has been one of the primary growing problems in the last few decades as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

Climate change has many shapes and forms across the planet, but the atmosphere holds the majority of the effects due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide. Earth Scientists track these amounts, their sources, and the consequences of changes. Besides climate change, we also keep track of the weather, global climate phenomenon, and other changes that could affect us. This idea is another topic covered in environmental Earth sciences articles, as well as those about space science.

Biosphere

Also known as the ecosphere, the biosphere is the portion of Earth Science concepts focusing on the living parts of the Earth. All living beings, human and otherwise, reside in this sphere. If we ever find life elsewhere in the universe, they, too, will be part of the biosphere of their respective planetary bodies.

Biospheres interact with the other spheres of Earth Science, changing over time in many ways. Some scientists even postulate that the living organisms that form biospheres came from non-living matter from the other spheres. In addition to Earth sciences articles, biology articles add a wealth of information to this topic.

Careers in Earth Science

Earth Scientists, also sometimes called geoscientists, come in many shapes and sizes. They can work for the government or private entities, in academia or business. For this reason, it’s hard to assign the field a single salary. But, the median listen by the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts them at a pretty hefty 91,000 dollars per year. Salary aside, working in the Earth Sciences opens up a lot of doors to a variety of fields; there’s sure to be something that fits each person. Read more in this category to figure out if there’s an area for you, or if you just want to learn about the work Earth Scientists are doing these days.

Books in the Earth Sciences

Of course, Earth sciences look at more than just “rocks.” Sure, geology is one of the main areas of interest in the field, but many other sub-disciplines comprise the field as a whole, as well. These include pretty much all of the physical sciences to the degree that they apply to Earth. The studies of oceans, climate, plants, animals, ecosystems, and more all have their place in this diverse field. The Earth sciences books here will show you the inner-workings of these systems and how they interact with each other and even with you.

Earth Sciences Books Earth's fault lines between tectonic plates

One Big Rock

In some ways, Earth science is a very self-explanatory term: it is, of course, the study of the Earth as a planet and as our home. But, it also holds some surprises. After all, the Earth is an extremely complicated place full of different environments and powered by incredible processes. And the average person is likely never to witness many of these processes in their lifetime. That’s why it’s crucial to read Earth sciences books that can help you understand how the planet works without needing to see every inch of it yourself.

Books and Activities for Getting into Earth Science

Given the size of the field of Earth Science, someone new to it might be unsure where to start. We’re here to help you get a foothold in this topic that spans such a massive swath of academic fields and professional applications. And literally, anyone can do it. Even small children can encounter this subject through fun experiment guides and hands-on exploration in the outdoors. Taking field trips to natural areas is an easy way to build interest in the field for pretty much everyone.

Many people taking their first geology class get hooked when they participate in hands-on activities. A course with geologic expeditions and labs is excellent for those who think this might be ideal. An Earth sciences book like the Laboratory Manual for Introductory Geology offers several lab exercises that can let students explore the field, or even help professors put together lesson plans that will engage their students.

For children, books and other materials will focus on these simple ideas and explaining the basics of the Earth sciences. This process usually means starting with the basic structure of the Earth, how big events like earthquakes and volcano eruptions work, and even some solar system topics like Earth’s place in the system and how the moon and sun interact with it.

A World of Possibilities

Slightly more advanced topics in Earth science start getting into the study of cycles that show how complex systems work as well as how they interact with each other. For example, the food chain, carbon cycle, water cycle are all critical parts of the balance on Earth. Each of them includes intricacies, and then each interacts with others to create the whole.

Understanding all of these basics then leads to the ability to know how they affect living things on the planet. We especially want to know how they affect humans. For example, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest focuses heavily on the relevance of geology to humans. In this Earth sciences book, you’ll learn about earthquakes as well as their consequences.

The past decades have also seen an increase in the focus on environmental issues. Campaigns like the “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan taught to kids have created movements of environmentally conscious people. These people are now looking to improve the way we interact with the planet and its resources. Thus, environmental issues and renewable energy sources are hot topics today, making up a considerable part of Earth science. But there are also many more topics to explore in-depth at higher levels in Earth science books here. We know a lot about the Earth; and here are still many mysteries for Earth science to solve and problems for it to address.

Earth Sciences FAQ

Want to explore additional concepts on earth science? Start with these questions!

What are the topics in earth science?

The concepts and topics in Earth science revolve around the physical and chemical elements of the planet’s makeup. Everything from the atmosphere’s components to layers of the planet’s crust falls under this subject. Studying each part of the planet’s characteristics helps researchers discover new findings of the properties of Earth.

Where can I study earth science?

Individuals can study Earth science in school or articles and books. Journals provide a lot of great resources to increase knowledge on the subject. Most major universities and colleges also offer Earth science courses and degree programs if someone wants to pursue a career in the field of natural sciences.

What does an earth scientist do?

Earth scientists work to increase knowledge and findings of the physical and chemical properties of the planet. Research often includes studying different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere or crust to discover various elemental changes. Earth scientists also find ways to increase the planet’s health through environmental studies and recommend new approaches to the field.

How do I become an earth scientist?

Becoming an Earth scientist involves learning and studying the subject. To earn a degree in the field, students usually complete a four-year program for a bachelor’s degree, followed by graduate studies. Many scientists in the area go on to obtain a Ph. D. and work closely with various field research projects.

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