Earth Sciences Earth at night was holding in human hands Earth day Energy saving concept Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Earth Sciences (the Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Earth Scientist)

Articles in the Earth Sciences

The Earth Science category explores the physical characteristics of planet Earth, including 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 can also involve the study of other planets in space as well. Scientists do this by applying knowledge we gain by observing Earth to other planets in order 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 articles in this category what the scientists study and how it helps us improve our lives.

Four Main Branches of Earth Science

Within the Earth Sciences articles here, areas of study are often 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 important thing to remember 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.


Also known as the geosphere, the lithosphere typically refers to the solid parts of the Earth. This includes the oceanic and continental crustal rocks that make up the crust, and the plate tectonics that drive 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 solid 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 prior to building large cities and structures on top of them. Through their studies, we optimize our relationship with the land we live on. To learn more about the lithosphere, keep an eye out for Earth sciences articles on geology and related topics.


The hydrosphere includes all of the water found on Earth. Whether it's in the the oceans, under the ground, locked in masses of ice, or even trapped within rocks; it's all part of the hydrosphere. This emphasizes that the spheres aren't actual distinct physical layers separated by distinct 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 water as a species. Not only do we drink it, but much of our food comes from bodies of water. Fresh water 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 affects of pollution significantly. Many fish stocks are dwindling, and chemical imbalances are contributing to greater 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.


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 hold the majority of the effects due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide. Earth Scientists track these amounts, their sources, and effects of changes. Besides climate change, we also keep track of the weather, global climate phenomenon, and other changes which could affect us. This is another topic that will be covered in environmental Earth sciences articles, as well as those about space science.


Also known as the ecosphere, the biosphere is the portion of Earth Science 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 originally 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 for 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 more about the work Earth Scientists are doing these days.

Books in the Earth Sciences

Of course, Earth sciences looks 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 to never witness many of these processes in their lifetime. That's why it's important 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 huge swath of academic fields and professional applications. And literally anyone can do it. Even small children can be introduced to 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 great for those who think this might be ideal. An Earth sciences book like the Laboratory Manual for Introductory Geology offers a number of 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 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 the 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 important parts of the balance on Earth. Each of them has many intricacies in and of themselves, and then each interacts with others to create the whole.

Understanding all of these basics then leads to the ability to understand 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 few 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 huge 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, but there are still many mysteries for Earth science to solve, and problems for it to address.

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