Earth Science Literary Principles
Terms in this set (32)
Big Idea 1
Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet
Earth scientists find solutions to society's needs
Earth scientists work on challenging problems that face humanity on topics such as climate change and human impacts on Earth. Earth scientists successfully predict hazards to humans and locate and recover natural resources, making possible the flourishing of humans on Earth.
Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works
Earth scientists combine study of Earth's geology with aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics in order to understand the complexities of the Earth system.
Earth science investigations take many different forms
Earth scientists do reproducible experiments and collect multiple lines of evidence. This evidence is taken from field, analytical, theoretical, experimental, and modeling studies.
Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth's interior.
With the exception of wells and mine shafts drilled into Earth, direct observations of Earth's interior are not possible. Instead, Earth scientists observe the interior of the planet using seismic waves, gravity, magnetic fields, radar, sonar, and laboratory experiments on the behavior of materials at high pressures and temperatures.
Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth's future.
Earth science research tells us how Earth functioned in the past under conditions not seen today and how conditions are likely to change in the future.
Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
These scientific models, which can be conceptual or analytical, undergo rigorous scrutiny and testing by collaborating and competing groups of scientists around the world. Earth science research documents are subjected to rigorous peer review before they published in science journals.
Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
This Earth Science Literacy framework must be a living document that grows along with our changing ideas and concepts of Earth.
Big Idea 2
Earth is 4.6 billion years old
Earth's rocks and other materials provide a record of its history.
Earth scientists use the structure, sequence, and properties of rocks, sediments, and fossils to reconstruct events in Earth's history. Decay rates of radioactive elements are the primary means of obtaining numerical ages of rocks and organic remains. Understanding geologic processes active in the modern world is crucial to interpreting Earth's past.
Our Solar System formed from a vast cloud of gas and dust 4.6 billion years ago.
Some of this gas and dust was the remains of the supernova explosion of a previous star; our bodies are therefore made of "stardust". This age of 4.6 billion years is well established from the decay rates of radio actives elements found in meteorites and rocks from the Moon.
Earth formed from the accumulation of dust and gas, and multiple collisions of smaller planetary bodies.
Driven by gravity, Earth's metallic core formed as iron sank to the center. Rock surrounding the core was mostly molten early in Earth's history and slowly cooled to form Earth's mantle and crust. The atoms of different elements combined to make minerals, which combined to make rocks. Earth's ocean and atmosphere began to form more than 4 billion years ago from the rise of lighter materials out of the mantle.
Earth's crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic
Continental crust persists at Earth's surface and can be billions of years old. Oceanic crust continuously forms and recycles back into the mantle; in the ocean, it is nowhere older than 200 million years ago.
Studying other objects in the solar system help us learn Earth's history.
Active geologic processes such as plate tectonics and erosion have destroyed or altered most of Earth's early rock record. Many aspects of Earth's early history are revealed by objects in the solar system that have not changed as much as Earth has.
Life on Earth began more than 3.5 billion years ago.
Fossils indicate that life began with single-celled organisms, which were the only life forms for billions of years. Humans have existed for only a very small fraction of Earth's history.
Over Earth's vast history, both gradual and catastrophic processes have produced enormous changes.
Super continents formed and broke apart, the composition of the atmosphere and ocean changed, sea level rose and fell, living species evolved and went extinct, ice sheets advanced and melted away, meteorites lammed into Earth and mountains formed and eroded away.
Big Idea 3
Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air and life.
The four major systems of Earth are the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
The geosphere includes a metallic core, solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments. The atmosphere is the envelope of gas surrounding Earth. The hydrosphere includes the ice, water vapor, and liquid water in the atmosphere, the ocean, lakes, streams, soils, and ground water. The biosphere includes Earth's life which can be found in many parts of the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Humans are part of the biosphere, and human activities have important impacts on all four spheres.
All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth's systems
This energy is derived from the sun and Earth's interior. The flowing energy and cycling matter cause chemical and physical changes in Earth's materials and living organisms. For example, large amounts of carbon continually cycle among systems of rocks, water, air, organisms, and fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
Earth exchanges mass and energy with the rest of the Solar System.
Earth gains and loses energy through incoming solar radiation, heat loss to space, and gravitational forces from the sun, moon, and planets. Earth gains mass from the impacts of meteoroids and comets and loses mass by the escape of gases into space.
Earth's systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
These scales range from microscopic to global in size and operate over fractions of a second to billions of years.These interactions among Earth's systems have shaped Earth's history and will determine Earth's future.
Regions where organisms actively interact with each other and their environment are called ecosystems.
Ecosystems provide the good (food, fuel, oxygen, and nutrients) and services (climate regulation, water cycling and purification, and soil development and maintenance) necessary to sustain the biosphere. Ecosystems are considered the planet's essential life-support units.
Earth's systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences
Components of Earth's systems may appear stable, change slowly over long periods of time, or change abruptly with significant consequences for living organisms
Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
These new changes may take the form of "feedbacks" that can increase or decrease the original changes and can be unpredictable and/or irreversible. A deep knowledge of how most feedbacks work within and between Earth's systems is still lacking.
Earth's climate is an example of how complex interactions among systems can result in relatively sudden and significant changes
The geologic record shows that interactions among tectonic events, solar inputs, planetary orbits, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities can cause appreciable, and in some cases rapid, changes to global and regional patterns of temperature and precipitation.
Big Idea 4
Earth is continuously changing
Earth's geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
These changes can be small or large, continuous or sporadic, and gradual or catastrophic.
Earth, like other planets, is still cooling, though radioactive decay continuously generates internal heat.
This heat flows through and out of Earth's interior largely through convection, but also through conduction and radiation. The flow of Earth's heat is like its lifeblood, driving its internal motions.
Earth's interior is in constant motion through the process of convection, with important consequences for the surface.
Convection in the iron-rich liquid outer core, along with Earth's rotation around its axis, generates Earth's magnetic fields. By deflecting solar wind around the planet, the magnetic field prevents the solar wind from stripping away Earth's atmosphere. Convection in the solid mantle drives the many processes of plate tectonics, including the formation and movements of continents and oceanic crust.
Earth's tectonic plates consist of the rocky crust and uppermost mantle, and move slowly with respect to one another.
New oceanic plate continuously forms at mid-ocean ridges and other spreading centers, sinking back into the mantle at ocean trenches. Tectonic plates move steadily at rates of up to 10 cm per year.
Many active geological processes occur at plate boundaries.
Plate interactions change the shapes, size, and position of continents and ocean basins, the locations of earthquakes and volcanoes, and the distribution of resources and living organisms.
Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
Rocks form from the cooling of magma, the accumulation and consolidation of sediments, and the alteration of older rocks by heat, pressure, and fluids. These three processes form igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
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