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Introduction

The Earth seen from Apollo 17 with transparent background.png
Earth Science is the branch that deals with physical constitution of the Earth and its atmosphere. Earth sciences (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or Earth Science) is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. They are a special type of planetary sciences which deal with the structure and composition of the Earth, its origins, physical features, changing aspects, and all of its natural phenomena. Earth is the only planet known to have life, and hence the only planet with biological processes and a biosphere.

The major disciplines of Earth sciences use physics, mathematics, and chemistry to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system. As in many sciences, the Earth can be studied both experimentally and theoretically. Also, there are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth Science.

Although mining and precious stones have been in human interests throughout the history of civilization, their development into the sciences of economic geology and mineralogy did not occur until the 18th century. The study of the earth, particularly palaeontology, blossomed in the 19th century and the growth of other disciplines like geophysics in the 20th century led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, which has had a similar impact on the Earth sciences as the theory of evolution had on biology. Earth sciences today are closely linked to climate research and the petroleum and mineral exploration industries.

Applications of Earth sciences include the exploration and exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, cartography, weather forecasting patterns, and warning of volcanic eruptions. Earth sciences are related to the environmental sciences as well as the other subfields of planetary astronomy.

Selected article

"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth,taken from Apollo 17
Earth is the third planet from the Sun. It is the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets. It is sometimes referred to as the world or the Blue Planet.

Earth formed approximately 4.54 billion years ago, and life appeared on its surface within its first billion years. Earth's biosphere then significantly altered the atmospheric and other basic physical conditions, which enabled the proliferation of organisms as well as the formation of the ozone layer, which together with Earth's magnetic field blocked harmful solar radiation, and permitted formerly ocean-confined life to move safely to land. The physical properties of the Earth, as well as its geological history and orbit, have allowed life to persist. Estimates on how much longer the planet will be able to continue to support life range from 500 million years (myr), to as long as 2.3 billion years (byr).

Earth's lithosphere is divided into several rigid segments, or tectonic plates, that migrate across the surface over periods of many millions of years. About 71% of the surface is covered by salt water oceans, with the remainder consisting of continents and islands which together have many lakes and other sources of water that contribute to the hydrosphere. Earth's poles are mostly covered with ice that is the solid ice of the Antarctic ice sheet and the sea ice that is the polar ice packs. The planet's interior remains active, with a solid iron inner core, a liquid outer core that generates the magnetic field, and a thick layer of relatively solid mantle.

Did you know?

Photograph of volcano
  • ...that a tuya (pictured) is a type of flat-topped, steep-sided volcano formed when lava erupts through a thick glacier or ice sheet?
  • ...that in the United States, on average tornadoes are around 500 feet (150 m) across, and stay on the ground for 5 miles (8 km)?
  • ...that dust storms can carry large amounts of dust, so much so that the leading edge of one can appear as a solid wall of dust as much as 1.6 km (1 mile) high?
  • ...that the area of the world Ocean is 361 million square  kilometers, its volume is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometers, and its average depth is 3,790 meters?
  • ...that three quarters of the earth's atmosphere lies within the troposphere, and the depth of this layer varies between 17 km at the equator and 7 km at the poles?
  • ...that the Mariana Trench is the deepest point in the ocean?

Selected picture

Winter trees covered in snow
Credit: Richard Fabi

Winter is one of the four seasons of temperate zones. Meteorological winter is the season having the shortest days (which vary greatly according to latitude) and the lowest temperatures.

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For a more comprehensive treatment of topics, see Outline of earth science and Index of earth science articles

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