AskDefine | Define geoscience

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several sciences that deal with the Earth


  • Persian: (zamīn-šināsī)

Extensive Definition

Earth science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or the Earth Sciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, the Earth being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth science. There are four major disciplines in earth sciences, namely geography, geology, geophysics and geodesy. The major disciplines use physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system.

Earth's spheres

Earth science generally recognizes 4 spheres, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. These correspond to rocks, water, air, and life. Some practitioners include the cryosphere (ice) as a distinct portion of the hydrosphere and the pedosphere (soil) as an active, intermixed sphere as part of Earth's spheres.

Earth's interior

Beneath the earth's crust lies the mantle which is heated by the radioactive decay of heavy elements. The mantle is not quite solid and consists of magma which is in a state of semi-perpetual convection. This convection process causes the lithospheric plates to move, albeit slowly. The resulting process is known as plate tectonics.
Plate tectonics might be thought of as the process by which the earth resurfaces itself. Through a process called spreading ridges (or seafloor spreading), the earth creates new crust by allowing magma underneath the lithosphere to come to the surface where it cools and solidifies--becoming new crust, and through a process called subduction, excess crust is pushed underground--beneath the rest of the lithosphere--where it comes into contact with magma and melts--rejoining the mantle from which it originally came.
Areas of the crust where new crust is created are called divergent boundaries, and areas of the crust where it is brought back into the earth are called convergent boundaries. Earthquakes result from the movement of the lithospheric plates, and they often occur near covergent boundaries where parts of the crust are forced into the earth as part of subduction.
Volcanoes result primarily from the melting of subducted crust material. Crust material that is forced into the Asthenosphere melts, and some portion of the melted material becomes light enough to rise to the surface--giving birth to volcanoes. The earth has a soft iron core surrounded by semi-liquid materials from the mantle that move in continuous currents around the core; therefore, the earth is an electromagnet. This is referred to as the dynamo theory of earth's magnetism. The fact that earth is an electromagnet helps with the earth's maintenance of an atmosphere suitable for life.


The earth is blanketed by an atmosphere consisting of 78.0% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, and 1% Argon. The atmosphere has five layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere; and 75% of the atmosphere's gases are in the bottom-most layer, the troposphere. It is theorized that the solar wind would strip away earth's atmosphere in a few million years were it not for the earth's electromagnet. And since earth is 4.5 billion years old, earth would not have an atmosphere by now if there were no magnetosphere.
The atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The remaining one percent contains small amounts of other gases including CO2 and water vapors. This allows earth's surface to be warm enough to have liquid water and support life.
In addition to storing heat, the atmosphere also protects living organisms by shielding the earth's surface from cosmic rays. Note that the level of protection is high enough to prevent cosmic rays from destroying all life on Earth, yet low enough to aid the mutations that have an important role in pushing forward diversity in the biosphere.


Like all other scientists, Earth scientists apply the scientific method. They formulate hypotheses after observing events and gathering data about natural phenomena, and then they test hypotheses from such data.
A contemporary idea within earth science is uniformitarianism. Uniformitarianism says that "ancient geologic features are interpreted by understanding active processes that are readily observed". Simply stated, this means that features of the Earth can be explained by the actions of gradual processes operating over long periods of time; for example, a mountain need not be thought of as having been created in a moment, but instead it may be seen as the result of continuous subduction, causing magma to rise and form continental volcanic arcs.

Partial list of the major Earth Science topics


Lithosphere or geosphere

Notes and references


geoscience in Arabic: علوم الأرض
geoscience in Aragonese: Zenzias d'a Tierra
geoscience in Breton: Skiantoù an douar
geoscience in Bulgarian: Науки за Земята
geoscience in Catalan: Ciències de la Terra
geoscience in Czech: Vědy o Zemi
geoscience in Corsican: Scienze di a Terra
geoscience in Welsh: Gwyddorau daear
geoscience in German: Geowissenschaften
geoscience in Dhivehi: ބިމުގެ އިލްމު
geoscience in Estonian: Maateadus
geoscience in Spanish: Ciencias de la Tierra
geoscience in Esperanto: Terscienco
geoscience in Persian: علوم زمین
geoscience in French: Sciences de la Terre
geoscience in Western Frisian: Ierdwittenskip
geoscience in Friulian: Siencis de tiere
geoscience in Irish: Eolaíocht an domhain
geoscience in Galician: Ciencias da Terra
geoscience in Korean: 지구과학
geoscience in Indonesian: Ilmu bumi
geoscience in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Scientias del terra
geoscience in Icelandic: Jarðvísindi
geoscience in Italian: Scienze della Terra
geoscience in Hebrew: מדעי כדור הארץ
geoscience in Kannada: ಭೂಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ
geoscience in Georgian: დედამიწის მეცნიერებები
geoscience in Swahili (macrolanguage): Sayansi za dunia
geoscience in Luxembourgish: Geowëssenschaften
geoscience in Limburgan: Aerdweitesjappe
geoscience in Lojban: tedyske
geoscience in Hungarian: Földtudomány
geoscience in Malay (macrolanguage): Sains bumi
geoscience in Mongolian: Дэлхий судлал
geoscience in Dutch: Aardwetenschappen
geoscience in Dutch Low Saxon: Eerdwetenschoppen
geoscience in Japanese: 地球科学
geoscience in Norwegian: Geofag
geoscience in Norwegian Nynorsk: Geofag
geoscience in Novial: Teral sienties
geoscience in Occitan (post 1500): Sciéncias de la Tèrra
geoscience in Low German: Eerdwetenschoppen
geoscience in Polish: Nauki o Ziemi
geoscience in Portuguese: Ciências da Terra
geoscience in Romanian: Ştiinţele Pământului
geoscience in Russian: Науки о Земле
geoscience in Sardinian: Iscièntzias de sa Terra
geoscience in Albanian: Shkencat e Tokës
geoscience in Sicilian: Scienzi dâ terra
geoscience in Simple English: Earth science
geoscience in Slovak: Vedy o Zemi
geoscience in Slovenian: Vede o Zemlji
geoscience in Serbian: Науке о Земљи
geoscience in Finnish: Geotieteet
geoscience in Swedish: Geovetenskap
geoscience in Tagalog: Agham pandaigdig
geoscience in Thai: วิทยาศาสตร์โลก
geoscience in Vietnamese: Khoa học Trái Đất
geoscience in Ukrainian: Науки про Землю
geoscience in Urdu: زمینیات
geoscience in Venetian: Sienzse de ła tera
geoscience in Waray (Philippines): Siyensya han Kalibutan
geoscience in Contenese: 地球科學
geoscience in Chinese: 地球科学
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