Home » Geology Articles » What Is Earth Science?
Article by: Hobart M. King, PhD, RPG
The Science of Earth
and its Neighbors in Space
Earth Science is the study of Earth and its neighbors in space. The image above is the first full-hemisphere view of Earth captured in the 21st Century. It was acquired by NOAA's GOES-8 satellite on January 1, 2000 at 12:45 AM Eastern Standard Time. Image by the GOES project.
Earth Science is the study of the Earth and its neighbors in space. It is an exciting science with many interesting and practical applications. Some Earth scientists use their knowledge of the Earth to locate and develop energy and mineral resources. Others study the impact of human activity on Earth's environment, and design methods to protect the planet. Some use their knowledge about Earth processes such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes to plan communities that will not expose people to these dangerous events.
The Four Earth Sciences
Many different sciences are used to learn about the Earth; however, the four basic areas of Earth science study are: geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy. A brief explanation of these sciences is provided below.
Earth Scientists Study the Subsurface
Mapping the inside of a volcano: Dr. Catherine Snelson, Assistant Professor of Geophysics at New Mexico Tech, sets off small explosions on the flank of Mount Erebus (a volcano in Antarctica). Vibrations from the explosions travel into the Earth and reflect off of structures below. Her instruments record the vibrations. She uses the data to prepare maps of the volcano's interior. Photo courtesy of Martin Reed, the National Science Foundation and the United States Antarctic Program. Learn more about what Dr. Snelson and others are doing to learn about Mount Erebus.
Geology: Science of the Earth
Geology is the primary Earth science. The word means "study of the Earth." Geology deals with the composition of Earth materials, Earth structures, and Earth processes. It is also concerned with the organisms of the planet and how the planet has changed over time. Geologists search for fuels and minerals, study natural hazards, and work to protect Earth's environment.
Earth Scientists Map the Surface
Mapping lava flows: Charlie Bacon, a USGS volcanologist, draws the boundaries of prehistoric lava flows from Mount Veniaminof, Alaska, onto a map. This map will show the areas covered by past lava eruptions and can be used to estimate the potential impact of future eruptions. Scientists in Alaska often carry firearms (foreground) and pepper spray as protection against grizzly bears. The backpack contains food and survival gear, and a two-way radio to call his helicopter pilot. Charlie's orange overalls help the pilot find him on pick-up day. Image by Charlie Bacon, USGS / Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Meteorology: Science of the Atmosphere
Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere and how processes in the atmosphere determine Earth's weather and climate. Meteorology is a very practical science because everyone is concerned about the weather. How climate changes over time in response to the actions of people is a topic of urgent worldwide concern. The study of meteorology is of critical importance in protecting Earth's environment.
The Hydrologic Cycle - An Earth Science System
Hydrologic Cycle: Earth Science involves the study of systems such as the hydrologic cycle. This type of system can only be understood by using a knowledge of geology (groundwater), meteorology (weather and climate), oceanography (ocean systems) and astronomy (energy input from the sun). The hydrologic cycle is always in balance - inputs and withdrawals must be equal. Earth scientists would determine the impact of any human input or withdraw from the system. NOAA image created by Peter Corrigan.
Oceanography: Science of the Oceans
Oceanography is the study of Earth's oceans - their composition, movement, organisms and processes. The oceans cover most of our planet and are important resources for food and other commodities. They are increasingly being used as an energy source. The oceans also have a major influence on the weather, and changes in the oceans can drive or moderate climate change. Oceanographers work to develop the ocean as a resource and protect it from human impact. The goal is to utilize the oceans while minimizing the effects of our actions.
Astronomy: Science of the Universe
Astronomy is the study of the universe. Here are some examples of why studying space beyond Earth is important: the moon drives the ocean's tidal system, asteroid impacts have repeatedly devastated Earth's inhabitants, and energy from the sun drives our weather and climates. A knowledge of astronomy is essential to understanding the Earth. Astronomers can also use a knowledge of Earth materials, processes and history to understand other planets - even those outside of our own solar system.
The Importance of Earth Science
Today we live in a time when the Earth and its inhabitants face many challenges. Our climate is changing, and that change is being caused by human activity. Earth scientists recognized this problem and will play a key role in efforts to resolve it. We are also challenged to: develop new sources of energy that will have minimal impact on climate; locate new sources of metals and other mineral resources as known sources are depleted; and, determine how Earth's increasing population can live and avoid serious threats such as volcanic activity, earthquakes, landslides, floods and more. These are just a few of the problems where solutions depend upon a deep understanding of Earth science.
Earth Science Careers
If you are a pre-college student, you can start preparing for a career in Earth science by enrolling in the college preparation program and doing well in all of your courses. Science courses are especially important, but math, writing, and other disciplines are also used by Earth scientists during every working day.
Some universities have Earth Science programs but most offer more specific training in programs such as geology, meteorology, oceanography or astronomy. In these programs you will be required to take some challenging courses such as chemistry, physics, biology and math. Earth science is an integrated science, and professionals in that field must solve problems that require a knowledge of several fields of science.
If you already have a degree in another discipline such as biology, chemistry, geography, or physics, you might be able to go to graduate school and obtain a Master's degree in one of the Earth sciences. That will most likely require taking some undergraduate courses to meet program entry requirements. However, if you have a strong interest in Earth science it is probably worth doing.
At present, job opportunities in many areas of the Earth sciences are better than average. Opportunities in geology are especially good.
Visit the website of a school that offers a geology degree, get in touch with the geology department, let them know you are interested, and make arrangements to visit the campus. Don't be hesitant. Good schools and professors want to be contacted by interested students.
More General Geology
|Igneous and Volcanic Features|
|The Doorway to Hell|
|Roadside Geology Guides|
|Land Below Sea Level|
Find Other Topics on Geology.com:
Rocks: Galleries of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock photos with descriptions.
Minerals: Information about ore minerals, gem materials and rock-forming minerals.
Volcanoes: Articles about volcanoes, volcanic hazards and eruptions past and present.
Gemstones: Colorful images and articles about diamonds and colored stones.
General Geology: Articles about geysers, maars, deltas, rifts, salt domes, water, and much more!
Geology Store: Hammers, field bags, hand lenses, maps, books, hardness picks, gold pans.
Earth Science Records: Highest mountain, deepest lake, biggest tsunami and more.
Diamonds: Learn about the properties of diamond, its many uses, and diamond discoveries.
Earth science is the study of the Earth's structure, properties, processes, and four and a half billion years of biotic evolution. Understanding these phenomena is essential to maintenance of life on the planet.What is Earth science geology? ›
Geology : is the scientific study of the earth- the material of which it is made, the processes that act on these materials, the products formed, and the history of the planet and its life forms since origin. Geology now includes the study of other planets as well.What is Earth science in grade 11? ›
Description. Earth Science 11 is an introductory course that explores the Earth's composition, structure, processes, and history; its atmosphere, fresh water, and oceans; and its environment in space.What is Earth science quizlet? ›
The study of the origin, history, and structure of the solid earth and the processes that shape it. To search for natural resources, forecasting natural and weather phenomena, and study earth's past.What are the 5 Earth sciences? ›
The study of Earth science includes many different fields, including geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy.What are the 3 example of Earth science? ›
Earth sciences are the fields of study concerned with the solid Earth, its waters, and the air that envelops it. They include the geologic, hydrologic, and atmospheric sciences with the broad aim of understanding Earth's present features and past evolution and using this knowledge to benefit humankind.Why is it important to study Earth science? ›
Earth science knowledge enables us to think globally and act locally— to make sound decisions about issues important in our lives as individuals and citizens. People who understand how Earth systems work can make informed decisions about where to buy or build a home out of harm's way.Why is Earth science so important? ›
Here's why: Nearly everything that we do is connected in some way to the physical Earth; it's lands, oceans, atmosphere, plants and animals. The materials used for our homes and offices, the clothes that we wear, our sources of energy, our drinking water, the air that we breathe and the food that we eat.Why is the study of geology important? ›
Geology helps us identify and mitigate natural hazards such as earthquakes, coastal erosion, flooding, and landslides.What are earth science topics? ›
Earth scientists study natural hazards, climate and environmental change, groundwater, lakes, oceans, earthquakes, volcanoes, tectonics, minerals, fossils, soils, sediments, and rocks.
Earth Science is a Core Subject taken in the first semester of Grade 11.What is taught in earth science in high school? ›
It presents the history of the Earth through geologic time. It discusses the Earth's structure and composition, the processes that occur beneath and on the Earth's surface, as well as issues, concerns, and problems pertaining to Earth's resources. 1. Universe and Solar System 2.What are the two main parts of geology? ›
Geology is a vast field with many different branches. Based on classic divisions, there are two main areas of geology, including physical geology and historical geology.What are the branches of earth science? ›
Geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy are the four main branches of Earth science. However, there are many other branches of Earth science.What are the 4 main branches of Earth science and define each branches? ›
Many different sciences are used to learn about the Earth; however, geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy are the four basic fields of Earth science research.What are 4 big ideas in earth science? ›
Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet. Big Idea 2: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life. Big Idea 4: Earth is continuously changing.Is earth science easy? ›
Geology is widely regarded as one of the easiest science classes you could take in college. There's even a funny saying for it: “rocks for jocks”.Is earth science hard? ›
Earth Science is a challenging scientific field, but it is also an exciting field, and most classes include field trips and hands-on experiences. Careers in Earth Science include jobs in industry, ranging from petroleum engineers working for giant oil companies to engineering geologists who are their own bosses.How is earth science used in everyday life? ›
Earth science affects our everyday lives. For example, meteorologists study the weather and watch for dangerous storms. Hydrologists study water and warn of floods. Seismologists study earthquakes and try to predict where they will strike.What is Earth made of? ›
The earth is made up of three different layers: the crust, the mantle and the core. This is the outside layer of the earth and is made of solid rock, mostly basalt and granite. There are two types of crust; oceanic and continental. Oceanic crust is denser and thinner and mainly composed of basalt.
Earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years. Scientists have scoured the Earth searching for the oldest rocks to radiometrically date.What is your understanding about Earth and life science? ›
It discusses the Earth's structure, composition, and processes. Issues, concerns, and problems pertaining to natural hazards are also included. It also deals with the basic principles and processes in the study of biology.What is Earth and life science meaning? ›
Earth science is a broad spectrum of science that covers life science and physical science. Life science is all about the study of living organisms and their relationships including biology, anatomy, ecology, etc. It is the study of the earth and its neighbouring celestial bodies of the solar system.Why is earth science more important today than in years past? ›
Their value grows every year as an environmental baseline that informs us about how our planet is changing and responding to natural and human influence.How does geology make our lives better? ›
Geologists also play an important role in the advancement of alternative energies by studying and searching for minerals to be used in batteries and solar panels, finding and harnessing geothermal, tidal and hydroelectric power, and more. Everything you consume originates from the soil.What is the example of geology? ›
An example of geology is the study of rocks and stones. An example of geology is learning about how the Earth was formed. The science that studies the structure of the earth (other planets), together with its origin and development, especially by examination of its rocks.Which of the following is the best definition of geology? ›
Definition of Geology:
Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them.
Earth Science encompasses the study of all facets of the Earth's physical environment, but can apply to other planets and stellar objects as well. Earth science encompasses the branches of science including: Geology is the study of the Earth. The scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth.What is Earth science kids? ›
Earth Science is one of the three major areas of science (iv) and is the study of planet Earth. It includes the study of rocks, land, weather and oceans.Why do we study Earth science? ›
Earth Science studies are critically important to modern society. An understanding of the rocks and minerals that make up the solid Earth, and how these materials interact with the atmosphere, the world water supply, and living organisms provides the foundation for all natural and environmental sciences.
Geology is widely regarded as one of the easiest science classes you could take in college. There's even a funny saying for it: “rocks for jocks”.What are the 4 main branches of earth science? ›
The four basic areas of Earth Science study are: geology, meteorology, oceanography and astronomy. Geology is the primary Earth science.Who discovered earth science? ›
James Hutton (1726–1797), a Scottish farmer and naturalist, is known as the founder of modern geology. He was a great observer of the world around him.What is the difference between earth science and geology? ›
Definition. Geology: Geology is the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the earth. Earth Science: Earth science is a broad field that refers to the fields of science dealing with planet Earth.How old is the Earth? ›
Earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years. Scientists have scoured the Earth searching for the oldest rocks to radiometrically date.What is Earth made of? ›
The earth is made up of three different layers: the crust, the mantle and the core. This is the outside layer of the earth and is made of solid rock, mostly basalt and granite. There are two types of crust; oceanic and continental. Oceanic crust is denser and thinner and mainly composed of basalt.How was Earth formed? ›
Formation. When the solar system settled into its current layout about 4.5 billion years ago, Earth formed when gravity pulled swirling gas and dust in to become the third planet from the Sun. Like its fellow terrestrial planets, Earth has a central core, a rocky mantle, and a solid crust.How is earth science used in everyday life? ›
Earth science affects our everyday lives. For example, meteorologists study the weather and watch for dangerous storms. Hydrologists study water and warn of floods. Seismologists study earthquakes and try to predict where they will strike.What are the two main parts of geology? ›
Geology is a vast field with many different branches. Based on classic divisions, there are two main areas of geology, including physical geology and historical geology.What are earth science topics? ›
Earth scientists study natural hazards, climate and environmental change, groundwater, lakes, oceans, earthquakes, volcanoes, tectonics, minerals, fossils, soils, sediments, and rocks.
Chemistry. Chemistry is famous for being one of the hardest subjects ever, so it's no surprise that a Chemistry degree is fiercely challenging. Just one topic in Chemistry (for example, organic chemistry) is incredibly complex.What science is easiest? ›
Psychology is commonly thought of as the easiest of the science majors thanks to its relative lack of complex math, although psych majors can still expect to do a fair amount of statistical analysis on their way to a degree.Is earth science a hard course? ›
Earth Science is a challenging scientific field, but it is also an exciting field, and most classes include field trips and hands-on experiences.