What is Earth Science?


Staff member
Jun 3, 2020
Earth Science or Geoscience is the study of Earth. It includes all fields of science related to the planet Earth. The subject involves the study of surface features and subsurface structure of Earth. There are many scientific and economic interests behind Earth Science. Primarily, the scientists study Earth to understand the prevailing conditions for the existence of the life to find similar planets, and the industry professionals to locate mineral resources. Earth Science is not a single branch of Science but is a cumulative field with concepts from several branches. So, it's not possible for someone to learn Earth Science through a single course. A specific course should be selected based on the interests and career prospects.

Study of Earth
The planet Earth can be studied based on the area of interest. There are 4 major components of the planet that are extensively studied under various branches of Science.

Lithosphere is the outermost shell of the planet. It is composed of crust and uppermost mantle. Literally, it is the part of Earth that contains rocks. Although the surface of the Earth seems to be well connected, the subsurface is divided into huge plates that move along or across each other, resulting in the formation of Geological structures. These are called as tectonic plates. The uppermost part of the Lithosphere interacts with the Atmosphere, Hydrosphere and Biosphere, resulting in deformation and weathering of the landforms. The Lithosphere extends between both land and oceans. It is the natural habitat for terrestrial lifeforms.

Atmosphere is the gaseous layer over the surface of the Earth. It surrounds the planet and provides air for lifeforms to thrive. The Atmosphere is not limited to providing air, but also balances extreme temperatures on day-night cycle, keeps the planet warm and absorbs UV solar radiation. Atmosphere also plays a key role in water cycle, which is responsible for circulating water across the planet.

Hydrosphere is the part of the planet that contains water. The water is found on the surface, subsurface and Atmosphere of the Earth. The water is considered responsible for the life on Earth. So, the existence of water is a primary indicator for exploration of life on other planets. The frequent interaction with the biosphere disrupts the water cycle to some extent resulting in environmental changes. Many people study Hydrosphere due to their interest in environment.

Biosphere or Ecosphere is the sum of all ecosystems. It can be easily explained as the entire life on Earth. The students of Biology extensively study biosphere apart from the students of Earth Science. The life evolved on the planet over a period of millions of years. So, the study of fossils (which are found in Lithosphere) is a separate field of research to learn more about the primitive life. The life depends on the water and air. So, Lithosphere, Atmosphere and Hydrosphere frequently interact with and contribute to the Biosphere.

Major fields of Earth Science
The study of individual components of the Earth form the major fields of Earth Science. The subjects are vast and many of them contain sub-branches for extensive study of specific areas of interest.

Geology is the major field of Earth Science. It involves the study of Lithosphere. Geology has several branches and related fields that contribute to the study of specific areas of interest.

Hydrology is the study of water. It is mostly restricted to accessible fresh water for exploring and managing drinking water resources. It doesn't involve the extensive study of the Hydrosphere.

Oceanography is the study of the Oceans. The Oceans cover majority of the planet and have a huge influence on the weather. So, it is an area of interest for environmental studies. It doesn't deal with the study of terrestrial water resources and limits itself to the extensive study of Oceans.

Meteorology is the study of Atmosphere. It is a dedicated field that helps us in the understanding of weather and climate. Meteorology has a lot of scope worldwide and is a major branch of Environmental Science.

Biology is the study of Biosphere. The subject is one of the widely recognized fields across the planet and is generally not considered a part of Earth Science. The nature of the subject and the career options generated huge demand for the subject and resulted in a lot of sub-branches.

The study of Earth requires a multi-disciplinary approach and the aspiring students should select a course based on their areas of interest. A single course won't cover all branches of Earth Science as the field is huge and ever expanding.

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