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Introduction to the Earth System. Ellen Metzger Bay Area Earth Science Institute July 28-30, 2009 San Jose State University. The Earth System.

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introduction to the earth system

Introduction to the Earth System

Ellen Metzger

Bay Area Earth Science Institute

July 28-30, 2009

San Jose State University

the earth system
The Earth System

“Earth is a complex system of interacting physical, chemical and biological processes, and provides a natural laboratory whose experiments have been running since the beginning of time.”



earth system science
Earth System Science
  • Earth is a dynamic body

with many separate, but

highly interacting parts or


  • Earth system science

studies Earth as a system

composed of numerous

parts, or subsystems.

what is earth system science
What is Earth System Science?

Earth system science

  • embraces chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and applied sciences in transcending disciplinary boundaries to treat the Earth as an integrated system
  • provides a physical basis for understanding the world in which we live and upon which humankind seeks to achieve sustainability.


earth s interacting spheres
Earth’s Interacting Spheres


Source : Dr. Rick Behl

CSU Long Beach

earth system science a paradigm shift
Earth System Science: A Paradigm Shift

"The organizing power of the evolutionary paradigm...

is paralleled by the organizing power of an Earth system


Panel 1, Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science


earth system science themes
Earth System Science Themes

1. Interactions of Spheres

Earth is made of several subsystems or spheres that interact to form a complex and continuously changing whole called the Earth system.

  • What is a system?
  • Can you think of some examples?

2. Scale

Scale of processes operating in the Earth system

vary from fractions of millimeters to thousands of

kilometers and from milliseconds to billions of


overlapping cycles in the earth system
Overlapping Cycles in the Earth System


earth s spheres
Earth's “Spheres"
  • Hydrosphere
    • Ocean – the most prominent feature of the hydrosphere
      • Nearly 71% of Earth's surface
      • About 97% of Earth's water
    • Also includes fresh water- streams, lakes, and glaciers, and groundwater
earth s spheres12
Earth's “Spheres"
  • Atmosphere
    • Thin, tenuous blanket of air
    • One half lies below 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles)
  • Biosphere
    • Includes all life
    • Concentrated near Earth’s surface
earth s spheres13
Earth's “Spheres"
  • Geosphere (Solid Earth)

Rocks, minerals, and soils and the processes

that affect them

  • Cosmosphere

The Universe surrounding the Earth system