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ESC 102 Historical Geology Fall 2010

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ESC 102 Historical Geology Fall 2010. Spheres of the Earth. When we view the Earth from space what Earth systems are observable? What is most obvious? Are these systems independent or do they interact with one another ?. Spheres of the Earth. Lithosphere: Earth’s solid rocky mass

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ESC 102



Fall 2010

spheres of the earth
Spheres of the Earth
  • When we view the Earth from space what Earth systems are observable?
  • What is most obvious?
  • Are these systems independent or do they interact with one another?
spheres of the earth1
Spheres of the Earth
  • Lithosphere: Earth’s solid rocky mass
  • Hydrosphere: All of earth’s water
  • Atmosphere: The thin gaseous layer above Earth’s surface
  • Biosphere: All of earth’s life forms
three themes dominate the story of the evolving earth
Three Themes dominate the story of the evolving Earth
  • Solid Earth is composed of plates that move over Earth’s surface over time. This is explained by the Theory of Plate Tectonics
  • Earth’s biota – all of living things – has evolved or changed through history and is explained by the Theory of Organic Evolution
  • All of the geologic processes take place within an extensive geologic time scale spanning 4.6 billion years of Earth’s history
historical geology applies geologic principles to help predict and explain earth s materials
Historical Geologyapplies geologic principles to help predict and explain Earth’s materials
  • William Smith was an English surveyor who realized that rock types and fossils occur in repeated patterns. He was able to predict rock sequences that would be encountered in constructing canals
  • Smith mapped the geology of much of England. (1815)
hypothesis or theory
Hypothesis or Theory?
  • The scientific method brings an orderly and logical approach to decoding geologic evidence.
  • A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for observations
  • Scientists make predictions using hypotheses – then they are tested
  • After repeated testing, a theory may be proposed
  • Some phenomena cannot be tested or explained
a theory is formed
A theory is formed
  • A theory is more than an “educated guess”
  • A theoryexplains natural phenomena and may relate several observations
  • A theory is well-tested and well-supported by objective evidence
  • Examples include the Plate Tectonics Theory and the Theory of Organic Evolution
where do scientists look for evidence for the following
Where do scientists look for evidence for the following?
  • The origin and age of the universe
  • The origin and age of the solar system
  • The origin and age of the Earth and Moon
  • The origin of life on Earth
  • Evidence of plate movement on Earth
  • Explanation for large scale extinctions on Earth
how old is the universe
How old is the universe?
  • When? Scientists believe the universe was formed about 15 billion years ago
  • How? The Big Bang is a model for the “beginning” of the universe
  • “Show me”! What is the evidence?
evidence of the big bang
Evidence of the Big Bang
  • Pervasive background radiation of 2.7o

above absolute zero is observed in space(-273o C or -460o F)

--Afterglow of the Big Bang

Galaxies moving away – expanding universe

Determine the Age of the Universe

  • *Determine rate of expansion*Backmodel to a time when the galaxies would be together in space
big bang hypothesis
Big Bang hypothesis
  • Initial state: NO time, NO matter, NO space
  • Universe was pure ENERGY
  • During the FIRST second of time:

--very dense matter came into existence

--The four basic forces separated:

gravity, electromagnetic force, strong and weak nuclear forces

--Enormous expansion occurred

big bang model
Big Bang Model
  • 300,000 years later:
    • Atoms of hydrogen and helium formed
    • Light (photons) burst forth for the first time
  • Next 200 million years:
    • Continued expansion
    • Stars and galaxies began to form
    • Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium began to form with stars by nuclear fusion
origin of our solar system
Origin of Our Solar System

Solar nebula theory

  • cloud of gases and dust
  • formed a rotating disk
  • condensed and collapsed due to gravity
  • forming solar nebula
    • with an embryonic Sun
    • surrounded by a rotating cloud
embryonic sun and rotating cloud
Embryonic Sun and Rotating Cloud
  • Planetesimals have formed
    • in the inner solar system,
    • and large eddies of gas and dust
    • remain far from the protosun

The planets formed with distinctorbits around the sun.Some planets have satellites which orbit individual planets.

the planets





Small in size.

Composed of rock.

Metallic cores.

Asteroid Belt






Large in size.

Composed of hydrogen, helium, ammonia, methane

Small rocky cores

Pluto: no longer has planet status

The Planets
earth s very early history
Earth’s Very Early History
  • Started out cool about 4.6 billion years ago
    • probably with uniform composition/density
  • Mostly:
    • silicate compounds
    • iron and magnesium oxides
  • Temperature increased. Heat sources:
    • meteorite impacts
    • gravitational compression
    • radioactive decay
  • Heated up enough to melt iron and nickel
earth s differentiation
Earth’s Differentiation
  • Differentiation = segregated into layers of differing composition and density
  • Early Earth was probably uniform
  • After heating, molten iron and nickel sank to form the core
  • Lighter silicates flowed up to form mantle and crust
forming the moon
Forming the Moon
  • Impact by Mars-sized planetesimal with early Earth
  • 4.6 to 4.4 billion years ago
  • Ejected large quantity of hot material
  • Formed the moon

Most of the lunar material

came from the mantle of the colliding planetesimal

The material cooled and

crystallized into lunar layers

Moon is smaller than Earth and cooled quickly.Light colored surface areas are lunar

Highlands – heavily cratered.

Evidence of massive meteorite


Mare are areas of lava flows, more likely due to impact than tectonics

earth dynamic planet
Earth—Dynamic Planet
  • Earth was also subjected
    • to the same meteorite barrage
    • that pock-marked the Moon
  • Why isn’t Earth’s surface also densely cratered?
earth dynamic planet1
Earth—Dynamic Planet
  • Earth was also subjected
    • to the same meteorite barrage
    • that pock-marked the Moon
  • Why isn’t Earth’s surface also densely cratered?
    • Because Earth is a dynamic and evolving planet
    • Craters have long since been worn away
earth s interior layers
Earth’s Interior Layers
  • Lithosphere
    • solid upper mantle and crust
  • broken into platesthat move over the asthenosphere
  • Asthenosphere
    • part of upper mantle
    • behaves plastically and slowly flows
plate tectonic theory
Plate Tectonic Theory
  • Lithosphere is broken into individual pieces called plates
  • Plates move over the asthenosphere
    • as a result of underlying convection cells
plate tectonic theory1
Plate Tectonic Theory
  • Movement at plate boundaries
    • plates diverge
    • plates converge
    • plates slide sideways past each other
  • At plate boundaries
    • Volcanic activity occurs
    • Earthquakes occur
plate tectonic theory2
Plate Tectonic Theory

After decades of puzzling evidence, the theory was developed in the1960s

  • Provides a framework for
    • interpreting many aspects of Earth on a global scale
    • relating many seemingly unrelated phenomena
    • interpreting Earth historyThe “unifying theory of geology”
plate tectonics and earth systems
Plate Tectonics and Earth Systems

Mechanism: Plate tectonics is driven by convection in the mantle

and in turn drives mountain building

and associated igneous and metamorphic activity

  • Global effects of plate movement:Arrangement of continents affects
  • solar heating and cooling,
  • winds and weather systems
  • Rapid plate spreading and hot-spot activity
  • may release volcanic carbon dioxide
  • and affect global climate
history of earth
History of Earth
  • The history of the early earth through the present is revealed mainly in the rock and fossil records.
  • By applying principles of formation and determining environments from life forms, early interpretations about Earth’s land masses and oceans have been made
theory of organic evolution
Theory of Organic Evolution
  • Provides a framework for understanding the history of life
  • Darwin’s
    • On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859,
    • revolutionized biology
    • Provided the mechanism of natural selection
central thesis of evolution
Central Thesis of Evolution
  • All present-day organisms
    • are related and descended from organisms that lived during the past
  • Natural selection is the mechanism
    • that accounts for evolution
  • Natural selectionresults in the survival
    • to reproductive age of those organisms
    • best adapted to their environment
history of life
History of Life
  • The fossil record provides perhaps
    • the most compelling evidence
    • in favor of evolution
  • Fossils are the remains or traces
    • of once-living organisms
  • Fossils demonstrate that Earth
    • has a history of life
geologic time
Geologic Time
  • From the human perspective time units are in
    • seconds, hours, days, years
  • Ancient human history
    • hundreds or even thousands of years
  • Geologic history
    • millions, hundreds of millions, billions of years
geologic time scale
Geologic Time Scale
  • Resulted from the work of many 19th century geologists who
    • pieced together information
    • from numerous rock exposures,
    • constructed a sequential chronology
    • based on changes in Earth’s biota through time
  • The time scale was subsequently dated in years
    • using radiometric dating techniques
uniformitarianism the present is the key to the past
Uniformitarianism: The Present is the key to the past
  • Uniformitarianism is a cornerstone of geology
    • is based on the premise that present-day processes
    • have operated throughout geologic time
  • The physical and chemical laws of nature
    • have remained the same through time
  • To interpret geologic events
    • from evidence preserved in rocks
    • we must first understand present-day processes
    • and their results
    • Rates and intensities of geologic processes
    • may have changed with time