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What Is Earth Science?

Article by: hobart m. king , phd, rpg.

What is Earth Science?

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 scientist mapping in the field

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.

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.

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What Earth Science Is and Reasons to Study It

There are many types of Earth science, including the study of Earth's inner layers.

How to Become an Earth Scientist and Why

marine biologist surveys bleached coral

Getty Images

The diversity of topics under the earth science umbrella makes the field special, according to scholars within the discipline.

Someone fascinated by natural objects like glaciers and crystals or awestruck by scenic landscapes ranging from deserts to swamps should be aware of an academic discipline that focuses on solving the mysteries surrounding Earth's history and destiny.

What Earth Science Is and What Earth Scientists Do

Earth science concentrates on investigating how the planet works and why. This field delves into the many layers of the Earth and explains how those pieces fit together into a cohesive structure. The interdisciplinary subject not only provides insight into the mechanics of the solid parts of the planet, but also illustrates the inner workings of the liquid and gaseous portions. It addresses questions about the origins and evolution of the atmosphere, various land formations and bodies of water.

This branch of science includes research into what the globe might have looked like in the past, the way it might appear in the future and how it fits into the universe as a whole, which facilitates comparisons with other planets like Venus and Mars.

Earth science is inextricably connected to astronomy , which is the study of outer space, since the behavior of the sun and moon influences conditions on Earth and there are many space hazards that could potentially destroy the Earth, such as asteroids and comets.

Earth science is highly relevant to the welfare of humanity, as it allows people to predict and prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. It also helps people locate and extract valuable raw materials that are hidden underground, ranging from fresh water and fossil fuels to minerals and precious metals.

"From where certain crops prefer to grow, to why there’s a hill on the horizon, to the shape of the coastline, every natural feature on a landscape can be explained through Earth Sciences," Gemma Cassidy, who has a Ph.D. degree in earth science, wrote in an email. "Beyond the natural world, an Earth Scientist will have been involved in getting the electricity and/or gas in your home and the petrol/diesel into your car, as well as finding the rare earth elements for your smart phone. Perhaps most crucially, it is Earth Scientists who work to understand where is safe for us to live, and help to assess how you mitigate risk in a city in a volcano/earthquake/hurricane-prone area."

Types of Earth Science

Here are some of the major categories within earth science, an enormous academic discipline that encompasses multiple areas of study.

  • Atmospheric science
  • Climatology or climate science
  • Environmental science
  • Geochemistry
  • Geochronology
  • Geomorphology
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Paleontology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Volcanology

Steven A. Hauck II, professor and chair of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, notes that some earth scientists concentrate on water while others focus on oceans or rocks. Earth scientists may examine the Earth's core or its magnetic field, he says.

How to Become an Earth Scientist

Although a majority of earth scientists have a bachelor's degree, this credential isn't a requirement for all earth science jobs. "Most earth scientists have a four-year college degree," Hauck says. "I wouldn't say all."

Aspiring earth scientists should plan to pursue a four-year degree in this area, he says, and some types of earth science occupations may demand graduate education. A master's or doctorate is usually necessary for a research career, Hauck explains.

Doug Gouzie, a professor of geology at Missouri State University , advises future earth scientists to get a "good, solid foundation" in math and chemistry , since knowledge of both those areas is valuable within the earth science field.

What You Can Do With an Earth Science Degree

An earth science degree is marketable within the energy and mining industries. The credential is also helpful within positions that focus on environmental sustainability and that which can be based at government agencies or private-sector companies, Hauck says.

"Earth science is a really broad field," he explains. "It's not just about rocks or fossils. It's about understanding the world around us and how it works and so there are many different ways of doing that."

Cassidy, who oversees various scientific journals that relate to her field of study for the academic publisher Wiley, notes that earth scientists can find a variety of jobs.

"Oil, gas and mineral extraction have always been options for Earth Scientists, but there are a vast array of other careers available such as geoenvironmental work, geotechnical engineering, or hydrogeology," she says. "There is also the option to continue in a research career, and continue to study pressing topics like climate change or natural hazards. Other, less direct options include teaching, and of course, publishing."

What Makes Earth Science Unique

Curiosity about how Earth compares to other planets and what occurs below its surface led Hauck to study and learn about the differences and similarities between the Earth and other planets.

"Where we live is this really thin layer on top of an immense planet that's mostly beneath our feet, right? And so I was really excited about trying to connect what we see at the surface with what's happening in the 99% of the planet that's beneath our feet and trying to understand that," Hauck explains, adding that he was also intrigued by the possibility of analyzing extraterrestrial environments.

Gouzie says one of the best aspects of a job as an earth scientist is getting to go out and have adventures in interesting locations like caves and coastlines.

Unlike chemists who frequently use undiluted substances, earth scientists typically deal with raw materials with a hodgepodge of ingredients, Gouzie explains. "I get to see the variety of all the impurities – the imperfections – and I find that kind of neat, because it's kind of like psychologists dealing with people," he says. "You're not dealing with something that is pure and completely predictable."

The diversity of topics under the earth science umbrella makes the field special, according to scholars within the discipline. Earth science incorporates ideas from biology, chemistry and physics, so it tends to be a practical area of study, scholars say.

Gouzie once worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researching landfill leakages, and he has investigated the way dangerous substances can move through groundwater and threaten the health of humans. He now focuses on caves and sinkholes. Because earth science examines tangible objects and addresses a wide array of issues, the field may be especially attractive to some aspiring scientists, especially those who would prefer to concentrate on concrete problems, he says.

There are some challenging aspects of earth science. For instance, certain inaccessible parts of the Earth, like its inner core, are impossible to observe directly. Scientists need to be creative about finding ways to deduce information about these remote regions, such as by monitoring seismic wave activity through machinery.

Additionally, earth scientists sometimes have to work in harsh or hazardous environments such as arctic or volcanic regions.

Rachel Barr, vice president of sustainability at UBQ Materials – an Israeli company that converts waste into recyclable thermoplastic – notes an urgent need for people to study earth science.

"There's never going to be enough people who have studied this and who are engaged in this area," says Barr, who earned a master's degree in environmental science at Yale University in Connecticut. "The more people involved, the better it is for the whole society, as well as the planet."

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What is Earth science?

Earth Science includes geology, meteorology , oceanography and astronomy.

Earth science researchers are focused on our planet and beyond.



"Earth science" is a broad term that encompasses four main branches of study, each of which is further broken down into more specialized fields. 

Geology is the study of the substances that make up the Earth , the processes that shape it, and of how these materials and processes have changed the Earth over time. Geology is very important as everything we do depends on our relationship to the planet we live on. 

Two important subfields of geology are  vulcanology  (the study of volcanoes ), and  seismology  (the study of earthquakes ). Understanding these processes can help enable us to predict and mitigate the effects of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, major quakes, tsunamis and landslides. Geologists are also at the forefront of the quest for natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and other raw materials. 

Hydrologists  study the availability and distribution of the Earth’s freshwater resources including both surface water and aquifers.  Physical geography  is the study of the Earth’s landforms.  Paleontologists  are interested in Earth’s history. Geologists may work for industry, government agencies, universities or other settings. Most geologists do field work at least part of the time.

Meteorology is the study of Earth’s atmosphere and how changes in temperature , air pressure, humidity and winds affect the weather. Perhaps more than any other science, meteorology is concerned with using data to make predictions of future events. 

Broadcast meteorologists  are probably the most familiar; men and women who interpret and report weather data on television or radio to inform the public and protect us when severe weather threatens.  Forensic meteorologists  often work for lawyers or insurance agencies. Their job is to determine how weather conditions may have contributed to accidents or caused damage to property. 

Climatologists  study the large-scale weather patterns for a given region over long periods of time. Meteorologists and climatologists work closely with other scientists to determine the possible effects of  global climate change  and whether human activities are affecting global temperatures.

Oceanography , or marine science, is the interdisciplinary study of the sea. Oceanographers may study currents, storms or waves. Oceanographers may use sophisticated technology to map the ocean floor or evaluate whether movement of subsea tectonic plates might cause rifting and tsunami waves. Oceanographers are frequently biologists who seek to understand and protect marine ecosystems. 

It is said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the oceans of our own world. Earth has more oceans than land environments, and the seas may hold the keys to energy and food resources. We desperately need more information to protect the oceans while we are using them for our own survival. Oceanographers may work for governments, for the fishing or energy industries, or shipping concerns. Most oceanographers travel a lot and should enjoy working on the water. 

Related: Photos: Hawaii's New Underwater Volcano

Astronomy  is the study of Earth’s neighbors in the solar system and beyond.  Optical astronomy  is direct observation of the visible universe using a variety of telescopes and visual probes such as the  Hubble Space Telescope .  Radio astronomy  can detect radiation from wavelengths well beyond the visible spectrum , but they must also have enormous "dishes" to collect the radio waves . In the past these size limitations made the enormous radio telescopes cumbersome and difficult to aim. Today with the modern ability to link radio telescopes almost instantly by using computer technology, there are many more applications for this science. Astronomers are making discoveries about the size, composition, energy and evolution of distant stars and galaxies.

Planetologists  study the planets of our solar system and beyond. Space probes send photos and data from distant systems. In our own solar system the robot probe Curiosity crawls the surface of Mars to analyze soil samples and transmit data to Earth.  Cosmologists  seek to understand the origin of the universe. Most astronomers work for government space agencies or universities.

The Earth sciences, studying the impact that humans have on the Earth and how natural processes affect us, provide vital information for our future as a species. Our future depends on understanding how the Earth can provide food, water and energy for our growing population. Perhaps one day we will be able to apply these lessons to inhabit another planet as well.

Originally published on Live Science.

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2.2: Earth Science and Its Branches

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Lesson Objectives

  • Define and describe Earth Science as a general field with many branches.
  • Identify the field of geology as a branch of Earth Science that deals with the solid part of the Earth.
  • Describe the field of oceanography as a branch of Earth Science that has several subdivisions that deal with the various aspects of the ocean.
  • Define the field of meteorology as a branch of Earth Science that deals with the atmosphere.
  • Understand that astronomy is an extension of Earth Science that examines other parts of the solar system and universe.
  • List some of the other branches of Earth Science, and how they relate to the study of the Earth.

Overview of Earth Science


Figure 1.9 : Earth as seen from Apollo 17.

Earth is the mighty planet upon which we all live. Only recently have humans begun to understand the complexity of this planet. In fact, it was only a few hundred years ago that we discovered that Earth was just a tiny part of an enormous galaxy, which in turn is a small part of an even greater universe. Earth Science deals with any and all aspects of the Earth. Our Earth has molten lava, icy mountain peaks, steep canyons and towering waterfalls. Earth scientists study the atmosphere high above us as well as the planet’s core far beneath us. Earth scientists study parts of the Earth as big as continents and as small as the tiniest atom. In all its wonder, Earth scientists seek to understand the beautiful sphere on which we thrive (Figure 1.9).

Because the Earth is so large and science is so complex, Earth scientists specialize in studying just a small aspect of our Earth. Since all of the branches are connected together, specialists work together to answer complicated questions. Let’s look at some important branches of Earth Science.

Geology is the study of the solid matter that makes up Earth. Anything that is solid, like rocks, minerals, mountains, and canyons is part of geology. Geologists study the way that these objects formed, their composition, how they interact with one another, how they erode, and how humans can use them. Geology has so many branches that most geologists become specialists in one area. For example, a mineralogist studies the composition and structure of minerals such as halite (rock salt), quartz, calcite, and magnetite (Figure 1.10).


Figure 1.10 : Mineralogists focus on all kinds of minerals.


Figure 1.11 : Seismographs are used to measure earthquakes and pinpoint their origins.

A volcanologist braves the high temperatures and molten lava of volcanoes. Seismologists study earthquakes and the forces of the Earth that create them. Seismologists monitor earthquakes worldwide to help protect people and property from harm (Figure 1.11). Scientists interested in fossils are paleontologists, while scientists who compare other planets’ geologies to that of the Earth are called planetary geologists. There are geologists who only study the Moon. Some geologists look for petroleum, others are specialists on soil. Geochronologists study how old rocks are and determine how different rock layers formed. There are so many specialties in geology that there is probably an expert in almost anything you can think of related to the Earth (Figure 1.12).


Figure 1.12 : Geology is the study of the solid Earth and its processes.


Oceanography is the study of everything in the ocean environment. More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Most of that water is found in the oceans. Recent technology has allowed us to go to the deepest parts of the ocean, yet much of the ocean remains truly unexplored. Some people call the ocean the last frontier. But it is a frontier already deeply influence by human activity. As the human population gets ever bigger, we are affecting the ocean in many ways. Populations of fish and other marine species have plummeted because of overfishing; contaminants are polluting the waters, and global warming caused by greenhouse gases is melting the thick ice caps. As ocean waters warm, the water expands and, along with the melting ice caps, causes sea levels to rise.

Climatologists help us understand the climate and how it will change in the future in response to global warming. Oceanographers study the vast seas and help us to understand all that happens in the water world. As with geology, there are many branches of oceanography. Physical oceanography is the study of the processes in the ocean itself, like waves and ocean currents (Figure 1.13). Marine geology uses geology to study ocean earthquakes, mountains, and trenches. Chemical oceanography studies the natural elements in ocean water and pollutants.


Figure 1.13 : Physical oceanography studies things like currents and waves.

Climatology and Meteorology

Meteorologists don’t study meteors — they study the atmosphere! Perhaps this branch of Earth Science is strangely named but it is very important to living creatures like humans. Meteorology includes the study of weather patterns, clouds, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Using modern technology like radars and satellites, meteorologists work to predict or forecast the weather. Because of more accurate forecasting techniques, meteorologists can help us to prepare for major storms, as well as help us know when we should go on picnics.

Climatologists and other atmospheric scientists study the whole atmosphere, which is a thin layer of gas that surrounds the Earth. Most of it is within about 10 – 11 kilometers of the Earth’s surface. Earth’s atmosphere is denser than Mars’s thin atmosphere, where the average temperature is -63° C, and not as thick as the dense atmosphere on Venus, where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes it hot and sulfuric acid rains in the upper atmosphere. The atmosphere on Earth is just dense enough to even out differences in temperature from the equator to the poles, and contains enough oxygen for animals to breathe.

Over the last several decades, climatologists studying the gases in our atmosphere have found that humans are putting higher levels of carbon dioxide into the air by burning fossil fuels (Figure 1.14). Normally, the atmosphere contains small amounts of carbon dioxide, however, with increases in the burning of fossil fuels more than normal amounts are present. These higher concentrations of carbon dioxide can lead to higher surface temperatures. Much of climate change science is based on the increases of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere and the effect those higher concentrations have on global temperatures. Climatologists can help us better understand the climate and how it may change in the future in response to different amounts of greenhouse gases and other factors (Figure 1.15).


Figure 1.14 : Man-made carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere has been linked to rises in atmospheric temperatures.


Figure 1.15: When hurricanes are accurately forecast by meteorologists, many lives can be saved.


Figure 1.16 : The Hubble Space Telescope

Astronomers have proven that our Earth and solar system are not the only set of planets in the universe. As of June 2015, over a thousand planets outside our solar system had been discovered. Although no one can be sure how many there are, astronomers estimate that there are billions of other planets. In addition, the universe contains black holes, other galaxies, asteroids, comets, and nebula. As big as Earth seems to us, the entire universe is vastly greater. Our Earth is an infinitesimally small part of our universe.

Astronomers use resources on the Earth to study physical things beyond the Earth. They use a variety of instruments like optical telescopes and radio telescopes to see things far beyond what the human eye can see. Spacecraft travel great distances in space to send us information on faraway places, while telescopes in orbit observe astronomical bodies from the darkness of space (Figure 1.16).

Astronomers ask a wide variety of questions. Astronomers could study how an object or energy outside of Earth could affect us. An impact from an asteroid could have terrible effects for life on Earth. Strong bursts of energy from the sun, called solar flares, can knock out a power grid or disturb radio, television or cell phone communications. But astronomers ask bigger questions too. How was the universe created? Are there other planets on which we might live? Are there resources that we could use? Is there other life out there? Astronomy also relies on Earth Science, when scientists compare what we know about life on Earth to the chances of finding life beyond this planet.

Other Branches of Earth Science

Geology, oceanography, and meteorology represent a large part of Earth science, while astronomy represents science beyond Earth. However, there are still many smaller branches of science that deal with the Earth or interact greatly with Earth sciences. Most branches of science are connected with other branches of science in some way or another. A biologist who studies monkeys in rainforests must be concerned with the water cycle that brings the rain to the rainforests. She must understand the organic chemistry of the food the monkeys eat, as well as the behavior between the monkeys. She might examine the soil in which the trees of the rainforest grow. She must even understand the economy of the rainforest to understand reasons for its destruction. This is just one example of how all branches of science are connected.

Below are examples of a few branches of science that are directly related to Earth science. Environmental scientists study the ways that humans interact with the Earth and the effects of that interaction. We hope to find better ways of sustaining the environment. Biogeography is a branch of science that investigates changes in populations of organisms in relation to place over time. These scientists attempt to explain the causes of species’ movement in history. Ecologists focus on ecosystems, the complex relationship of all life forms and the environment in a given place (Figure 1.17). They try to predict the chain reactions that could occur when one part of the ecosystem is disrupted.


Figure 1.17 : In a marine ecosystem, coral, fish, and other sea life depend on each other for survival.

As opposed to an oceanographer, a limnologist studies inland waters like rivers and lakes. A hydrogeologist focuses on underground water found between soil and rock particles, while glaciologists study glaciers and ice.

None of these scientific endeavors would be possible without geographers who explore the features of the surface and work with cartographers, who make maps. Stratigraphy is another area of Earth science which examines layers of rock beneath the surface (Figure 1.18). This helps us to understand the geological history of the Earth. There is a branch of science for every interest and each is related to the others.


Figure 1.18 : Folded strata are layers in the rock that have bent over time. Stratigraphy attempts to explain these layers and the geologic history of the area.

Review Questions

  • What are three major branches of Earth science?
  • What branch of science deals with stars & galaxies beyond the Earth?
  • List important functions of Earth scientists.
  • What do you think is the focus of a meteorologist?
  • An ecologist notices that an important coral reef is dying off. She believes that it has to do with some pollution from a local electric plant. What type of scientist might help her analyze the water for contamination?
  • Design an experiment that you could conduct in any branch of Earth science. Identify the independent variable and dependent variable. What safety precautions would you have to take?
  • Therefore, we must utilize the processes of System Science, in order to fully understand the Earth Systems and its variations as a whole.

Points to Consider

  • Why is Earth science so important?
  • Which branch of Earth science would you most like to explore?
  • What is the biggest problem that we face today? Which Earth scientists may help us to solve the problem?
  • What other branches of science or society are related to and necessary for Earth science?
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Exploring the events and changes in Earth’s past may help us understand what we can except in the future.

Double dinosaur disaster

Along with an asteroid impact, evidence points to volcanoes having a role in the extinction of the dinosaurs, especially the Deccan Traps eruption, which lasted a million years and produced lava formations 6,000 feet thick.

Creating conditions to cultivate life

Research on early tectonic plate movement and a protective magnetic field offer a glimpse of when the Earth was conducive to the development of life on the planet.

Super storms the size of states

During ancient periods of extreme heat, Earth may have experienced cycles of dryness followed by massive rainstorms hundreds of miles wide that could dump more than a foot of rain in a matter of hours.

Terrible tremors around Tennessee

The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 reshaped the landscape and the lives of the people who settled there. So why were they forgotten by the time of the Civil War?

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Related In Focus topics

  • Climate Action

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About Earth Sciences

The Division of Earth Sciences supports proposals for research geared toward improving the understanding of the structure, composition, and evolution of the Earth, the life it supports, and the processes that govern the formation and behavior of the Earth's materials.  The results of this research will create a better understanding of the Earth's changing environments, and the natural distribution of its mineral, water, biota, and energy resources and provide methods for predicting and mitigating the effects of geologic hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides.

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.  The expanding world population demands more resources; faces increasing losses from natural hazards; and releases more pollutants to the air, water, and land.   Sustaining our existence requires scientific understanding of the natural materials and processes linking the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.  Life prospers or fails at the surface of the Earth where these environments intersect.

The knowledge gained and the services provided by earth scientists help society cope with its environment in many ways.  Their knowledge about the structure, stratigraphy, and chemical composition of the earth's crust helps us locate resources that sustain and advance our quality of life.  Understanding the forces in the crust, and the natural processes on the surface allows us to anticipate natural disasters such as volcanoes and earthquakes, and geologic environments, such as damaging mining practices or improper waste disposal, gives us information to correct such practices and design more benign procedures for the future.  Finally, a comprehensive perception of planetary physics will allow us to anticipate major changes in global environmental conditions and control or acclimate to those changes. 

In general use, the term "earth science" often includes the study of the earth's atmosphere (meteorology or atmospheric science), the water flowing on and beneath  the surface of continents (hydrology), and the earth's seas and oceans (oceanography or ocean sciences). The NSF organizational taxonomy defines earth science as including the fields of "solid-earth" science (geology, geochemistry, and geophysics (plus continental hydrology. It excludes the "fluid-earth" sciences of oceanography and atmospheric science, which have their own respective divisions in the organization, and are covered in other reports in this series. The NSF Division of Earth Sciences is part of the Geosciences Directorate that also includes the divisions of Atmospheric Sciences and Ocean Sciences. The term "geosciences" is similarly used to represent only the "solid-earth" sciences or solid and fluid sciences depending on the context, so care must be always exercised when interpreting data regarding the earth science fields from various sources.

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Formation of Earth

Our planet began as part of a cloud of dust and gas. It has evolved into our home, which has an abundance of rocky landscapes, an atmosphere that supports life, and oceans filled with mysteries.

Chemistry, Earth Science, Astronomy, Geology

Manicouagan Crater

Asteroids were not only important in Earth's early formation, but have continued to shape our planet. A five-kilometer (three-mile) diameter asteroid is theorized to have formed the Manicouagan Crater about 215.5 million years ago.

Asteroids were not only important in Earth's early formation, but have continued to shape our planet. A five-kilometer (three-mile) diameter asteroid is theorized to have formed the Manicouagan Crater about 215.5 million years ago.

We live on Earth’s hard, rocky surface, breathe the air that surrounds the planet , drink the water that falls from the sky, and eat the food that grows in the soil. But Earth did not always exist within this expansive universe, and it was not always a hospitable haven for life. Billions of years ago, Earth, along with the rest of our solar system, was entirely unrecognizable, existing only as an enormous cloud of dust and gas. Eventually, a mysterious occurrence—one that even the world’s foremost scientists have yet been unable to determine—created a disturbance in that dust cloud, setting forth a string of events that would lead to the formation of life as we know it. One common belief among scientists is that a distant star collapsed, creating a supernova explosion, which disrupted the dust cloud and caused it to pull together. This formed a spinning disc of gas and dust, known as a solar nebula . The faster the cloud spun, the more the dust and gas became concentrated at the center, further fueling the speed of the nebula . Over time, the gravity at the center of the cloud became so intense that hydrogen atoms began to move more rapidly and violently. The hydrogen protons began fusing, forming helium and releasing massive amounts of energy. This led to the formation of the star that is the center point of our solar system—the sun—roughly 4.6 billion years ago. Planet Formation The formation of the sun consumed more than 99 percent of the matter in the nebula . The remaining material began to coalesce into various masses. The cloud was still spinning, and clumps of matter continued to collide with others. Eventually, some of those clusters of matter grew large enough to maintain their own gravitational pull, which shaped them into the planets and dwarf planets that make up our solar system today. Earth is one of the four inner, terrestrial planets in our solar system. Just like the other inner planets —Mercury, Venus, and Mars—it is relatively small and rocky. Early in the history of the solar system, rocky material was the only substance that could exist so close to the Sun and withstand its heat. In Earth's Beginning At its beginning, Earth was unrecognizable from its modern form. At first, it was extremely hot, to the point that the planet likely consisted almost entirely of molten magma . Over the course of a few hundred million years, the planet began to cool and oceans of liquid water formed. Heavy elements began sinking past the oceans and magma toward the center of the planet . As this occurred, Earth became differentiated into layers, with the outermost layer being a solid covering of relatively lighter material while the denser, molten material sunk to the center. Scientists believe that Earth, like the other inner planets , came to its current state in three different stages. The first stage, described above, is known as accretion, or the formation of a planet from the existing particles within the solar system as they collided with each other to form larger and larger bodies. Scientists believe the next stage involved the collision of a proto planet with a very young planet Earth. This is thought to have occurred more than 4.5 billion years ago and may have resulted in the formation of Earth’s moon. The final stage of development saw the bombardment of the planet with asteroids . Earth’s early atmosphere was most likely composed of hydrogen and helium . As the planet changed, and the crust began to form, volcanic eruptions occurred frequently. These volcanoes pumped water vapor, ammonia, and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere around Earth. Slowly, the oceans began to take shape, and eventually, primitive life evolved in those oceans. Contributions from Asteroids Other events were occurring on our young planet at this time as well. It is believed that during the early formation of Earth, asteroids were continuously bombarding the planet , and could have been carrying with them an important source of water. Scientists believe the asteroids that slammed into Earth, the moon, and other inner planets contained a significant amount of water in their minerals, needed for the creation of life. It seems the asteroids , when they hit the surface of Earth at a great speed, shattered, leaving behind fragments of rock. Some suggest that nearly 30 percent of the water contained initially in the asteroids would have remained in the fragmented sections of rock on Earth, even after impact. A few hundred million years after this process—around 2.2 billion to 2.7 billion years ago—photosynthesizing bacteria evolved . They released oxygen into the atmosphere via photosynthesis and, in a few hundred million years, were able to change the composition of the atmosphere into what we have today. Our modern atmosphere is comprised of 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen, among other gases, which enables it to support the many lives residing within it.

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217 Awesome Earth Science Topics For All Your Essay Needs

earth science topics

Are you ready to embark on an exciting journey into the captivating realm of Earth science? Whether you’re a student seeking inspiration or striving to improve your essay writing skills, this blog post is your ultimate guide. We’ve curated a list of 217 free Earth science topics that will spark your curiosity.

Additionally, we’ll share valuable tips to help you craft stellar essays and research papers that impress your professors. So, grab your pen and let’s dive into the fascinating world of Earth science exploration and effective academic writing!

Let’s Talk About Earth Science Papers

Earth science is a broad scientific discipline that focuses on understanding the Earth’s physical processes, its history and its place within the larger universe. It encompasses various fields of study, including geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy, among others.

A good Earth science essay should effectively convey knowledge and understanding of the subject matter while engaging the reader. Here are some key elements that can contribute to a strong Earth science essay:

  • Clear and coherent structure. The essay should have a logical structure with a clear introduction, body paragraphs that present and develop ideas, and a conclusion that summarizes the main points.
  • Well-defined thesis statement. The essay should have a central thesis statement that clearly states the main argument or purpose of the essay.
  • Accurate and relevant information. The essay should demonstrate a solid understanding of Earth science concepts and incorporate accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Critical analysis and interpretation. A good Earth science essay goes beyond presenting information and includes critical analysis and interpretation of the data or concepts being discussed.
  • Use of appropriate language. Use clear, concise, and precise language to convey your ideas effectively. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may confuse the reader.
  • Visual aids and examples. Utilize visuals, such as diagrams, graphs, or images, to enhance the understanding of complex concepts or data.
  • Proper referencing and citations. Give credit to the sources of information used in your essay by citing them properly. Follow a recognized citation style, such as APA, MLA or Chicago.
  • Engaging and concise writing style. Keep your writing engaging and concise. Use active voice, varied sentence structures, and avoid unnecessary repetition.
  • Proofreading and editing. Before submitting your essay, carefully proofread it for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Also check the overall coherence and flow of ideas.

However, one of the key elements of a great Earth science paper is its topic. A great topic can earn you bonus points from your professor. The good news is that you don’t have to waste any time searching for original topic ideas because we have a comprehensive Earth science topics list for you right here:

Interesting Earth Science Topics

Explore captivating subjects like plate tectonics, volcanoes, and the effects of climate change on ecosystems in our curated list of interesting Earth science topics:

  • Plate tectonics: Unveiling the dynamic forces shaping Earth’s crust.
  • Climate change impacts: Exploring the effects on ecosystems.
  • Volcanic eruptions: Unraveling the mysteries of volcanic activity.
  • Weather forecasting: The science behind it.
  • Renewable energy sources: Examining sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.
  • Soil erosion: Investigating the causes and impacts on agricultural productivity.
  • Geologic hazards: Earthquakes, landslides and their potential dangers.
  • Ocean acidification: Consequences of carbon dioxide absorption by oceans.
  • Sustainable water management: Balancing human needs with freshwater resources.
  • Geological time scale: Unlocking the timeline of Earth’s ancient history.
  • Space exploration: Discovering new frontiers beyond our planet.

Earth Science Essay Topics

Craft an engaging essay by choosing from a variety of Earth science essay topics such as the formation of mountains, the impact of erosion or the role of water in shaping Earth’s surface:

  • The impact of climate change on coastal erosion and landforms.
  • The role of plate tectonics in shaping Earth’s geology.
  • The process of weathering and its effects on rock formations.
  • Exploring the causes and consequences of volcanic eruptions.
  • The significance of water cycles in sustaining life on Earth.
  • Understanding the formation and characteristics of different soil types.
  • The impact of deforestation on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Examining the formation and properties of different types of rocks.
  • The role of glaciers in shaping landscapes and contributing to sea-level rise.
  • Exploring the causes and consequences of Earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • The importance of the ozone layer in protecting Earth from harmful UV radiation.
  • Investigating the process of fossilization.

Earth Science Persuasive Essay Topics

Make a compelling argument in your essay by selecting one of our awesome Earth science persuasive essay topics. Take your pick now:

  • The urgency of addressing climate change: A call to action.
  • Renewable energy sources: The key to a sustainable future.
  • The devastating impacts of deforestation: Time to save our forests.
  • Ocean acidification: A silent threat to marine life and ecosystems.
  • The importance of conserving water: Preserving our most precious resource.
  • The alarming rise of plastic pollution: Urgent steps for a cleaner planet.
  • The role of geothermal energy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The significance of biodiversity conservation: Protecting Earth’s web of life.
  • Fracking: Balancing energy needs and environmental concerns.
  • The impact of air pollution on human health: Time for clean air initiatives.
  • Overpopulation: Sustainable solutions for a crowded planet.
  • The role of sustainable agriculture in mitigating climate change.

Meteorology Topic Ideas

Dive into captivating meteorology topics such as the causes and consequences of severe weather events with our unique meteorology topic ideas:

  • The impact of El Niño on global weather patterns.
  • Exploring the formation and characteristics of supercell thunderstorms.
  • The role of atmospheric pressure in predicting weather changes.
  • Understanding the mechanisms behind hurricane intensification.
  • Investigating the effects of climate change on precipitation patterns.
  • Analyzing the relationship between air pollution and weather conditions.
  • Examining the factors influencing tornado formation and path prediction.
  • The significance of cloud types in forecasting severe weather events.
  • The role of jet streams in shaping weather patterns across regions.
  • Exploring the impact of topography on local microclimates.
  • Investigating the link between solar activity and Earth’s climate variability.

Easy Topics In Earth Science

Explore the basics of Earth science with easy topics covering rock types, the water cycle, or different soil characteristics with our list of easy topics in Earth science:

  • The formation and types of rocks found on Earth.
  • Exploring the water cycle and its importance in Earth’s ecosystems.
  • Understanding the movement of Earth’s continents.
  • The role of volcanoes in releasing gases.
  • Investigating the causes and effects of Earthquakes.
  • Exploring the different types and properties of soil on Earth.
  • Examining the impact of erosion on landforms and ecosystems.
  • The significance of fossils in understanding Earth’s history and evolution.
  • Understanding the formation and features karst landscapes.
  • Exploring the importance of biodiversity in maintaining Earth’s ecosystems.
  • Investigating the effects of climate change on Earth’s polar regions.
  • The role of glaciers in shaping landforms and contributing to sea-level rise.
  • Understanding the processes of weathering.

Soil Science Topic Ideas

Investigate the role of soil in agriculture, the effects of erosion on ecosystems, or the impact of soil pollution on human health with our original soil science topic ideas:

  • Soil erosion: Causes, impacts, and prevention measures.
  • Nutrient cycling in agricultural soils: Processes and management strategies.
  • Soil pollution: Sources, effects, and remediation techniques.
  • Soil pH and its influence on plant growth.
  • Soil compaction: Implications for agriculture and remedial practices.
  • Organic matter content in soil: Sustainable management practices.
  • Soil microbiology: Role of microorganisms in nutrient cycling and soil health.
  • Soil fertility management: Enhancing nutrient availability for crop production.
  • Soil moisture retention and its impact on plant water uptake.
  • Soil classification systems: Understanding soil types and their characteristics.
  • Soil remediation techniques for contaminated urban environments.
  • Soil carbon sequestration: Strategies for mitigating climate change.

earth science topics

Controversial Topics About Earth

Engage in debates surrounding controversial Earth science topics like fracking or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Choose one of these exceptional controversial topics about Earth:

  • Climate change: Causes, extent and human contribution.
  • Fracking: Environmental impacts and potential risks.
  • Genetically modified organisms in agriculture: Safety concerns.
  • Deforestation: Balancing economic development and environmental conservation.
  • Nuclear energy: Benefits, risks and the future of nuclear power.
  • Animal agriculture and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plastic waste and its effects on marine ecosystems.
  • Vaccination versus vaccine hesitancy: Individual rights and societal impact.
  • Geoengineering: Manipulating the Earth’s climate as a solution to global warming.
  • Overpopulation: Resource depletion, environmental strain and ethical dilemmas.
  • Electric vehicles and the future of transportation: Environmental benefits.

Environmental Science Research Topics

Conduct impactful research on environmental science by choosing one of our brand new environmental science research topics. Get bonus points on your paper:

  • Impact of deforestation on local biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of renewable energy sources in reducing carbon emissions.
  • The role of microplastics in contaminating marine food webs.
  • Investigating the effects of air pollution on human health in urban areas.
  • Examining the relationship between climate change and agricultural productivity.
  • Assessing the sustainability of current water management practices in arid regions.
  • Evaluating the impact of industrial waste on soil quality.
  • Investigating the potential of biofuels as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
  • Exploring the effects of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems.
  • Assessing the ecological implications of invasive species in natural habitats.
  • Investigating the link between deforestation and climate change feedback mechanisms.
  • Examining the effectiveness of conservation strategies for endangered species.

Earth Science Topics For High School

Impress your teachers and peers by writing a paper on one of our Earth science topics for high school. Yes, all of these are tailored specifically for high school learners:

  • The formation and characteristics of volcanoes and volcanic eruptions.
  • Investigate the processes of erosion and its impact on landforms.
  • Understanding the causes and effects of Earthquakes and seismic activity.
  • Explore the dynamics of glaciers and their role in shaping landscapes.
  • Investigate the processes involved in the formation of different types of rocks.
  • Understanding the composition and layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Explore the formation and features of different types of caves.
  • Investigate the causes and impacts of coastal erosion.
  • Understanding the formation and characteristics of different types of soils.
  • Explore the role of plate tectonics in shaping Earth’s continents.
  • Investigate the impact of human activities on the Earth’s environment.

Astronomy Topic Ideas

Embark on a cosmic journey with captivating astronomy topics, exploring the formation of stars and galaxies, exoplanets or the history of space exploration with one of these awesome astronomy topic ideas:

  • The life cycle and evolution of stars in the universe.
  • Investigate the properties and formation of exoplanets.
  • Explore the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.
  • Study the cosmic microwave background radiation and its implications.
  • Investigate the existence and nature of black holes.
  • Understanding the formation and dynamics of galaxies.
  • Explore the origins and composition of the Solar System.
  • Investigate the potential for life on other planets and moons.
  • Study the properties and behavior of supernovae.
  • Understanding the structure and evolution of the universe.
  • Explore the phenomenon of gravitational waves and their detection.
  • Investigate the nature and properties of quasars and active galactic nuclei.
  • Study the relationship between cosmic rays and high-energy astrophysical phenomena.

Earth And Space Science Topics

Uncover the interconnections between Earth and the cosmos with one of our interesting Earth and space science topics. All of these topics are 100% free for your use:

  • Investigating the impact of space weather on Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Exploring the formation and characteristics of impact craters.
  • Understanding the processes associated with satellite collisions.
  • Investigating the geologic history of other planets and moons.
  • Exploring the role of water on Mars and the potential for past or present life.
  • Understanding the interactions between Earth’s atmosphere and space weather events.
  • Investigating the potential for asteroid mining.
  • Exploring the formation and evolution of planetary systems beyond our own.
  • Investigating the impact of coronal mass ejections on Earth’s climate.
  • Understanding the role of gravitational forces in shaping celestial bodies.
  • Exploring the potential for human colonization of other planets.

Geology Topic Ideas

UnEarth the wonders of geology with topics covering mountain formation, erosion processes, or the geological history of specific regions. Choose one of our geology topic ideas:

  • Plate tectonics: The Earth’s shifting puzzle pieces.
  • Volcanic eruptions: Unleashing the fury from deep within.
  • Geological time scale: Unraveling Earth’s ancient history.
  • Rock formations: Sculptures of nature’s geological artistry.
  • Fossil record: Clues to life’s past hidden in stone.
  • Earthquakes: Tremors that shape the planet’s surface.
  • Geothermal energy: Harnessing the Earth’s internal heat.
  • Mineralogy: Investigating the building blocks of rocks.
  • Sedimentary processes: Layers of Earth’s time-stamped stories.
  • Geomorphology: Shaping landforms through natural forces.
  • Geological hazards: Understanding and mitigating natural risks.
  • Glacial erosion: Carving landscapes with icy precision.

Earth And Environmental Science Topics

Explore the intersection of Earth science and environmental issues with one of these unique Earth and environmental science topics. All our topics should be perfect for 2023:

  • Climate change: Understanding the global warming phenomenon.
  • Renewable energy: Harnessing sustainable power sources for the future.
  • Biodiversity loss: Investigating the decline of Earth’s species.
  • Water pollution: Examining the impacts of contaminated water sources.
  • Deforestation: Uncovering the consequences of widespread tree removal.
  • Ocean acidification: Exploring the effects of carbon dioxide on marine ecosystems.
  • Environmental policy: Analyzing the role of legislation in protecting the planet.
  • Soil degradation: Assessing the depletion of nutrient-rich soils.
  • Air pollution: Investigating the impacts of pollutants on human health.
  • Sustainable development: Balancing economic growth with environmental preservation.

Fun Earth Science Topics

Pick one of our fun Earth science topics and start writing your essay in minutes. All of these topic ideas are 100% original and are guaranteed to get you a top grade:

  • The wonders of weather: Exploring meteorological phenomena.
  • Rocks and minerals: Unveiling the secrets beneath our feet.
  • Volcanoes: Nature’s fiery spectacles and their impact.
  • The water cycle: From raindrops to oceans and back.
  • Ecosystems: Delving into the intricate web of life.
  • Plate tectonics: How Earth’s puzzle pieces shape our world.
  • Climate change: Unraveling the causes and consequences.
  • The power of Earthquakes: Shaking things up with seismic energy.
  • The role of glaciers: Carving landscapes and shaping history.
  • Fossils: Unlocking ancient mysteries of life on Earth.
  • Oceans: Discovering the vast realms beneath the waves.
  • The delicate balance of ecosystems: Exploring interconnections.
  • Space weather: Studying the Sun’s influence on our planet.

Earth Science Topics To Write About In 2023

Stay up to date with current advancements in Earth science by focusing on topics relevant to 2023. In fact, we have a whole list of Earth science topics to write about in 2023:

  • The impact of climate change on coastal erosion patterns
  • Emerging technologies for sustainable energy generation and storage
  • Advances in predicting and mitigating natural disasters
  • Ocean acidification and its effects on marine ecosystems
  • Exploring the role of geothermal energy in a carbon-neutral future
  • Unraveling the mysteries of Earth’s magnetic field reversals
  • Investigating the link between air pollution and human health
  • Assessing the long-term impacts of deforestation on climate change
  • The role of volcanic activity in climate patterns and atmospheric chemistry
  • Understanding the interactions between land, water, and atmosphere
  • Analyzing the impacts of urbanization on local climate and biodiversity

Oceanography Topic Ideas

Dive into the depths of oceanography with captivating topics exploring marine ecosystems, climate change impacts on coral reefs, or ocean currents and tides. Here are some great oceanography topic ideas:

  • The impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems.
  • Explore deep-sea hydrothermal vents and their unique organisms.
  • Understanding the role of ocean currents in climate regulation.
  • The effects of plastic pollution on marine biodiversity.
  • Investigate the causes and consequences of coral bleaching.
  • Explore the mysterious world of bioluminescence in the ocean.
  • Examine the influence of tides on coastal erosion and deposition.
  • The role of upwelling in nutrient distribution and marine productivity.
  • Investigate the formation and characteristics of ocean gyres.
  • Understanding the impact of overfishing on marine food webs.
  • Explore the ecological significance of marine protected areas.
  • Investigate the link between climate change and ocean circulation.

Engaging Earth Science Topic Ideas

Capture your readers’ attention with engaging topics and write the best essay in your class. Here is a list of brand new and engaging Earth science topic ideas:

  • Exploring the mysteries of deep-sea ecosystems.
  • Unveiling the forces behind volcanic eruptions.
  • The role of climate change in the decline of coral reefs.
  • Unraveling the geological history of the Grand Canyon.
  • How plate tectonics shape our planet’s surface.
  • Investigating the fascinating world of weather patterns.
  • The impact of deforestation on biodiversity.
  • Understanding the formation of groundwater resources.
  • Uncovering the secrets of ancient fossils.
  • The science of Earthquakes: mitigating their effects.
  • Exploring the consequences of natural disasters.
  • The fragile beauty of glaciers.
  • Investigating the potential hazards of asteroid impacts on Earth.
  • The incredible diversity of rock formations.
  • Examining the impact of human activity on ecological systems.

Informative Earth Topics For An Essay

Educate and inform your readers with topics focusing on biodiversity conservation, pollution impacts on ecosystems, or the benefits of renewable energy sources. Pick one of these informative Earth topics for an essay:

  • The water cycle: How Earth’s precious resource is recycled
  • Volcanoes: The fiery forces that shape the Earth’s landscape
  • Coral reefs: Underwater cities of biodiversity
  • Plate tectonics: Unraveling the puzzle of Earth’s shifting crust
  • Weather patterns: Exploring the science behind rain, wind and storms
  • Deforestation: Consequences of losing Earth’s green lungs
  • Groundwater: The hidden reservoirs beneath our feet
  • Fossils: Clues to the evolution of life
  • Earthquakes: Causes, effects and measures for safety
  • Hurricanes: The powerhouses of destructive storms
  • Glaciers: Frozen giants melting away
  • Asteroids: Planetary defense
  • Rocks and minerals: The building blocks of Earth’s geology
  • Climate change: Human influence on a changing climate
  • Ecosystems: Understanding the interconnected web of life on Earth

An Essay Writing Service You Can Trust

An online essay writing service offers students a range of benefits when it comes to crafting Earth science papers. With access to a team of seasoned writers, students always receive high quality, custom written papers from our experts when they buy essay online here. Our service ensures fast turnaround times, providing timely assistance to meet strict deadlines.

Reliable customer support is available to address any inquiries or concerns along the way. By utilizing our secure online platform, students can confidently collaborate with professional writers to create papers that meet the expectations of their professors and teachers in university, college or high school. What are you waiting for? Get an A+ on your next Earth science paper!

What are key steps for writing an Earth science essay?

Research, organize your ideas, create a clear thesis, and provide evidence-based arguments. There are other steps involved, of course. Our expert English essay writing services can help you with your paper if you need assistance.

How to choose a compelling and relevant topic for an Earth science essay?

You should consider current issues, recent discoveries or ongoing research in the field. Or you can just choose one of our topics. We’re updating the list regularly.

How important is proper citation in an Earth science essay?

It is extremely important. Proper citation adds credibility, acknowledges sources and allows verification. Without it, you will get penalized.

What are some strategies for presenting complex concepts in an Earth science essay?

Use clear language, provide examples, make effective use of visuals, and structure your essay logically. Also, don’t forget to take into account the expertise of your audience.

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Essay on Earth

500 words essay on earth.

The earth is the planet that we live on and it is the fifth-largest planet. It is positioned in third place from the Sun. This essay on earth will help you learn all about it in detail. Our earth is the only planet that can sustain humans and other living species. The vital substances such as air, water, and land make it possible.

essay on earth

All About Essay on Earth

The rocks make up the earth that has been around for billions of years. Similarly, water also makes up the earth. In fact, water covers 70% of the surface. It includes the oceans that you see, the rivers, the sea and more.

Thus, the remaining 30% is covered with land. The earth moves around the sun in an orbit and takes around 364 days plus 6 hours to complete one round around it. Thus, we refer to it as a year.

Just like revolution, the earth also rotates on its axis within 24 hours that we refer to as a solar day. When rotation is happening, some of the places on the planet face the sun while the others hide from it.

As a result, we get day and night. There are three layers on the earth which we know as the core, mantle and crust. The core is the centre of the earth that is usually very hot. Further, we have the crust that is the outer layer. Finally, between the core and crust, we have the mantle i.e. the middle part.

The layer that we live on is the outer one with the rocks. Earth is home to not just humans but millions of other plants and species. The water and air on the earth make it possible for life to sustain. As the earth is the only livable planet, we must protect it at all costs.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

There is No Planet B

The human impact on the planet earth is very dangerous. Through this essay on earth, we wish to make people aware of protecting the earth. There is no balance with nature as human activities are hampering the earth.

Needless to say, we are responsible for the climate crisis that is happening right now. Climate change is getting worse and we need to start getting serious about it. It has a direct impact on our food, air, education, water, and more.

The rising temperature and natural disasters are clear warning signs. Therefore, we need to come together to save the earth and leave a better planet for our future generations.

Being ignorant is not an option anymore. We must spread awareness about the crisis and take preventive measures to protect the earth. We must all plant more trees and avoid using non-biodegradable products.

Further, it is vital to choose sustainable options and use reusable alternatives. We must save the earth to save our future. There is no Planet B and we must start acting like it accordingly.

Conclusion of Essay on Earth

All in all, we must work together to plant more trees and avoid using plastic. It is also important to limit the use of non-renewable resources to give our future generations a better planet.

FAQ on Essay on Earth

Question 1: What is the earth for kids?

Answer 1: Earth is the third farthest planet from the sun. It is bright and bluish in appearance when we see it from outer space. Water covers 70% of the earth while land covers 30%. Moreover, the earth is the only planet that can sustain life.

Question 2: How can we protect the earth?

Answer 2: We can protect the earth by limiting the use of non-renewable resources. Further, we must not waste water and avoid using plastic.

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Earth Science

What is earth science.

Earth Science

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.

In a simple manner, the branches of science dealing with the physical constituents of earth and the atmosphere is considered to be the definition of earth science.

This subject includes all physical processes that occur on the earth’s surface as well as in its atmosphere. Therefore, earth science involves the entire natural phenomenon like rainfall, storms, hurricanes, drought, floods, etc. Also, the factors that affect these physical processes and the effect of these natural processes on earth and the living organisms are studied under the head.

Importance of Earth Science

The significance of this is understood by knowing the regions that are covered by the different branches of it. Since, the study of the oceans covers about seventy-one percent of the surface of our planet. It serves as one of the most important divisions of science. The Earth is the only planet which supports life and the only planet where life is said to be continuously sustained. Oceans are considered as the areas of the origin of life on the earth and a major determinant of the earth’s atmospheric condition that serves as determinants of various life processes on various parts of the earth. Also, the study of the different fossil forms that are present under the earth’s surface gives us information about the forms of life present in a geological sense and is also known to establish a bond between the ancestral & the living forms. The rocks that are found in a variety of parts of the earth provide data about the evolution of rocks in ancient times. Hence, it is one of the principal branches of physics to study.

Earth Science Formulas

  • The earth’s magnetic field:
  • B is the Earth’s magnetic field
  • B v is the magnetic field in the vertical component
  • B H is the magnetic field in the horizontal component
  • Composite Volcano
  • Shield Volcano

What are the four layers of the earth?

what is earth science essay

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  • Published: 16 January 2008

Earth science and society

  • Frank Press 1  

Nature volume  451 ,  pages 301–303 ( 2008 ) Cite this article

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The unique set of challenges that face humankind today mean that it is more essential than ever that Earth scientists apply their understanding of the planet to benefit society and that society invite them to do so.

You have full access to this article via your institution.

In a single sentence of a speech to the Royal Society, in London, in 1988, Margaret Thatcher succinctly connected science to the creation of social wealth when she said: “the value of Faraday's work today must be higher than the capitalization of all the shares on the stock exchange.” Add a few other examples of the work of scientists that has transformed society, such as the Green Revolution in world agriculture, the transistor revolution that opened closed societies to change and the biomedical revolution set off by molecular biology, and the benefits of science to society take on real meaning. The Earth sciences have a unique role in this regard, which was underscored by the twentieth-century US historian Will Durant when he is said to have cautioned: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” Today, Durant might add a few new vulnerabilities faced by civilization, which I comment on later in this article.

Engagement by scientists in societal matters is not without its problems. An essential element of a democratic society is the accountability of elected officials, who make the final decisions but are answerable to the people. When a serious social problem is addressed, however — one that involves technical matters — scientists are frequently called on for advice. More often than not, the available data are incomplete, the issue is politically charged and the scientists must hold to the integrity of the scientific process in the face of their own personal biases and possible conflicts of interest. In such circumstances, scientists can help decision-makers by describing a range of possible outcomes — assuming there is enough information to do so. However, there are crisis situations where default judgments are needed: that is, where decisions must be made and there is not enough time for more years of research. In this case, I for one would prefer to solicit the views of the most qualified experts in the field in full knowledge of the possible difficulties noted above. Climate change may be such an issue. Crispin Tickell, a former British ambassador to the United Nations, argued the issue this way 1 : “Scientists should be much braver ... I think this ethics argument — should they speak or shouldn't they — is a lot of nonsense. Scientists cannot promise certainty any more than economists can when they call for changes in taxes or interest rates. Uncertainty is part of the human condition. Caution, in any case, may in reality be recklessness. We must always look at the cost of doing nothing.”

In negotiating the conditions for my position as science adviser to US president Jimmy Carter in early 1977, I learned that he selected me because I was an Earth scientist. To me this signalled his estimate of the important issues he would have to confront in his term of office. I asked the president for the authority to convene panels of experts to sort through technical issues that might relate to a presidential decision, and this proved to be an important mechanism for providing the counsel of the ranking specialists in a field. On occasion, the president, who was technically competent, chose not to follow our advice, but he respected the process and, where appropriate, he explained the political rationale for his decision.

what is earth science essay

There are numerous examples of both the contributions that Earth scientists have made to society, and of the effects that society has had on the disciplines within Earth science, and I discuss just a few of them here.

Natural resources

Just about everything we use — our metals, many of our chemicals, our building materials, silicon for our transistors, our energy resources — comes from the ground. These resources are discovered by geologists who tell us how they were formed, how to find them, and that they will not last forever. Unfortunately, mining can be a dirty business that ravages the environment. Environmental scientists now counsel conservation, recycling and substitution as alternatives to the mining of diminishing resources.

Fresh water, a life-sustaining resource, is faced with growing chemical pollution together with increasing demand. A new threat reported by glaciologists is the retreat of glaciers with the beginnings of global warming. They alert us that this will reduce Earth's water-storage capacity and seasonal freshwater run-off in many regions, threatening water supplies for drinking and irrigation.

Living on a violent planet

The same forces that have made our planet so uniquely conducive to life by providing us with continents, oceans and a beneficent atmosphere have also made it a violent planet subject to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods. Earth scientists share with public authorities the responsibility for showing humankind how to live with these natural hardships and minimize the loss of life and property. In all these cases, they do this by public education, recommending intelligent land use together with regulations that require disaster-resistant design of buildings and other structures. In the case of natural disasters, science can provide early warning with increasing reliability. Earthquake prediction still remains an elusive goal, but real-time seismology is offering hope of improved mitigation (see page 271 ).

Climate change

Worrisome as these natural threats are, humankind itself has now become a new troubling force that competes with geology in its power to change our planet. Our ability to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere and thereby change global climate now compares with the natural swings in climate found in the geological record extending back in time over millions of years (see page 279 ). This is an awesome responsibility because of the profound consequences for humankind and all other living species. In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius calculated that doubling the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) content in the atmosphere would raise Earth's temperature by 5–6 °C. He proposed that the release of CO 2 by the combustion of coal would produce global warming. At long last, more than 100 years after Arrhenius's warning, Earth scientists have finally won over most of the world's political leaders to the view that the increased emission of greenhouse gases caused by human activity is responsible for measurable levels of global temperature rise since the mid-twentieth century. The scientists were able to present evidence of troublesome changes in physical and biological systems that could be observed. They could cite detailed observations of receding glaciers, reduced sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean, more frequent extreme weather events, early-blooming trees and acidifying oceans. This cause-and-effect linkage was the stunning message in a report by a scientific panel appointed by the United Nations. Hundreds of climate experts from 120 governments contributed to this statement, issued in 2007 by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2 , and have been rewarded for their efforts by a share in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — arguably the highest recognition that scientists can receive for a contribution to society.

In addition, many leading climate scientists are taking what is for them an unusual but necessary action. They are 'going public': that is, expressing in public forums their anxiety about the possible disastrous consequences by the end of this century of unchecked global warming. They are rousing the general public, making this an economic and ethical issue for many business leaders and a political issue for the governments of many countries. Climate experts are now being joined by the many political leaders they have briefed in arguing that even in the absence of absolute certitude (which does not exist for any scientific theory), reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions is mandated because of the non-trivial possibility that global warming could trigger disastrous social and environmental changes. Climate change is an example of a problem faced by scientist-advisers in counselling governments when the issue is politically charged and the early data are incomplete. These scientists persisted, however; the flow of observations and computations buttressed their case, and they are now forcing economic and political action.

what is earth science essay

The ozone hole

Perhaps the most successful example of advice by Earth scientists informing government policy is that of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement that became effective in 1989 to control the production of industrial chemicals that threatened to destroy the ozone layer in the stratosphere. The rapidity of negotiation and implementation following the publication of the scientific data was remarkable. In 1995, atmospheric chemists Paul Crutzen, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work more than two decades earlier on the formation and decomposition of ozone. Molina and Rowland 3 had proposed that a class of normally harmless, commonly used industrial compounds called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, could drift up to the stratosphere. There, photodissociation of the CFCs in a catalytic reaction could produce atomic chlorine that would destroy ozone. Earth's ozone layer, the protective shield that filters cell-damaging solar ultraviolet radiation from reaching the biosphere, could be thinned. In the 1980s, when Earth scientists and others were trying to gain public attention for a possible environmental disaster, a highly placed US government official offered advice that ranks with Marie Antoinette's counsel to starving Parisians: “Let them eat cake.” He proposed that as a cheap and effective solution people should wear hats and sunglasses and use sunscreen. Fortunately, ozone depletion over Antarctica was discovered by the British Antarctic Survey in 1985. In the following year, a team of international scientists led by Susan Solomon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made in situ measurements in the 'ozone hole'. The chemistry of the ozone hole was confirmed. With this evidence, wiser political voices prevailed, and a treaty was rapidly negotiated. By 2007, some 191 countries had ratified the Montreal Protocol, which now envisages the complete phasing out of ozone-depleting substances.

The nuclear test-ban treaty

Nuclear weapons cannot be developed with confidence that they work without testing. An enforceable ban on testing would thus be a powerful deterrent both to the proliferation of states with nuclear arsenals and to concealed advances in weapons development by nuclear-capable states. We would not be as close as we are today to such a ban without either the work of Earth scientists or the influence of society on the field of seismology. For some 40 years, the United States, Russia and other countries with nuclear weapons have been trying to reach agreement on methods to verify compliance with a test-ban treaty by developing a reliable tool to detect clandestine underground testing of nuclear weapons. Seismic detection of explosions was the obvious technology, but in the early years of negotiations over a treaty, the field of seismology was insufficiently developed to do the complete job of detecting a nuclear explosion, locating it and stating with confidence that the event was an explosion and not an earthquake. That was the driver that transformed the tiny academic research field of seismology into a military–industrial–academic complex that would expose seismologists to the seductions of huge funding increases, co-option by government officials with political agendas, distortion of their research priorities and biased selection of data in publications and testimony.

what is earth science essay

The first negotiations for a test-ban treaty consisted of several meetings of US, British and Soviet scientists in Geneva, beginning in 1958 (in what follows, I draw on the excellent descriptions of the early history of the nuclear test-ban negotiations in refs 4 and 5 ). The government of the Soviet Union was leery of foreign inspectors roaming freely in their country in search of evidence for clandestine tests, and Soviet seismologists presented seismological data that supported this political policy, claiming that their seismic networks could easily detect even small detonations of chemical explosives at distances of hundreds of kilometres. The US government thought the Soviets capable of and willing to evade a treaty, and US government scientists presented apparently contradictory evidence of how difficult it was to observe seismic waves generated by the much larger underground nuclear explosions in the United States. They maintained that they would need many seismic stations in the Soviet Union, as well as inspections, to monitor clandestine underground nuclear explosions. Each side suspected the motives of the other's scientists in presenting seemingly slanted evidence in support of their government's political position, but subsequent scientific work revealed that differing regional geology could account for the contradictions. It turned out that the ancient, colder (having a lower geothermal gradient) crustal and mantle rocks of the Eurasian continental shield are more effective at generating and propagating seismic waves from an explosion than are the rocks under the Nevada test site, which sits in a geologically younger region where conditions tend to muffle seismic waves.

what is earth science essay

To avoid disruption of the negotiations because of the conflicting technical positions of the delegations, the administration of President Eisenhower launched a research programme in seismology called Vela Uniform. An advisory panel was appointed by the president's science adviser James Killian of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to prepare a research plan. The panel, chaired by science administrator Lloyd Berkner, consisted of 14 members, of whom 9 were distinguished university professors, including 6 of the nation's leading academic Earth scientists. The highly respected Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense was designated to manage Vela Uniform, and the Berkner Report set its research agenda. Kai-Henrik Barth reported 4 : “Vela Uniform supported almost every US seismologist and even a number of foreign scientists during the 1960s. From 1959 to 1961, funding for seismology increased by a factor of 30 and remained at this level for the better part of the 1960s.” Of great importance to the development of seismology is the fact that the government managers of these research funds knew how to find and support the best scientists and provided them wide latitude in the selection of their own research topics, knowing that this was in the best long-term interest of the government.

what is earth science essay

As far as seismology is concerned, fears about militarization of the field during the cold war, and distortion of the research agenda into narrow sectors of special interest to government patrons, never materialized. On the contrary, the US government's generous support of academic Earth scientists with few limitations over the decades not only led to the development of many advanced methods for differentiating between nuclear explosions and earthquakes but also enabled seismologists to make extraordinary contributions to the study of plate tectonics and to the unravelling of the dynamics of Earth's internal heat engine.

The seismological methods that were developed also had a crucial role in facilitating the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty by the United Nations in 1996, by giving states confidence that compliance with the treaty could be verified. A global international monitoring system of 170 seismic stations, which should be capable of detecting and identifying nuclear explosions as small as 1–2 kilotonnes (ref. 6 ), is now being installed as part of the treaty. This should be sufficient to inhibit any rogue nation from secretly developing a nuclear weapon. I am sure that it will also lead to new discoveries about Earth's interior and provide useful data for early warning of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in remote regions.

Earth scientists should be proud of the contributions to society they are making in the course of applying and advancing their science. The wider application of old knowledge still serves many purposes, including lessening the destruction of natural disasters. The latest challenge is to apply the new understanding of our planet that has been uncovered by research to halt and reverse the environmental damage inflicted by humankind.

Pearce, F. The green diplomat. New Sci. no. 1813 38 (1992).

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what is earth science essay

The Importance of Teaching Earth Science

The Importance of Teaching Earth Science

Originally published in TEACH Magazine, January/February 2018 Issue

By Adam Stone

Earth science has long been the poor cousin of STEM programs. It takes a back seat to technology and even among the straight sciences, rocks and rivers get short shrift alongside the physical sciences—properties of matter, motion, gravity.

“It’s the least glamorous, it requires the least specialized equipment, it’s not as shiny. And the modern applications of it are less straightforward and less clear,” says Michael Walker, a high school teacher at the Village School, a 1,200-student K–12 institution in Houston.

Walker is among those calling for a bigger role for earth science in the STEM curriculum. “Our students have to start making decisions about how we use our resources, and that means they have to know what is there, how is it used, and what are the consequences,” he says.

Let’s look at ways to implement earth science in the K–12 classroom.

Make It Hands-On

From a pedagogic point of view, earth science has a big advantage in that it is inherently tangible. The very opposite of abstract or theoretical subjects, it can be talked about in practical terms: water, air, rock. Oceans, meadows, volcanoes. These are the basics of the shared human experience, and teachers can leverage that edge to get kids excited.

“A lot of the topics that are part of an earth science curriculum are relevant to a person’s daily life,” says Jacqueline Huntoon, provost at Michigan Technological University. She has been helping to develop the new middle school science curriculum Mi-STAR , for Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform.

Her approach relies heavily on hands-on experience.

“In the past students would be asked to memorize fifty different minerals or some set of chemical formulas. That’s not really intriguing or interesting to every kid on the block,” she says. “We like to start with something tangible and concrete, so that all the students can have a shared experience. We’ll look at those ‘helicopter’ seed pods, for example. When you drop them, they spin. Why do they spin? You can make a model of that. You get the kids to figure out as of much of this on their own, with the teacher as a guide, before you start lecturing about the concepts.”

Look at Processes

Earth science can be more than just a summation of facts: it can be a descriptor of processes, a way of understanding how complex actions and interactions unfold in the natural world.

A professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at Indiana University, Gabriel Filippelli has taken this approach in working with high school students and teachers to incorporate earth science into the STEM classroom. He counts the effort a success if kids leave knowing three core processes:

  • How climate change causes ocean acidification and what that does to coastal regions;
  • How lead poisoning impacts neurological development, as seen by following lead through the environment and learning how the body processes it;
  • Elemental synthesis in stars as a marker of the age of the universe.

Taken together, these processes incorporate much of the nature world: physics and chemistry, ecology and astronomy. By teaching processes, he’s encouraging kids to synthesize all that they are learning, to begin to develop a large-scale vision of the interrelationship of scientific ideas.

Moreover, the process-based approach helps students to ground the earth science ideas in their own experiences.

“You want to teach the theory, but you also want to show them why these things matter in nature. So you show them how, as the ocean warms, the amount of oxygen in the ocean goes down and what the consequences are of that. Those are the things that students remember in the long term,” says Filippelli.

Even a modestly funded school can find ways to introduce earth science processes. “One easy thing is species presence or the timing of species arrival, or the timing of first buds. Right there in the school yard they can observe and measure. When I sit here, how many amphibians do I see? What bird species do I see? The teacher then can keep this going over time, and that becomes the core of citizen science. They can reflect on how it changes from year to year,” he explains.

Observe the processes near at hand, then connect these to larger processes. From there it’s a short leap to core concepts of earth science, which in turn can be connected to other topics across the sciences.

Teach Cycles

Just as Filippelli talks about “processes,” Walker likes to emphasize “systems” as a way to make earth science come alive.

How do rocks form, change, shift over time? How does water enter the ecosystem, where does it go? “By looking at entire systems, it gives you a useful tool for taking any large, complex idea and breaking it down into manageable components,” he says.

“When you first learn about something like plate tectonics, that is a big concept, thinking that the entire surface of the Earth is always moving and being transformed. When students try to think about these big ideas it can be a little bit overwhelming. Turning it into a system makes it a little more accessible, a little less intimidating,” he notes.

He’ll let the kids throw in their own ideas: consider the “system” of soccer, or of a banana, for example. Almost anything can be slotted in to the basic format, with students asking where it comes from, how it may grow and change, what kinds of outcomes it may generate.

“You can apply the systems approach at multiple scales. One system can be nested within another system. So within the rock cycle you can break down sedimentary rock into a smaller system. Or you could scale up, to see how the rock cycle fits into the formation of the solar system. It’s all the same basic kind of thinking,” he says.

Dig in the Dirt

“One of the best ways to put earth sciences into any STEM program is to provide students with opportunities to garden,” says Donna Grim, principal of Green Valley Elementary School in Danville, CA.

“Calculating the rate of growth and the many variables found in the growing cycle is an excellent way to incorporate earth science vocabulary, and meaningful hands-on activity,” she advises. “Tools and approaches used can vary but students allowed to experiment can use cameras for documentation, create graphs to compare growth, make iMovies to explain lessons learned, and more. The use of technology should be a natural extension of the earth science experience.”

Huntoon extends this idea of connectedness, encouraging teachers to help kids interface with their own local ecosystems as a way to engage in earth sciences.

“We have really focused on a place-based approach. We want to make everything we teach relevant to students’ lives, so we focus on their local areas as much as possible. This helps to connect them, which helps to make them more informed about how science can help us make good decisions,” she says.

In this way, earth science becomes a doorway into a wider understanding of science as a foundational pursuit. “Kids need to use science as a tool to look at problems in their local communities. That’s really powerful. Now they know what science is all about and just how powerful it can be as a force for making good decisions,” she notes.

Not surprisingly, the internet offers a range of valuable tools to help educators introduce earth science into the STEM classroom. A few select examples:

  • ClimateSim offers a web-based climate change simulator. Advanced high school students can tinker with emissions levels and watch greenhouse gas levels rise. For more on the topic, Explaining Climate Change offers a range of teaching materials.
  • For the zoological side of earth science, National Geographic Kids offers video clips of animals and a detailed exploration of prehistoric life for use with K–12 students.
  • Virtual Earthquake introduces students to the concepts of seismology, showing how scientists graph and measure seismic activity.
  • At Grades of Green , educators can tap into 40+ hands-on activities and projects highlighting environmental stewardship.
  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab offers a number of online resources, including teaching tools to help explain the rising seas and a variety of classroom activities built around space topics.

Advocates say these and other tools can play a vital role in getting kids to explore their surroundings. The tools of earth science can take students beyond the textbook, relating basic STEM learning to tangible outcomes and practical experience.

“I don’t have anything against pure theoretical chemists, but most of us have to deal with the nuances in the real world,” Filippelli says. “When you spill a chemical and it goes into the ground water, organisms take it in at a certain rate. That requires an understanding of how biology and chemicals and earth materials work together—and that is exactly what we do.”

Adam Stone is a seasoned journalist with 20+ years’ experience. He covers education, technology, government and the military, along with diverse other topics.

2 comments on "The Importance of Teaching Earth Science"

I never thought about how earth science is used every day so kids would benefit from learning about it. Maybe I can find a program that can teach my kids more about it. Then I could take it their school board meetings and see what the other parents think.

I like what Walker said about how we need to incorporate earth science and STEM into the classroom so the students can learn how to make decisions about the Earth’s resources. Lately I’ve been interested in learning more about the importance of science in early childhood education. I hadn’t thought about the importance of resource decision making, so thanks for pointing out that benefit.

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Essay on Importance of Earth

Students are often asked to write an essay on Importance of Earth in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Importance of Earth

The earth: our home.

Earth is our home planet, providing us with life-sustaining resources. It offers us water, air, food, and shelter, all necessary for our survival.

Source of Life

Earth is the only known planet to harbor life. Its unique conditions, like the presence of water and suitable temperature, make life possible.

Provider of Resources

Earth provides us with natural resources like water, minerals, and plants. These resources are essential for our survival and development.

Importance of Preservation

Preserving Earth is crucial. We must protect it from harm, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for future generations.

250 Words Essay on Importance of Earth

The quintessential planet: earth.

Earth, our home planet, is the only known celestial body to support life, making it unique and invaluable. The importance of Earth is multifaceted, encompassing its role in sustaining life, maintaining biodiversity, and providing resources.

The Life-Sustaining Sphere

Earth’s unique position in the solar system, neither too close nor too far from the sun, enables it to maintain an ideal temperature for life. This ‘Goldilocks Zone’ allows for the existence of liquid water, a prerequisite for life as we know it. The planet’s magnetic field protects life from harmful solar radiation, further emphasizing Earth’s role as a life-sustaining sphere.

A Haven of Biodiversity

Earth is a haven of biodiversity, hosting millions of species, each playing a crucial role in the ecosystem. This biodiversity contributes to the planet’s resilience, allowing it to recover from disturbances. Moreover, it provides us with a wealth of genetic material, which has potential applications in medicine, agriculture, and industry.

Earth’s crust is rich in resources, from metals to fossil fuels, which have been instrumental in human development. These resources have fueled technological advancements, enabling us to build civilizations, explore space, and connect globally.

In conclusion, Earth’s importance is undeniable. It is a life-supporting, biodiversity-rich, resource-providing planet. However, its finite resources and fragile ecosystems are under threat due to human activities. Therefore, it is imperative to understand and respect the value of Earth, ensuring its preservation for future generations.

500 Words Essay on Importance of Earth

The essence of earth.

The Earth, our home, is not just a physical entity with vast ecosystems and diverse species. It’s a complex, interconnected system that provides the fundamental necessities for life to thrive. Its importance is immeasurable, and its preservation is crucial for the survival and progress of humanity.

The Abode of Life

Earth is the only known celestial body that harbors life. Its unique position in the solar system, the presence of water, and the protective atmosphere create the ideal conditions for life to evolve. The diversity of life forms, from the simplest microorganisms to the most complex mammals, is a testament to Earth’s nurturing capabilities. The biodiversity contributes to the stability of ecosystems, which in turn supports human life.

Earth is a rich reservoir of natural resources that sustain human civilization. The fertile soil nourishes our crops, the forests provide timber, and the minerals beneath the surface are used to create a multitude of products. The oceans, covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, are a source of food, transportation, and even renewable energy. These resources are not just commodities; they are the building blocks of our society.

Climate and Weather Patterns

The Earth’s climate system plays a vital role in shaping life on our planet. The complex interplay of atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial processes results in a variety of weather patterns and climatic zones. These conditions influence the distribution of ecosystems and species, agricultural practices, and human settlements. Understanding how this system works is essential for predicting weather, managing natural disasters, and addressing climate change.

The Earth as a Teacher

The Earth is a living textbook, offering lessons in a wide range of disciplines. Geologists study Earth to understand its past, deciphering the history of life and climate from rocks and fossils. Astronomers look at Earth to learn about other planets, using it as a reference point. Ecologists and biologists study Earth’s ecosystems to unravel the complex web of life. These studies are not only academically enriching but also crucial for developing sustainable practices.

The Need for Preservation

Despite its resilience, Earth is under pressure from human activities. Deforestation, pollution, and climate change are just a few examples of how we’re altering the planet. Protecting Earth is not just about preserving beautiful landscapes for future generations. It’s about ensuring the survival of humanity and the countless species that share this home with us. Our actions today will determine the future of Earth.

In conclusion, Earth’s importance extends beyond its role as our home. It’s a life-giving entity, a provider of resources, a regulator of climate, and a source of knowledge. As we continue to explore the universe, we must remember that Earth remains our most important discovery. The preservation of Earth is not just an environmental issue; it’s a matter of survival and prosperity for all life forms.

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Essay on Science in English: Check 200, 300 & 500 Words Essay

Science is the study of logic. It explains why the world is round, why stars twinkle, why light travels faster than sound, why hawks soar higher than crows, why sunflowers face the sun and other phenomena. Science answers every question logically rather than offering mystical interpretations. Students are very interested in science as a topic. This subject is indeed crucial for those hoping to pursue careers in science and related professions.

People who are knowledgeable in science are more self-assured and aware of their environment. Knowing the cause and origin of natural events, a person knowledgeable in science will not be afraid of them.

However, science also has a big impact on a country’s technological advancement and illiteracy.

Table of Content

English-language Long and Short Science Essay

Essay on science  (200 words), essay on science (300 words), essay on science (400 words), essay on science (500 words), essay on science (600 words).

We have included a brief and lengthy English essay on science below for your knowledge and convenience. The writings have been thoughtfully crafted to impart to you the relevance and meaning of science. You will understand what science is, why it matters in daily life, and how it advances national progress after reading the writings. These science essays can be used for essay writing, debate, and other related activities at your institution or school.

Science entails a thorough examination of the behavior of the physical and natural world. Research, experimentation, and observation are used in the study.

The scientific disciplines are diverse. The social sciences, formal sciences, and natural sciences are some of them. Subcategories and sub-sub-categories have been created from these basic categories. The natural sciences include physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and astronomy; the social sciences include history, geography, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, social studies, and anthropology; and the formal sciences include computer science, logic, statistics, decision theory, and mathematics.

The world has positively transformed because of science. Throughout history, science has produced several inventions that have improved human convenience. We cannot fathom our lives without several of these inventions since they have become essential parts of them.

Global scientists persist in their experiments and occasionally produce more advanced innovations, some of which spark global revolutions. Even if science is helpful, some people have abused knowledge, usually those in positions of authority, to drive an arms race and destroy the environment.

There is no common ground between the ideologies of science and religion. These seeming opposite viewpoints have historically led to a number of confrontations and still do.

Science is a way to learn about, comprehend, examine, and experiment with the physical and natural features of the world in order to apply it to the development of newer technologies that improve human convenience. In science, observation and experimentation are broad and not restricted to a specific concept or area of study.

Applications of Science

Science has given us almost everything we use on a daily basis. Everything, from laptops to washing machines, microwaves to cell phones, and refrigerators to cars, is the result of scientific experimentation. Here are some ways that science affects our daily lives:

Not only are refrigerators, grills, and microwaves examples of scientific inventions, but gas stoves, which are frequently used for food preparation, are as well.

Medical Interventions

Scientific advancements have made it feasible to treat a number of illnesses and conditions. Thus, science encourages healthy living and has helped people live longer.


These days, mobile phones and internet connections are necessities in our life and were all made possible by scientific advancements. These innovations have lowered barriers to communication and widened global connections.

E nergy Source

The creation and application of numerous energy forms have been facilitated by the discovery of atomic energy. One of its greatest innovations is electricity, and everyone is aware of the effects it has on daily life.

Variety in Cuisine

There has also been an increase in food diversity. These days, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available year-round. It’s not necessary to wait for a given season to enjoy a certain meal. This modification is the result of scientific experimentation.

So, science is a part of our daily existence. Without scientific advancements, our lives would have been considerably more challenging and varied. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the fact that a great deal of scientific innovation has contributed to environmental deterioration and a host of health issues for humankind.

There are essentially three main disciplines of science. The Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Formal Sciences are some of them. To examine different aspects, these branches are further divided into subcategories. This is a thorough examination of these groups and their subgroups.

Scientific Subdisciplines

Natural Science

This is the study of natural phenomena, as the name implies. It investigates how the cosmos and the world function. Physical science and life science are subcategories of natural science.

a) Science of Physics

The subcategories of physical science comprise the following:

  • Physics is the study of matter’s and energy’s properties.
  • Chemistry is the study of the materials that make up matter.
  • The study of space and celestial bodies is called astronomy.
  • Ecology is the study of how living things interact with their natural environments and with one another.
  • Geology: It studies the composition and physical makeup of Earth.
  • Earth science is the study of the atmosphere and the physical makeup of the planet.
  • The study of the physical and biological components and phenomena of the ocean is known as oceanography.
  • Meteorology: It studies the atmospheric processes.

The subcategories of life science include the following:

  • The study of living things is called biology.
  • The study of plants is known as botany.
  • The study of animals is known as zoology.

c) Social Science

This includes examining social patterns and behavioral patterns in people. It is broken down into more than one subcategory. Among them are:

  • History: The examination of past occurrences
  • Political science is the study of political processes and governmental structures.
  • Geographic: Study of the atmospheric and physical characteristics of Earth.
  • Human society is studied in social studies.
  • Sociology: The study of how societies form and operate.

Academic Sciences

It is the area of study that examines formal systems like logic and mathematics. It encompasses the subsequent subcategories:

  • Numbers are studied in mathematics.
  • Reasoning is the subject of logic.
  • Statistics: It is the study of numerical data analysis.
  • Mathematical analysis of decision-making in relation to profit and loss is known as decision theory.
  • The study of abstract organization is known as systems theory.
  • Computer science is the study of engineering and experimentation as a foundation for computer design and use.

Scientists from several fields have been doing in-depth research and testing numerous facets of the subject matter in order to generate novel ideas, innovations, and breakthroughs. Although these discoveries and technologies have made life easier for us, they have also permanently harmed both the environment and living things.


Science is the study of various physical and natural phenomena’ structures and behaviors. Before drawing any conclusions, scientists investigate these factors, make extensive observations, and conduct experiments. In the past, science has produced a number of inventions and discoveries that have been beneficial to humanity.

I deas in Religion and Science

In science, new ideas and technologies are developed through a methodical and rational process; in religion, however, beliefs and faith are the only factors considered. In science, conclusions are reached by careful observation, analysis, and experimentation; in religion, however, conclusions are rarely reached through reason. As a result, they have very different perspectives on things.

Science and Religion at Odds

Because science and religion hold different opinions on many issues, they are frequently perceived as being at odds. Unfortunately, these disputes occasionally cause social unrest and innocent people to suffer. These are a few of the most significant disputes that have happened.

The World’s Creation

The world was formed in six days, according to many conservative Christians, sometime between 4004 and 8000 BCE. However, cosmologists assert that the Earth originated about 4.5 billion years ago and that the cosmos may be as old as 13.7 billion years.

The Earth as the Universe’s Center

Among the most well-known clashes is this one. Earth was considered to be the center of the universe by the Roman Catholic Church. They say that it is surrounded by the Sun, Moon, stars, and other planets. Famous Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei’s discovery of the heliocentric system—in which the Sun is at the center of the solar system and the Earth and other planets orbit it—led to the conflict.

Eclipses of the Sun and Moon

Iraq was the scene of one of the first wars. The locals were informed by the priests that the moon eclipse was caused by the gods’ restlessness. These were seen as foreboding and intended to overthrow the kings. When the local astronomers proposed a scientific explanation for the eclipse, a disagreement arose.

There are still many myths and superstitions concerning solar and lunar eclipses around the world, despite astronomers providing a compelling and rational explanation for their occurrence.

In addition to these, there are a number of other fields in which religious supporters and scientists hold divergent opinions. While scientists, astronomers, and biologists have evidence to support their claims, the majority of people adhere closely to religious beliefs.

Not only do religious activists frequently oppose scientific methods and ideas, but many other facets of society have also taken issue with science since its discoveries are leading to a host of social, political, environmental, and health problems. Nuclear weapons are one example of a scientific invention that threatens humanity. In addition, the processes involved in preparation and the utilization of the majority of scientifically created equipment contribute to pollution, making life more difficult for all.

In the previous few decades, a number of scientific advancements and discoveries have greatly eased people’s lives. The previous ten years were not an anomaly. A good number of important scientific discoveries were acknowledged. The top ten most amazing recent scientific inventions are shown below.

New Developments and Findings in Science

Amputee Gains Control of Biomechanical Hand via Mental After a tragic accident took away his forearm, Pierpaolo Petruzziello, an Italian, used his mind to control a biomechanical hand attached to his arm. The hand used wires and electrodes to connect to the nerves in his arm. He became the first to become skilled at doing motions like gripping objects, wriggling his fingers, and moving.

The Global Positioning System

In 2005, the Global Positioning System, or GPS as it is more often known, went into commercial use. It was incorporated into mobile devices and worked wonders for tourists all over the world. Traveling to more recent locations and needing instructions couldn’t be simpler.

The Self-Driving Car Toyota debuted Prius shortly after Google launched its own self-driving car experiment in 2008. The accelerator, steering wheel, and brake pedals are absent from this vehicle. It runs without the need for user input because it is driven by an electric motor. To guarantee that the driverless experience is seamless and secure, it is integrated with specialized software, a collection of sensors, and precise digital maps.

Android, widely regarded as one of the most significant innovations of the decade, revolutionized the market by flooding it with devices running Java and Symbian earlier on. These days, Android is the operating system used by the majority of smartphones. Millions of applications are supported by it.

c) Computer Vision

A number of sub-domains fall under the umbrella of computer vision, including learning, video tracking, object recognition, object pose estimation, event detection, indexing, picture restoration, and scene reconstruction. In order to produce symbolic information, the field includes methods for processing, analyzing, obtaining, and understanding images in high-dimensional data from the real world.

d) Touch Screen Technology

It appears that touch screen technology has taken over the planet. The popularity of touch screen gadgets can be attributed to their ease of use. These gadgets are becoming quite popular everywhere.

e) Method of 3D Printing

The 3D printer is capable of producing a wide range of items, such as lamps, cookware, accessories, and much more. Alternatively referred to as additive manufacturing, this process uses digital model data from electronic data sources like Additive Manufacturing Files (AMF) to construct three-dimensional items of any shape.

Git Hub is an online hosting service and version control repository that was founded in 2008. It provides features including bug tracking, task management, feature requests, and the sharing of codes, apps, and other materials. The GitHub platform was first developed in 2007, and the website went live in 2008.

f) Smart Timepieces

The market for smart watches has been around for a while. The more recent models, like the one introduced by Apple, have garnered enormous popularity and come with a number of extra capabilities. Nearly all of the functionality found on smartphones are included in these watches, which are also more convenient to wear and use.

g) Websites for Crowdfunding

The emergence of crowdsourcing websites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe has been a blessing for innovators. Inventors, artists, and other creative people can share their ideas and gain the funding they need to put them into action by using these websites.

Global scientists constantly observe and experiment to develop new scientific discoveries that improve people’s lives. Not only do they consistently create new technologies, but they also adapt the ones that already exist whenever there is an opportunity. Even while these innovations have made life easier for humans, you are all aware of the numerous environmental, social, and political risks they have brought about.

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Essay on Science- FAQs

Who is father of science.

Galileo is the father of science.

Why is it called science?

The word “scientia” has Latin origins and originally meant “knowledge,” “an expertness,” or “experience.”

What is science for students?

Science is the study of the world by observation, recording, listening, and watching. Science is the application of intellectual inquiry into the nature of the world and its behavior. Think like a scientist, anyone can.

What is science’s primary goal or objective?

Science’s primary goal is to provide an explanation for the facts. Moreover, science does not prohibit the explanation of facts in an arbitrary manner. Additionally, science organizes the data and develops theories to explain the data.

Describe what a scientific fact is.

Repeatable, meticulous observations or measurements made through experiments or other methods are referred to as scientific facts. Furthermore, empirical evidence is another name for a scientific fact. Most importantly, the development of scientific hypotheses depends on scientific facts.

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What can early Earth teach us about the search for life?

by Evan Gough, Universe Today

What can early Earth teach us about the search for life?

Earth is the only life-supporting planet we know of, so it's tempting to use it as a standard in the search for life elsewhere. But the modern Earth can't serve as a basis for evaluating exoplanets and their potential to support life. Earth's atmosphere has changed radically over its 4.5 billion years.

A better way is to determine what biomarkers were present in Earth's atmosphere at different stages in its evolution and judge other planets on that basis.

That's what a group of researchers from the UK and the U.S. did. Their research is titled " The early Earth as an analogue for exoplanetary biogeochemistry ," and it appears on the pre-print server arXiv . The lead author is Eva E. Stüeken, a Ph.D. student at the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of St Andrews, UK.

When Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, its atmosphere was nothing like it is today. At that time, the atmosphere and oceans were anoxic. About 2.4 billion years ago, free oxygen began to accumulate in the atmosphere during the Great Oxygenation Event, one of the defining periods in Earth's history. But the oxygen came from life itself, meaning life was present when the Earth's atmosphere was much different.

This isn't the only example of how Earth's atmosphere has changed over geological time . But it's an instructive one and shows why searching for life means more than just searching for an atmosphere like modern Earth's. If that's the way we conducted the search, we'd miss worlds where photosynthesis hadn't yet appeared.

In their research, the authors point out how Earth hosted a rich and evolving population of microbes under different atmospheric conditions for billions of years.

"For most of this time, Earth has been inhabited by a purely microbial biosphere albeit with seemingly increasing complexity over time," the authors write. "A rich record of this geobiological evolution over most of Earth's history thus provides insights into the remote detectability of microbial life under a variety of planetary conditions."

It's not just life that's changed over time. Plate tectonics have changed and may have been 'stagnant lid' tectonics for a long time. In stagnant lid tectonics, plates don't move horizontally. That can have consequences for atmospheric chemistry.

What can early Earth teach us about the search for life?

The main point is that Earth's atmosphere does not reflect the solar nebula the planet formed in. Multiple intertwined processes have changed the atmosphere over time. The search for life involves not only a better understanding of these processes, but how to identify what stage exoplanets might be in.

It's axiomatic that biological processes can have a dramatic effect on planetary atmospheres. "On the modern Earth, the atmospheric composition is very strongly controlled by life," the researchers write. "However, any potential atmospheric biosignature must be disentangled from a backdrop of abiotic (geological and astrophysical) processes that also contribute to planetary atmospheres and would be dominating on lifeless worlds and on planets with a very small biosphere."

The authors outline what they say are the most important lessons that the early Earth can teach us about the search for life.

The first is that the Earth has actually had three different atmospheres throughout its long history. The first one came from the solar nebula and was lost soon after the planet formed. That's the primary atmosphere. The second one formed from outgassing from the planet's interior.

The third one, Earth's modern atmosphere, is complex. It's a balancing act involving life, plate tectonics, volcanism, and even atmospheric escape. A better understanding of how Earth's atmosphere has changed over time gives researchers a better understanding of what they see in exoplanet atmospheres.

The second is that the further we look back in time, the more the rock record of Earth's early life is altered or destroyed. Our best evidence suggests life was present by 3.5 billion years ago, maybe even by 3.7 billion years ago. If that's the case, the first life may have existed on a world covered in oceans, with no continental land masses and only volcanic islands.

If there had been abundant volcanic and geological activity between 3.5 and 3.7 billion years ago, there would've been large fluxes of CO 2 and H 2 . Since these are substrates for methanogenesis, then methane may have been abundant in the atmosphere and detectable.

The third lesson the authors outline is that a planet can host oxygen-producing life for a long time before oxygen can be detected in an atmosphere. Scientists think that oxygenic photosynthesis appeared on Earth in the mid-Archean eon. The Archean spanned from 4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago, so mid-Archean is sometime around 3.25 billion years ago. But oxygen couldn't accumulate in the atmosphere until the Great Oxygenation Event about 2.4 billion years ago.

Oxygen is a powerful biomarker, and if it is found in an exoplanet's atmosphere, it would be cause for excitement. But life on Earth was around for a long time before atmospheric oxygen would've been detectable.

What can early Earth teach us about the search for life?

The fourth lesson involves the appearance of horizontal plate tectonics and its effect on chemistry. "From the GOE onwards, the Earth looked tectonically similar to today," the authors write. The oceans were likely stratified into an anoxic layer and an oxygenated surface layer. However, hydrothermal activity constantly introduced ferrous iron into the oceans. That increased the sulfate levels in the seawater which reduced the methane in the atmosphere. Without that methane, Earth's biosphere would've been much less detectable.

"Planet Earth has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years from an entirely anoxic planet with possibly a different tectonic regime to the oxygenated world with horizontal plate tectonics that we know today," the authors explain. All that complex evolution allowed life to appear and to thrive, but it also makes detecting earlier biospheres on exoplanets more complicated.

We're at a huge disadvantage in the search for life on exoplanets. We can literally dig into Earth's ancient rock to try to untangle the long history of life on Earth and how the atmosphere evolved over billions of years. When it comes to exoplanets, all we have is telescopes. Increasingly powerful telescopes, but telescopes nonetheless. While we are beginning to explore our own solar system, especially Mars and the tantalizing ocean moons orbiting the gas giants, other solar systems are beyond our physical reach.

"We must instead remotely recognize the presence of alien biospheres and characterize their biogeochemical cycles in planetary spectra obtained with large ground- and space-based telescopes," the authors write. "These telescopes can probe atmospheric composition by detecting absorption features associated with specific gases." Probing atmospheric gases is our most powerful approach right now, as the JWST shows.

But as scientists get better tools, they'll start to go beyond atmospheric chemistry. "We might also be able to recognize global-scale surface features, including light interaction with photosynthetic pigments and 'glint' arising from specular reflection of light by a liquid ocean."

Understanding what we're seeing in exoplanet atmospheres parallels our understanding of Earth's long history. Earth could be the key to our broadening and accelerating search for life.

"Unraveling the details of Earth's complex biogeochemical history and its relationship with remotely observable spectral signals is an important consideration for instrument design and our own search for life in the universe," the authors write.

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‘Hopeless and broken’: why the world’s top climate scientists are in despair

Exclusive: Survey of hundreds of experts reveals harrowing picture of future, but they warn climate fight must not be abandoned

  • World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target

Climate change series name

We asked 380 top climate scientists what they felt about the future..., they are terrified, but determined to keep fighting. here's what they said.

“Sometimes it is almost impossible not to feel hopeless and broken,” says the climate scientist Ruth Cerezo-Mota. “After all the flooding, fires, and droughts of the last three years worldwide, all related to climate change, and after the fury of Hurricane Otis in Mexico, my country, I really thought governments were ready to listen to the science, to act in the people’s best interest.”

Instead, Cerezo-Mota expects the world to heat by a catastrophic 3C this century, soaring past the internationally agreed 1.5C target and delivering enormous suffering to billions of people. This is her optimistic view, she says.

“The breaking point for me was a meeting in Singapore,” says Cerezo-Mota, an expert in climate modelling at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. There, she listened to other experts spell out the connection between rising global temperatures and heatwaves, fires, storms and floods hurting people – not at the end of the century, but today. “That was when everything clicked.

Dr Ruth Cerezo-Mota

“I got a depression,” she says. “It was a very dark point in my life. I was unable to do anything and was just sort of surviving.”

Cerezo-Mota recovered to continue her work: “We keep doing it because we have to do it, so [the powerful] cannot say that they didn’t know. We know what we’re talking about. They can say they don’t care, but they can’t say they didn’t know.”

In Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula, where Cerezo-Mota lives, the heat is ramping up. “Last summer, we had around 47C maximum. The worst part is that, even at night, it’s 38C, which is higher than your body temperature. It doesn’t give a minute of the day for your body to try to recover.”

She says record-breaking heatwaves led to many deaths in Mexico. “It’s very frustrating because many of these things could have been avoided. And it’s just silly to think: ‘Well, I don’t care if Mexico gets destroyed.’ We have seen these extreme events happening everywhere. There is not a safe place for anyone.

“I think 3C is being hopeful and conservative. 1.5C is already bad, but I don’t think there is any way we are going to stick to that. There is not any clear sign from any government that we are actually going to stay under 1.5C.”

‘Infuriating, distressing, overwhelming’

Montage of images from around the world

Cerezo-Mota is far from alone in her fear. An exclusive Guardian survey of hundreds of the world’s leading climate experts has found that:

77% of respondents believe global temperatures will reach at least 2.5C above pre-industrial levels, a devastating degree of heating;

almost half – 42% – think it will be more than 3C;

only 6% think the 1.5C limit will be achieved.

The task climate researchers have dedicated themselves to is to paint a picture of the possible worlds ahead. From experts in the atmosphere and oceans, energy and agriculture, economics and politics, the mood of almost all those the Guardian heard from was grim. And the future many painted was harrowing: famines, mass migration, conflict. “I find it infuriating, distressing, overwhelming,” said one expert, who chose not to be named. “I’m relieved that I do not have children, knowing what the future holds,” said another.

The scientists’ responses to the survey provide informed opinions on critical questions for the future of humanity. How hot will the world get, and what will that look like? Why is the world failing to act with anything remotely like the urgency needed? Is it, in fact, game over, or must we fight on? They also provide a rare glimpse into what it is like to live with this knowledge every day.

The climate crisis is already causing profound damage as the average global temperature has reached about 1.2C above the pre-industrial average over the last four years. But the scale of future impacts will depend on what happens – or not – in politics, finance, technology and global society , and how the Earth’s climate and ecosystems respond.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has convened thousands of experts in all these fields to produce the most authoritative reports available, which are approved by all governments. It was founded in 1988 by the United Nations, which was concerned even at that time that global heating could “be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels”.

The IPCC’s task was to produce a comprehensive review and recommendations, which it has now done six times over 35 years. In terms of scale and significance, it may be the most important scientific endeavour in human history.

The IPCC experts are, in short, the most informed people on the planet on climate. What they think matters. So the Guardian contacted every available lead author or review editor of all IPCC reports since 2018. Almost half replied – 380 out of 843, a very high response rate.

Their expectations for global temperature rise were stark. Lisa Schipper, at the University of Bonn, anticipates a 3C rise: “It looks really bleak, but I think it’s realistic. It’s just the fact that we’re not taking the action that we need to.” Technically, a lower temperature peak was possible, the scientists said, but few had any confidence it would be delivered.

Their overwhelming feelings were fear and frustration. “I expect a semi-dystopian future with substantial pain and suffering for the people of the global south,” said a South African scientist who chose not to be named. “The world’s response to date is reprehensible – we live in an age of fools.”

‘Running away from it is impossible’

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So how do the scientists cope with their work being ignored for decades, and living in a world their findings indicate is on a “ highway to hell ”?

Camille Parmesan, at the CNRS ecology centre in France, was on the point of giving up 15 years ago. “I had devoted my research life to [climate science] and it had not made a damn bit of difference,” she said. “I started feeling [like], well, I love singing, maybe I’ll become a nightclub singer.”

She was inspired to continue by the dedication she saw in the young activists at the turbulent UN climate summit in Copenhagen 2009 . “All these young people were so charged up, so impassioned. So I said I’ll keep doing this, not for the politicians, but for you.

Henri Waisman

“The big difference [with the most recent IPCC report] was that all of the scientists I worked with were incredibly frustrated. Everyone was at the end of their rope, asking: what the fuck do we have to do to get through to people how bad this really is?”

“Scientists are human: we are also people living on this Earth, who are also experiencing the impacts of climate change, who also have children, and who also have worries about the future,” said Schipper. “We did our science, we put this really good report together and – wow – it really didn’t make a difference on the policy. It’s very difficult to see that, every time.”

Climate change is our “unescapable reality”, said Joeri Rogelj, at Imperial College London. “Running away from it is impossible and will only increase the challenges of dealing with the consequences and implementing solutions.”

Henri Waisman, at the IDDRI policy research institute in France, said: “I regularly face moments of despair and guilt of not managing to make things change more rapidly, and these feelings have become even stronger since I became a father. But, in these moments, two things help me: remembering how much progress has happened since I started to work on the topic in 2005 and that every tenth of a degree matters a lot – this means it is still useful to continue the fight.”

‘1.5C is a political game’

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In the climate crisis, even fractions of a degree do matter: every extra tenth means 140 million more people suffering in dangerous heat. The 1.5C target was forced through international negotiations by an alliance of uniquely vulnerable small island states. They saw the previous 2C target as condemning their nations to obliteration under rising oceans and storms.

The 1.5C goal was adopted as a stretch target at the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015 with the deal seen as a triumph, a statement of true multilateral ambition delivered with beaming smiles and euphoric applause. It quickly became the default target for minimising climate damage, with UN summits being conducted to the repeated refrain of: “Keep 1.5 alive!” For the target to be breached requires global temperatures to be above 1.5C across numerous years, not just for a single year.

It remains a vital political target for many climate diplomats, anchoring international climate efforts and driving ambition. But to almost all the IPCC experts the Guardian heard from, it is dead. A scientist from a Pacific Island nation said: “Humanity is heading towards destruction. We’ve got to appreciate, help and love each other.”

Schipper said: “There is an argument that if we say that it is too late for 1.5C, that we are setting ourselves up for defeat and saying there’s nothing we can do, but I don’t agree.”

Jonathan Cullen, at the University of Cambridge, was particularly blunt: “1.5C is a political game – we were never going to reach this target.”

Lars Nilsson

The climate emergency is already here. Even just 1C of heating has supercharged the planet’s extreme weather , delivering searing heatwaves from the US to Europe to China that would have been otherwise impossible. Millions of people have very likely died early as a result already. At just 2C, the brutal heatwave that struck the Pacific north-west of America in 2021 will be 100-200 times more likely.

But a world that is hotter by 2.5C, 3C, or worse, as most of the experts anticipate, takes us into truly uncharted territory. It is hard to fully map this new world. Our intricately connected global society means the impact of climate shocks in one place can cascade around the world, through food price spikes, broken supply chains, and migration.

One relatively simple study examined the impact of a 2.7C rise , the average of the answers in the Guardian survey. It found 2 billion people pushed outside humanity’s “climate niche”, ie the benign conditions in which the whole of human civilisation arose over the last 10,000 years.

The latest IPCC assessment devotes hundreds of pages to climate impacts, with irreversible losses to the Amazon rainforest, quadrupled flood damages and billions more people exposed to dengue fever. With 3C of global heating, cities including Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Miami and The Hague end up below sea level .

“It is the biggest threat humanity has faced, with the potential to wreck our social fabric and way of life. It has the potential to kill millions, if not billions, through starvation, war over resources, displacement,” said James Renwick, at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “None of us will be unaffected by the devastation.”

“I am scared mightily – I don’t see how we are able to get out of this mess,” said Tim Benton, an expert on food security and food systems at the Chatham House thinktank. He said the cost of protecting people and recovering from climate disasters will be huge, with yet more discord and delay over who pays the bills. Numerous experts were worried over food production: “We’ve barely started to see the impacts,” said one.

Another grave concern was climate tipping points , where a tiny temperature increase tips crucial parts of the climate system into collapse, such as the Greenland ice sheet, the Amazon rainforest and key Atlantic currents. “Most people do not realise how big these risks are,” said Wolfgang Cramer, at the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology.

‘All of humanity needs to come together and cooperate’

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In the face of such colossal danger, why is the world’s response so slow and inadequate? The IPCC experts overwhelmingly pointed to one barrier: lack of political will. Almost three-quarters of the respondents cited this factor, with 60% also blaming vested corporate interests.

“[Climate change] is an existential threat to humanity and [lack of] political will and vested corporate interests are preventing us addressing it. I do worry about the future my children are inheriting,” said Lorraine Whitmarsh, at the University of Bath in the UK.

Lack of money was only a concern for 27% of the scientists, suggesting most believe the finance exists to fund the green transition. Few respondents thought that a lack of green technology or scientific understanding of the issue were a problem – 6% and 4% respectively.

“All of humanity needs to come together and cooperate – this is a monumental opportunity to put differences aside and work together,” said Louis Verchot, at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. “Unfortunately climate change has become a political wedge issue … I wonder how deep the crisis needs to become before we all start rowing in the same direction.”

Dipak Dasgupta, an economist and former government adviser in India, said short-term thinking by governments and businesses was a major barrier. Climate action needed decade-long planning, in contrast to election cycles of only a few years, said others.

Dr Shobha Maharaj standing in front of the shore with two small motorboats in the water behind her

A world of climate chaos would require a much greater focus on protecting people from inevitable impacts, said many scientists, but again politics stands in the way. “Multiple trillions of dollars were liquidated for use during the pandemic, yet it seems there is not enough political will to commit several billion dollars to adaptation funding,” said Shobha Maharaj, from Trinidad and Tobago.

The capture of politicians and the media by vastly wealthy fossil fuel companies and petrostates, whose oil, gas and coal are the root cause of the climate crisis, was frequently cited. “The economic interests of nations often take precedence,” said Lincoln Alves at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

Stephen Humphreys at the London School of Economics said: “The tacit calculus of decision-makers, particularly in the Anglosphere – US, Canada, UK, Australia – but also Russia and the major fossil fuel producers in the Middle East, is driving us into a world in which the vulnerable will suffer, while the well-heeled will hope to stay safe above the waterline” – even with the cataclysmic 3.5C rise he expects. Asked what individual action would be effective, he said: “Civil disobedience.”

Disinformation was a major concern for scientists from Brazil to Ukraine. This was polarising society, compounding a poor public understanding of climate risk and blinding people to the fact almost all the climate solutions needed were at hand, they said.

“The enormity of the problem is not well understood,” said Ralph Sims, at Massey University in New Zealand. “So there will be environmental refugees by the millions, extreme weather events escalating, food and water shortages, before the majority accept the urgency in reducing emissions – by which time it will be too late.”

‘Capitalism has trained us well’

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“Fight for a fairer world.” That simple message from one French scientist reflected the thoughts of many, who said the huge gap between the world’s rich and poor was a giant barrier to climate action, echoing the chasm between those responsible for the most emissions and those suffering most from the impacts.

Global solidarity could overcome any environmental crisis, according to Esteban Jobbágy, at the University of San Luis in Argentina. “But current growing inequalities are the number one barrier to that.”

Aditi Mukherji, at the CGIAR research group, said: “The rich countries have hogged all the carbon budget, leaving very little for the rest of the world.” The global north has a huge obligation to fix a problem of its own making by slashing its emissions and providing climate funding to the rest of the world, she said. The Indian government recently put a price tag on that: at least $1tn a year.

Overconsumption in rich nations was also cited as a barrier. “I feel resigned to disaster as we cannot separate our love of bigger, better, faster, more, from what will help the greatest number of people survive and thrive,” said one US scientist. “Capitalism has trained us well.”

Michael Meredith in warm jacket with water and icebergs in background

However, Maisa Rojas, an IPCC scientist and Chile’s environment minister, said: “We need to communicate that acting on climate change can be a benefit, with proper support from the state, instead of a personal burden.”

She is one of a minority of the experts surveyed – less than 25% – who still think global temperature rise will be restricted to 2C or less. The IPCC vice-chair Aïda Diongue-Niang, a Senegalese meteorologist, is another, saying: “I believe there will be more ambitious action to avoid 2.5C to 3C.”

So why are these scientists optimistic? One reason is the rapid rollout of green technologies from renewable energy to electric cars, driven by fast-falling prices and the multiple associated benefits they bring, such as cleaner air. “It is getting cheaper and cheaper to save the climate,” said Lars Nilsson, at Lund University in Sweden.

Even the rapidly growing need to protect communities against inevitable heatwaves, floods and droughts could have an upside, said Mark Pelling, at University College London. “It opens exciting possibilities: by having to live with climate change, we can adapt in ways that bring us to a more inclusive and equitable way of living.”

Such a world would see adaptation go hand-in-hand with cutting poverty and vulnerability, providing better housing, clean and reliable water and electricity, better diets, more sustainable farming, and less air pollution.

However, most hope was heavily guarded. “The good news is the worst-case scenario is avoidable,” said Michael Meredith, at the British Antarctic Survey. “We still have it in our hands to build a future that is much more benign climatically than the one we are currently on track for.” But he also expects “our societies will be forced to change and the suffering and damage to lives and livelihoods will be severe”.

“I believe in social tipping points ,” where small changes in society trigger large-scale climate action, said Elena López-Gunn, at the research company Icatalist in Spain. “Unfortunately, I also believe in physical climate tipping points.”

Back in Mexico, Cerezo-Mota remains at a loss: “I really don’t know what needs to happen for the people that have all the power and all the money to make the change. But then I see the younger generations fighting and I get a bit of hope again.”

Note: Julian Ganz provided the technical support to conduct the survey, which was sent on 31 January 2024. Men made up 68% of the respondents, women 28% and 4% preferred not to state their gender. This mirrors the gender split of the IPCC authors overall. A large majority of the scientists – 89% – were aged between 40 and 69 and they were from 35 different countries across the world, with every continent represented by dozens of experts. The age and gender questions were not mandatory but were answered by 344 and 346 respondents respectively.

Excerpts of footage and images taken from the Guardian’s climate coverage

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NASA’s Webb Hints at Possible Atmosphere Surrounding Rocky Exoplanet

Illustration of a rocky exoplanet and its star. The star is in the background at the lower left and appears somewhat, but not significantly, smaller in the sky than the planet. It has a bright orange-red glow, and appears to have an active surface. The planet is in the foreground to the upper right of the star. The left quarter of the planet (the side facing the star) is lit, while the rest is in shadow. The planet has hints of a rocky, partly molten surface beneath the haze of a thin atmosphere. The boundary between the day and night sides of the planet is fuzzy.

Researchers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope may have detected atmospheric gases surrounding 55 Cancri e, a hot rocky exoplanet 41 light-years from Earth. This is the best evidence to date for the existence of any rocky planet atmosphere outside our solar system. 

Renyu Hu from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is lead author on a paper published today in Nature . “Webb is pushing the frontiers of exoplanet characterization to rocky planets,” Hu said. “It is truly enabling a new type of science.”

Super-Hot Super-Earth 55 Cancri e

55 Cancri e ( image below , details/download ),  also known as Janssen, is one of five known planets orbiting the Sun-like star 55 Cancri, in the constellation Cancer. With a diameter nearly twice that of Earth and density slightly greater, the planet is classified as a super-Earth : larger than Earth, smaller than Neptune, and likely similar in composition to the rocky planets in our solar system.

To describe 55 Cancri e as “rocky,” however, could leave the wrong impression. The planet orbits so close to its star (about 1.4 million miles, or one-twenty-fifth the distance between Mercury and the Sun) that its surface is likely to be molten – a bubbling ocean of magma . With such a tight orbit, the planet is also likely to be tidally locked, with a dayside that faces the star at all times and a nightside in perpetual darkness.

In spite of numerous observations since it was discovered to transit in 2011, the question of whether or not 55 Cancri e has an atmosphere – or even could have one given its high temperature and the continuous onslaught of stellar radiation and wind from its star – has gone unanswered.

“I’ve worked on this planet for more than a decade,” said Diana Dragomir, an exoplanet researcher at the University of New Mexico and co-author on the study. “It’s been really frustrating that none of the observations we’ve been getting have robustly solved these mysteries. I am thrilled that we’re finally getting some answers!”

Unlike the atmospheres of gas giant planets, which are relatively easy to spot (the first was detected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope more than two decades ago), thinner and denser atmospheres surrounding rocky planets have remained elusive.

Previous studies of 55 Cancri e using data from NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope suggested the presence of a substantial atmosphere rich in volatiles (molecules that occur in gas form on Earth) like oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. But researchers could not rule out another possibility: that the planet is bare, save for a tenuous shroud of vaporized rock, rich in elements like silicon, iron, aluminum, and calcium. “The planet is so hot that some of the molten rock should evaporate,” explained Hu.

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (Artist’s Concept)

Measuring subtle variations in infrared colors.

To distinguish between the two possibilities, the team used Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) to measure 4- to 12-micron infrared light coming from the planet.

Although Webb cannot capture a direct image of 55 Cancri e, it can measure subtle changes in light from the system as the planet orbits the star.

By subtracting the brightness during the secondary eclipse ( image below , details/download ), when the planet is behind the star (starlight only), from the brightness when the planet is right beside the star (light from the star and planet combined), the team was able to calculate the amount of various wavelengths of infrared light coming from the dayside of the planet.

This method, known as secondary eclipse spectroscopy , is similar to that used by other research teams to search for atmospheres on other rocky exoplanets, like TRAPPIST-1 b .

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (MIRI Secondary Eclipse Light Curve)

Infographic titled “Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e Secondary Eclipse Light Curve, MIRI Low-Resolution Spectroscopy.” At the top of the infographic is a diagram showing a planet moving behind its star (a secondary eclipse). Below the diagram is a graph showing the change in brightness of mid-infrared light emitted by the star-planet system over the course of about four-and-a-half hours. The diagram and graph are aligned vertically to show the relationship between the geometry of the star-planet system as the planet orbits, and the measurements on the graph. The infographic shows that the brightness of the system decreases as the planet moves behind the star.

Cooler than Expected

The first indication that 55 Cancri e could have a substantial atmosphere came from temperature measurements based on its thermal emission ( image below , details/download ), or heat energy given off in the form of infrared light. If the planet is covered in dark molten rock with a thin veil of vaporized rock or no atmosphere at all, the dayside should be around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (~2,200 degrees Celsius). 

“Instead, the MIRI data showed a relatively low temperature of about 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit [~1540 degrees Celsius],” said Hu. “This is a very strong indication that energy is being distributed from the dayside to the nightside, most likely by a volatile-rich atmosphere.” While currents of lava can carry some heat around to the nightside, they cannot move it efficiently enough to explain the cooling effect.

When the team looked at the NIRCam data, they saw patterns consistent with a volatile-rich atmosphere. “ We see evidence of a dip in the spectrum between 4 and 5 microns — less of this light is reaching the telescope,” explained co-author Aaron Bello-Arufe, also from NASA JPL. “This suggests the presence of an atmosphere containing carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, which absorb these wavelengths of light.” A planet with no atmosphere or an atmosphere consisting only of vaporized rock would not have this specific spectral feature.

“We’ve spent the last ten years modelling different scenarios, trying to imagine what this world might look like,” said co-author Yamila Miguel from the Leiden Observatory and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON). “Finally getting some confirmation of our work is priceless!”

Image: Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e (NIRCam + MIRI Emission Spectrum)

Graphic titled “Super-Earth Exoplanet 55 Cancri e Emission Spectrum, NIRCam Grism Spectroscopy (F444W), MIRI Low-Resolution Spectroscopy” shows a graph of amount of light detected from planet versus wavelength of light, with 2 model emission spectra for comparison. NIRCam data in orange range from 4 to 5 microns. MIRI data in purple range from 6.5 to 11.5 microns. Red line along the upper half of the graph is labeled “Model A: Emission spectrum if planet has a rock-vapor atmosphere.” Blue line along the bottom half of the graph is labeled “Model B: Emission spectrum if planet has a volatile-rich atmosphere.” Pattern of data points align closely to pattern of blue, volatile-rich model. Region between 4 and 5 microns, which includes NIRCam data, is highlighted in green and labeled “Carbon Dioxide C O 2 or Carbon Monoxide C O.” Both NIRCam data and blue volatile-rich model show dip in brightness. Red rock-vapor model does not show this dip.

Bubbling Magma Ocean

The team thinks that the gases blanketing 55 Cancri e would be bubbling out from the interior, rather than being present ever since the planet formed. “The primary atmosphere would be long gone because of the high temperature and intense radiation from the star,” said Bello-Arufe. “This would be a secondary atmosphere that is continuously replenished by the magma ocean. Magma is not just crystals and liquid rock; there’s a lot of dissolved gas in it, too.”

While 55 Cancri e is far too hot to be habitable, researchers think it could provide a unique window for studying interactions between atmospheres, surfaces, and interiors of rocky planets, and perhaps provide insights into the early conditions of Earth, Venus, and Mars, which are thought to have been covered in magma oceans far in the past. “Ultimately, we want to understand what conditions make it possible for a rocky planet to sustain a gas-rich atmosphere: a key ingredient for a habitable planet,” said Hu.

This research was conducted as part of Webb’s General Observers (GO) Program 1952 . Analysis of additional secondary eclipse observations of 55 Cancri e are currently in progress.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Right click the images in this article to open a larger version in a new tab/window. Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute. The research results are published in Nature .

Media Contacts

Laura Betz - [email protected] , Rob Gutro - [email protected] NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center , Greenbelt, Md.

Margaret Carruthers   [email protected] , Christine Pulliam - [email protected] Space Telescope Science Institute , Baltimore, Md.

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The image is divided horizontally by an undulating line between a cloudscape forming a nebula along the bottom portion and a comparatively clear upper portion. Speckled across both portions is a starfield, showing innumerable stars of many sizes. The smallest of these are small, distant, and faint points of light. The largest of these appear larger, closer, brighter, and more fully resolved with 8-point diffraction spikes. The upper portion of the image is blueish, and has wispy translucent cloud-like streaks rising from the nebula below. The orangish cloudy formation in the bottom half varies in density and ranges from translucent to opaque. The stars vary in color, the majority of which have a blue or orange hue. The cloud-like structure of the nebula contains ridges, peaks, and valleys – an appearance very similar to a mountain range. Three long diffraction spikes from the top right edge of the image suggest the presence of a large star just out of view.

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The Science of Siblings

Venus and earth used to look like 'twin' planets. what happened.

Regina Barber, photographed for NPR, 6 June 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Farrah Skeiky for NPR.

Regina G. Barber

Credit: Lily Padula for NPR

The Science of Siblings is a series exploring the ways our siblings can influence us, from our money and our mental health all the way down to our very molecules. We'll be sharing these stories over the coming weeks.

Ask which planet in the solar system is Earth's closest sibling, and many people might point to Mars. It orbits nearby, just a little farther from the Sun. It was born at the same time and with the same stuff as Earth. And it is thought to have once had rivers and lakes, even oceans. NASA has sent rovers to its surface to help us learn whether the 'red planet' could have once hosted life.

But there are planetary scientists who would tell you to look in the other direction, to a planet that's far less explored but is actually closer to Earth in size, looks, composition and actual distance ... that is, toward Venus.

Scientists who study Venus affectionately call themselves Venusians. They like to refer to Venus as Earth's twin.

Martha Gilmore is a proud Venusian and a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University. She says that in the past, our planet would not have looked so different from its two neighbors.

"If you were an alien visiting our solar system 4 billion years ago, you would see three rocky planets, each of which had oceans," Gilmore says.

The Science of Siblings

Those planets — Earth, Mars, and Venus — look very different from each other today. Earth is a temperate, blue-green marble transformed by living things. Meanwhile, its siblings have migrated to two extremes: Mars is a dry, cold, dusty planet with a paper-thin atmosphere, and Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, covered in a thick atmosphere that quickly destroys even nonliving visitors from Earth.

That's not an exaggeration: Ten probes that have made it to the Venusian surface; none of them have lasted more than two hours. Venus experiences temperatures over 800 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures that are more than 75 times that of what we experience on Earth.

So what happened to those ancient oceans on our two closest planets — and why is the surface of Venus such a harsh environment today?

For planets, size and location matter

Temperature and pressure are what set Venus apart from Earth. Gilmore says these differences stem from a couple of factors: distance from the sun, and the internal heat of the planet itself.

COMIC: Our sun was born with thousands of other stars. Where did they all go?

  • COMIC: Our sun was born with thousands of other stars. Where did they all go?

All planets are born with a certain amount of heat from when they were created, says Gilmore, who explains this phenomenon to her students using a holiday dinner.

"It's like Thanksgiving. You have a hot potato, you know, baked potato and you've got peas and you want to eat that potato, but it's too hot. But the peas, they're ready to go because they have radiated out their heat because they're small."

Mars is a smaller potato, so it lost its heat faster. Venus and Earth were similarly sized spuds, so they should have cooled at the same rate.

But other than internal heat, there was something else keeping Venus warm: the sun. Because Venus sits much closer to the sun, it receives more of its energy. And that extra bit of energy, delivered over billions of years, is a big reason that Venus's atmosphere became far more intense than what we experience on Earth.

A delicate balance

Atmospheres act like "cozy blankets," Gilmore says. On Earth, for example, the atmosphere helps keep the planet habitable by shielding life from radiation and also keeps the surface at temperatures that we humans can live in. And to have a stable atmosphere, a planet needs a few things: volcanism, sufficient mass, and oceans.

"You have to be hot enough, big enough to have volcanism," says Gilmore, because volcanoes are powered by a planet's internal heat. Those volcanoes pump out the gasses that make up an atmosphere. But once that atmosphere is in place, a planet has to also be big enough that its gravity can actually "hold on to [that] blanket."

While Mars started out similar to Venus and Earth, its smaller size meant that its gravity wasn't strong enough to hold onto the small amount of atmosphere it had developed when it had oceans in its early life. And as Mars cooled down its volcanic activity slowed down ... and eventually stopped.

The problem is, planets actually need volcanoes to constantly replenish their atmospheres, because those atmospheres are constantly being lost to space, Gilmore explains.

"At the top of our atmosphere right now, there are all kinds of nasty rays that are eroding the atmosphere away, like cosmic rays and solar rays," she says.

So Mars's atmosphere was slowly eaten away — becoming so thin that water could no longer remain liquid on the surface. Some of it escaped to space, and some of it ended up frozen in ice.

For birds, siblinghood can be a matter of life or death

For birds, siblinghood can be a matter of life or death

Meanwhile, Venus was so close to the sun that its oceans boiled away. Volcanoes also continued to pump out stuff like carbon dioxide — which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Earth's atmosphere also has carbon dioxide, but our oceans help moderate its heat-trapping effects by sucking up excess carbon and eventually turning it into rock. That's why it's so crucial to take care of our oceans, Gilmore says.

"Once you get rid of an ocean, you turn off the major mechanism to store carbon dioxide in rock," Gilmore says. "And therefore, it just stays in the atmosphere. And the greenhouse effect takes over, and you get a super, super hot blanket."

The runaway greenhouse effect that makes Venus uninhabitable to life as we know it on Earth is something scientists worry about when studying the effects of climate change. Currently humans pump out 100 times more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than volcanoes do annually.

Venus is the closest exoplanet

Studying Venus could give scientists insights of what a world looks like when there are no carbon sinks left. But it also happens to be the closest 'Earth-like' planet that researchers know of.

Hundreds of planets found outside of our solar system are Earth-sized and may be habitable. But these planets are so far away that sending spacecraft to investigate them will not be feasible for many generations.

Venus, Gilmore says, is much closer by. It's somewhere that we visited before, and can visit again. Earth is scientists' first data point on what a habitable planet can look like — but Venus's past could give us a glimpse of another planet that was once habitable before it was altered forever.

More from the Science of Siblings series:

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  • These identical twins both grew up with autism, but took very different paths
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A scorching, rocky planet twice Earth’s size has a thick atmosphere, scientists say

This illustration provided by NASA in 2017 depicts the planet 55 Cancri e, right, orbiting its star. A thick atmosphere has been detected around the planet that’s twice as big as Earth in a solar system about 41 light years away, researchers reported Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

This illustration provided by NASA in 2017 depicts the planet 55 Cancri e, right, orbiting its star. A thick atmosphere has been detected around the planet that’s twice as big as Earth in a solar system about 41 light years away, researchers reported Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

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DALLAS (AP) — A thick atmosphere has been detected around a planet that’s twice as big as Earth in a nearby solar system, researchers reported Wednesday.

The so-called super Earth — known as 55 Cancri e — is among the few rocky planets outside our solar system with a significant atmosphere, wrapped a blanket of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The exact amounts are unclear. Earth’s atmosphere is a blend of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and other gases.

“It’s probably the firmest evidence yet that this planet has an atmosphere,” said Ian Crossfield, an astronomer at the University of Kansas who studies exoplanets and was not involved with the research.

The research was published in the journal Nature .

Super Earth refers to a planet’s size — bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. The boiling temperatures on this planet — which can reach as hot as 4,200 degrees Fahrenheit (2,300 degrees Celsius) – mean that it is unlikely to host life.

Instead, scientists say the discovery is a promising sign that other such rocky planets with thick atmospheres could exist that may be more hospitable.

The exoplanet 41 light years away is eight times heavier than Earth and circles its star Copernicus so closely that it has permanent day and night sides. A light-year is nearly 6 trillion miles (9.7 trillion kilometers). Its surface is encrusted with magma oceans.

This photo provided by NASA shows an Eta Aquarid meteor streaking over northern Georgia on April 29, 2012. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks this weekend. Astronomers say it should be visible in both hemispheres. (B. Cooke/Marshall Space Flight Center/NASA via AP)

To identify the makeup of its atmosphere, researchers studied Webb Space Telescope observations before and after the planet passed behind its star.

They separated the light emitted from the planet versus its star and used the data to calculate the planet’s temperature. There’s evidence the planet’s heat was being distributed more evenly across its surface – a party trick atmospheres are known for.

Gases from its magma oceans may play a key role in holding its atmosphere steady. Exploring this super Earth may also yield clues to how Earth and Mars might have evolved first with magma oceans that have since cooled, scientists say.

“It’s a rare window,” said Renyu Hu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was part of the research. “We can look into this early phase of planet evolution.”

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.



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