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What is Earth Science?

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  • 0:07 What Is Earth Science?
  • 0:42 Earth Science Is More…
  • 1:21 Word Roots
  • 2:42 What Do Scientists Do?
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Peter Jaeger

Pete currently teaches middle school Science, college level introductory Science, and has a master's degree in Environmental Education.

Earth science is a field that includes geology, astronomy, meteorology, and oceanography. Scientists do research in these fields to discover past and future events. Learn about the dynamic field of earth science and how it affects our lives in this lesson.

What Is Earth Science?

There are three main branches of science: life science, physical science, and earth science. In each of these disciplines are subcategories of specific areas or fields. Life science includes biology, ecology, or environmental science. Physical science includes chemistry and physics. Earth science, which is the topic of this course, includes many branches, some of which we will cover in this lesson. We will discover what geology is along with the related branches of meteorology and oceanography.

Earth Science Is More Than You Think

Earth science is a general term referring to any studies that relate to the earth or neighboring planets in our solar system. The four major fields in earth science include geology, the study of the earth's structure; meteorology, the study of the weather and atmosphere; oceanography, the study of the oceans; and astronomy, the study of the universe. There can be even further specialization in these four fields because experts might hone in on one specific aspect in a field, like volcanology, the study of volcanoes; seismology, the study of earthquakes; or limnology, the study of freshwater.

Word Roots

Our language is made up of many parts of words from many different languages. Science is no different. Many of the words we use in science and medicine have their roots in Greek and Latin. If you are familiar with some roots and make connections with other words you know, the meaning of many words can be deciphered.

For instance, geology is the study of the earth. Broken down into its parts, '-ology' comes from the Greek word 'logia' and means 'the study of,' and the root 'geo-' means 'related to the earth.' These same parts are used many places in science with similar meanings, like geography, where 'geo-' means 'the earth' and '-graphy' comes from the Greek 'graphos,' meaning 'written.' Also, biology is the '-ology,' or 'study of,' 'bios,' or 'the way of life.'

How about some others? Meteorology can be broken apart to '-ology' from 'logia,' which we already learned, and 'meteor-,' which is Greek for 'high in the sky.' Meteorology is the study of weather. Oceanography, another branch of earth science, uses 'ocean,' or 'related to the ocean,' and 'graphos,' which we learned before means 'drawing,' giving us the name for the study of the oceans. Maybe the people naming this field thought 'oceanology' didn't have a nice ring to it.

What Do Scientists Do?

You might be asking yourself, 'What is the purpose of earth science,' or maybe, 'What do scientists study in these fields?' There are a great many reasons why earth science is an important field of study. Meteorology, for instance, is a very pertinent field of study because we are all affected by the weather. The more accurate the weather predictions, the better planning that can be made. The sooner warnings about impending storms, like tornadoes or hurricanes, are issued, the better chance for saving lives, property, and money.

Scientists study oceanography to learn about the composition, organisms, and processes of the ocean. This is important because 71% of our earth is covered by them, and they are critical for our survival. Food and other commodities come from the oceans. Oceans are being investigated for usable sources of energy and also because they are the main influence over our climate.

Geology has two main divisions to its field: physical geology and historical geology. Physical geology focuses on the composition and structure of our earth as well as its processes. Scientists might study earthquakes and their predictions or volcanoes and their eruptions. In historical geology, scientists would work on elucidating the past history of the earth and its organisms as well as the timing of physical events. They would work on reconstructing the formation of the earth and the sequence of events globally or locally. Geologists work to uncover sources of fuels and other natural resources and work to conserve our natural treasures.

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