Interactions of Earth's Spheres: Purpose and Examples

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  • 0:03 Earth's Spheres Interact
  • 1:11 How the Spheres Interact
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

The four spheres of Earth drive all of its processes and support life on our unique planet. In this video lesson, you will see examples of how Earth's spheres interact with each other to form an overall complex and connected system.

Earth's Spheres Intact

In another lesson, we learned about Earth's four spheres. These are the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. Together, they make up all of the components of our planet, both living and non-living. And while we can describe each individually in terms of its properties and features, you'd have a difficult time finding an example where one sphere doesn't either touch or interact with at least one other.

This is important because these interactions are what drive Earth's processes. Material on Earth doesn't stay how it is. It gets recycled into other phases and forms. Plants in the ground die, and as they are broken down by microorganisms, they become soil, which can then feed new plants. Water cycles through different phases and locations, like when it evaporates from the oceans and then rains down onto the ground or into a lake. Rock also gets recycled under Earth's surface, where it is melted down and then sent back up in volcanic eruptions.

So, now that you know why this is important, let's look at some examples of how these interactions occur between the four spheres of Earth.

How the Spheres Interact

Pretty much any event on Earth is going to involve more than one sphere. Let's look at a fairly simple example to begin with: volcanoes. Volcano eruptions are events in the geosphere because this is both rock being pushed out from under the surface as well as a change in the surface land itself.

Volcanoes also spew a lot of gas and particulate matter into the atmosphere, as well as send hot lava flowing down mountainsides, disrupting the biosphere. Water will condense around that particulate matter in the atmosphere, so now we've involved the hydrosphere as well. You can see how this 'simple' example quickly got quite complicated!

Let's look at another event to see how the spheres interact. Humans use a variety of natural resources to generate power, such as plant material, oil, natural gas, wind, water and sunlight. You can see right away that we've involved all of the spheres already, even before we started talking about how we harness these resources! We use corn for ethanol (the biosphere), oil and natural gas for heating homes and fueling cars (the geosphere) and the wind (the atmosphere) and water (the hydrosphere) for electricity.

Now let's look at an example that's a bit trickier - clouds. Clouds form when water droplets condense around dust particles in the air. But wait - does this mean that clouds are part of the hydrosphere because they're water? Or, does it mean that they belong to the atmosphere because they're in the air?

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