Four Main Branches of Earth Science

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  • 0:01 Four Main Branches of…
  • 0:18 Geology
  • 0:43 Meteorology
  • 1:16 Oceanography
  • 2:52 Astronomy
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
Why do eclipses occur? How deep is the ocean? These questions are best answered through an investigation into Earth Science. This lesson introduces the four main branches of Earth Science and provides examples of content within each branch.

Four Main Branches of Earth Science

Earth science is the study of the Earth and it's atmosphere. Within this area of science there are four branches that focus on specific areas of Earth science. These four branches are geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy. Let's learn more about each of these branches.


The first branch of Earth science is geology. Geology is the study of the geosphere, or rock portion of the Earth. Scientists working in the field of geology may find themselves studying things such as rock types, movement of the Earth's continents, earthquakes, volcanoes, erosion or sedimentation. The truth is that geology is a huge field, and people entering the field are likely to choose their own specialty within it.


The second major branch of Earth science is meteorology. Meteorology is the study of our atmosphere and the weather and climatic patterns therein. People working as meteorologists would study items such as atmospheric layers, humidity, global air circulation, precipitation, heat transfer, pressure, or other similar items.

Meteorologists could read and interpret this weather map to make an assessment of daily or weekly weather patterns. However, meteorology is not a science unto itself. Instead, it is highly linked to another branch of Earth science -- oceanography.


Oceanography is the study of our global oceans. These oceans move large amounts of warm water around the globe and therefore have major influence on atmospheric heating. This heat transfer is largely responsible for oceanography's strong connection to meteorology. Don't believe me? Ask yourself this: Which is warmer during wintertime, Great Britain or northern Minnesota? Many people think of northern Minnesota as bitterly cold. And they're right. Great Britain is primarily rainy but not frozen. Yet Great Britain is farther north than northern Minnesota. Have a look at our map. Northern Minnesota is on the left, while Great Britain is on the right.

The reason Great Britain is warmer than northern Minnesota is because of ocean currents. These currents bring warmer water and heat to Great Britain and therefore insulate it against bitterly cold winters. Northern Minnesota isn't so fortunate.

Despite this linkage, oceanography is still a unique branch of Earth science. In addition to ocean currents, oceanographers also study the seafloor's age and movements, ocean water chemistry, the ocean's role in climate change, and ocean life. It has been said that people know more about the surface of the moon than they do the bottom of the ocean. This may be true, as new deep-ocean species are being discovered on a regular basis.

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