Earth System Science

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Why study Earth system science?

Beginning to perceive Earth as a system can begin with something as simple as when we first feel warmth from sunshine or get wet standing in the rain. However, truly understanding Earth as a systemEarth System Sciencerequires a quantitative exploration of the connections among all parts of the system: air, water, land, and life.

Understanding climate change requires that you understand that Earth is a comprehensive system of dynamic, interacting components. Furthermore, understanding how the Earth system works is essential for preparing you to make informed decisions about how to manage, protect, and sustain our planet and its natural resources.

What will I learn?

This unit will introduce you to many of the complex issues surrounding the Earth as a system and will help you to look at Earth in a new wayas a living system. You will learn to identify the parts of the Earth system and the processes that connect them at the local, regional, and global scales.

Key Questions

Key Questions addressed by this unit include:
  • What is Earth System Science?
  • How can we describe Earth as a system?
  • How are energy and matter exchanged among the four main components of the Earth system (atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere)?
  • How does the Earth system change over time?
  • How is life affected by changes in the Earth system?

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