Biofelsefe — Yaşam-İlgili Alanlar
NFA 2020 / Aziz Yardımlı


Biofelsefe — YAŞAM ALANI

Atmosphere of Earth
Benthic zone
Biogeochemical cycle
Circumstellar habitable zone
Cosmic ray
Deep sea community
Earth, history of
Earth°s crust
Earth's magnetic field
Galactic habitable zone
Greenhouse effect
Hydrothermal vent
Marine habitats
Marine life
Ocean acidification
Oceanic zone
Ozone layer
Ozone–oxygen cycle
Pelagic zone
Planetary boundaries
Planetary habitability
Solar irradiance
Upper mantle (Earth)
Water cycle
Major evolutionary events. (B)



The geologic time scale from 650 million years ago to the present, showing major evolutionary events.
Timeline of evolution

📹 Why is the universe flat? (VİDEO)

📹 Why is the universe flat? (LINK)

Cosmic inflation is a theory that was proposed in the 1980s by cosmologist Alan Guth to answer some of the most fundamental questions of the origins of our universe. It also solved the Horizon Problem and the Flatness Problem.


Atmosphere of Earth

The layers of Earth's atmosphere.  

The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gases, commonly known as air, retained by Earth's gravity, surrounding the planet Earth and forming its planetary atmosphere. The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night (the diurnal temperature variation).

By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere. Air composition, temperature, and atmospheric pressure vary with altitude, and air suitable for use in photosynthesis by terrestrial plants and breathing of terrestrial animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.

The atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15×1018 kg, three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface. The atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. The Kármán line, at 100 km (62 mi), or 1.57% of Earth's radius, is often used as the border between the atmosphere and outer space. Atmospheric effects become noticeable during atmospheric reentry of spacecraft at an altitude of around 120 km (75 mi). Several layers can be distinguished in the atmosphere, based on characteristics such as temperature and composition.

The study of Earth's atmosphere and its processes is called atmospheric science (aerology). Early pioneers in the field include Léon Teisserenc de Bort and Richard Assmann. (W)

NASA photo showing Earth's atmosphere at sunset, with Earth silhouetted.

Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration). Numbers are mainly from 2000, with CO2 and methane from 2019, and do not represent any single source.

Mean atmospheric water vapor.

Rough plot of Earth's atmospheric transmittance (or opacity) to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light.

Benthic zone

The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean, lake, or stream, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos and include microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi) as well as larger invertebrates, such as crustaceans and polychaetes. Organisms here generally live in close relationship with the substrate and many are permanently attached to the bottom. The benthic boundary layer, which includes the bottom layer of water and the uppermost layer of sediment directly influenced by the overlying water, is an integral part of the benthic zone, as it greatly influences the biological activity that takes place there. Examples of contact soil layers include sand bottoms, rocky outcrops, coral, and bay mud. (W)

Seaweed and two chitons in a tide pool.

Benthos is the community of organisms that live on, in, or near the seabed, river, lake, or stream bottom, also known as the benthic zone.

Diagram showing the different zones of an ocean. Note the wide range of the benthic zone. Although specific for an ocean, this is how the benthic zone is characterized across all water systems.

Whale Fall.

Diagram showcasing the processess over time of whale fall communities. Note the long lasting effects from microbial activity. From Nature Publishing Group. (LINK)


Benthos is the community of organisms that live on, in, or near the seabed, river, lake, or stream bottom, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine or freshwater sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.

Many organisms adapted to deep-water pressure cannot survive in the upperparts of the water column. The pressure difference can be very significant (approximately one atmosphere for each 10 metres of water depth).

Because light is absorbed before it can reach deep ocean-water, the energy source for deep benthic ecosystems is often organic matter from higher up in the water column that drifts down to the depths. This dead and decaying matter sustains the benthic food chain; most organisms in the benthic zone are scavengers or detritivores.

The term benthos, coined by Haeckel in 1891, comes from the Greek noun βένθος "depth of the sea". Benthos is used in freshwater biology to refer to organisms at the bottom of freshwater bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and streams. There is also a redundant synonym, benthon. (W)

Effect of eutrophication on marine benthic life.

Biogeochemical cycle

In ecology and Earth science, a biogeochemical cycle or substance turnover or cycling of substances is a pathway by which a chemical substance moves through biotic (biosphere) and abiotic (lithosphereatmosphere, and hydrosphere) compartments of Earth. There are biogeochemical cycles for the chemical elements calciumcarbonhydrogenmercurynitrogenoxygenphosphorusselenium, and sulfur; molecular cycles for water and silica; macroscopic cycles such as the rock cycle; as well as human-induced cycles for synthetic compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). In some cycles there are reservoirs where a substance remains for a long period of time. (W)

A simplified illustration of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in a wetland (modified from Kadlec and Knight (1996), “Treatment Wetlands”; images from IAN, University of Maryland).

An illustration of the oceanic whale pump showing how whales cycle nutrients through the water column.


Bioprecipitation is the concept of rain-making bacteria and was proposed by David Sands from Montana State University in 1982. The formation of ice in clouds is required for snow and most rainfall. Dust and soot particles can serve as ice nuclei, but biological ice nuclei are capable of catalyzing freezing at much warmer temperatures. The ice-nucleating bacteria currently known are mostly plant pathogens. Recent research suggests that bacteria may be present in clouds as part of an evolved process of dispersal.

Ice-nucleating proteins derived from ice-nucleating bacteria are used for snowmaking. (W)

Biosphere (Ecosphere)

The biosphere (from Greek βίος bíos "life" and σφαῖρα sphaira "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος oîkos "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all ecosystems. It can also be termed the zone of life on Earth, a closed system (apart from solar and cosmic radiation and heat from the interior of the Earth), and largely self-regulating. By the most general biophysiological definition, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The biosphere is postulated to have evolved, beginning with a process of biopoiesis (life created naturally from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds) or biogenesis (life created from living matter), at least some 3.5 billion years ago.

In a general sense, biospheres are any closed, self-regulating systems containing ecosystems. This includes artificial biospheres such as Biosphere 2 and BIOS-3, and potentially ones on other planets or moons. (W)

A false-color composite of global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September 2001 to August 2017. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and ORBIMAGE.

📂 Biosphere

Biosphere (W)

The biosphere (from Greek βίος bíos "life" and σφαῖρα sphaira "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος oîkos "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all ecosystems. It can also be termed the zone of life on Earth, a closed system (apart from solar and cosmic radiation and heat from the interior of the Earth), and largely self-regulating. By the most general biophysiological definition, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The biosphere is postulated to have evolved, beginning with a process of biopoiesis (life created naturally from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds) or biogenesis (life created from living matter), at least some 3.5 billion years ago.

In a general sense, biospheres are any closed, self-regulating systems containing ecosystems. This includes artificial biospheres such as Biosphere 2 and BIOS-3, and potentially ones on other planets or moons.

  • Yaşam Alanı solar ve kozmik radyasyondan ve Yeryüzünün iç sıcaklığından bağışık kapalı bir dizgedir.
  • Tüm dirimli varlıkları bütünleştiren küresel ekolojik dizgedir.


Circumstellar habitable zone

In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), or simply the habitable zone or Goldilocks Zone, is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure. The bounds of the CHZ are based on Earth's position in the Solar System and the amount of radiant energy it receives from the Sun. Due to the importance of liquid water to Earth's biosphere, the nature of the CHZ and the objects within it may be instrumental in determining the scope and distribution of planets capable of supporting Earth-like extraterrestrial life and intelligence.

The habitable zone is also called the Goldilocks zone, a metaphor, allusion and antonomasia of the children's fairy tale of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", in which a little girl chooses from sets of three items, ignoring the ones that are too extreme (large or small, hot or cold, etc.), and settling on the one in the middle, which is "just right".

Since the concept was first presented in 1953, many stars have been confirmed to possess a CHZ planet, including some systems that consist of multiple CHZ planets. Most such planets, being either super-Earths or gas giants, are more massive than Earth, because such planets are easier to detect. On November 4, 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way. 11 billion of these may be orbiting Sun-like stars. Proxima Centauri b, located about 4.2 light-years (1.3 parsecs) from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus, is the nearest known exoplanet, and is orbiting in the habitable zone of its star. The CHZ is also of particular interest to the emerging field of habitability of natural satellites, because planetary-mass moons in the CHZ might outnumber planets.

In subsequent decades, the CHZ concept began to be challenged as a primary criterion for life, so the concept is still evolving. Since the discovery of evidence for extraterrestrial liquid water, substantial quantities of it are now thought to occur outside the circumstellar habitable zone. The concept of deep biospheres, like Earth's, that exist independently of stellar energy, are now generally accepted in astrobiology given the large amount of liquid water known to exist within in lithospheres and asthenospheres of the Solar System. Sustained by other energy sources, such as tidal heating or radioactive decay or pressurized by non-atmospheric means, liquid water may be found even on rogue planets, or their moons. Liquid water can also exist at a wider range of temperatures and pressures as a solution, for example with sodium chlorides in seawater on Earth, chlorides and sulphates on equatorial Mars, or ammoniates, due to its different colligative properties. In addition, other circumstellar zones, where non-water solvents favorable to hypothetical life based on alternative biochemistries could exist in liquid form at the surface, have been proposed. (W)

A diagram depicting the habitable zone boundaries around stars, and how the boundaries are affected by star type. This new plot includes Solar System planets (Venus, Earth, and Mars) as well as especially significant exoplanets such as TRAPPIST-1d, Kepler-186f, and our nearest neighbor Proxima Centauri b..

Natural shielding against space weather, such as the magnetosphere depicted in this artistic rendition, may be required for planets to sustain surface water for prolonged periods.


Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperaturehumidityatmospheric pressurewind, and precipitation. In a broader sense, climate is the state of the components of the climate system, which includes the ocean and ice on Earth. The climate of a location is affected by its latitudeterrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents.

More generally, the "climate" of a region is the general state of the climate system at that location at the current time.

Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used classification scheme was the Köppen climate classification. The Thornthwaite system, in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration along with temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying biological diversity and how climate change affects it. The Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic Classification systems focus on the origin of air masses that define the climate of a region.

 is the study of ancient climates. Since very few direct observations of climate are available before the 19th century, paleoclimates are inferred from proxy variables that include non-biotic evidence such as sediments found in lake beds and ice cores, and biotic evidence such as tree rings and coral. Climate models are mathematical models of past, present and future climates. Climate change may occur over long and short timescales from a variety of factors; recent warming is discussed in global warming. Global warming results in redistributions. For example, "a 3°C change in mean annual temperature corresponds to a shift in isotherms of approximately 300–400 km in latitude (in the temperate zone) or 500 m in elevation. Therefore, species are expected to move upwards in elevation or towards the poles in latitude in response to shifting climate zones". (W)

The world's cloudy and sunny spots. NASA Earth Observatory map using data collected between July 2002 and April 2015.



In meteorology, a cloud is an aerosol consisting of a visible mass of minute liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or other particles suspended in the atmosphere of a planetary body or similar space. Water or various other chemicals may compose the droplets and crystals. On Earth, clouds are formed as a result of saturation of the air when it is cooled to its dew point, or when it gains sufficient moisture (usually in the form of water vapor) from an adjacent source to raise the dew point to the ambient temperature. (W)

Cumuliform cloudscape over Swifts Creek, Australia.

Tropospheric cloud classification by altitude of occurrence: Multi-level and vertical genus-types not limited to a single altitude level include nimbostratus, cumulonimbus, and some of the larger cumulus species.

Progressive evolution of a single cell thunderstorm

Global cloud cover, averaged over the month of October 2009. NASA composite satellite image.

Cosmic ray

Cosmic rays are high-energy protons and atomic nuclei which move through space at nearly the speed of light. They originate from the sun, from outside of the solar system, and from distant galaxies. Upon impact with the Earth's atmosphere, cosmic rays can produce showers of secondary particles that sometimes reach the surface. Data from the Fermi Space Telescope (2013) have been interpreted as evidence that a significant fraction of primary cosmic rays originate from the supernova explosions of stars. Active galactic nuclei also appear to produce cosmic rays, based on observations of neutrinos and gamma rays from blazar TXS 0506+056 in 2018. (W)

Sources of ionizing radiation in interplanetary space.

Primary cosmic particle collides with a molecule of atmosphere.


The cryosphere (from the Greek κρύος kryos, "cold", "frost" or "ice" and σφαῖρα sphaira, "globe, ball") is an all-encompassing term for those portions of Earth's surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost). Thus, there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere. The cryosphere is an integral part of the global climate system with important linkages and feedbacks generated through its influence on surface energy and moisture fluxes, clouds, precipitation, hydrology, atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Through these feedback processes, the cryosphere plays a significant role in the global climate and in climate model response to global changes. The term deglaciation describes the retreat of cryospheric features. Cryology is the study of cryospheres.. (W)

Overview of the Cryosphere and its larger components, from the UN Environment Programme Global Outlook for Ice and Snow.

Extent of the regions affected by components of the cryosphere around the world from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

Deep sea community

A deep sea community is any community of organisms associated by a shared habitat in the deep sea. Deep sea communities remain largely unexplored, due to the technological and logistical challenges and expense involved in visiting this remote biome. Because of the unique challenges (particularly the high barometric pressure, extremes of temperature and absence of light), it was long believed that little life existed in this hostile environment. Since the 19th century however, research has demonstrated that significant biodiversity exists in the deep sea.

The three main sources of energy and nutrients for deep sea communities are marine snow, whale falls, and chemosynthesis at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. (W)

Pelagic zones.  


Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating estimation and other evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, which is Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.256 solar days, a period known as an Earth sidereal year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis 366.256 times, that is, a sidereal year has 366.256 sidereal days.

Earth's axis of rotation
is tilted with respect to its orbital plane, producing seasons on Earth. The gravitational interaction between Earth and the Moon causes tides, stabilizes Earth's orientation on its axis, and gradually slows its rotation. Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System and the largest and most massive of the four rocky planets.

Earth's outer layer (lithosphere) is divided into several rigid tectonic plates that migrate across the surface over many millions of years. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 71% is covered with water, mostly by oceans but also lakes, rivers and other fresh water, which all together constitute the hydrosphere. The majority of Earth's polar regions are covered in ice, including the Antarctic ice sheet and the sea ice of the Arctic ice pack. Earth's interior remains active with a solid iron inner core, a liquid outer core that generates Earth's magnetic field, and a convecting mantle that drives plate tectonics.

Within the first billion years of Earth's history, life appeared in the oceans and began to affect Earth's atmosphere and surface, leading to the proliferation of anaerobic and, later, aerobic organisms. Some geological evidence indicates that life may have arisen as early as 4.1 billion years ago. Since then, the combination of Earth's distance from the Sun, physical properties and geological history have allowed life to evolve and thrive. In the history of life on Earth, biodiversity has gone through long periods of expansion, occasionally punctuated by mass extinctions. Over 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth are extinct. Estimates of the number of species on Earth today vary widely; most species have not been described. Over 7.7 billion humans live on Earth and depend on its biosphere and natural resources for their survival. (W)



Terra, Tellus, Gaia, Gaea, the World, the Globe
Adjectives Earthly, terrestrial, terran, tellurian
Orbital characteristics
Epoch J2000
Aphelion 152100000 km
(94500000 mi; 1.017 AU)
Perihelion 147095000 km
(91401000 mi; 0.98327 AU)
149598023 km
(92955902 mi; 1.00000102 AU)
Eccentricity 0.0167086
365.256363004 d
(1.00001742096 yr)
29.78 km/s
(107200 km/h; 66600 mph)
−11.26064° to J2000 ecliptic
Physical characteristics
Mean radius
6371.0 km (3958.8 mi)
Equatorial radius
6378.1 km (3963.2 mi)
Polar radius
6356.8 km (3949.9 mi)
Flattening 0.0033528
1/ 298.257222101 (ETRS89)
  • 510072000 km2 (196940000 sq mi)
  • 148940000 km2 land (57510000 sq mi; 29.2%)
  • 361132000 km2 water (139434000 sq mi; 70.8%)
Volume 1.08321×1012 km3 ( 2.59876×1011 cu mi)
Mass 5.97237×1024 kg ( 1.31668×1025 lb)
( 3.0×10−6 M☉)
Mean density
5.514 g/cm3 (0.1992 lb/cu in)
9.80665 m/s2 ( 1 g; 32.1740 ft/s2)
11.186 km/s
(40270 km/h; 25020 mph)
0.99726968 d
(23h 56m 4.100s)
Equatorial rotation velocity
0.4651 km/s
(1674.4 km/h; 1040.4 mph)
Surface temp. min mean max
Kelvin 184 K 287.16 K (years 1961–1990) 330 K
Celsius −89.2 °C 14.0 °C (years 1961–1990) 56.7 °C
Fahrenheit −128.5 °F 57.2 °F (years 1961–1990) 134.0 °F
Surface pressure
101.325 kPa (at MSL)
Composition by volume


"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

History of Earth

The history of Earth concerns the development of planet Earth from its formation to the present day. Nearly all branches of natural science have contributed to understanding of the main events of Earth's past, characterized by constant geological change and biological evolution. (W)

📂History of Earth

History of Earth (W)

The history of Earth concerns the development of planet Earth from its formation to the present day. Nearly all branches of natural science have contributed to understanding of the main events of Earth's past, characterized by constant geological change and biological evolution.

The geological time scale (GTS), as defined by international convention, depicts the large spans of time from the beginning of the Earth to the present, and its divisions chronicle some definitive events of Earth history. (In the graphic: Ga means "billion years ago"; Ma, "million years ago".) Earth formed around 4.54 billion years ago, approximately one-third the age of the universe, by accretion from the solar nebula. Volcanic outgassing probably created the primordial atmosphere and then the ocean, but the early atmosphere contained almost no oxygen. Much of the Earth was molten because of frequent collisions with other bodies which led to extreme volcanism. While the Earth was in its earliest stage (Early Earth), a giant impact collision with a planet-sized body named Theia is thought to have formed the Moon. Over time, the Earth cooled, causing the formation of a solid crust, and allowing liquid water on the surface.

The Hadean eon represents the time before a reliable (fossil) record of life; it began with the formation of the planet and ended 4.0 billion years ago. The following Archean and Proterozoic eons produced the beginnings of life on Earth and its earliest evolution. The succeeding eon is the Phanerozoic, divided into three eras: the Palaeozoic, an era of arthropods, fishes, and the first life on land; the Mesozoic, which spanned the rise, reign, and climactic extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs; and the Cenozoic, which saw the rise of mammals. Recognizable humans emerged at most 2 million years ago, a vanishingly small period on the geological scale.

The earliest undisputed evidence of life on Earth dates at least from 3.5 billion years ago, during the Eoarchean Era, after a geological crust started to solidify following the earlier molten Hadean Eon. There are microbial mat fossils such as stromatolites found in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone discovered in Western Australia. Other early physical evidence of a biogenic substance is graphite in 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks discovered in southwestern Greenland as well as "remains of biotic life" found in 4.1 billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. According to one of the researchers, "If life arose relatively quickly on Earth … then it could be common in the universe."

Photosynthetic organisms appeared between 3.2 and 2.4 billion years ago and began enriching the atmosphere with oxygen. Life remained mostly small and microscopic until about 580 million years ago, when complex multicellular life arose, developed over time, and culminated in the Cambrian Explosion about 541 million years ago. This sudden diversification of life forms produced most of the major phyla known today, and divided the Proterozoic Eon from the Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era. It is estimated that 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth, over five billion, have gone extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10 million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million are documented, but over 86 percent have not been described. However, it was recently claimed that 1 trillion species currently live on Earth, with only one-thousandth of one percent described.

The Earth's crust has constantly changed since its formation, as has life since its first appearance. Species continue to evolve, taking on new forms, splitting into daughter species, or going extinct in the face of ever-changing physical environments. The process of plate tectonics continues to shape the Earth's continents and oceans and the life they harbor. Human activity is now a dominant force affecting global change, harming the biosphere, the Earth's surface, hydrosphere, and atmosphere with the loss of wild lands, over-exploitation of the oceans, production of greenhouse gases, degradation of the ozone layer, and general degradation of soil, air, and water quality.

Siderian Rhyacian Orosirian Statherian Calymmian Ectasian Stenian Tonian Cryogenian Ediacaran Eoarchean Paleoarchean Mesoarchean Neoarchean Paleoproterozoic Mesoproterozoic Neoproterozoic Paleozoic Mesozoic Cenozoic Hadean Archean Proterozoic Phanerozoic Precambrian
Cambrian Ordovician Silurian Devonian Carboniferous Permian Triassic Jurassic Cretaceous Paleogene Neogene Quaternary Paleozoic Mesozoic Cenozoic Phanerozoic
Paleocene Eocene Oligocene Miocene Pliocene Pleistocene Holocene Paleogene Neogene Quaternary Cenozoic
Gelasian Calabrian (stage) Pleistocene Pleistocene Pleistocene Holocene Quaternary
Millions of Years


Earth's history with time-spans of the eons to scale.

Earth’s crust

Earth's crust is a thin shell on the outside of Earth, accounting for less than 1% of Earth's volume. It is the top component of lithosphere: a division of Earth's layers that includes the crust and the upper part of the mantle. The lithosphere is broken into tectonic plates that move, allowing heat to escape from the interior of the Earth into space.

The crust lies on top of the mantle, a configuration that is stable because the upper mantle is made of peridotite and so is significantly more dense than the crust. The boundary between the crust and mantle is conventionally placed at the Mohorovičić discontinuity, a boundary defined by a contrast in seismic velocity.

The crust of Earth is of two distinct types:

  1. Oceanic: 5 km (3 mi) to 10 km (6 mi) thick and composed primarily of denser, more mafic rocks, such as basalt, diabase, and gabbro.
  2. Continental: 30 km (20 mi) to 50 km (30 mi) thick and mostly composed of less dense, more felsic rocks, such as granite.

Because both continental and oceanic crust are less dense than the mantle below, both types of crust "float" on the mantle. This is isostasy, and it's also one of the reasons continental crust is higher than oceanic: continental is less dense and so "floats" higher. As a result, water pools in above the oceanic crust, forming the oceans.

The temperature of the crust increases with depth, reaching values typically in the range from about 200 °C (392 °F) to 400 °C (752 °F) at the boundary with the underlying mantle. The temperature increases by as much as 30 °C (54 °F) for every kilometer locally in the upper part of the crust, but the geothermal gradient is smaller in deeper crust. (W)

Most Abundant Elements of Earth's Crust Approximate % by weight
O 46.6
Si 27.7
Al 8.1
Fe 5.0
Ca 3.6
Na 2.8
K 2.6
Mg 1.5
Oxide Percent
SiO2 60.6
Al2O3 15.9
CaO 6.4
MgO 4.7
Na2O 3.1
Fe as FeO 6.7
K2O 1.8
TiO2 0.7
P2O5 0.1

Elevation histogram showing the percentage of the Earth's surface above and below sea level.

Abundance (atom fraction) of the chemical elements in Earth's upper continental crust as a function of atomic number. The rarest elements in the crust (shown in yellow) are not the heaviest, but are rather the siderophile (iron-loving) elements in the Goldschmidt classification of elements. These have been depleted by being relocated deeper into Earth's core. Their abundance in meteoroid materials is higher. Additionally, tellurium and selenium have been depleted from the crust due to formation of volatile hydrides..

Earth’s magnetic field

Earth's magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's interior out into space, where it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of a mixture of molten iron and nickel in the Earth's outer core: these convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo. The magnitude of the Earth's magnetic field at its surface ranges from 25 to 65 microteslas (0.25 to 0.65 gauss).As an approximation, it is represented by a field of a magnetic dipole currently tilted at an angle of about 11 degrees with respect to Earth's rotational axis, as if there were an enormous bar magnet placed at that angle through the center of the Earth. The North geomagnetic pole, which was in 2015 located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada, in the northern hemisphere, is actually the south pole of the Earth's magnetic field, and conversely.

While the North and South magnetic poles are usually located near the geographic poles, they slowly and continuously move over geological time scales, but sufficiently slowly for ordinary compasses to remain useful for navigation. However, at irregular intervals averaging several hundred thousand years, the Earth's field reverses and the North and South Magnetic Poles respectively, abruptly switch places. These reversals of the geomagnetic poles leave a record in rocks that are of value to paleomagnetists in calculating geomagnetic fields in the past. Such information in turn is helpful in studying the motions of continents and ocean floors in the process of plate tectonics.

The magnetosphere is the region above the ionosphere that is defined by the extent of the Earth's magnetic field in space. It extends several tens of thousands of kilometers into space, protecting the Earth from the charged particles of the solar wind and cosmic rays that would otherwise strip away the upper atmosphere, including the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. (W)

Computer simulation of the Earth's field in a period of normal polarity between reversals. The lines represent magnetic field lines, blue when the field points towards the center and yellow when away. The rotation axis of the Earth is centered and vertical. The dense clusters of lines are within the Earth's core.


An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes. (W)

📂 Ecosystem

Ecosystem (W)

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

Ecosystems are controlled by external and internal factors. External factors such as climate, parent material which forms the soil and topography, control the overall structure of an ecosystem but are not themselves influenced by the ecosystem. Unlike external factors, internal factors are controlled, for example, decomposition, root competition, shading, disturbance, succession, and the types of species present.

Ecosystems are dynamic entities—they are subject to periodic disturbances and are in the process of recovering from some past disturbance.Ecosystems in similar environments that are located in different parts of the world can end up doing things very differently simply because they have different pools of species present. Internal factors not only control ecosystem processes but are also controlled by them and are often subject to feedback loops.

Resource inputs are generally controlled by external processes like climate and parent material. Resource availability within the ecosystem is controlled by internal factors like decomposition, root competition or shading. Although humans operate within ecosystems, their cumulative effects are large enough to influence external factors like climate.

Biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning, as do the processes of disturbance and succession. Ecosystems provide a variety of goods and services upon which people depend.


Coral reef ecosystems are highly productive marine systems.


The exosphere (Ancient Greek: ἔξω éxō "outside, external, beyond", Ancient Greek: σφαῖρα sphaĩra "sphere") is a thin, atmosphere-like volume surrounding a planet or natural satellite where molecules are gravitationally bound to that body, but where the density is too low for them to behave as a gas by colliding with each other. In the case of bodies with substantial atmospheres, such as Earth's atmosphere, the exosphere is the uppermost layer, where the atmosphere thins out and merges with interplanetary space. It is located directly above the thermosphere. Very little is known about it due to lack of research. Mercury, the Moon and three Galilean satellites of Jupiter have surface boundary exospheres, which are exospheres without a denser atmosphere underneath. The gases that can be found in the Earth's exosphere are mostly hydrogen and carbon dioxide. (W)

Diagram showing the five primary layers of the Earth's atmosphere: exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere. The layers are to scale. From the Earth's surface to the top of the stratosphere (50km) is just under 1% of Earth's radius.  

Galactic habitable zone

In astrobiology and planetary astrophysics, the galactic habitable zone is the region of a galaxy in which life might most likely develop. The concept of a galactic habitable zone analyzes various factors, such as metallicity (the presence of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) and the rate of major catastrophes such as supernovae, and uses these to calculate which regions of a galaxy are more likely to form terrestrial planets, initially develop simple life, and provide a suitable environment for this life to evolve and advance. According to research published in August 2015, very large galaxies may favor the birth and development of habitable planets more than smaller galaxies such as the Milky Way. In the case of the Milky Way, its galactic habitable zone is commonly believed to be an annulus with an outer radius of about 10 kiloparsecs and an inner radius close to the Galactic Center (with both radii lacking hard boundaries).

Galactic habitable-zone theory has been criticized due to an inability to accurately quantify the factors making a region of a galaxy favorable for the emergence of life. In addition, computer simulations suggest that stars may change their orbits around the galactic center significantly, therefore challenging at least part of the view that some galactic areas are necessarily more life-supporting than others. (W)

The metallicity of the thin galactic disk is far greater than that of the outlying galactic halo.

The galactic habitable zone is often viewed as an annulus 7-9 kpc from the galactic center, shown in green here, though recent research has called this into question.


There are several conflicting definitions for geosphere.

The geosphere may be taken as the collective name for the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, and the atmosphere. The different collectives of the geosphere are able to exchange different mass and/or energy fluxes (the measurable amount of change). The exchange of these fluxes affects the balance of the different spheres of the geosphere. An example is how the soil acts as a part of the biosphere, while also acting as a source of flux exchange.

In Aristotelian physics, the term was applied to four spherical natural places, concentrically nested around the center of the Earth, as described in the lectures Physica and Meteorologica. They were believed to explain the motions of the four terrestrial elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.

In modern texts and in Earth system science, geosphere refers to the solid parts of the Earth; it is used along with atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere to describe the systems of the Earth (the interaction of these systems with the magnetosphere is sometimes listed). In that context, sometimes the term lithosphere is used instead of geosphere or solid Earth. The lithosphere, however, only refers to the uppermost layers of the solid Earth (oceanic and continental crustal rocks and uppermost mantle).

Since space exploration began, it has been observed that the extent of the ionosphere or plasmasphere is highly variable, and often much larger than previously appreciated, at times extending to the boundaries of the Earth's magnetosphere or geomagnetosphere. This highly variable outer boundary of geogenic matter has been referred to as the "geopause", to suggest the relative scarcity of such matter beyond it, where the solar wind dominates. (W)


geyser  is a spring characterized by an intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam. As a fairly rare phenomenon, the formation of geysers is due to particular hydrogeological conditions that exist only in a few places on Earth. Generally all geyser field sites are located near active volcanic areas, and the geyser effect is due to the proximity of magma. Generally, surface water works its way down to an average depth of around 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) where it contacts hot rocks. The resultant boiling of the pressurized water results in the geyser effect of hot water and steam spraying out of the geyser's surface vent (a hydrothermal explosion). (W)

The specific colours of geysers derive from the fact that despite the apparently harsh conditions, life is often found in them (and also in other hot habitats) in the form of thermophilic prokaryotes. No known eukaryote can survive over 60 °C (140 °F).

In the 1960s, when the research of the biology of geysers first appeared, scientists were generally convinced that no life can survive above around 73 °C maximum (163 °F)—the upper limit for the survival of cyanobacteria, as the structure of key cellular proteins and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) would be destroyed. The optimal temperature for thermophilic bacteria was placed even lower, around 55 °C average (131 °F).

However, the observations proved that it is actually possible for life to exist at high temperatures and that some bacteria even prefer temperatures higher than the boiling point of water. Dozens of such bacteria are known. Thermophiles prefer temperatures from 50 to 70 °C (122 to 158 °F), whilst hyperthermophiles grow better at temperatures as high as 80 to 110 °C (176 to 230 °F). As they have heat-stable enzymes that retain their activity even at high temperatures, they have been used as a source of thermostable tools, that are important in medicine and biotechnology, for example in manufacturing antibiotics, plastics, detergents (by the use of heat-stable enzymes lipases, pullulanases and proteases), and fermentation products (for example ethanol is produced). Among these, the first discovered and the most important for biotechnology is Thermus aquaticus.(W)

A thermophile is an organism—a type of extremophile—that thrives at relatively high temperatures, between 41 and 122 °C (106 and 252 °F). Many thermophiles are archaea. Thermophilic eubacteria are suggested to have been among the earliest bacteria. (W)

A hyperthermophile is an organism that thrives in extremely hot environments—from 60 °C (140 °F) upwards. An optimal temperature for the existence of hyperthermophiles is often above 80 °C (176 °F). Hyperthermophiles are often within the domain Archaea, although some bacteria are able to tolerate temperatures of around 100 °C (212 °F), as well. Some bacteria can live at temperatures higher than 100 °C at large depths in sea where water does not boil because of high pressure. Many hyperthermophiles are also able to withstand other environmental extremes such as high acidity or high radiation levels. Hyperthermophiles are a subset of extremophiles. (W)

Fountain Geyser erupting from the pool (left) and Old Faithful geyser (cone geyser having mound of siliceous sinter) in Yellowstone National Park erupts approximately every 91 minutes (right).

Distribution of major geysers in the world.

Jets thought to be geysers erupting from Enceladus' subsurface.

The Cold Geyser Model – a proposed explanation for cryovolcanism.

Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet's atmosphere warms the planet's surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere.

Radiatively active gases (i.e., greenhouse gases) in a planet's atmosphere radiate energy in all directions. Part of this radiation is directed towards the surface, warming it. The intensity of the downward radiation – that is, the strength of the greenhouse effect – will depend on the atmosphere's temperature and on the amount of greenhouse gases that the atmosphere contains.

Earth's natural greenhouse effect is critical to supporting life, and initially was a precursor to life moving out of the ocean onto land. Human activities, however, mainly the burning of fossil fuels and clearcutting of forests, have accelerated the greenhouse effect and caused global warming.

The planet Venus experienced runaway greenhouse effect, resulting in an atmosphere which is 96% carbon dioxide, with surface atmospheric pressure roughly the same as found 900 m (3,000 ft) underwater on Earth. Venus may have had water oceans, but they would have boiled off as the mean surface temperature rose to the current 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F).

The term "greenhouse effect" continues to see use in scientific circles and the media despite being a slight misnomer, as an atmosphere reduces radiative heat loss while a greenhouse blocks convective heat loss. The result, however, is an increase in temperature in both cases. (W)



The hydrosphere (from Greek ὕδωρ hydōr, "water" and σφαῖρα sphaira, "sphere") is the combined mass of water found on, under, and above the surface of a planet, minor planet or natural satellite. Although Earth's hydrosphere has been around for about 4 billion years, it continues to change in shape. This is caused by seafloor spreading and continental drift, which rearranges the land and ocean.

It has been estimated that there are 1,386 million cubic kilometres (333,000,000 cubic miles) of water on Earth. This includes water in liquid and frozen forms in groundwater, oceans, lakes and streams. Saltwater accounts for 97.5% of this amount, whereas fresh water accounts for only 2.5%. Of this fresh water, 68.9% is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in the Arctic, the Antarctic and mountain glaciers; 30.8% is in the form of fresh groundwater; and only 0.3% of the fresh water on Earth is in easily accessible lakes, reservoirs and river systems.

The total mass of Earth's hydrosphere is about 1.4 × 1018 tonnes, which is about 0.023% of Earth's total mass. At any given time, about 20 × 1012 tonnes of this is in the form of water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere (for practical purposes, 1 cubic meter of water weighs one tonne). Approximately 71% of Earth's surface, an area of some 361 million square kilometers (139.5 million square miles), is covered by ocean. The average salinity of Earth's oceans is about 35 grams of salt per kilogram of sea water (3.5%). (W)

World water distribution.

Water-Cycle Diagram (English).

Hydrothermal vent

A hydrothermal vent is a fissure on the seafloor from which geothermally heated water issues. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart at spreading centers, ocean basins, and hotspotss Hydrothermal deposits are rocks and mineral ore deposits formed by the action of hydrothermal vents.

Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both geologically active and has large amounts of water on its surface and within its crust. Under the sea, hydrothermal vents may form features called black smokers or white smokers. Relative to the majority of the deep sea, the areas around submarine hydrothermal vents are biologically more productive, often hosting complex communities fueled by the chemicals dissolved in the vent fluids. Chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea form the base of the food chain, supporting diverse organisms, including giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp. Active hydrothermal vents are thought to exist on Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's moon Enceladus, and it is speculated that ancient hydrothermal vents once existed on Mars. (W)

White smokers emitting liquid rich in barium, calcium, silicon and carbon dioxide at the Champagne vent, Northwest Eifuku volcano, Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Deep-sea vent biogeochemical cycle diagram.


The ionosphere  is the ionized part of Earth's upper atmosphere, from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, a region that includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere. The ionosphere is ionized by solar radiation. It plays an important role in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth. The region below the ionosphere is called neutral atmosphere, or neutrosphere. (W)

Ionospheric layers.

Relationship of the atmosphere and ionosphere.

Different types of lithosphere.


A lithosphere (Ancient Greek: λίθος [lithos] for "rocky", and σφαίρα [sphaira] for "sphere") is the rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet, or natural satellite, that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties. On Earth, it is composed of the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater. The outermost shell of a rocky planet, the crust, is defined on the basis of its chemistry and mineralogy.

The layer under the lithosphere is known as the asthenosphere.

Earth's lithosphere includes the crust and the uppermost mantle, which constitute the hard and rigid outer layer of the Earth. The lithosphere is subdivided into tectonic plates. (W)

The tectonic plates of the lithosphere on Earth.

Earth cutaway from center to surface, the lithosphere comprising the crust and lithospheric mantle (detail not to scale).

Different types of lithosphere.


A magnetosphere is a region of space surrounding an astronomical object in which charged particles are affected by that object's magnetic field. It is created by a star or planet with an active interior dynamo.

In the space environment close to a planetary body, the magnetic field resembles a magnetic dipole. Farther out, field lines can be significantly distorted by the flow of electrically conducting plasma, as emitted from the Sun or a nearby star. e.g. the solar wind. Planets having active magnetospheres, like the Earth, are capable of mitigating or blocking the effects of solar radiation or cosmic radiation, that also protects all living organisms from potentially detrimental and dangerous consequences. This is studied under the specialized scientific subjects of plasma physics, space physics and aeronomy. (W)

An artist's rendering of the structure of a magnetosphere: 1) Bow shock. 2) Magnetosheath. 3) Magnetopause. 4) Magnetosphere. 5) Northern tail lobe. 6) Southern tail lobe. 7) Plasmasphere.

Diagram of Earth's magnetosphere.

Marine habitats

Marine habitats are habitats that support marine life. Marine life depends in some way on the saltwater that is in the sea (the term marine comes from the Latin mare, meaning sea or ocean). A habitat is an ecological or environmental area inhabited by one or more living species. The marine environment supports many kinds of these habitats.

Marine habitats can be divided into coastal and open ocean habitats. Coastal habitats are found in the area that extends from as far as the tide comes in on the shoreline out to the edge of the continental shelf. Most marine life is found in coastal habitats, even though the shelf area occupies only seven percent of the total ocean area. Open ocean habitats are found in the deep ocean beyond the edge of the continental shelf.

Alternatively, marine habitats can be divided into pelagic and demersal zones. Pelagic habitats are found near the surface or in the open water column, away from the bottom of the ocean. Demersal habitats are near or on the bottom of the ocean. An organism living in a pelagic habitat is said to be a pelagic organism, as in pelagic fish. Similarly, an organism living in a demersal habitat is said to be a demersal organism, as in demersal fish. Pelagic habitats are intrinsically shifting and ephemeral, depending on what ocean currents are doing.

Marine habitats can be modified by their inhabitants. Some marine organisms, like corals, kelp, mangroves and seagrasses, are ecosystem engineers which reshape the marine environment to the point where they create further habitat for other organisms. By volume the ocean provides most of the habitable space on the planet. (W)

Callyspongia sp. (Tube sponge) attracting cardinal fishes, golden sweepers and wrasses.

Marine habitats

Marine life

Marine life, or sea life or ocean life, is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of the sea or ocean, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life affects the nature of the planet. Marine organisms produce oxygen and sequester carbon. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land. The term marine comes from the Latin mare, meaning sea or ocean.

Most life forms evolved initially in marine habitats. By volume, oceans provide about 90 percent of the living space on the planet. The earliest vertebrates appeared in the form of fish, which live exclusively in water. Some of these evolved into amphibians which spend portions of their lives in water and portions on land. Other fish evolved into land mammals and subsequently returned to the ocean as seals, dolphins or whales. Plant forms such as kelp and algae grow in the water and are the basis for some underwater ecosystems. Plankton forms the general foundation of the ocean food chain, particularly the phytoplankton which are key primary producers.

Marine invertebrates exhibit a wide range of modifications to survive in poorly oxygenated waters, including breathing tubes as in mollusc siphons. Fish have gills instead of lungs, although some species of fish, such as the lungfish, have both. Marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales, otters, and seals need to surface periodically to breathe air.

There are over 200,000 documented marine species with perhaps two million marine species yet to be documented. Marine species range in size from the microscopic, including phytoplankton which can be as small as 0.02 micrometres, to huge cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), including the blue whale – the largest known animal reaching 33 metres (108 ft) in length. Marine microorganisms, including protists, bacteria and viruses, constitute about 70% of the total marine biomass. (W)

General characteristics of a large marine ecosystem (Gulf of Alaska).

Marine life
Marine life portal (W)
Marine microorganisms









Marine microbial loop.  


The mesosphere (Greek mesos, "middle") is the third layer of the atmosphere, directly above the stratosphere and directly below the thermosphere. In the mesosphere, temperature decreases as altitude increases. This characteristic is used to define its limits: it begins at the top of the stratosphere (sometimes called the stratopause), and ends at the mesopause, which is the coldest part of Earth's atmosphere with temperatures below −143 °C (−225 °F; 130 K). The exact upper and lower boundaries of the mesosphere vary with latitude and with season (higher in winter and at the tropics, lower in summer and at the poles), but the lower boundary is usually located at altitudes from 50 to 65 km (31 to 40 mi; 164,000 to 213,000 ft) above the Earth's surface and the upper boundary (the mesopause) is usually around 85 to 100 km (53 to 62 mi; 279,000 to 328,000 ft).

The stratosphere and the mesosphere are sometimes collectively referred to as the "middle atmosphere", which spans altitudes approximately between 12 and 80 km above Earth's surface. The mesopause, at an altitude of 80–90 km (50–56 mi), separates the mesosphere from the thermosphere—the second-outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere. This is the turbopause, below which different chemical species are well-mixed due to turbulent eddies. Above this level the atmosphere becomes non-uniform because the scale heights of different chemical species differ according to their molecular masses.

The term near space is also sometimes used to refer to altitudes within the mesosphere. This term does not have a technical definition, but typically refers to the region of the atmosphere up to 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft), roughly between the Armstrong limit (above which humans require a pressure suit in order to survive) and the Kármán line (where astrodynamics must take over from aerodynamics in order to achieve flight); or, by another definition, to the range of altitudes above which commercial airliners fly but below which satellites orbit the Earth. Some sources distinguish between the terms "near space" and "upper atmosphere", so that only the layers closest to the Kármán line are described as "near space". (W)

Space Shuttle Endeavour to straddle the stratosphere and mesosphere in this photo. The troposphere, which contains clouds, appears orange in this photo.


An ocean is a body of water that composes much of a planet's hydrosphere. On Earth, an ocean is one of the major conventional divisions of the World Ocean. These are, in descending order by area, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic Oceans. The phrases "the ocean" or "the sea" used without specification refer to the interconnected body of salt water covering the majority of the Earth's surface.] As a general term, "the ocean" is mostly interchangeable with "the sea" in American English, but not in British English. Strictly speaking, a sea is a body of water (generally a division of the world ocean) partly or fully enclosed by land.

seawater covers approximately 361,000,000 km2 (139,000,000 sq mi) and is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas, with the ocean covering approximately 71% of Earth's surface and 90% of the Earth's biosphere. The ocean contains 97% of Earth's water, and oceanographers have stated that less than 20% of the World Ocean has been mapped. The total volume is approximately 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (320 million cu mi) with an average depth of nearly 3,700 meters (12,100 ft).

As the world ocean is the principal component of Earth's hydrosphere, it is integral to life, forms part of the carbon cycle, and influences climate and weather patterns. The World Ocean is the habitat of 230,000 known species, but because much of it is unexplored, the number of species that exist in the ocean is much larger, possibly over two million. The origin of Earth's oceans is unknown; oceans are thought to have formed in the Hadean eon and may have been the cause for the emergence of life.

Extraterrestrial oceans
may be composed of water or other elements and compounds. The only confirmed large stable bodies of extraterrestrial surface liquids are the lakes of Titan, although there is evidence for the existence of oceans elsewhere in the Solar System. Early in their geologic histories, Mars and Venus are theorized to have had large water oceans. The Mars ocean hypothesis suggests that nearly a third of the surface of Mars was once covered by water, and a runaway greenhouse effect may have boiled away the global ocean of Venus. Compounds such as salts and ammonia dissolved in water lower its freezing point so that water might exist in large quantities in extraterrestrial environments as brine or convecting ice. Unconfirmed oceans are speculated beneath the surface of many dwarf planets and natural satellites; notably, the ocean of the moon Europa is estimated to have over twice the water volume of Earth. The Solar System's giant planets are also thought to have liquid atmospheric layers of yet to be confirmed compositions. Oceans may also exist on exoplanets and exomoons, including surface oceans of liquid water within a circumstellar habitable zone. Ocean planets are a hypothetical type of planet with a surface completely covered with liquid. (W)

Surface view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Various ways to divide the World Ocean.

Three main types of plate boundaries.

The major oceanic zones, based on depth and biophysical conditions.

📜 The major oceanic divisions

Earth’s global ocean (W)

# Ocean Location Area
Avg. depth
1 Pacific Ocean Separates Asia and Australasia from the Americas][NB] 168,723,000
3,970 135,663
2 Atlantic Ocean Separates the Americas from Europe and Africa 85,133,000
3,646 111,866
3 Indian Ocean Borders southern Asia and separates Africa and Australia 70,560,000
3,741 66,526
4 Southern Ocean Encircles Antarctica. Sometimes considered an extension of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 21,960,000
3,270 17,968
5 Arctic Ocean Borders northern North America and Eurasia and covers much of the Arctic. Sometimes considered a sea or estuary of the Atlantic. 15,558,000
1,205 45,389
Total – World Ocean 361,900,000
3,688 377,412


Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Seawater is slightly basic (meaning pH > 7), and ocean acidification involves a shift towards pH-neutral conditions rather than a transition to acidic conditions (pH < 7). An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes.  Some of it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid. Some of the resulting carbonic acid molecules dissociate into a bicarbonate ion and a hydrogen ion, thus increasing ocean acidity (H+ ion concentration). Between 1751 and 1996, surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25 to 8.14,  representing an increase of almost 30% in H+ ion concentration in the world's oceans. Earth System Models project that, by around 2008, ocean acidity exceeded historical analogue]  and, in combination with other ocean biogeochemical changes, could undermine the functioning of marine ecosystems and disrupt the provision of many goods and services associated with the ocean beginning as early as 2100. (W)

Estimated change in seawater pH caused by human-created CO2 between the 1700s and the 1990s, from the Global Ocean Data Analysis Project (GLODAP) and the World Ocean Atlas.

The CO2 cycle between the atmosphere and the ocean.

Oceanic zone

The Oceanic zone is typically defined as the area of the ocean lying beyond the continental shelf, but operationally is often referred to as beginning where the water depths drop to below 200 meters (660 feet), seaward from the coast to the open ocean.

It is the region of open sea beyond the edge of the continental shelf and includes 65% of the ocean’s completely open water. The oceanic zone has a wide array of undersea terrain, including crevices that are often deeper than Mt. Everest, as well as deep-sea volcanoes and ocean basins. While it is often difficult for life to sustain itself in this type of environment, many species have adapted and do thrive in the oceanic zone.

There are four ocean zones: the Sunlight zone, the Twilight zone, the Midnight zone, and the Abyssal zone. (W)

The oceanic zone is the deep open ocean water that lies off the continental slopes.
Marine habitats

Ozone layer

The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. It contains a high concentration of ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere. The ozone layer contains less than 10 parts per million of ozone, while the average ozone concentration in Earth's atmosphere as a whole is about 0.3 parts per million. The ozone layer is mainly found in the lower portion of the stratosphere, from approximately 15 to 35 kilometers (9.3 to 21.7 mi) above Earth, although its thickness varies seasonally and geographically.

The ozone layer was discovered in 1913 by the French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson. Measurements of the sun showed that the radiation sent out from its surface and reaching the ground on Earth is usually consistent with the spectrum of a black body with a temperature in the range of 5,500–6,000 K (5,227 to 5,727 °C), except that there was no radiation below a wavelength of about 310 nm at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. It was deduced that the missing radiation was being absorbed by something in the atmosphere. Eventually the spectrum of the missing radiation was matched to only one known chemical, ozone. Its properties were explored in detail by the British meteorologist G. M. B. Dobson, who developed a simple spectrophotometer (the Dobsonmeter) that could be used to measure stratospheric ozone from the ground. Between 1928 and 1958, Dobson established a worldwide network of ozone monitoring stations, which continue to operate to this day. The "Dobson unit", a convenient measure of the amount of ozone overhead, is named in his honor.

The ozone layer absorbs 97 to 99 percent of the Sun's medium-frequency ultraviolet light (from about 200 nm to 315 nm wavelength), which otherwise would potentially damage exposed life forms near the surface.

In 1976, atmospheric research revealed that the ozone layer was being depleted by chemicals released by industry, mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Concerns that increased UV radiation due to ozone depletion threatened life on Earth, including increased skin cancer in humans and other ecological problems, led to bans on the chemicals, and the latest evidence is that ozone depletion has slowed or stopped. The United Nations General Assembly has designated September 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.

 also has a thin ozone layer at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the planet's surface.(W)

Ozone-oxygen cycle in the ozone layer.

This GALEX image of the Cygnus Loop nebula could not have been taken from the surface of the Earth because the ozone layer blocks the ultra-violet radiation emitted by the nebula.

Ozone–oxygen cycle

The ozone–oxygen cycle is the process by which ozone is continually regenerated in Earth's stratosphere, converting ultraviolet radiation (UV) into heat. In 1930 Sydney Chapman resolved the chemistry involved. The process is commonly called the Chapman cycle by atmospheric scientists.

Most of the ozone production occurs in the tropical upper stratosphere and mesosphere. The total mass of ozone produced per day over the globe is about 400 million metric tons. The global mass of ozone is relatively constant at about 3 billion metric tons, meaning the Sun produces about 12% of the ozone layer each day. (W)

Ozone–oxygen cycle in the ozone layer: 1. Oxygen photolyzed to atomic oxygen 2. Oxygen and ozone continuously interconverted. Solar UV breaks down oxygen; molecular and atomic oxygen combine to form Ozone. 3. Ozone is lost by reaction with atomic oxygen (plus other trace atoms).


Paleopedology is the discipline that studies soils of past geological eras, from quite recent (Quaternary) to the earliest periods of the Earth's history. Paleopedology can be seen either as a branch of soil science (pedology) or of paleontology, since the methods it uses are in many ways a well-defined combination of the two disciplines.

Paleopedology is an important scientific discipline for the understanding of the ecology and evolution of ancient ecosystems, both on Earth and the emerging field of exoplanet research, or Astropedology. (W)

Vertisol paleosol Watervol Onder.


Panspermia (from Ancient Greek πᾶν (pan), meaning 'all', and σπέρμα (sperma), meaning 'seed') is the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by space dust, meteoroids, asteroids, comets, planetoids, and also by spacecraft carrying unintended contamination by microorganisms. Distribution may have occurred spanning galaxies, and so may not be restricted to the limited scale of solar systems.

Panspermia hypotheses propose (for example) that microscopic life-forms that can survive the effects of space (such as extremophiles) can become trapped in debris ejected into space after collisions between planets and small Solar System bodies that harbor life. Some organisms may travel dormant for an extended amount of time before colliding randomly with other planets or intermingling with protoplanetary disks. Under certain ideal impact circumstances (into a body of water, for example), and ideal conditions on a new planet's surfaces, it is possible that the surviving organisms could become active and begin to colonize their new environment. At least one report finds that endospores from a type of Bacillus bacteria found in Morocco can survive being heated to 420 °C (788 °F), making the argument for panspermia even stronger. Panspermia studies concentrate not on how life began, but on methods that may distribute it in the Universe.

Pseudo-panspermia (sometimes called "soft panspermia" or "molecular panspermia") argues that the pre-biotic organic building-blocks of life originated in space, became incorporated in the solar nebula from which planets condensed, and were further—and continuously—distributed to planetary surfaces where life then emerged (abiogenesis). From the early 1970s, it started to become evident that interstellar dust included a large component of organic molecules. Interstellar molecules are formed by chemical reactions within very sparse interstellar or circumstellar clouds of dust and gas. The dust plays a critical role in shielding the molecules from the ionizing effect of ultraviolet radiation emitted by stars.

The chemistry leading to life may have begun shortly after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the Universe was only 10 to 17 million years old. Though the presence of life is confirmed only on the Earth, some scientists think that extraterrestrial life is not only plausible, but probable or inevitable. Probes and instruments have started examining other planets and moons in the Solar System and in other planetary systems for evidence of having once supported simple life, and projects such as SETI attempt to detect radio transmissions from possible extraterrestrial civilizations. (W)

EURECA facility deployment in 1992
The Exobiology Radiation Assembly (ERA) was a 1992 experiment on board the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) on the biological effects of space radiation.

Location of the astrobiology EXPOSE-E and EXPOSE-R facilities on the International Space Station
EXPOSE is a multi-user facility mounted outside the International Space Station dedicated to astrobiology experiments.

Dust collector with aerogel blocks.

The Tanpopo mission is an orbital astrobiology experiment by Japan that is currently investigating the possible interplanetary transfer of life, organic compounds, and possible terrestrial particles in low Earth orbit.


Pedogenesis (from the Greek pedo-, or pedon, meaning 'soil, earth,' and genesis, meaning 'origin, birth') (also termed soil developmentsoil evolutionsoil formation, and soil genesis) is the process of soil formation as regulated by the effects of place, environment, and history. Biogeochemical processes act to both create and destroy order (anisotropy) within soils. These alterations lead to the development of layers, termed soil horizons, distinguished by differences in colorstructuretexture, and chemistry. These features occur in patterns of soil type distribution, forming in response to differences in soil forming factors.

Pedogenesis is studied as a branch of pedology, the study of soil in its natural environment. Other branches of pedology are the study of soil morphology, and soil classification. The study of pedogenesis is important to understanding soil distribution patterns in current (soil geography) and past (paleopedology) geologic periods. (W)

5 factors of soil formation.



The pedosphere (from Greek πέδον pedon "soil" or "earth" and σφαῖρα sphaira "sphere") is the outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The pedosphere is the skin of the Earth and only develops when there is a dynamic interaction between the atmosphere (air in and above the soil), biosphere (living organisms), lithosphere (unconsolidated regolith and consolidated bedrock) and the hydrosphere (water in, on and below the soil). The pedosphere is the foundation of terrestrial life on Earth.

The pedosphere acts as the mediator of chemical and biogeochemical flux into and out of these respective systems and is made up of gaseous, mineralic, fluid and biologic components. The pedosphere lies within the Critical Zone, a broader interface that includes vegetation, pedosphere, groundwater aquifer systems, regolith and finally ends at some depth in the bedrock where the biosphere and hydrosphere cease to make significant changes to the chemistry at depth. As part of the larger global system, any particular environment in which soil forms is influenced solely by its geographic position on the globe as climatic, geologic, biologic and anthropogenic changes occur with changes in longitude and latitude.

The pedosphere lies below the vegetative cover of the biosphere and above the hydrosphere and lithosphere. The soil forming process (pedogenesis) can begin without the aid of biology but is significantly quickened in the presence of biologic reactions. Soil formation begins with the chemical and/or physical breakdown of minerals to form the initial material that overlies the bedrock substrate. Biology quickens this by secreting acidic compounds that help break rock apart. Particular biologic pioneers are lichen, mosses and seed bearing plants, but many other inorganic reactions take place that diversify the chemical makeup of the early soil layer. Once weathering and decomposition products accumulate, a coherent soil body allows the migration of fluids both vertically and laterally through the soil profile, causing ion exchange between solid, fluid and gaseous phases. As time progresses, the bulk geochemistry of the soil layer will deviate away from the initial composition of the bedrock and will evolve to a chemistry that reflects the type of reactions that take place in the soil. (W)

Pelagic zone

The pelagic zone consists of the water column of the open ocean, and can be further divided into regions by depth. The word "pelagic" is derived from Ancient Greek πέλαγος (pélagos), meaning 'open sea'.[1] The pelagic zone can be thought of in terms of an imaginary cylinder or water column that goes from the surface of the sea almost to the bottom. Conditions in the water column change with distance from the surface (depth): the pressure increases; the temperature and amount of light decrease; the salinity and amount of dissolved oxygen, as well as micronutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium, all change. Rather like the Earth's atmosphere, but depending on how deep the water is, the water column is divided vertically into up to five different layers.

In addition to the above changes, marine life is affected by bathymetry (underwater topography), by the proximity to land that is underwater such as the seafloor or a shoreline or a submarine seamount. Marine life is also affected by the proximity of the ocean surface, the boundary between the ocean and the atmosphere, which can bring light for photosynthesis but can also bring predation from above and wind stirring up waves and setting currents in motion. The pelagic zone refers to open and free waters in the body of the ocean that stretch between the ocean surface and the ocean bottom and are not too close to some boundary, like a shore or the seafloor or the surface. Marine life living in the pelagic zone can swim freely in any direction, unhindered by topographical constraints.

The oceanic zone is the deep open ocean beyond the continental shelf. These offshore waters contrast with the inshore or coastal waters near the coast, such as in estuaries or on the continental shelf. Waters can plunge in the oceanic zone to the depths of the abyssopelagic and even the hadopelagic. Coastal waters are generally confined to the relatively shallow epipelagic, though these are still pelagic waters providing they are not near the seafloor. Altogether, the pelagic zone occupies 1,330 million km3 (320 million mi3) with a mean depth of 3.68 km (2.29 mi) and maximum depth of 11 km (6.8 mi). Fish that live in the pelagic zone are called pelagic fish. Pelagic life decreases with increasing depth.

The pelagic zone can be contrasted with the benthic and demersal zones at the bottom of the sea. The benthic zone is the ecological region at the very bottom of the sea. It includes the sediment surface and some subsurface layers. Marine organisms living in this zone, such as clams and crabs, are called benthos. The demersal zone is just above the benthic zone. It can be significantly affected by the seabed and the life that lives there. Fish that live in the demersal zone are called demersal fish, and can be divided into benthic fish, which are denser than water so they can rest on the bottom, and benthopelagic fish, which swim in the water column just above the bottom. Demersal fish are also known as bottom feeders and groundfish. W)


Planetary boundaries

Planetary boundaries is a concept involving Earth system processes that contain environmental boundaries. It was proposed in 2009 by a group of Earth system and environmental scientists, led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Will Steffen from the Australian National University. The group wanted to define a "safe operating space for humanity" for the international community, including governments at all levels, international organizations, civil society, the scientific community and the private sector, as a precondition for sustainable development. The framework is based on scientific evidence that human actions since the Industrial Revolution have become the main driver of global environmental change.

According to the paradigm, "transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems."[1] The Earth system process boundaries mark the safe zone for the planet to the extent that they are not crossed. As of 2009, two boundaries have already been crossed, while others are in imminent danger of being crossed. (W)

Planetary boundaries diagram of 2009.

Planetary habitability

Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to develop and maintain environments hospitable to life. Life may be generated directly on a planet or satellite endogenously or be transferred to it from another body, through a hypothetical process known as panspermia. Environments do not need to contain life to be considered habitable nor are accepted habitable zones the only areas in which life might arise.

As the existence of life beyond Earth is unknown, planetary habitability is largely an extrapolation of conditions on Earth and the characteristics of the Sun and Solar System which appear favorable to life's flourishing. Of particular interest are those factors that have sustained complex, multicellular organisms on Earth and not just simpler, unicellular creatures. Research and theory in this regard is a component of a number of natural sciences, such as astronomy, planetary science and the emerging discipline of astrobiology.

An absolute requirement for life is an energy source, and the notion of planetary habitability implies that many other geophysical, geochemical, and astrophysical criteria must be met before an astronomical body can support life. In its astrobiology roadmap, NASA has defined the principal habitability criteria as "extended regions of liquid water, conditions favorable for the assembly of complex organic molecules, and energy sources to sustain metabolism". In August 2018, researchers reported that water worlds could support life.

Habitability indicators and biosignatures must be interpreted within a planetary and environmental context. In determining the habitability potential of a body, studies focus on its bulk composition, orbital properties, atmosphere, and potential chemical interactions. Stellar characteristics of importance include mass and luminosity, stable variability, and high metallicity. Rocky, wet terrestrial-type planets and moons with the potential for Earth-like chemistry are a primary focus of astrobiological research, although more speculative habitability theories occasionally examine alternative biochemistries and other types of astronomical bodies.

The idea that planets beyond Earth might host life is an ancient one, though historically it was framed by philosophy as much as physical science. The late 20th century saw two breakthroughs in the field. The observation and robotic spacecraft exploration of other planets and moons within the Solar System has provided critical information on defining habitability criteria and allowed for substantial geophysical comparisons between the Earth and other bodies. The discovery of extrasolar planets, beginning in the early 1990s and accelerating thereafter, has provided further information for the study of possible extraterrestrial life. These findings confirm that the Sun is not unique among stars in hosting planets and expands the habitability research horizon beyond the Solar System. (W)

Relative star sizes and photospheric temperatures. Any planet around a red dwarf such as the one shown here (Gliese 229A) would have to huddle close to achieve Earth-like temperatures, probably inducing tidal locking. See Aurelia. Credit: MPIA/V. Joergens.


season is a division of the year marked by changes in weatherecology, and the amount of daylight. On Earth, seasons are the result of Earth's orbit around the Sun and Earth's axial tilt relative to the ecliptic plane. In temperate and polar regions, the seasons are marked by changes in the intensity of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface, variations of which may cause animals to undergo hibernation or to migrate, and plants to be dormant. Various cultures define the number and nature of seasons based on regional variations.

The Northern Hemisphere experiences more direct sunlight during May, June, and July, as the hemisphere faces the Sun. The same is true of the Southern Hemisphere in November, December, and January. It is Earth's axial tilt that causes the Sun to be higher in the sky during the summer months, which increases the solar flux. However, due to seasonal lag, June, July, and August are the warmest months in the Northern Hemisphere while December, January, and February are the warmest months in the Southern Hemisphere.

In temperate and sub-polar regions, four seasons based on the Gregorian calendar are generally recognized: springsummerautumn or fall, and winter. Ecologists often use a six-season model for temperate climate regions which are not tied to any fixed calendar dates: prevernalvernalestivalserotinalautumnal, and hibernal. Many tropical regions have two seasons: the rainywet, or monsoon season and the dry season. Some have a third coolmild, or harmattan season. "Seasons" can also be dictated by the timing of important ecological events such as hurricane seasontornado season, and wildfire season. The most historically important of these are the three seasons — floodgrowth, and low water — which were previously defined by the former annual flooding of the Nile in Egypt.

Seasons often hold special significance for agrarian societies, whose lives revolve around planting and harvest times, and the change of seasons is often attended by ritual. The definition of seasons is also cultural. In India, from ancient times to the present day, six seasons or Ritu based on south Asian religious or cultural calendars are recognised and identified for purposes such as agriculture and trade. (W)

📂Animation of seasonal differences especially snow cover through the year

Animation of seasonal differences especially snow cover through the year



Solar irradiance

Solar irradiance is the power per unit area (watt per square metre, W/m2), received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation as reported in the wavelength range of the measuring instrument. Solar irradiance is often integrated over a given time period in order to report the radiant energy emitted into the surrounding environment (joule per square metre, J/m2), during that time period. This integrated solar irradiance is called solar irradiation, solar exposure, solar insolation, or insolation.

Irradiance may be measured in space or at the Earth's surface after atmospheric absorption and scattering. Irradiance in space is a function of distance from the Sun, the solar cycle, and cross-cycle changes. Irradiance on the Earth's surface additionally depends on the tilt of the measuring surface, the height of the sun above the horizon, and atmospheric conditions. Solar irradiance affects plant metabolism and animal behavior. (W)

Global Map of Global Horizontal Radiation.

Global Map of Direct Normal Radiation.


The stratosphere  is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. The stratosphere is stratified (layered) in temperature, with warmer layers higher and cooler layers closer to the Earth; this increase of temperature with altitude is a result of the absorption of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation by the ozone layer. This is in contrast to the troposphere, near the Earth's surface, where temperature decreases with altitude. The border between the troposphere and stratosphere, the tropopause, marks where this temperature inversion begins. Near the equator, the lower edge of the stratosphere is as high as 20 km (66,000 ft; 12 mi), at midlatitudes around 10 km (33,000 ft; 6.2 mi), and at the poles about 7 km (23,000 ft; 4.3 mi) Temperatures range from an average of −51 °C (−60 °F; 220 K) near the tropopause to an average of −15 °C (5.0 °F; 260 K) near the mesosphere. Stratospheric temperatures also vary within the stratosphere as the seasons change, reaching particularly low temperatures in the polar night (winter). Winds in the stratosphere can far exceed those in the troposphere, reaching near 60 m/s (220 km/h; 130 mph) in the Southern polar vortex. (W)

This image shows the temperature trend in the lower stratosphere as measured by a series of satellite-based instruments between January 1979 and December 2005. The lower stratosphere is centered around 18 kilometers above Earth's surface. The stratosphere image is dominated by blues and greens, which indicates a cooling over time.


Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun, in particular infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. On Earth, sunlight is scattered and filtered through Earth's atmosphere, and is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon. When direct solar radiation is not blocked by clouds, it is experienced as sunshine, a combination of bright light and radiant heat. When blocked by clouds or reflected off other objects, sunlight is diffused. The World Meteorological Organization uses the term "sunshine duration" to mean the cumulative time during which an area receives direct irradiance from the Sun of at least 120 watts per square meter. Other sources indicate an "Average over the entire earth" of "164 Watts per square meter over a 24 hour day".

The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has both positive and negative health effects, as it is both a requisite for vitamin D3 synthesis and a mutagen.

Sunlight takes about 8.3 minutes to reach Earth from the surface of the Sun. A photon starting at the center of the Sun and changing direction every time it encounters a charged particle would take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to get to the surface.

Sunlight is a key factor in photosynthesis, the process used by plants and other autotrophic organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be used to synthesize carbohydrates and to fuel the organisms' activities. (W)

Solar irradiance spectrum above atmosphere and at surface. Extreme UV and X-rays are produced (at left of wavelength range shown) but comprise very small amounts of the Sun's total output power.


The thermosphere is the layer in the Earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. Within this layer of the atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation causes photoionization/photodissociation of molecules, creating ions in the ionosphere. Taking its name from the Greek θερμός (pronounced thermos) meaning heat, the thermosphere begins at about 80 km (50 mi) above sea level. At these high altitudes, the residual atmospheric gases sort into strata according to molecular mass (see turbosphere).

Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation. Temperatures are highly dependent on solar activity, and can rise to 1,700 °C (3,100 °F) or more. Radiation causes the atmosphere particles in this layer to become electrically charged (see ionosphere), enabling radio waves to be refracted and thus be received beyond the horizon. In the exosphere, beginning at about 600 km (375 mi) above sea level, the atmosphere turns into space, although by the judicial criteria set for the definition of the Kármán line, the thermosphere itself is part of space.

The highly attenuated gas in this layer can reach 2,500 °C (4,530 °F) during the day. Despite the high temperature, an observer or object will experience cold temperatures in the thermosphere, because the extremely low density of gas (practically a hard vacuum) is insufficient for the molecules to conduct heat. A normal thermometer will read significantly below 0 °C (32 °F), at least at night, because the energy lost by thermal radiation would exceed the energy acquired from the atmospheric gas by direct contact. In the anacoustic zone above 160 kilometres (99 mi), the density is so low that molecular interactions are too infrequent to permit the transmission of sound.

The dynamics of the thermosphere are dominated by atmospheric tides, which are driven predominantly by diurnal heating. Atmospheric waves dissipate above this level because of collisions between the neutral gas and the ionospheric plasma.

The International Space Station orbits the Earth within the middle of the thermosphere, between 408 and 410 kilometres (254 and 255 mi). (W)

Earth atmosphere diagram showing all the layers of the atmosphere to scale.  


The troposphere is the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere, and is also where nearly all weather conditions take place. It contains 75% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of the total mass of water vapour and aerosols. The average height of the troposphere is 18 km (11 mi; 59,000 ft) in the tropics, 17 km (11 mi; 56,000 ft) in the middle latitudes, and 6 km (3.7 mi; 20,000 ft) in the polar regions in winter. The total average height of the troposphere is 13 km.

The lowest part of the troposphere, where friction with the Earth's surface influences airflow, is the planetary boundary layer. This layer is typically a few hundred meters to 2 km (1.2 mi; 6,600 ft) deep depending on the landform and time of day. Atop the troposphere is the tropopause, which is the border between the troposphere and stratosphere. The tropopause is an inversion layer, where the air temperature ceases to decrease with height and remains constant through its thickness.

The word troposphere is derived from the Greek tropos (meaning "turn, turn toward, change") and sphere (as in the Earth), reflecting the fact that rotational turbulent mixing plays an important role in the troposphere's structure and behaviour. Most of the phenomena associated with day-to-day weather occur in the troposphere. (W)

Space Shuttle Endeavour silhouetted against the atmosphere. The orange layer is the troposphere, the white layer is the stratosphere, and the blue layer is the mesosphere. (The shuttle is actually orbiting at an altitude of more than 320 km (200 mi), far above all three layers.).

Upper mantle (Earth)

The upper mantle of the Earth begins just beneath the crust (at about 10 km (6.2 mi) under the oceans and about 35 km (22 mi) under the continents) and ends at the top of the lower mantle at 670 km (420 mi). Temperatures range from approximately 200 °C (392 °F) at the upper boundary with the crust to approximately 900 °C (1,650 °F) at the boundary with the lower mantle. Upper mantle material which has come up onto the surface is made up of about 55% olivine, 35% pyroxene and 5 to 10% of calcium oxide and aluminum oxide minerals such as plagioclase, spinel or garnet, depending upon depth. (W)

1 = continental crust, 2 = oceanic crust, 3 = upper mantle, 4 = lower mantle, 5+6 = core, A = crust-mantle boundary (Mohorovičić discontinuity).

Water cycle

The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle or the hydrological cycle, describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. The mass of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time but the partitioning of the water into the major reservoirs of ice, fresh water, saline water and atmospheric water is variable depending on a wide range of climatic variables. The water moves from one reservoir to another, such as from river to ocean, or from the ocean to the atmosphere, by the physical processes of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, and subsurface flow. In doing so, the water goes through different forms: liquid, solid (ice) and vapor.

The water cycle involves the exchange of energy, which leads to temperature changes. When water evaporates, it takes up energy from its surroundings and cools the environment. When it condenses, it releases energy and warms the environment. These heat exchanges influence climate.

The evaporative phase of the cycle purifies water which then replenishes the land with freshwater. The flow of liquid water and ice transports minerals across the globe. It is also involved in reshaping the geological features of the Earth, through processes including erosion and sedimentation. The water cycle is also essential for the maintenance of most life and ecosystems on the planet. (W)

Diagram of the Water Cycle.

The water cycle

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