Geology, the study of the planet earth, its rocky exterior, its history, and the processes that act upon it. Geology is also referred to as earth science and geoscience. The word geology comes from the Greek geo, “earth,” and logia, “the study of.” Geologists seek to understand how the earth formed and evolved into what it is today, as well as what made the earth capable of supporting life. Geologists study the changes that the earth has undergone as its physical, chemical, and biological systems have interacted during its 4.5 billion year history.
Geology is an important way of understanding the world around us, and it enables scientists to predict how our planet will behave. Scientists and others use geology to understand how geological events and the earth’s geological history affect people, for example, in terms of living with natural disasters and using the earth’s natural resources. As the human population grows, more and more people live in areas exposed to natural geologic hazards, such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides. Some geologists use their knowledge to try to understand these natural hazards and forecast potential geologic events, such as volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. They study the history of these events as recorded in rocks and try to determine when the next eruption or earthquake will occur. They also study the geologic record of climate change in order to help predict future changes. As the human population grows, geologists’ ability to locate fossil and mineral resources, such as oil, coal, iron, and aluminium, becomes more important. Finding and maintaining a clean water supply, and disposing safely of waste products, requires understanding the earth’s systems through which they cycle.
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The field of geology includes subfields that examine all of the earth’s systems, from the deep interior core to the outer atmosphere, including the hydrosphere (the waters of the earth) and the biosphere (the living component of the earth). Generally, these subfields are divided into two major categories of physical and historical geology. Geologists also examine events such as asteroid impacts, mass extinctions, and ice ages. Geologic history shows that the processes that shaped the earth are still acting on it and that change is normal.
Many other scientific fields overlap extensively with geology, including oceanography, atmospheric sciences, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and microbiology. Geology is also used to study other planets and moons in our solar system. Specialized fields of extraterrestrial geology include lunar geology, the study of earth’s moon, and astrogeology, the study of other rocky bodies in the solar system and beyond. Scientific teams currently studying Mars and the moons of Jupiter include geologists.
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