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Final

EESA06 Final: Complete and Comprehensive 19 Page Final Exam Study Guide - Winter 2016Premium


Department
Environmental Science
Course Code
EESA06H3
Professor
Nick Eyles
Study Guide
Final

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EESA06H3 – Introduction to Planet
Earth
Final Exam Study Guide
University of Toronto Scarborough – Winter 2016

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EESA06 - Lecture 1 - How Planet Earth Formed and is Evolving
Supercontinents and Supercontinent Cycles
● Stratigraphy: the study of layers, basically creating an order of events in history
● Paradigm: term in science used to describe revolution in thinking
Earth’s surface is always moving (horizontally and vertically) - there is nowhere that is
stable on the Earth’s surface
North America is moving 3.7 cm a year towards the Southwest
Other places on the Earth are moving 25 cm a year
Seafloor spreading: progressive widening of the ocean basins - this pushes the
continents apart
All the present-day continents were clustered together in what is called a
supercontinent
The last supercontinent was Pangea
● Laurasia (North America was joined to Europe and Asia) and Gondwana (Southern
continents) were parts of Pangea
Pangea in Greek - all the land (‘Pan’ - all, ‘Gea’ - land)
Over the next 250 million years, the Atlantic Ocean will close and slowly, all the
continents will join again
Supercontinents don’t last for long - they eventually will break up, this is called the
supercontinent cycle
Center of the next supercontinent can be predicted with a lot of certainty - it will be Africa
Plate Tectonics
● Plate: relatively thin (compared to the depth of the Earth) layers of rock made of oceanic
crust
● Tectonics: to build
Plate tectonics: describes the action of the hard skin (crust) of the Earth in response to
convection of the Earth’s mantle, building of plates and how we destroy them
● Convection: hot things rise, cooling, then sinks back into the mantle
● Plume: an upwelling of molten material from the Earth's mantle
● Magma: red, hot molten rock
As magma comes up in the mantle, they experience decompression melting (taking
the pressure off and the hot rock starts to melt and produces magma)
Magma intrudes pre-existing rock and pushes existing rock apart
The new magma will cool, and then itself will be intruded by new magma coming up from
depth - this describes the process behind seafloor spreading
This is why the North American plate is moving away from the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean - seafloor spreading is the driver of plate tectonics
Mid-oceanic ridge (MORs): an underwater mountain range that is formed by plate
tectonics
Oceanic crust: underlie the ocean basins, made out of a particular rock type
Oceanic plates are made out of a rock called basalt
● Subduction: to push one plate underneath another one
3.5 billion years - age of the first continent

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Volcanoes
Caribbean islands: wouldn’t be there if in the past a volcano hadn’t pushed its nose
above sea level
Volcanic arc defines the Western side of the North American Plate where it is being
pushed down below the Caribbean plate
The Caribbean Plate is being pushed against the Cocos Plate
● Soufriére: active volcano on island of Caribbean
The gases in the volcanoes build up and are released in a dangerous eruption
Subductions have mega-earthquakes and volcanic eruptions
● Tephra: scientific term for volcanic ash
● Plymouth: city next to Soufriére, was ruined by the volcanic eruption
Boulders in Plymouth were carried along the city by hot ash, not rolled along by
water
Why take Introduction to Planet Earth?
Becoming more knowledgeable about planet Earth and how it works is fundamental to
managing environmental challenges
Urban sprawl (the world is becoming more urban) and the impact of supercities
A lot of supercities are in subduction zones, so they are all threatened by
earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.
Managing/protecting water resources, watersheds, and natural ecosystems
Managing wastes (nuclear, municipal, industrial, etc)
Remediation of contaminated sites
Most cities have an industrial past so there is a legacy of contamination there
Public safety from the threat of natural hazards
Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis, etc
Mitigation of climate warming effects (severe weather)
Effects of weather are getting more severe because people are living in places
where people were not living in the past
Watersheds being urbanized
Environmental impact of resource extraction and energy supplies
Environmental policy and financial planning
Important Course Themes
How planet Earth works (such as knowing how plate tectonics work) from its deep
interior to its surface
The history of planet Earth
Use plate tectonic theory to reconstruct the past continents and oceans (the
supercontinent cycle)
How do rocks and minerals record ancient environments?
How do we tell geologic time?
Geological evaluation of Canada and Ontario over 4 billion years
Using geological science to manage environmental problems and hazards in Canada
Rocks
● Basalt: made out of a lot of iron and magnesium, relatively heavy materials. so basalt
has a relatively high density
As soon as it is produced as a plate, it doesn’t stay there - it wants to sink
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