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Environmental Science

Introduction to Physical Geology and the Environment What is Geology?  derived from Greek words geo and logos, meaning “the study of the Earth”  this discipline came into being in the late eighteenth century  the first known geologic map was published in England in 1815 by William Smith o he is referred to as “the father of English geology”  in North America, geological mapping began in the mid-19 century  Sir William Logan was the first to describe the geology of Canada What Is Plate Tectonics?  the plate tectonics theory considers the outermost rigid shell of the earth to be divided into a number of plates that are in motion relative to one another  most geologic activity occurs at plate boundaries  the movement of continents on the earth’s surface was first suggested by Alfred Wegener o he recognized that today’s continents had been clustered together in a large land mass but had then moved apart – he called this pangea o he could not explain how it had happened, that is why his theory was rejected  plate tectonics has operated for at least 3.5 billion years o in this time, new plates have been formed and the older ones have been destroyed by subduction  the process where the sea floor slides beneath a continent or island arc  geochemists – study the chemistry of rocks or minerals  petrologists – study the make up of rocks and how they form What is the Scientific Method?  a process by which scientists first identify a problem, they then select a methodology to collect data in order to help solve the problem. They then analyze and interpret the information, and come up with a solution. Using data that is accurate, they form a hypothesis The Earth  the earth is very old and unique within the solar system in having oceans, an atmosphere, and life  internal processes driven by the earth’s heat interact at the surface with external processes driven by solar power to create complex and ever changing landscapes and geographies The Origin of the Solar System  the universe was formed by the clumping together of gas and debris in the aftermath of the big bang that occurred some 15 billion years ago  the solar system consists of the sun and the nine planets and space debris that orbit the sun  it was created from a could of hydrogen and helium gas and dust particles called nebula o this cloud of gas and dust began to rotate and contract, creating a core surrounded by a flattened disc o the core collapsed to the point where nuclear fusion began, and the sun was formed sometime fewer than 5 billion years ago o dust in the outer disk condensed to form rocks and metals that combined to form large rounded planets o accretion – the process of building large bodies of matter through collisions and gravitational attraction  those planets that formed close to the sun are called terrestrial planets o they are small, dense, and rocky  the giant planets have low densities and are called the Jovian planets  larger planets were able to attract and hold larger amounts of lighter gases  another importa
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