Earth Systems / Spheres

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Earth Systems / Spheres


The Earth is made of several systems or "spheres" that interact.


Processes operating in the Earth system take place on spatial scales varying from fractions of millimeters to thousands of kilometers, and on time scales that range from milliseconds to billions of years.

Geosphere (lithosphere): all of the rocks and "hard parts" of the Earth
Hydrosphere: all of Earth's water
Biosphere: all living things
Atmosphere: the blanket of gases surrounding the planet
Cosmosphere: the universe surrounding the Earth


The Earth system is characterized by numerous overlapping cycles in which matter is recycled over and over again. Cycles involve multiple spheres and systems interactions.
Examples of cycles: day and night; rock cycle; seasons


The Earth system is powered by energy from two major sources: the Sun and the planet's internal heat.

Interaction of Spheres

Atmosphere Geosphere Hydrosphere Biosphere
Ozone change Ozone change
El Nino
Ozone change;
Geosphere Hurricanes; tsunamis; volcanoes; wave action Volcanic eruptions Hurricanes; tsunamis; tectonics; erosion; volcanoes
Earthquakes; wave action
Hurricanes; tsunami; coal, nutrient cycles; volcanoes
Hydrosphere El Nino Waves Wave action photosynthesis