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I……………… The Earth System: Atmosphere, Land and


II……………… Earth Layers and Composition

III..…………… Wegener’s Evidences for Continental Drift

IV.……..…….. Sea-floor Spreading and Its Evidence

V .……..…….. Divergent, Convergent and Transform

Plate Boundaries

VI ……..…….. Structure, Properties and Classification of


VII.……..…… Magma and Igneous Rocks

VIII ..……..…. Igneous Rocks

IX. .……..……. Weathering and Soil

X………………. Classifications Structures and Formations

of Sedimentary Rocks

XI .……..…….. Metamorphic Rocks and Rock Cycle

XII. .……..…… Types of Metamorphic Rocks and Grades

of Metamorphism

XIII. .……….. Volcanic Eruption

XIV. .……..…… Faults and the Generation of Earthquakes

XV. .……..…….. Measuring and Locating Earthquakes

XVI..……..…….. The Ecosystem

XVII..……..…….. Feeding Relationships, Food Chains

and Food Webs

XVIII..……..…….. Energy Pyramid

Introduction to Earth System
I. The Earth System: Atmosphere, Land and
In the diagram below, we can see some examples of the things that make up the earth.

ATMOSPHERE: Air (made up of many gases)

HYDROSPHERE: Sea, lagoon, ice-sheets and ice-caps, rainwater, etc
BIOSPHERE: Fish, trees and other life forms
GEOSPHERE: Rocks, mountains, sediments on the sea floor, etc

Earth is made up of all these things and are grouped into four main areas
called spheres. These spheres are not static, that means they are constantly changing.
For example, the atmosphere does not produce the same weather everyday. We
experience the wind, rain or sunshine differently every day. Living things such as
animals are also born, whiles older ones die. Deep down the earth, there is molten
magma (melted rock) that can be spewed put in the form of lava during volcanic
eruptions. Sometimes, there are seismic movements in the earth's crust which causes
changes on the surface of the earth. So, you can see that there is always something
going on in all the parts of the earth. It is a dynamic earth.

What is a system?
A system is a term used for any complex whole, with smaller connected parts working
together. Usually, a change or malfunction of one part can affect other parts of the
system, and also affect the system itself.
The Earth is a system too. It has four major parts all
connected and working in harmony to make the
planet function properly. These four parts are called
Spheres. They are the Atmosphere, Geosphere,
Biosphere, and Hydrosphere. Some studies also
have the cryosphere (ice and snow) and
anthroposphere (man-made objects and processes),
but for this lesson, we shall focus on the four parts.
Each sphere has its own function and it is constantly
changing in a process called Cycles.

What is a Cycle?
A cycle is something that never stops. It has no
beginning and has no end. An example is the water cycle, where the water goes
through a basic journey: rains fall and end up in rivers, rivers end in the sea, sea
water evaporates and forms rain clouds, and the rains fall again. Other important
cycles include the carbon cycle, rock cycle, and nitrogen cycle.

What is Earth Systems Thinking

Earth system thinking is the science that utilizes habits, tools, and concepts to
understand how complex things work. It breaks apart all the components of a larger
whole and carefully studies how each bit works and how it interacts with other bits of the

Systems thinking makes it possible for us to make sense out of complex things and
helps us to interact with that system in a healthier way.

Earth system science (ESS), therefore, is the study of all

the connections and interactions of the atmosphere,
biosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere.

ESS helps us to predict undesirable consequences and

do something to mitigate it.

As young scientists, it is important that studies and

observations, no matter how small, are properly
documented because changes in the way the earth
works can take place over millions of years. Changes
can also take place in just a couple of seconds. Earth
system scientists bring together data and findings from geology, oceanography,
ecology, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry and others to study and draw
observations and predictions.
The advancement in technology, satellites, and modeling has provided the best
conditions for ESS to take off.

The historic behavior of the earth is therefore of immense value to earth systems
thinking. Change in the planet occurs at different rates and in different places over time.
The energy from the sun and energy from within the earth itself drives this change.

Human understanding of the earth is not complete. We are constantly finding new
evidence and formulating new theories about our planet. Your role is to read and study
information from sources that your countries Earth Science Departments, and have a
better undertaking of it so that you can make your own research and discover
something to add to the knowledge bank.

The Hydrosphere

The hydrosphere includes all the water parts on the planet. It includes water on the
surface, sub-surface and water vapour in the atmosphere. The hydrosphere and the
atmosphere are known as the fluid spheres. These spheres are the liquid and gas
components of the earth.

Think of all the water in the oceans and seas, including all the frozen water and ice
(cryosphere). Also think of all the lakes, lagoons, rivers and ponds, as well as water in
the water table beneath the surface of the earth. They are all part of the hydrosphere
and together they cover more than 70% of the surface of the earth.

The hydrosphere is also in infinite processes every day. The water cycle is one way to
understand how the hydrosphere functions and supports other spheres.

Consider the illustration below:

The oceans and water bodies absorb the sun's energy and warm up. Transpiration by
trees and Evaporation of surface water occurs. The water vapor in the atmosphere
condenses (condensation) to form rain clouds and comes down as rain (precipitation).
The rains fall back on land and into water bodies (run-off) again and they all run back
into the ocean for the cycle to continue.

A complete water cycle takes time. Other spheres are impacted in many ways during
the water cycle.

The Geosphere

This sphere includes all the stuff that make up the crust and the core of the earth. It
includes everything natural and lifeless that make up the surface of the earth.

Examples are all the rocks and sand particles from dry land to those found at the bottom
of the oceans. They also include the mountains, minerals, lava and molten magma from
beneath the earth’s crust.

The geosphere undergoes infinite processes constantly and that, in turn, modifies other
spheres. One example of the continuous process is the rock cycle

Consider the rock cycle illustration below:

In the rock cycle, melted rock from below the earth’s crust is spewed out through vents
on the surface onto the surface of the earth. This is also called lava. Solidified lava,
together with other rock material from earth movements are weathered and eroded. The
eroded particles end up somewhere and build up. After many years of buildup, pressure
from the overlying weight causes the particles to modify itself again. They are further
buried deeper in the crust and then melted again by intense heat until they are spewed
out to the surface again.
In this cycle, you will notice that it can take thousands of years for the cycle to complete,
but every single day has a role to play. You will also notice that the cycle does not
complete on its own. It is influenced by other factors such as water, temperature, and
wind, which also belong to other spheres.

The Biosphere

Consider the illustration below:

The biosphere is all living component of the earth (humans, plants, animals, bacteria,
fungi, protists and all microscopic organisms on land, in the air and in the oceans). It
also includes all organic matter that has not yet decomposed. This living part is hugely
dependent on the other three spheres.

The hydrosphere provides moisture or water to plants and animals, the geosphere
provides the solid surface on which animals and plants grow and also provides heat
from beneath the earth.

The atmosphere provides the gasses (nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide) needed by
living things. The atmosphere also provides the screen from the sun’s UV radiation and
helps us receive just enough of the sun's heat.

It is believed that the biosphere is exclusive to earth alone. Scientists believe there are
traces of water, rock, and gases on other planets, but no life has been found yet.
Humans are exploring other planets to see if this idea is correct.

The interaction of the biosphere with other spheres can be explained better by a theory
known as Ecosystems
The Atmosphere

The atmosphere is the gaseous component above the surface of the earth. This sphere
is also a fluid sphere (the other fluid sphere is hydrosphere). The atmosphere is made
up of gases and tiny water particles. The gases surrounding the earth are kept in place
by the force of gravity.

The atmosphere is a mixture of gases: Nitrogen (78%) and Oxygen (21%), make up the
most. There is also Argon, Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols (particles such as dust, pollen,
ash, smoke). These gases are super important to life on earth because plants and
animals depend on them to live.

The atmosphere is sustained by energy from the sun. When the sun shines, heat is
radiated to the earth’s surface and reflected back into the atmosphere. The heat also
warms the surface of the earth and causes evaporation, thereby sending moisture into
the atmosphere. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, lightning and tornadoes are all processes
of the atmosphere

Layers of the atmosphere

Consider the illustration below:

The atmosphere comes in layers. The troposphere is the layer closest to the surface. It
extends about 10km above sea level. Humans and plants live in this layer. Airplanes
and birds also fly in this layer. As the layers go higher, the air becomes thinner. The
other layers include the stratosphere (50km above sea level), mesosphere (85km above
sea level), thermosphere (above 500km above sea level) and exosphere.
Beyond the exosphere is space.
How do the Earth's spheres interact?

All the spheres in the system interconnect and overlap. No sphere works on its own.

Consider this diagram below.

Think of the many ways that the hydrosphere and the atmosphere connect.
Evaporation from the hydrosphere provides the medium for cloud and rain formation in
the atmosphere. The atmosphere brings back rainwater to the hydrosphere.

In what way do the geosphere and hydrosphere connect? Water provides the
moisture and medium for weathering and erosion of rocks on in the geosphere. The
geosphere, in turn, provides the platform for ice melts and water bodies to flow back into
the oceans.

The atmosphere provides the geosphere with heat and energy needed for rock
breakdown and erosion. The geosphere, in turn, reflects the sun's energy back into the

The biosphere receives gases, heat, and sunlight (energy) from the atmosphere. It
receives water from the hydrosphere and a living medium from the geosphere.

Think of the many ways in which each sphere interacts with the other and discuss it with
your class.

Land, sometimes referred to as dry land, is the solid surface of Earth that is not
permanently covered by water.[1] The vast majority of human activity throughout history
has occurred in land areas that support agriculture, habitat, and various natural
resources. Some life forms (including terrestrial plants and terrestrial animals) have
developed from predecessor species that lived in bodies of water.
Areas where land meets large bodies of water are called coastal zones. The
division between land and water is a fundamental concept to humans. The demarcation
between land and water can vary by local jurisdiction and other factors. A maritime
boundary is one example of a political demarcation. A variety of natural boundaries exist
to help clearly define where water meets land. Solid rock landforms are easier to
demarcate than marshy or swampy boundaries, where there is no clear point at which
the land ends and a body of water has begun. Demarcation can further vary due to tides
and weather.
Looking at Landforms Earth has many landforms, such as mountains, forests,
and deserts. Erosion helps change the shape of landforms. Landforms are one part of
geography. Landforms affect where people build communities. Most mountains have
steep slopes and rough and uneven land. It is hard to grow food on mountains. Not
many people live on mountains. Farmers usually live on flat land. Some people live in
forests. They cut the trees down and use the land for farming. They also use the wood
for building things. A few people live in deserts. Deserts are dry and have few trees and
little water.


Earth's ocean covers more than 70% of our planet's surface. There are five major
ocean basins. The Pacific Ocean is the largest. It’s so large that it covers a third of the
Earth's surface. The Atlantic Ocean is east of the Americas and west of Europe and
Africa. The Indian Ocean is south of Asia and the Middle East and east of Africa.
The Arctic Ocean is in the north polar region. The Southern
Ocean surrounds Antarctica in the south polar region.

Seawater is salty. Anyone who has taken a gulp of water while swimming in the
ocean knows that. The saltiness of the water is called salinity. The chemistry of the
seawater includes more than salt. It depends on what become dissolved in it over time.

Ocean water is always moving. It moves around surface ocean currents in the
upper 400 meters of the ocean. Water moves around the ocean by upwelling, a process
that brings water from the deep ocean to shallow areas, as well as downwelling, a
process that sends water from the surface to the deep ocean. Currents along
coastlines move water as well as sand. Moving water transports heat from the Sun
around the planet, which has an effect on climate. Complex climate
models called coupled ocean-atmosphere models take into account both the
atmosphere and the ocean to describe the Earth.

Each day ocean water moves with the tides, shifting where the water meets the
shore in an endless cycle. Tidal cycles are perhaps most easy to see at estuaries. The
ocean's tides are one type of tide created by gravitational force. Over a long time water
circulates from the deep ocean to shallow ocean and back again to the deep. This
circulation of seawater is called the global ocean conveyor or thermohaline circulation.
As Earth’s climate warms the global ocean conveyor might change its pattern. The
height of the ocean surface is called sea level. Over a long time, sea level can change
for a number of reasons. Today sea level is rising rapidly as Earth’s climate warms.
Coral reefs are affected as the ocean changes because of global warming and other
changes such as pollution. As the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide becomes dissolved in
seawater the ocean becomes more acidic, which is harmful to corals and other marine

Salt Water, Fresh Water People build communities near water. Earth has two
kinds of water: fresh and salt. People drink the fresh water from rivers and lakes. People
use the salt water in oceans for travel and fishing. Water erosion and deposition from
oceans and rivers can change the land. Water deposition can also change the location
of a body of water. Islands and peninsulas are some of Earth’s landforms that are in or
near water
II. Earth Layers and Composition
Core, mantle, and crust are divisions based on composition. The crust makes up
less than 1 percent of Earth by mass, consisting of oceanic crust and continental crust
is often more felsic rock. The mantle is hot and represents about 68 percent of Earth’s
mass. Finally, the core is mostly iron metal. The core makes up about 31% of the Earth.
Lithosphere and asthenosphere are divisions based on mechanical properties.
The lithosphere is composed of both the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that
behaves as a brittle, rigid solid. The asthenosphere is partially molten upper mantle
material that behaves plastically and can flow.

Crust and Lithosphere

Earth’s outer surface is its crust; a cold, thin, brittle outer shell made of rock. The
crust is very thin, relative to the radius of the planet. There are two very different types
of crust, each with its own distinctive physical and chemical properties. Oceanic
crust is composed of magma that erupts on the seafloor to create basalt lava flows or
cools deeper down to create the intrusive igneous rock gabbro. Sediments, primarily
muds and the shells of tiny sea creatures, coat the seafloor. Sediment is thickest near
the shore where it comes off the continents in rivers and on wind currents. Continental
crust is made up of many different types of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary
rocks. The average composition is granite, which is much less dense than the mafic
igneous rocks of the oceanic crust. Because it is thick and has relatively low density,
continental crust rises higher on the mantle than oceanic crust, which sinks into the
mantle to form basins. When filled with water, these basins form the planet’s
oceans.The lithosphere is the outermost mechanical layer, which behaves as a brittle,
rigid so lid. The lithosphere is about 100 kilometers thick. The definition of the
lithosphere is based on how earth materials behave, so it includes the crust and the
uppermost mantle, which are both brittle. Since it is rigid and brittle, when stresses act
on the lithosphere, it breaks. This is what we experience as an earthquake.


The two most important things about the mantle are: (1) it is made of solid rock,
and (2) it is hot. Scientists know that the mantle is made of rock based on evidence from
seismic waves, heat flow, and meteorites. The properties fit the ultramafic rock
peridotite, which is made of the iron- and magnesium-rich silicate minerals. Peridotite is
rarely found at Earth’s surface. Scientists know that the mantle is extremely hot
because of the heat flowing outward from it and because of its physical properties. Heat
flows in two different ways within the Earth: conduction and convection. Conduction is
defined as the heat transfer that occurs through rapid collisions of atoms, which can
only happen if the material is solid. Heat flows from warmer to cooler places until all are
the same temperature. The mantle is hot mostly because of heat conducted from the
core. Convection is the process of a material that can move and flow may develop
convection currents. Convection in the mantle is the same as convection in a pot of
water on a stove. Convection currents within Earth’s mantle form as material near the
core heats up. As the core heats the bottom layer of mantle material, particles move
more rapidly, decreasing its density and causing it to rise. The rising material begins the
convection current. When the warm material reaches the surface, it spreads
horizontally. The material cools because it is no longer near the core. It eventually
becomes cool and dense enough to sink back down into the mantle. At the bottom of
the mantle, the material travels horizontally and is heated by the core. It reaches the
location where warm mantle material rises, and the mantle convection cell is complete.

Convection in the mantle is the same as convection in a pot of water on a stove.

Convection currents within Earth’s mantle form as material near the core heats up. As
the core heats the bottom layer of mantle material, particles move more rapidly,
decreasing its density and causing it to rise. The rising material begins the convection
current. When the warm material reaches the surface, it spreads horizontally. The
material cools because it is no longer near the core. It eventually becomes cool and
dense enough to sink back down into the mantle. At the bottom of the mantle, the
material travels horizontally and is heated by the core. It reaches the location where
warm mantle material rises, and the mantle convection cell is complete


At the planet’s center lies a dense metallic core. Scientists know that the core is
metal for a few reasons. The density of Earth’s surface layers is much less than the
overall density of the planet, as calculated from the planet’s rotation. If the surface
layers are less dense than average, then the interior must be denser than average.
Calculations indicate that the core is about 85 percent iron metal with nickel metal
making up much of the remaining 15 percent. Also, metallic meteorites are thought to
be representative of the core.If Earth’s core were not metal, the planet would not have a
magnetic field. Metals such as iron are magnetic, but rock, which makes up the mantle
and crust, is not. Scientists know that the outer core is liquid and the inner core is solid
because S-waves stop at the inner core. The strong magnetic field is caused by
convection in the liquid outer core. Convection currents in the outer core are due to heat
from the even hotter inner core. The heat that keeps the outer core from solidifying is
produced by the breakdown of radioactive elements in the inner core.
III. Wegener’s Evidences for Continental Drift

Theory of Continental Drift

The continental drift hypothesis was developed in the early part of the 20th
century, mostly by Alfred Wegener. Wegener said that continents move around on
Earth’s surface and that they were once joined together as a single supercontinent.
While Wegener was alive, scientists did not believe that the continents could move. Find
a map of the continents and cut each one out. Better yet, use a map where the edges of
the continents show the continental shelf. That’s the true size and shape of a continent
and many can be pieced together like a puzzle. The easiest link is between the eastern
Americas and western Africa and Europe, but the rest can fit together too.

Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents were once united into a single
supercontinent named Pangaea, meaning all earth in ancient Greek. He suggested that
Pangaea broke up long ago and that the continents then moved to their current
positions. He called his hypothesis continental drift.

Evidence for Continental Drift

Besides the way the continents fit together, Wegener and his supporters
collected a great deal of evidence for the continental drift hypothesis. For one, identical
rocks of the same type and age are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Wegener
said the rocks had formed side-by-side and that the land had since moved apart.
Mountain ranges with the same rock types, structures, and ages are now on opposite
sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Appalachians of the eastern United States and
Canada, for example, are just like mountain ranges in eastern Greenland, Ireland, Great
Britain, and Norway. Wegener concluded that they formed as a single mountain range
that was separated as the continents drifted. Ancient fossils of the same species of
extinct plants and animals are found in rocks of the same age but are on continents that
are now widely separated. Wegener proposed that the organisms had lived side by
side, but that the lands had moved apart after they were dead and fossilized. He
suggested that the organisms would not have been able to travel across the oceans.
For example, the fossils of the seed fern Glossopteris were too heavy to be carried so
far by wind. The reptile Mesosaurus could only swim in fresh water. was a swimming
reptile but could only swim in fresh water. Cynognathus and Lystrosaurus were land
reptiles and were unable to swim.Grooves and rock deposits left by ancient glaciers are
found today on different continents very close to the equator. This would indicate that
the glaciers either formed in the middle of the ocean and/or covered most of the Earth.
Today glaciers only form on land and nearer the poles. Wegener thought that the
glaciers were centered over the southern land mass close to the South Pole and the
continents moved to their present positions later on.Coral reefs and coal-forming
swamps are found in tropical and subtropical environments, but ancient coal seams and
coral reefs are found in locations where it is much too cold today. Wegener suggested
that these creatures were alive in warm climate zones and that the fossils and coal later
had drifted to new locations on the continents. Although Wegener’s evidence was
sound, most geologists at the time rejected his hypothesis of continental drift. Scientists
argued that there was no way to explain how solid continents could plow through solid
oceanic crust. Wegener’s idea was nearly forgotten until technological advances
presented even more evidence that the continents moved and gave scientists the tools
to develop a mechanism for Wegener’s drifting continents.

Magnetic Polarity on the Same Continent with Rocks of Different Ages

Puzzling new evidence came in the 1950s from studies on the Earth’s magnetic
history. Scientists used magnetometers, devices capable of measuring the magnetic
field intensity, to look at the magnetic properties of rocks in many locations. Geologists
noted important things about the magnetic polarity of different aged rocks on the same
continent. Magnetite crystals in fresh volcanic rocks point to the current magnetic north
pole no matter what continent or where on the continent the rocks are located. Older
rocks that are the same age and are located on the same continent point to the same
location, but that location is not the current north magnetic pole. Older rock that are of
different ages do not point to the same locations or to the current magnetic north pole.In
other words, although the magnetite crystals were pointing to the magnetic north pole,
the location of the pole seemed to wander. Scientists were amazed to find that the north
magnetic pole changed location through time. There are three possible explanations for
this: 1) The continents remained fixed and the north magnetic pole moved. 2) The north
magnetic pole stood still and the continents moved, or 3) both the continents and the
north pole moved.

Magnetic Polarity on Different Continents with Rocks of the Same Age

Geologists noted that for rocks of the same age but on different continents, the
little magnets pointed to different magnetic north poles. For example, 400-million-year-
old magnetite in Europe pointed to a different north magnetic pole than the same-aged
magnetite in North America. Around 250 million years ago, the north poles were also
different for the two continents. The scientists looked again at the three possible
explanations. Only one can be correct. If the continents had remained fixed while the
north magnetic pole moved, there must have been two separate north poles. Since
there is only one north pole today, the only reasonable explanation is that the north
magnetic pole has remained fixed but that the continents have moved. To test this,
geologists fitted the continents together as Wegener had done and behold, it worked.
There has only been one magnetic north pole and the continents have drifted. They
named the phenomenon of the magnetic pole that seemed to move but actually did not
apparent polar wander. This evidence for continental drift gave geologists renewed
interest in understanding how continents could move about on the planet’s surface.

Seafloor Spreading

Seafloor spreading is a geologic process where there is a gradual addition of

new oceanic crust in the ocean floor through a volcanic activity while moving the older
rocks away from the mid-oceanic ridge. The mid-ocean ridge is where the seafloor
spreading occurs, in which tectonic plates—large slabs of Earth’s lithosphere—split
apart from each other.
Seafloor spreading was proposed by an American geophysicist, Harry H. Hess in
1960. By the use of the sonar, Hess was able to map the ocean floor and discovered
the mid-Atlantic ridge (mid-ocean ridge). He also found out that the temperature near to
the mid-Atlantic ridge was warmer than the surface away from it. He believed that the
high temperature was due to the magma that leaked out from the ridge. The Continental
Drift Theory of Alfred Wegener in 1912 is supported by this hypothesis on the shift
position of the earth’s surface.
Evidence of Sea Floor Spreading
Harry Hess’s hypothesis about seafloor spreading had collected several pieces
of evidence to support the theory. This evidence was from the investigations of the
molten material, seafloor drilling, radiometric age dating and fossil ages, and the
magnetic stripes. This evidence however was also used to support the Theory of
Continental drift.

1. Molten material

Hess’s discovery on the warmer temperature near the mid-Atlantic ridge when he began
the ocean mapping, led to his evidence about the molten material underneath the
ocean. The condition on the mid-oceanic ridge was substantially different from other
surfaces away from the region because of the warmer temperature. He described that
the molten magma from the mantle arose due to the convection currents in the interior
of the earth.
The convection current was due to the radioactive energy from the earth’s core that
makes the materials in the lower mantle to become warm, less dense and rise. The flow
of the materials goes through the upper mantle and leaks through the plates of the
crust. This makes the temperature near the mid-oceanic ridge becomes warm and the
other surface to become cold because as the molten magma continues to push upward,
it moves the rocks away from the ridge.

2. Seafloor drill

The seafloor drilling system led to the evidence that supports the seafloor-spreading
hypothesis. The samples obtained from the seafloor drill reveals that the rocks away
from the mid-oceanic ridge were relatively older than the rocks near to it. The old rocks
were also denser and thicker compared to the thinner and less dense rocks in the mid-
oceanic ridge.
This means that the magma that leaks from the ridge pushes the old rocks away and as
they increasingly become distant, they more likely become older, denser, and
thicker. On the other hand, the newest, thinnest crust is located near the center of the
mid-ocean ridge, the actual site of seafloor spreading.

3. Radiometric age dating and fossil ages

By the use of radiometric age dating and studying fossil ages, it was also found out the
rocks of the sea floor age is younger than the continental rocks. It is believed that
continental rocks formed 3 billion years ago, however the sediments samples from the
ocean floor are found to be not exceeding 200 million years old. It is a clear evidence
that the formation of rocks in the sea floor is due to reabsorption of materials.

4. Magnetic stripes

In the 20th century, the magnetic survey was conducted in the Mid-ocean ridge in order
to investigate evidence of sea-floor spreading. By using the magnetometer, the
magnetic polarity will be shown through a timescale that contains the normal and a
reverse polarity. The minerals contained in the rocks are oriented opposite to the
magnetic field. The patterns of the magnetic field will then be compared to the rocks to
determine its approximate ages.
The investigation of the mid-ocean-ridge, using the magnetic stripes resulted in the
three discoveries. First, stripes of normal and reversed polarity were alternate across
the bottom of the ocean. Second, the alternate stripes of normal and reversed polarity
formed a mirror image to the other side of the ridge. The third is the abrupt ending of
stripes when it reached the edge of the continent or an ocean trench. It was concluded
that the sea floor is composed of different rocks according to ages and that they are
positioned equally in opposite directions. This records that there is a constant
movement and spreading of rocks on the ocean floor.
Scientists now have a fairly good understanding of how the plates move and how
such movements relate to earthquake activity. Most movement occurs along narrow
zones between plates where the results of plate-tectonic forces are most evident.
There are three types of plate boundaries:

 Divergent boundaries -- where new crust is generated as the plates pull away
from each other.
 Convergent boundaries -- where crust is destroyed as one plate dives under
 Transform boundaries -- where crust is neither produced nor destroyed as the
plates slide horizontally past each other.

Divergent boundaries

Divergent boundaries occur along spreading centers where plates are moving apart and
new crust is created by magma pushing up from the mantle. Picture two giant conveyor
belts, facing each other but slowly moving in opposite directions as they transport newly
formed oceanic crust away from the ridge crest.

Convergent boundaries

The size of the Earth has not changed significantly during the past 600 million years,
and very likely not since shortly after its formation 4.6 billion years ago. The Earth's
unchanging size implies that the crust must be destroyed at about the same rate as it is
being created, as Harry Hess surmised. Such destruction (recycling) of crust takes
place along convergent boundaries where plates are moving toward each other, and
sometimes one plate sinks (is subducted) under another. The location where sinking of
a plate occurs is called a subduction zone.
The type of convergence -- called by some a very slow "collision" -- that takes place
between plates depends on the kind of lithosphere involved. Convergence can occur
between an oceanic and a largely continental plate, or between two largely oceanic
plates, or between two largely continental plates.

Oceanic-continental convergence Continental-continental convergence

Transform boundaries

The zone between two plates sliding horizontally past one another is called
a transform-fault boundary, or simply a transform boundary. The concept of transform
faults originated with Canadian geophysicist J. Tuzo Wilson, who proposed that these
large faults or fracture zones connect two spreading centers (divergent plate
boundaries) or, less commonly, trenches (convergent plate boundaries). Most transform
faults are found on the ocean floor. They commonly offset the active spreading ridges,
producing zig-zag plate margins, and are generally defined by shallow earthquakes
VI. Properties, Structures and Classification of
Minerals are solid substances that are present in nature and can be made of one
element or more elements combined together (chemical compounds). Gold, Silver and
carbon are elements that form minerals on their own. They are called native elements

The Physical properties of minerals are used by Mineralogists to help

determine the identity of a specimen. Some of the tests can be performed easily in the
field, while others require laboratory equipment. For the beginning student of geology,
there are a number of simple tests that can be used with a good degree of accuracy.
The list of tests is in a suggested order, progressing from simple experimentation and
observation to more complicated either in procedure or concept.

Properties and Structures of Minerals

Cleavage & Fracture

Minerals tend to break along lines or smooth surfaces when hit sharply. Different
minerals break in different ways showing different types of cleavage.

Cleavage is defined using two sets of criteria. The first set of criteria describes how
easily the cleavage is obtained. Cleavage is considered perfect if it is easily obtained
and the cleavage planes are easily distinguished. It is considered good if the cleavage
is produced with some difficulty but has obvious cleavage planes. Finally it is
considered imperfect if cleavage is obtained with difficulty and some of the planes are
difficult to distinguish.

The second set of criteria is the direction of the cleavage surfaces. The names
correspond to the shape formed by the cleavage surfaces: Cubic, rhombohedral,
octahedral, dodecahedral, basal or prismatic. These criteria are defined specifically by
the angles of the cleavage lines as indicated in the chart below:
Cleavage Type Angles

Fracture describes the quality of the cleavage surface. Most minerals display either
uneven or grainy fracture, conchoidal (curved, shell-like lines) fracture, or hackly (rough,
jagged) fracture.

Crystalline Structure

Mineral crystals occur in various shapes and sizes. The

particular shape is determined by the arrangement of
the atoms, molecules or ions that make up the crystal
and how they are joined. This is called the crystal
lattice. There are degrees of crystalline structure, in
which the fibers of the crystal become increasingly
difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye or the
use of a hand lens. Microcrystalline and
cryptocrystalline structures can only be viewed using
high magnification. If there is no crystalline structure, it
is called amorphous. However, there are very few
amorphous crystals and these are only observed under
extremely high magnification.

Transparency or Diaphaneity

Diaphaneity is a mineral’s degree of transparency or

ability to allow light to pass through it. The degree of
transparency may also depend on the thickness of the


Tenacity is the characteristic that describes how the particles of a mineral hold together
or resist separation. The chart below gives the list of terms used to describe tenacity
and a description of each term.

Magnetism is the characteristic that allows a mineral to attract or repel other magnetic
materials. It can be difficult to determine the differences between the various types of
magnetism, but it is worth knowing that there are distinctions made.


Luster is the property of minerals that indicates how

much the surface of a mineral reflects light. The luster
of a mineral is affected by the brilliance of the light
used to observe the mineral surface. Luster of a
mineral is described in the following terms:


The mineral is opaque and reflects light as a metal would.Submettalic The mineral is
opaque and dull. The mineral is dark colored.Nonmettalic The mineral does not reflect
light like a metal.

Nonmetallic minerals are described using modifiers that refer to commonly known

Wax. The mineral looks like paraffin or wax. Vitreous The mineral looks like broken
glass. Pearly The mineral appears iridescent, like a pearl Silky The mineral looks
fibrous, like silk. Greasy. The mineral looks like oil on water. Resinous The mineral
looks like hardened tree sap (resin).Adamantine The mineral looks brilliant, like a


Most minerals have no odor unless they are acted upon in one of the following ways:
moistened, heated, breathed upon, or rubbed.


Only soluble minerals have a taste, but it is very important that minerals not be placed in
the mouth or on the tongue. You should not test for this property in the classroom.

Specific Gravity

Specific Gravity of a mineral is a comparison or ratio of the weight of the mineral to the
weight of an equal amount of water. The weight of the equal amount of water is found
by finding the difference between the weight of the mineral in air and the weight of the
mineral in water.
Mineral Classification

Mineral classification can be an organizational nightmare. With over 3,000

different types of minerals a system is needed to make sense of them all. Mineralogists
group minerals into families based on their chemical composition. There are different
grouping systems in use but the Dana system is the most commonly used. This system
was devised by Professor James Dana of Yale University way back in 1848. The Dana
system divides minerals into eight basic classes. The classes are: native elements,
silicates, oxides, sulfides, sulfates, halides, carbonates, phosphates, and mineraloids.
The chart below has pictures and descriptions of each class with a link to more
examples and details.

Native Elements
This is the category of the pure. Most minerals are made up
of combinations of chemical elements. In this group a single
element like the copper shown here are found in a naturally
pure form.

This is the largest group of minerals. Silicates are made
from metals combined with silicon and oxygen. There are
more silicates than all other minerals put together. The
mica on the left is a member of this group

Oxides form from the combination of a metal with oxygen.
This group ranges from dull ores like bauxite to gems like
rubies and sapphires. The magnetite pictured to the left is a
member of this group
Sulfides are made of compounds of sulfur usually with a
metal. They tend to be heavy and brittle. Several important
metal ores come from this group like the pyrite pictured here
that is an iron ore.

Sulfates are made of compounds of sulfur combined with
metals and oxygen. It is a large group of minerals that tend to
be soft, and translucent like this barite

Halides form from halogen elements like chlorine, bromine,
fluorine, and iodine combined with metallic elements. They
are very soft and easily dissolved in water. Halite is a well
known example of this group. Its chemical formula is NaCl or
sodium chloride commonly known as table salt.

Carbonates are a group of minerals made of carbon, oxygen,
and a metallic element. This calcite known as calcium
carbonate is the most common of the carbonate group.

Phosphates are not as common in occurrence as the other
families of minerals. They are often formed when other
minerals are broken down by weathering. They are often
brightly colored

Mineraloid is the term used for those substances that do not
fit neatly into one of these eight classes. Opal, jet, amber,
and mother of pearl all belong to the mineraloid.
VII. Magma And Igneous Rocks

What Is Magma?

Magma is high-temperature fluid composed of molten and semi-molten rocks that exists
below the surface of the earth.

Magma is a mixture of molten and semi-

molten rocks, crystallized minerals, solids, and
dissolved gases. Magma is found below the
surface of the earth. Researchers also believe
that magma exists on other terrestrial planets in
and beyond our solar system. When magma is
ejected to the surface through volcanicity it is
known as lava. When it cools into solid, it is
known as igneous rocks. The temperature of
magma is between 1,292° and 2,372°

How Is Magma Formed?

The planet is divided into three layers: the core, the mantle, and the crust. Magma is
formed in the lower part of the crust but above the mantle. The difference in structural
formation, pressure, and temperature in the crust and the mantle allows magma to form
in several ways.

Decompression Melting

The formation of magma through decompression melting involves the movement of the
earth's mantle. The movement of the mantle creates lower pressure points that
experience low melting point. The rocks in this section melt to form magma. This
process of magma formation is common in divergent boundaries where the separation
of tectonic plates occurs.

Heat Transfer

Magma is also created when hot liquid rock is forced from the highly pressurized core to
the crust. The liquid rocks lose heat to the surrounding rocks which also melt in the
process. The formation of magma by heat transfer also occurs at convergent
boundaries when tectonic plates crash into each other. When the denser plate subducts
below the less dense plate, hot rocks from below rises into the cooler areas above the
subducting plate resulting in the formation of magma.
Flux Melting

The formation of magma by flux melting occurs when carbon dioxide and water are
added to rocks.These two compounds significantly reduce the melting point of rocks
resulting in the formation of magma in places that it would have otherwise existed as
igneous rocks.

Types of Magma

Magma contains a mixture of gases and simple elements. Silicon and oxygen are the
most abundant; geologist, therefore, define magma in terms of the silica and gas
content, viscosity, and temperature.

Mafic Magma

This type of magma has low silica content but higher contents of magnesium and iron. It
also has a low content of gas and viscosity. Its temperature is relatively high at between
1,832° and 3,632° Fahrenheit. Mafic magma does not erupt explosively but it instead
flows out of volcanoes and moves quickly on the surface. It turns into basalt when it

Intermediate Magma

This type of magma has a high gas and silica content. Its temperature is between 1472°
to 1832° Fahrenheit resulting in a higher viscosity than mafic magma. Because of the
high viscosity, intermediate magma builds up in magma chambers below the surface
before exploding violently as lava.

Felsic Magma

This type of magma has the highest silica and gas content. It also has the highest
viscosity because of the low temperatures of between 1,202° and 1,472° Fahrenheit.
Chambers of felsic magma trap gas bubbles that result in massive explosions that blow
peaks off mountains.
VIII. Igneous Rocks
What are Igneous Rocks?

Igneous rocks are formed from the solidification of molten rock material. There
are two basic types.

Intrusive igneous rocks crystallize below Earth's surface, and the slow cooling that
occurs there allows large crystals to form. Examples of intrusive igneous rocks
are diorite, gabbro, granite, pegmatite, and peridotite.

Extrusive igneous rocks erupt onto the surface, where they cool quickly to form small
crystals. Some cool so quickly that they form an amorphous glass. These rocks
include andesite, basalt, dacite, obsidian, pumice, rhyolite, scoria, and tuff.

Pictures and brief descriptions of some common igneous rock types

Andesite is a fine-grained, extrusive igneous rock composed

mainly of plagioclase with other minerals such
as hornblende, pyroxene, and biotite. The specimen shown
is about two inches (five centimeters) across

Basalt is a fine-grained, dark-colored extrusive igneous rock

composed mainly of plagioclase and pyroxene. The
specimen shown is about two inches (five centimeters)

Dacite is a fine-grained, extrusive igneous rock that is

usually light in color. It has a composition that is intermediate
between rhyolite and andesite. The specimen shown is
about four inches (ten centimeters) across.

Diorite is a coarse-grained, intrusive igneous rock that

contains a mixture of feldspar, pyroxene, hornblende, and
sometimes quartz. The specimen shown above is about two
inches (five centimeters) acro
Gabbro is a coarse-grained, dark-colored, intrusive igneous
rock that contains feldspar, pyroxene, and
sometimes olivine. The specimen shown above is about two
inches (five centimeters) across.

Granite is a coarse-grained, light-colored, intrusive igneous

rock that contains mainly quartz, feldspar, and mica
minerals. The specimen above is about two inches (five
centimeters) across.

Obsidian is a dark-colored volcanic glass that forms from

the very rapid cooling of molten rock material. It cools so
rapidly that crystals do not form. The specimen shown
above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Pegmatite is a light-colored, extremely coarse-grained

intrusive igneous rock. It forms near the margins of a magma
chamber during the final phases of magma chamber
crystallization. It often contains rare minerals that are not
found in other parts of the magma chamber. The specimen
shown above is about two inches (five centimeters) across.

Peridotite is a coarse-grained intrusive igneous rock that is

composed almost entirely of olivine. It may contain small
amounts of amphibole, feldspar, quartz, or pyroxene. The
specimen shown above is about two inches (five
centimeters) across
Pumice is a light-colored vesicular igneous rock. It forms
through very rapid solidification of a melt. The vesicular
texture is a result of gas trapped in the melt at the time
ofsolidification. The specimen shown above is about two
inches (five centimeters) across

Rhyolite is a light-colored, fine-grained, extrusive igneous

rock that typically contains quartz and feldspar minerals.
The specimen shown above is about two inches (five
centimeters) across.

Fire Opal is sometimes found filling cavities in rhyolite.

Long after the rhyolite has cooled, silica-rich ground water
moves through the rock, sometimes depositing gems
like opal, red beryl, topaz, jasper, or agate in the cavities of
the rock. This is one of many excellent geological
photographs generously shared through a Creative
Commons License by Didier Descouens.

Scoria is a dark-colored, vesicular, extrusive igneous rock.

The vesicles are a result of trapped gas within the melt at
the time of solidification. It often forms as a frothy crust on
the top of a lava flow or as material ejected from a volcanic
vent and solidifying while airborne. The specimen shown
above is about two inches (five centimeters) across

Welded Tuff is a rock that is composed of materials that

were ejected from a volcano, fell to Earth, and then lithified
into a rock. It is usually composed mainly of volcanic
ash and sometimes contains larger size particles such as
cinders. The specimen shown above is about two inches
(five centimeters) across

Weathering is the mechanical breakdown of rock and the associated chemical

alteration of minerals that occurs at the Earth’s surface.

Weathering is part of a process of breakdown of rock and transport of the resulting

materials. This overall process is often referred to as erosion. Technically, erosion is the
removal of the weathered material and is only part of the overall process. The process
is composed of 4 stages

Weathering -> Erosion -> Transport -> Deposition

Erosion, transport and deposition are accomplished by agents such as wind, ice and
water. We will examine these in detail in future chapters.

Weathering consists of two aspects, mechanical weathering and chemical


1. Mechanical weathering is the physical fragmentation of rock

2. Chemical weathering is the chemical alteration of mineral

Mechanical and chemical weathering not only occur simultaneously, they assist
each other in the overall weathering process.

 Mechanical weathering increases the exposed surface area of rock on which

chemical weathering can occur.

 Chemical weathering effects different minerals at different rates. This weakens

the fabric of the rock facilitating mechanical weathering.

Mechanical Weathering Processes

 Frost wedging – in the daily freeze-thaw cycle at high altitudes, water seeps into
cracks, freezes and expands extending the crack, then melts and seeps deep
into the newly lengthened crack as the cycle repeats.

 Thermal expansion – even in climates that do not experience daily freeze-thaw

cycles, daily temperature cycles expand and contract the rocks causing

 Unloading – many rocks, for example plutonic igneous rocks, form deep in the
crust. When they are exposed as the surface by the removal of overlying rocks
by erosion, the pressure on the rock is reduced causing it to expand and crack.
Rocks like granite often crack in concentric layers (like an onion) resulting in a
process known as exfoliation. This causes granite domes such as Half Dome in
Yosemite, Enchanted Rock in Texas, and Stone Mountain in Georgia.

 Organic activity – plant roots, burrowing animals, etc.

 Abrasion – corners are fragile things on rocks like on furniture. As rocks are
transported, they abrade against one another, removing corners first, then edges.
Thus, as transport time and distance increases, rock fragments become rounded
(not necessarily spherical) as corners and edges are removed.

Chemical Weathering Processes

 Solution (or dissolution) – This is the dissolving of soluble minerals in water or

weak acids. Soluble minerals are generally ionically bonded minerals such as
calcite and halite. Silicate minerals are not subject to solutioning. Solutioning
requires considerable amounts of water to remove much material. It is thus most
effective in wet climates. Solutioning is very effective on carbonate rocks.
 Oxidation - This reaction effects iron bearing minerals, forming iron oxides. Iron
oxides are strong coloring agents and give many rocks their reddish or tan

 Hydrolysis - this reaction is the most important weathering reaction because it

effects the silicate minerals. Silicates with ionically bonded metal ions (everything
except quartz) are weathered by this reaction. In hydrolysis, the H+ ion from
water or weak acid works its way into the mineral structure due to its very small
size (it is a nucleus with no electrons). Because the H+ ion is so reactive, it
dislodges other metal ions and causes the chemical breakdown of the crystal
structure. The most important byproduct of hydrolysis are clay minerals.
Because silicates are the most abundant minerals in the crust, clay minerals are
the most abundant byproduct of weathering.

Byproducts of Weathering

The byproducts of weathering are, in general:

1. detritus - solid fragments

2. new minerals - clays, iron oxides, etc.

3. ions in solution - carried off by streams into lakes or oceans


Soil is a complex mixture of detritus, loose rock fragments called regolith, water, air and
organic material.

Soil Horizons

Clays and positive ions are usually leached from the A horizon (called the zone of
leaching) into the B horizon (called the zone of accumulation).
Soil-Forming Factors

 Climate- rainfall is most important, temperature range is also important

 Parent rock - controls the minerals available for soil

 Slope angle and aspect - steeper slopes generally mean thinner soils, aspect
controls plant growth and soil moisture levels.

 Time- if an area is stipped by periodic windstorms or flooding, thick soil will not

 Organic growth - type and density of plant growth

Major Soil Types

1. Pedalfers

Pedalfers are soils which form in regions of moderately high rainfall and cool to
moderate temperatures. These soils are rich in Al and Fe, hence the name PedAlFer.
These soils are generally rich brown soils and underlie much of the eastern and
midwestern US. The main process in forming this soil is moderate leaching. Most
soluble ions (Ca, Na) are removed. Aluminum is present in clays that predominate in the
B layer (subsoil) along with iron oxides.

2. Pedocals

Pedocals form in hot dry climate. Here, little leaching takes place. Soluble ions
are moved from the A layer but accumulate in the B layer rather than being removed
from the soil. The B layer is often rich in swelling clays (smectite clays) which can be
problematic for roadways and home foundations (like here in SA!). Calcite accumulates
in the B layer. If enough calcite accumulates in the B layer, hard cement like layers or
clumps called caliche develop. Pedocals are usually thin soils (due to low rainfall) and
are not ideal for cultivation.

3. Laterites

Laterites are thick red soils that develop in areas of high rainfall and temperature.
Extensive leaching has removed all of the soluble ions as well as some of the clays,
leaving mostly aluminum oxides and iron oxides. Laterites are nutrient poor soils. The
fact that they underly many tropical rainforests attests to the fact that the nutrient cycles
in tropical rainforests largely bypass the soil. Nutrients are recycled rapidly from
decaying organic material back into living plants.

Symbiotic plants often grow directly on other plants rather than on the soil. Cutting, or
worse burning, rainforests not only removes an important source of oxygen, and sink for
carbon dioxide, but leaves behind land that is unsuitable for most forms of agriculture.
Laterites dry to brick hard consistency and are used as building material. Aluminum rich
laterites are known as bauxite, and are the primary ore for aluminum. Since extracting
aluminum from bauxite is relatively expensive, recycling of aluminum has proven cost
effective and is therefore one of the most successful examples of recycling

Sedimentary rock, rock formed at or near the Earth’s surface by the

accumulation and lithification of sediment (detrital rock) or by the precipitation
from solution at normal surface temperatures (chemical rock). Sedimentary rocks are
the most common rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface but are only a
minor constituent of the entire crust, which is dominated by igneous and metamorphic

Sedimentary rocks are produced by the weathering of preexisting rocks and the
subsequent transportation and deposition of the weathering products. Weathering refers
to the various processes of physical disintegration and chemical decomposition that
occur when rocks at the Earth’s surface are exposed to the atmosphere (mainly in the
form of rainfall) and the hydrosphere. These processes produce soil, unconsolidated
rock detritus, and components dissolved in groundwater and runoff. Erosion is the
process by which weathering products are transported away from the weathering site,
either as solid material or as dissolved components, eventually to be deposited
as sediment. Any unconsolidated deposit of solid weathered
material constitutes sediment. It can form as the result of deposition of grains from
moving bodies of water or wind, from the melting of glacial ice, and from the downslope
slumping (sliding) of rock and soil masses in response to gravity, as well as by
precipitation of the dissolved products of weathering under the conditions of low
temperature and pressure that prevail at or near the surface of the Earth.

Three major categories of sedimentary rocks are recognized: (1) terrigenous clastic
sedimentary rocks, (2) carbonates (limestone and dolomite), and (3) noncarbonate
chemical sedimentary rocks.

Terrigenous clastic rocks

A prominent physical feature of terrigenous clastic rocks is texture—that is, the

size, shape, and arrangement of the constituent grains. These rocks have a fragmental
texture: discrete grains are in tangential contact with one another. Terrigenous clastic
sedimentary rocks are further subdivided on the basis of the mean grain diameter that
characterizes most fragments, using the generally accepted size limits. Granules,
pebbles, cobbles, boulders, and blocks constitute the coarse clastic sediments; sand-
size (arenaceous) clasts are considered medium clastic sediments; and fine clastics
sediments consists of silt- and clay-size materials.

The simplest way of classifying coarse clastic sedimentary rocks is to name the
rock and include a brief description of its particular
characteristics. Conglomerates and breccias differ from one another only in clast
angularity. The former consist of abraded, somewhat rounded, coarse clasts, whereas
the latter contain angular, coarse clasts. Thus, a pebble conglomerate is a coarse
clastic sedimentary rock whose discrete particles are rounded and range from 4 to 64
millimetres (0.2 to 2.5 inches) in diameter. A more precise description reveals the rock
types of the mineral fragments that compose the conglomerate—for example, a granite-
gneiss pebble conglomerate.

Sandstones have long intrigued geologists because they are well exposed, are
abundant in the geologic record, and provide an enormous amount of information about
depositional setting and origin. Many classification schemes have been developed for
sandstones, only the most popular of which are reviewed below. Most schemes
emphasize the relative abundance of sand-size quartz, feldspar, and rock fragment
components, as well as the nature of the material housed between this sand-size
“framework” fraction

Carbonate rocks: limestones and dolomites

Limestones and dolostones (dolomites) make up the bulk of the nonterrigenous

sedimentary rocks. Limestones are for the most part primary carbonate rocks. They
consist of 50 percent or more calcite and aragonite (both CaCO3). Dolomites are mainly
produced by the secondary alteration or replacement of limestones; i.e.,
the mineral dolomite [CaMg(CO3)2] replaces the calcite and aragonite minerals in
limestones during diagenesis. A number of different classification schemes have been
proposed for carbonates, and the many categories of limestones and dolomites in the
geologic record represent a large variety of depositional settings (see below Limestones
and dolomites).

Noncarbonate chemical sedimentary rocks

Noncarbonate chemical sedimentary rocks differ in many respects from

carbonate sedimentary rocks and terrigenous clastic sedimentary rocks, and there is no
single classification that has been universally accepted. This is a reflection of the great
variation in mineral composition, texture, and other properties of these rock types. Such
rocks as ironstones and banded iron formations (limonite, goethite, hematite, siderite,
and chamosite), phosphorites, evaporites (rock salt, gypsum, and other salts), siliceous
rocks (cherts), and organic-rich (carbonaceous) deposits of oil, natural gas, and coal in
sedimentary rocks occur in much less abundance than carbonates and siliciclastic
sedimentary rocks, although they may form thick and widespread deposits.

Sedimentary Structures

Sedimentary structures are the larger, generally three-dimensional physical

features of sedimentary rocks; they are best seen in outcrop or in large hand specimens
rather than through a microscope. Sedimentary structures include features like bedding,
ripple marks, fossil tracks and trails, and mud cracks. They conventionally are
subdivided into categories based on mode of genesis. Structures that are produced at
the same time as the sedimentary rock in which they occur are called primary
sedimentary structures. Examples include bedding or stratification, graded bedding, and
cross-bedding. Sedimentary structures that are produced shortly after deposition and as
a result of compaction and desiccation are called penecontemporaneous sedimentary
structures. Examples include mud cracks and load casts. Still other sedimentary
structures like concretions, vein fillings, and stylolites form well after deposition and
penecontemporaneous modification; these are known as secondary structures. Finally,
others like stromatolites and organic burrows and tracks, though they may in fact be
primary, penecontemporaneous, or even secondary, may be grouped as a fourth
category—organic sedimentary structures.

Considerable attention is paid to the sedimentary structures exhibited by any

sedimentary rock. Primary sedimentary structures are particularly useful because their
abundance and size suggest the probable transporting and depositional agents. Certain
varieties of primary sedimentary structures like cross-bedding and ripple marks display
orientations that are consistently related to the direction of current movement. Such
structures are referred to as directional sedimentary structures because they can be
used to infer the ancient paleocurrent pattern or dispersal system by which a
sedimentary rock unit was deposited. Other sedimentary structures are stratigraphic
“top and bottom” indicators. For example, the progressive upward decrease in clastic
grain size diameters, known as graded bedding, would allow a geologist to determine
which way is stratigraphically “up”—i.e., toward the younger beds in a dipping
sedimentary bed. The suite (repeated sequence) of sedimentary structures in any single
stratigraphic unit is another attribute by which that unit may be
physically differentiated from others in the region.

Metamorphic Rocks are any rock (igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic) can

become a metamorphic rock. If rocks are buried deep in the Earth at high temperatures
and pressures, they form new minerals and textures all without melting. If melting
occurs, magma is formed, starting the rock cycle all over again. Geologists can learn
the following about the Earth from the study of metamorphic rocks: the temperature and
pressure conditions (metamorphic environment) in which the rock was formed the
composition of the parent, or original unmetamorphosed, rock aids in the interpretation
of the platetectonic setting in which the metamorphism took place aids in the
reconstruction of the geological history of an area. The term "metamorphic" means "to
change form." Changes in the temperature and pressure conditions cause the minerals
in the rock to become unstable so they either reorient themselves into layers (foliation)
or recrystallize into larger crystals, all without undergoing melting.

The Rock Cycle Rocks are the most common material on Earth. They are
naturally occurring aggregates of one or more minerals. Rock divisions occur in three
major families based on how they formed: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
Each group contains a collection of rock types that differ from each other on the basis of
the size, shape, and arrangement of mineral grains.

The rock cycle is an illustration that is used to explain how the three rock types
are related to each other and how Earth processes change a rock from one type to
another through geologic time. Plate tectonic movement is responsible for the recycling
of rock materials and is the driving force of the rock cycle.

Classification of Metamorphic Rocks There are two main types of metamorphic

rocks: those that are foliated because they have formed in an environment with either
directed pressure or shear stress, and those that are not foliated because they have
formed in an environment without directed pressure or relatively near the surface with
very little pressure at all. Some types of metamorphic rocks, such as quartzite and
marble, which also form in directed-pressure situations, do not necessarily exhibit
foliation because their minerals (quartz and calcite respectively) do not tend to show

The various types of foliated metamorphic rocks, listed in order of the grade or
intensity of metamorphism and the type of foliation are slate, phyllite, schist, and gneiss.
As already noted, slate is formed from the low-grade metamorphism of shale, and has
microscopic clay and mica crystals that have grown perpendicular to the stress. Slate
tends to break into flat sheets. Phyllite is similar to slate, but has typically been heated
to a higher temperature; the micas have grown larger and are visible as a sheen on the
surface. Where slate is typically planar, phyllite can form in wavy layers. In the formation
of schist, the temperature has been hot enough so that individual mica crystals are
visible, and other mineral crystals, such as quartz, feldspar, or garnet may also be
visible. In gneiss, the minerals may have separated into bands of different colours. In
the example shown in Figure 7.8d, the dark bands are largely amphibole while the light-
coloured bands are feldspar and quartz. Most gneiss has little or no mica because it
forms at temperatures higher than those under which micas are stable. Unlike slate and
phyllite, which typically only form from mudrock, schist, and especially gneiss, can form
from a variety of parent rocks, including mudrock, sandstone, conglomerate, and a
range of both volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks.
Schist and gneiss can be named on the basis of important minerals that are
present. For example a schist derived from basalt is typically rich in the mineral chlorite,
so we call it chlorite schist. One derived from shale may be a muscovite-biotite schist, or
just a mica schist, or if there are garnets present it might be mica-garnet schist.
Similarly, a gneiss that originated as basalt and is dominated by amphibole, is an
amphibole gneiss or, more accurately, an amphibolite.

Volcanic eruptions happen when lava and gas are discharged from a volcanic
vent. The most common consequences of this are population movements as large
numbers of people are often forced to flee the moving lava flow. Volcanic eruptions
often cause temporary food shortages and volcanic ash landslides called Lahar. The
most dangerous type of volcanic eruption is referred to as a 'glowing avalanche'. This is
when freshly erupted magma forms hot pyroclastic flow which have temperatures of up
to 1,200 degrees. The pyroclastic flow is formed from rock fragments following a
volcanic explosion , the flow surges down the flanks of the volcano at speeds of up to
several hundred kilometres per hour, to distances often up to 10km and occasionally as
far as 40 km from the original disaster site.

The International Federation response adjusts to meet the needs of each specific
circumstance. As population movement is often a consequence, the provision of safe
areas, shelter, water, food and health supplies are primordial. In general response
prioritizes temporary shelter materials; safe water and basic sanitation; food supplies;
and the short term provision of basic health services and supplies.

Faults are planar breaks in the crust. Most faults are sloping (vertical faults are rare).
The type of fault depends on the relative motion of blocks.

Faults form when tectonic forces add stress (push, pull, or shear) to rock.

When a fault moves, it is quickly slowed by friction due to asperities (bumps)

along the fault. Eventually, strain will build up again and cause another episode of
failure and motion.

Earthquake Generation Displacement: amount of slip on a fault. If the fault

breaks the surface, it leaves a fault trace, either as an offset (if lateral movement or
strike slip), or a fault scarp (if vertical movement or dip slip). Active and inactive faults. –
Blind faults don’t break the surface.

Stress builds up between faulting events. Stress relieved by forming new faults or
movement along old faults. Stress drops and elastic strain decreases - the rock
rebounds so that the rock near the fault are no longer bent. Elastic Rebound Theory (or
Stick-Slip behavior) Whole fault does not move at once - the slip area starts at a certain
point and migrates. Foreshocks: development of smaller cracks that eventually link up.
Aftershocks: occur for days to weeks because movement that caused the - main event-
set up secondary stresses that may be large enough to reactivate the main fault. Both
are generally of lower energy

Once we know the distance to an earthquake from three seismic stations, we can
determine the location of the earthquake. Draw a circle around each station with a
radius equal to its distance from the earthquake. The earthquake occurred at the point
where all three circles intersect.

By looking at the seismograms from different recording stations we can find out
the epicenter of an earthquake. The signals arrive first at the closest station and last at
the one furthest away. The time difference between the P- and S-waves tells us the
distance the earthquake is from the seismograph. By measuring the time difference at
three stations we can work out where the epicenter is. We need measurements from at
least three stations to find the epicenter. The intersection of the circles, whose radius is
equivalent to the distance from the earthquake, gives the epicentre.

Knowing how fast seismic waves travel through the earth, seismologists can
calculate the time when the earthquake occurred and its location by comparing the
times when shaking was recorded at several stations. This process used to take almost
an hour when done manually. Now computers determine this information automatically
within minutes. Within a few more hours the shape and location of the entire portion of
the fault that moved can be calculated.

Ecosystem, the complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their
interrelationships in a particular unit of space.

An ecosystem can be categorized into its abiotic constituents, including minerals,

climate, soil, water, sunlight, and all other nonliving elements, and its biotic constituents,
consisting of all its living members. Linking these constituents together are two major
forces: the flow of energy through the ecosystem, and the cycling of nutrients within the

The fundamental source of energy in almost all ecosystems is radiant energy

from the Sun. The energy of sunlight is used by the ecosystem’s autotrophic, or self-
sustaining, organisms. Consisting largely of green vegetation, these organisms are
capable of photosynthesis—i.e., they can use the energy of sunlight to convert carbon
dioxide and water into simple, energy-rich carbohydrates. The autotrophs use the
energy stored within the simple carbohydrates to produce the more complex organic
compounds, such as proteins, lipids, and starches, that maintain the organisms’ life
processes. The autotrophic segment of the ecosystem is commonly referred to as the
producer level
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.[5]
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

In every ecosystem, organisms are linked through feeding relationships. There

are a great many feeding relationships in any ecosystem, but energy always flows from
primary producers to various consumers. These feeding relationships are represented
by food chains and food web

A food chain is a sequence in which organisms transfer energy by eating and

being eaten. Here is an example of a food chain

A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web starting from producer
organisms (such as grass or trees which use radiation from the Sun to make their food)
and ending at apex predator species (like grizzly bears or killer whales), detritivores (like
earthworms or woodlice), or decomposer species (such as fungi or bacteria). A food
chain also shows how the organisms are related with each other by the food they eat.
Each level of a food chain represents a different trophic level. A food chain differs from
a food web, because the complex network of different animals' feeding relations are
aggregated and the chain only follows a direct, linear pathway of one animal at a time.
Natural interconnections between food chains make it a food web. A common metric
used to the quantify food web trophic structure is food chain length. In its simplest form,
the length of a chain is the number of links between a trophic consumer and the base of
the web and the mean chain length of an entire web is the arithmetic average of the
lengths of all chains in a food web.[1][2] Many food webs have a keystone species
(Such as Sharks) . A keystone species is a species that has a large impact on the
surrounding environment and can directly affect the food chain. If this keystone species
dies off it can set the entire food chain off balance. Keystone species keep herbivores
from depleting all of the foliage in their environment and preventing a mass extinction
A food web (or food cycle) is the natural interconnection of food chains and a
graphical representation (usually an image) of what-eats-what in an ecological
community. Another name for food web is consumer-resource system. Ecologists can
broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the
autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs. To maintain their bodies, grow, develop, and to
reproduce, autotrophs produce organic matter from inorganic substances, including
both minerals and gases such as carbon dioxide. These chemical reactions require
energy, which mainly comes from the Sun and largely by photosynthesis, although a
very small amount comes from bioelectrogenesis in wetlands, and mineral electron
donors in hydrothermal vents and hot springs. A gradient exists between trophic levels
running from complete autotrophs that obtain their sole source of carbon from the
atmosphere, to mixotrophs (such as carnivorous plants) that are autotrophic organisms
that partially obtain organic matter from sources other than the atmosphere, and
complete heterotrophs that must feed to obtain organic matter. The linkages in a food
web illustrate the feeding pathways, such as where heterotrophs obtain organic matter
by feeding on autotrophs and other heterotrophs. The food web is a simplified
illustration of the various methods of feeding that links an ecosystem into a unified
system of exchange. There are different kinds of feeding relations that can be roughly
divided into herbivory, carnivory, scavenging and parasitism. Some of the organic
matter eaten by heterotrophs, such as sugars, provides energy. Autotrophs and
heterotrophs come in all sizes, from microscopic to many tonnes - from cyanobacteria to
giant redwoods, and from viruses and bdellovibrio to blue whales.
Food webs are limited representations of real ecosystems as they necessarily
aggregate many species into trophic species, which are functional groups of species
that have the same predators and prey in a food web.

An energy pyramid is a graphical model of energy flow in a community. The

different levels represent different groups of organisms that might compose a food
chain. From the bottom-up, they are as follows: Producers — bring energy from
nonliving sources into the community Primary consumers — eat the producers, which
makes them herbivores in most communities Secondary consumers — eat the primary
consumers, which makes them carnivores Tertiary consumers — eat the secondary
consumers In some food chains, there is a fourth consumer level, and rarely, a fifth.
Have you ever wondered why there are limits to the lengths of food chains? Why are
energy pyramids shaped the way they are? An energy pyramid’s shape shows how the
amount of useful energy that enters each level — chemical energy in the form of food —
decreases as it is used by the organisms in that level. How does this happen? Recall
that cell respiration “burns” food to release its energy, and in doing so, produces ATP,
which carries some of the energy as well as heat, which carries the rest. ATP is then
used to fuel countless life processes. The consequence is that even though a lot of
energy may be taken in at any level, the energy that ends up being stored there – which
is the food available to the next level — is far less. Scientists have calculated that an
average of 90% of the energy entering each step of the food chain is “lost” this way
(although the total amount in the system remains unchanged). The consumers at the
top of a food pyramid, as a group, thus have much less energy available to support
them than those closer to the bottom. That’s why their numbers are relatively few in
most communities. Eventually, the amount of useful energy left can’t support another
level. That’s why energy flow is depicted in the shape of a pyramid. The energy that
enters a community is ultimately lost to the living world as heat.