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Interaction between Earth's spheres

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									Earth System Science
Geog788W Group 1 Fall 2004
Lars Bromley Justin Goldstein Andrew Johnston Jyoteshwar Nagol Haihong Yang Alina Yohannan

“It is hard to imagine a more important discipline than Earth System Science” – John Lawton in Science magazine, June 15, 2001

Earth Systems Science is the study of:
Interactions between oceans, atmosphere, living things, geologic processes, land surface dynamics, and human systems. Processes that connect biological, physical, and human systems operating near the Earth's surface.

How interrelationships between physical and biological systems impact each other and lead to changes.

Earth Systems Science
A prime focus of Earth System Science is the study of past and future changes in Earth systems: Paleoclimate, Global warming. Strategies have been developed to address climate change. (Group 3)
Special attention is paid to how human activities lead to changes in linkages between systems and the response from humans to those changes: “Global Change” research. (Group 1)

Range of topics dealing with the carbon cycle, water cycle, food production, biodiversity, land-use change and its feedbacks on climate change and variability.
ESS studies many different systems, each defined by its own sets of characteristics and subsystems. Physical systems: atmospheric chemistry, cryosphere, hydrosphere, energy transfer. Biological systems: marine life, terrestrial ecosystems, biogeochemistry. Humans: land use, atmospheric changes. External forces: volcanism, sun, solar system (orbital mechanics, impacts).





Lithosphere and Pedosphere

How is Earth System Science performed?
System Science grew from work in biology and other fields in the mid1900s, applied to Earth Science in the 1990s. (Group 1)

In ESS simplified models are created to describe connections between biological, physical, and human systems. Bretherton diagram.(Group 1) The Earth system is a network of self-organizing systems connected by flows of gasses, energy, nutrients. The global system: Gaia. (Group 2)
Most ESS research projects are focused on small parts of the Earth system.

Remote Sensing is a key part of ESS: NASA’s Earth Science program.

How is ESS different from other types of science?
ESS deals with the relationships between physical and biological systems instead of the systems themselves.

Earth System Science uses holistic rather than reductionist approaches.
Earth System Science is interdisciplinary, including many academic disciplines No single discipline can fully address the scope of ESS.

Geography and Earth System Science Earth System Science is
inherently spatial. It uses many scales space (from the particle to global) and in time. The interdisciplinary nature of the science and its focus on connections between systems makes it attractive to

Mitchell K. Hobish, Earth Systems Science, Section 16, Remote Sensing Tutorial

Development of ESS – 19th Century
• John Lawton wrote in Science (2001): ESS is still a young and growing field (Science, 292: Issue 5524, v1965, June 15, 2001).


1802: John Playfair expounds on the life work of James Hutton – The Principle of Uniformitarianism and the radical idea that “present is the key to the past.” 1832: Lyall also builds on Hutton to describe earth processes
Agassiz et al. 1840 – glaciers responsible for forming large scale landscapes William Morris Davis describes the “Geographical Cycle” and contributes to geomorphology

• •

Source: All bullets except the first taken from: Reading Lecture 201.pdf

Development of ESS – 20th Century
With an emergence of systems science (or systems theory) scientists focused more on interactions between components of systems rather than single-discipline studies.

Advances in nuclear physics led scientists to more effectively measure the age of the Earth ( Reading Lecture 201.pdf) 1980s: scientists understand that humans are altering the physical sphere and thus try to understand global change as involving integrated human and physical systems. Beginning of the use of the term “Earth System Science.” (
1986: Francis P. Bretherton (U. of Wisconsin) developed the “Bretherton Diagram” as chair of a committee which authored a seminal work in the modern ESS field: "Earth System Science: A Closer View."

The Bretherton Diagram- Complex

Mitchell K. Hobish, Earth Systems Science, Section 16, Remote Sensing Tutorial

The Bretherton Diagram- Simplified

The Bretherton Diagram- Explained
•The diagram depicts the Earth System and is comprised of sub-systems (in turn comprised of subsystems, etc.)

•Given its roots in system science, the sub-systems and their interconnections, couplings, and dynamics are equally emphasized when one system acts another reacts, etc.

The Bretherton Diagram- Main Components
1) The Physical Climate System 2) Biogeochemical Cycles •Within these broad areas are sub-systems: atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and the human dimension. •Because output from one system is the input into another, none of these categories can be evaluated in isolation.
Source: What is Earth System Science? Donald R. Johnson, Martin Ruzek, Michael Kalb. Proceedings of the 1997 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium. Singapore, August 4 - 8, 1997.

Sub-System Example: Ocean Circulation

Source: Ocean Modeling. Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo.

Bretherton Diagram: Temporal Scales
Processes throughout the Earth system operate at different temporal scales: • millions/billions of years: evolution of solid earth structures, atmosphere, etc.

• hundreds of thousands to millions: climate oscillations, species distribution, soil development, etc. • decades to centuries: physical climate system (weather patterns), some biochemical processes like carbon, nitrogen, etc.
• days/seasons: Earth responds to weather, plant growth, decay • day: heating and cooling, catastrophic events (volcanoes, earthquakes)
Source: Global Change and Our Common Future: Papers from a Forum Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications. National Academies Press. 1989.

Human Dimension of Global Environmental Change
Global Change is concerned with the nature and consequences of anthropogenic perturbations in the interacting physical, chemical and biological and social systems that regulate the environment supporting human life and influence the quality of that life on planet Earth. Global change research initially focused almost solely on the physical and biological sciences, but in the last eight to ten years, there has been more recognition of the human dimensions and the essential role that social science must play in resolving global environmental problems. Three problems that have been given greatest attention -- climate change, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity -- are all anthropogenic in origin. Planning for social science research on the human dimensions of global environmental change began in 1986, significantly later than the planning for global change research in the natural sciences.

Human Dimension of Global Environmental Change

Human interactions are included in the Bretherton diagram, but only as a “black box”. Understanding of large scale environmental change requires an integrated view of how those spheres and humans interact mutually within the Earth System. Also needs the cooperation between natural and social scientists.
The research of human interactions on global change and sustainability needs the equivalent of a Bretherton diagram to visually convey the interconnections among diverse cultural, economic, political, social, and institutional phenomena and to begin to relate these theoretically.

Social Process Diagram

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