Portal:Earth sciences

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The Earth Sciences Portal

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Earth Science is the branch that deals with physical constitution of the Earth and its atmosphere. Earth sciences (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or Earth Science) is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. They are a special type of planetary sciences which deal with the structure and composition of the Earth, its origins, physical features, changing aspects, and all of its natural phenomena. Earth is the only planet known to have life, and hence the only planet with biological processes and a biosphere.

The major disciplines of Earth sciences use physics, mathematics, and chemistry to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system. As in many sciences, the Earth can be studied both experimentally and theoretically. Also, there are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth Science.

Although mining and precious stones have been in human interests throughout the history of civilization, their development into the sciences of economic geology and mineralogy did not occur until the 18th century. The study of the earth, particularly palaeontology, blossomed in the 19th century and the growth of other disciplines like geophysics in the 20th century led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, which has had a similar impact on the Earth sciences as the theory of evolution had on biology. Earth sciences today are closely linked to climate research and the petroleum and mineral exploration industries.

Applications of Earth sciences include the exploration and exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, cartography, weather forecasting patterns, and warning of volcanic eruptions. Earth sciences are related to the environmental sciences as well as the other subfields of planetary astronomy.

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Fossil of Kimberella quadrata
The Ediacara biota are ancient lifeforms of the Ediacaran Period, which represent the earliest known complex multicellular organisms. They appeared soon after the Earth thawed from the Cryogenian period's extensive glaciers, and largely disappeared soon before the rapid appearance of biodiversity known as the Cambrian explosion, which saw the first appearance in the fossil record of the basic patterns and body-plans that would go on to form the basis of modern animals. Little of the diversity of the Ediacara biota would be incorporated in this new scheme, with a distinct Cambrian biota arising and usurping the organisms that dominated the Ediacaran fossil record. The organisms of the Ediacaran Period first appeared around 580 million years ago and flourished until the cusp of the Cambrian 542 million years ago, when the characteristic communities of fossils vanished. While rare fossils that may represent survivors have been found as late as the Middle Cambrian (510 to 500 million years ago), the earlier fossil communities disappear from the record at the end of the Ediacaran, leaving only controversial fragments of once-thriving ecosystems, if anything. Multiple hypotheses exist to explain this disappearance, including preservation bias, a changing environment, the advent of predators, and competition from other lifeforms.

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Credit: Landsat 7

The Richat Structure is a depression in the country of Mauritania, almost 50 km (30 mi) across. It was originally thought to be the impact of a meteorite. Now it is thought to be a symmetrical uplift (circular anticline or dome) that has been exposed to erosion. In this false-color photo, bedrock is brown, sand is yellow and white, vegetation is green, and salty sediments are blue.

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Photograph of volcano

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For a more comprehensive treatment of topics, see Outline of earth science and Index of earth science articles

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