The Earth System

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-01-01
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
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The Earth System, Second Edition employs a systems-based approach to examine Earth science at the global level. This text explores how: bull; Earth's processes have connections to the past and to each other Seemingly small-scale changes to Earth can have large-scale effects Processes that are occurring now are molding the course of the future The second edition incorporates two new chapters: bull; Modeling the Atmosphere-Ocean System-A discussion of why numerical models are necessary, how they are used, what they can tell us about past and future climates, and what their limitations are. A Focus on the Biota: Ecosystems and Biodiversity-Focuses on life's role in the Earth system, how ecosystems function, what biodiversity is, and whether or not biological diversity enhances the stability of ecosystems. Three categories of boxed text are included and offer a deeper study of the topics presented. bull; A Closer Look-Includes more advanced concepts, results from current research, and explanations of interesting phenomena. Important Concepts-In-depth presentations of fundamental concepts from the natural sciences essential to our understanding of the Earth system. Thinking Quantitatively-Demonstrates how simple mathematics can be used to better understand the workings of the Earth system.

Author Biography

Robert G. Crane is Professor in the Department of Geography and an affiliate of the ESSC.

Table of Contents

Global Change
Daisyworld: An Introduction to Systems
Global Energy Balance: The Greenhouse Effect
The Atmospheric Circulation System
The Circulation of the Oceans
Modeling the Atmosphere-Ocean System
Circulation of the Solid Earth: Plate Tectonics
Recycling of the Elements: The Carbon Cycle
Focus on the Biota: Metabolism, EcoSystems and Biodiversity
Origin of the Earth and of Life
Effect of Life on the Atmosphere: The Rise of Oxygen and Ozone
Long-Term Climate Regulation
Biodiversity Through Earth History
Pleistocene Glaciations
Short-Term Climate Variability
Global Warming
Ozone Depletion
Human Threats to Biodiversity
Climate Stability on Earth and Earth-Like Planets
Units and Unit Conversions
Temperature Conversions
Periodic Table
Useful Facts
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


This is not a traditional Earth science textbook. Such books treat individual components of the Earth system--the solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans--separately, with little consideration of the interplay among them or the important interactions with living organisms (the stuff of ecology texts). And, although they are the focus of this book, the modern environmental problems of global warming, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity are treated in a fundamentally different way here than in most texts. Here we recognize that these problems have analogues from Earth history: The geological past is the key to the present and to the future. Content Chapter 1, "Global Change," is an overview of these important issues--the observational data that convince us that serious problems exist and the events in Earth's history that illuminate how the Earth system responds under stress. The rest of the book is organized into three major sections. Chapters 2 through 9 are devoted to an exploration of how Earth "works." They develop the notion that processes active on Earth's surface are functioning together to regulate climate, the circulation of the ocean and atmosphere, and the recycling of the elements. The biota play an important role in all of these processes. Chapters 10 through 15 take the reader through the history of Earth, highlighting those events that provide lessons for the future. The final four chapters focus on the future of the Earth system, addressing the modern problems of global change and the prospect of life on other planets in the context of what was presented in the first two sections. Revisions to the First Edition In the four years since the first edition of this book came out, a lot has changed. Atmospheric CO 2 has increased by about 7 parts per million, freon-11 concentrations have decreased by 6 parts per trillion, and global surface temperatures have continued their inexorable but ragged rise. For this reason alone--just to keep up with the new data on global change--a book like this one needs to be regularly updated. However, it is not just the data that are changing. Ideas have been evolving as well during the past four years. New geologic evidence indicates that "Snowball Earth" episodes actually occurred not just once but several times during Earth's history. The case has been made that CH 4 , rather than (or in addition to) CO 2 , was the main greenhouse gas that helped to keep the early Earth warm despite reduced solar luminosity. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a new report that for the first time states unambiguously that human activities are responsible for at least part of the observed surface temperature increase. And NASA's generous support for the new discipline of "astrobiology" has made us even more aware of the tight connections between the evolving Earth and its biota. We have tried to reflect these and other changes in the revised edition of our book. We have added two new chapters: Chapter 6 (on global climate models) and Chapter 9 (on the biota, ecosystems, and biodiversity). We've also expanded our discussion of early Earth, now devoting two chapters to the topic: Chapter 10, on the origin of Earth and of life, and Chapter 11, on the effect life has had on the development of the atmosphere. Some of this involved simply reorganizing material that had previously been included in other chapters; however, a significant amount of new material has been added. Chapter 9 recognizes the importance of numerical modeling in the establishment of policy for a changing world. Chapter 9 highlights the role that the biota plays in the Earth system. Chapters 10 and 11 draw on the "universal" tree of life derived from sequencing of ribosomal RNA that places humans and fungi as closer relatives than different forms of bacteria. The order of Chapters 11 and 12 (Chapters 8 and

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