Earth's Systems Vocabulary

Satellite image of a phytoplankton bloom in the Oyashio Current, near Japan.
Photo courtesy of Euclid vanderKroew/Flickr.

Absorbed: radiation that is taken in by materials in Earth's atmosphere or on its surface. Different materials on Earth's surface will absorb different amounts of radiation (i.e. dark colored surfaces absorb more radiation than light colored surfaces).

: a measure of the amount of radiation that is reflected from Earth's surfaces. Light objects will reflect more of the sun's energy (causing lower temperatures) and dark objects will absorb more of the sun's energy, increasing temperatures.

Atmosphere: parts of Earth above the geosphere.

Biosphere: parts of the Earth where living organisms exist; the sum of all ecosystems.

Coriolis Effect: a deflective force caused by the rotation of Earth on its axis. It causes ocean surface currents and wind currents to move in a clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere and in a counterclockwise direction in the southern hemisphere.

Geosphere: parts of the Earth where rocks and soil are present.

Greenhouse Gas: gases in the atmosphere that trap solar radiation and cause surface temperatures to rise. Examples include carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane.

Hydrosphere: parts of the Earth where water is present.

Lithosphere: Includes Earth's crust and upper mantle.

Radiation: includes all forms of energy found in the electromagnetic spectrum. One example is solar radiation (energy from the sun).

Reflected: radiation that is bounced back towards space from materials in Earth's atmosphere or on its surface. Different materials will reflect different amounts of radiation (i.e. ice will reflect more radiation than pavement). Measured in terms of albedo.

Topography: shape and features of Earth's (or any other planet's) surface.
Last modified: Thursday, 11 August 2011, 9:47 AM