Lecture notes - Day 1 - Introduction to Earth System Science.

A suggestion: Experience indicates providing complete lecture notes may actually hinder the learning process. Simply put, people tend to pay less attention during the lecture, and end up significantly under utilizing their time during the 'lecture', an optimal time for learning. You will do much better if you use the outline below so that you take much more in depth notes in the class. Also, you are strongly encourage to ask questions.

What happened to the Greenland Vikings?

What caused the Little Ice Age??

What's up with the earth during the Cretaceous? From a period of about 130-90 million years ago in the Earth's history the following anomalous behavior occurred.

It could be that these are unlinked, coincidental events, or the above Cretaceous events could be related. If they are related, how??

Who might you go to answer such a question - a climatogist, a geologist, an archeologist, a volcanologist, an oceanographer?


USGS map of the Western Interior Seaway from roughly 79-72 million years ago, showing how the interior of the continent and much of Nebraska was flooded by a shallow inland sea.

Questions such as these, of which there are many today, require an interdisplinary approach. Can you think of other questions that confront us today that are of interdisciplinary nature?

Two definitions of Earth System Science:

The objective of Earth System Science is to understand how the Earth is changing and the consequences for life on Earth with a focus on enabling prediction and mitigation of undesirable consequences. Such an approach involves studying the processes and interactions (cycles) among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and geosphere from a global to local point-of-view, and across the time scales (minutes to eons) in which these spheres interact. http://education.gsfc.nasa.gov/esssproject/ess_definition.html

Earth System Science is a relatively new field of study that focuses on the operation of the whole Earth, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere. These four spheres can be thought of as four machines or systems that are connected together to make one larger machine -- the whole Earth system. Earth System Science is especially concerned with the interactions between these different spheres and how these interactions control the global climate. This field of study incorporates and integrates material from traditional geology, meteorology, oceanography, ecology, atmospheric chemistry, and other fields. http://www.acad.carleton.edu/curricular/GEOL/DaveSTELLA/intro%20ESS/intro.html

ESS as integrative instead of reductive.

Conceptual map of displinary space - note overlapping boundaries.

What characterizes ESS?

Why is ESS developing now?

The above discussion assumes you have an idea of what science is, how it works. Lets step back and try to make more explicit components of the scientific method. If you are conducting science, what are the activities your are engaged in?

Link to model for the scientific process.

Course goals and mechanics:

Read Chapter 2 for next lecture to maximize your learning. This is a well done chapter.