Earth science (also known as geoscience or the geosciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth science. The major historic discliplines use physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology to build a quantitative understanding of the principal areas or spheres of the Earth system:
- Geology covers the rocky parts of the Earth (or lithosphere) including the planet's core, mantle and crust. Major subdisciplines are geophysics, geochemistry, paleontology, mineralogy, and sedimentology.
- Oceanography and Limnology describe respectively the marine and freshwater domains of the watery parts of the Earth (or hydrosphere). Major subdisciplines are physical, chemical, and biological oceanography.
- Atmospheric sciences cover the gaseous parts of the Earth (or atmosphere).
- Glaciology covers the icy parts of the Earth (or cryosphere)
- Biogeochemistry follows the cycling of elements through the spheres mediated by biological and geological processes, and especially their distribution and fluxes between reservoirs.
- Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology use the properties of sediments, ice cores, or biological material to infer past states of the ocean, atmosphere or climate.
- Meteorology describes, explains and predicts the weather based on the interaction of principally the ocean and atmosphere.
- Climatology describes and explains the climate in terms of the interaction of the litho-, hydro-, atmo-, cryo-, and bio- spheres.
- Gaia theories explain the behaviour of the Earth system in terms of the influence of the biosphere.
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Partial list of the major Earth Science topics