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Geol Mid Term Essays

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1) Modern astronomy basically begins with the re-emergence of the heliocentric view of the universe by Copernicus. Who were the four other major contributors to the development of modern astronomy after Copernicus? Explain what those contributions were. Finally, why did it take so long for the geocentric view of the universe to be overthrown and what does that tell us about scientific research and our society, even today? Copernicus release his theory of the heliocentric view while he was on his death bed. Primary reason for this was because of the Catholic’s church control on society at the time and the effects it would have on religious society stating that the earth was not the center of the universe. After Copernicus released his theory, other key astronomers that supported and advanced Capernicus’ theory included Galileo, Keppler, Brahe, and Newton. Galileo Galilei, a contributed to astronomy and physics, advanced the use of the telescope towards use in astronomy. because of his invention, and ability to view the planets and starts, he identified four of Jupiters moons, and the phases of Venus which directly supported Copernicus’ theory, that earth, like the other planets, revolved around the sun, and moons, revolved around their planets. Tyco Brahe, an astronomer, under the support of King Frederick the II, established an observatory on the Danish island of Hveen. The establishment of this observatory was critical for the next 20 years in establishing observations of the stars, and planets, and their distance to and from the earth. This research directly led to Kepler, who was Brahe’s last assistant when Brahe died in 1601. Johannes Kepler was Brahe’s assistant, in Brahe’s final days. Kepler then took over at the Observatory, and focused his study of Mars. This study, allowed Kepler to establish what is now knowns as Kepler’s Law, which identify the planet’s ellipse with the sun, the planets speed around the sun, the average distance from the sun, and the time to complete one revolution around the sun. Isaac Newton is one of the biggest contributors. His contributions tie astronomy and physics together as his laws for motion and gravity, helped provide a physical descriptive to support Kepler’s laws.
It truly is amazing, looking at the time line of all these individuals, and as one passed on, another was born, who studied and learned and progressed the previous person work. So now, because of the creation of the telescope, the studies of the planets not just in our own solar system, but in solar systems light years away, and the basis of Kepler's Laws and the extension of Newtons work, we are able to identify the size of planets and starts, they type of stars, or suns, these planets rotate around, hopefully in the future endeavor of finding a habitable planet similar to earth that would have the same characteristics of our own.

2) Explain the relationship of geography to other scientific disciplines. What is a good definition for geography or the geosciences in general? What are the strengths and weaknesses of geography as a discipline and how do you think that has influenced its development, or lack thereof?

Hess starts out in our books by stating that Geography is really the stud of many things, to include rainfall, mountains, trees, voting patterns, migrations, and languages. In short, it is the studying of physical and human landscape , also know as physical geography and cultural geography (Hess, 2014. pg 3-4). With all that said, In order to study Geography, you have to have a basic understanding of all the other sciences. this alone could be seen as a weakness of Geography. It is hard to make progression or advancements in a field, where all the tangible and physical elements are monitored, and until new technology or theories are built in elements like astronomy or physics, it may or may not impact or shift the current understanding and knowledge of Geography. For example, when the earth was created, how it was created, when the dinosaurs disappeared, how did they disappear, evolution; early human societies, where they lived, where the migrated to, who were they descended from. We have developed a lot of new technology to all us to do fairly accurate carbon dating; that alone has changed previously established theories. There is so much about our planet that we do not know or completely understand, and part of it is we do not have the ability to process the evidence we have correctly, or the evidence that was there, no longer exists because it has decomposed, or broken down into the the dirt and the soil. This resembles the holistic nature of geography, which is both a strength and weakness. Because geography depends on many other smaller fields of knowledge, and interconnect them into a larger picture, but then the holistic effect, causes people looking at the bigger pictures, or a single field, to miss the specific details of cause and effect (Pidwirny, 2006).

3) Weather and climate are separate, but related, terms. Provide a definition of each and then give an example of a concept related to both weather and climate. Additionally, since they are important issues when dealing with the subject of climate today, what is the greenhouse effect and global warming? Are they the same thing? If not, how are they different? What influence would global warming have on “nature” and our lives? Weather and climate are separate but related terms. The term weather refers to short-run atmospheric conditions that exist for a given time in a specific area. IT includes things like the temperature, humidity, clouds, moisture and more. It is the culmination of events that triggers a reaction by the atmosphere, creating and endless possibilities of conditions (Hess, 2014. pg. 67). The term climate Climate is the aggregate of day-to-day weather conditions over a long period of time. It encompasses not only the average characteristics, but also the variations and extremes of weather (Hess, 2014. pg 67). So, yes they are separate issues, but the constant pattern of weather, establishes a known climate for particular regions. There is a reason why the Farmers Almanac was such a critical little book for local farms and people of particular areas 20 years ago, even today it is a book still used. I remembered distinctly my parents owning a farmers almanac to be better prepared of what the average rainfall or snow fall or temperature would be in a given month. This information helps drives agriculture and industry, thus impacting the overall economics of a nation. For example, a farmer in the midwest region may plant their corn and wheat based off the climate region they are in. Because within this climate region, there is an expectation of certain weather events, that help those farmers produce their crops, as well as provides them with the correct time to harvest those crops in order to get them to the markets or distributors to sell. Weather and climate are very sensitive, and over the past 10 to 20 years, drastic changes in weather patterns and climates, have impacted many of the farmers throughout the united states. These changes in weather and climate are very much related to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, which is impacting the green house effect of our planet. The green house effect is essentially the earths ability to keep warm energy within the atmosphere, as radiation from the sun, strikes the surface of the earth,reflects back into the atmosphere, where some of it is held in our atmosphere by green house gasses. Over time, humans have increased the amount of green house gasses in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide. This impact is mainly because of our dependency on fossil fuels. as this happens, the energy within our planet increases, and causes the temperature of our planet to rise, which then impacts known weather habits and climate regions. For example, the impact the green house effect is having on the arctic regions, an expected cold and frozen climate, is causing parts of the Ice caps to melt. Green house effect and global warming are interrelated very much similarly as weather and climate. Greenhouse effect, is a natural and known process that our earth, sun, atmosphere, have created. While global warming, currently is the increasing temperature of our planet due to various pollutants created by Humans. Global warming will continue to impact our lives, and right now it may seem minimal, but over time, the impact can be large. For example, as a particular climate increases in warmth, lets say an area that is known for growing wheat. Those fields will end up producing wheat quickly, however, the adverse effect is that the seeds on those wheat plants will not be able to mature. So over time, we could potential kill off our own naturals sources of food. Which could also impact the ability to feed our live stock, which will therefore impact the amount of livestock we harvest. Fears like this can potential lead to other resolutions like human growth hormones or genetically modified Organisms, which up front seem beneficial and a partial solution, but everything as a cause and effect, and we don’t know all the positive and negatives effects those solutions may have (EPA).

4) Explain the pressure gradient force, the Coriolis Effect and the frictional force and their effects on the direction and speed of air at the surface and aloft in the atmosphere. Describe the wind and pressure systems (surface and aloft) that exist in the zone from the Equator to the North Pole in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a close relationship between atmospheric pressure patterns, wind zones and precipitation patterns. The global map of total annual rainfall shows great differences in precipitation received from place to place. Using at least 3 reasons, explain why this is so. The Pressure Gradient Force is what triggers the initial movement of air and is a result of net force being moved from High pressure to Low Pressure. Essentially, when a region is effected by high pressure, and a region is effected by low pressure, the in between, is being effected by the Pressure Gradient Force, as the atmosphere is balancing from the high pressure location to the low pressure location, creating the air movement and wind. Easier concept is the pressure of air maintained in a ball. When you open the air valve, the air escapes from the high pressure to the low pressure, creating the air movement that you feel, the pressure gradient force, and the larger the difference in pressure, the stronger the winds are. The Coriolis effect is the apparent deflection in the paths of both wind and ocean currents caused by the Earth’s constant rotation (Hess, 2014. Pg. 18). The Coriolis effect only impacts Jet streams, hurricanes, trade winds, and ocean circulations. For example, If you were to fir a rocket from the north pole towards Boston, the rocket would miss, if the Coriolis effect was not considered. Essentially, while the rocket is in the air, the earth, which is rotating from east to west, will have moved Boston westward, and the rocket will miss. Friction is the third force that influences wind. The frictional drag of Earth’s surface slows wind movement and so the influence of the Coriolis effect is reduced. So as the Wind moves from the high pressure to the low pressure, and it goes clockwise or counter clockwise in an upward or downward spiral, due to the Coriolis effect, the frictional force at lower altitudes allow for the air movement to move in to its own course, decreasing the impact of the Coriolis force (Hess, 2014, pg 114). So the way each of these forces act and react in the northern hemisphere is explained with the Coriolis force moving and turning high level winds from the southern regions of the northern hemisphere towards the westerlies, which temporarily halts the air from further northernly movement. Meanwhile, low level northerly winds from the North pole are turned to easterlies as the winds move southward, and turned easterly by the Coriolis force, temporarily stopping the air from moving further southward. This happens general at the 30 degree mark and 60 degree mark, causing the air to build up at these two latitudes which creates a visible pressure belts in the middle latitudes (Aviation Weather). These elements do have an impact on the annual rainfall from place to place. For example, dry lands on the western side of the lands, are prominent in subtropical regions because they are dominated by High pressure conditions. These high pressure areas are effected by the pressure gradient force, which are not conducive to precipitation, there fore, no rain. (Hess, 2014). High latitude regions also impact the amount of rain for a region. In high regions, water is either scare or cold, and so far removed from costal waters, therefore not creating an environment conducive for precipitation Hess (2014).

5) Compare/contrast the Mediterranean (Csa) climate found along the coast of southern California and the humid subtropical (Cfa) climate found in South Carolina. Considering that comparison, also explain why the western United States has dramatically different climates from the eastern United States. An important consideration when considering climate and climatic change today is the role of El Nino. Explain the ocean/atmosphere changes that take during an El Nino/ENSO cycle and the effects these changes have on our lives and societies. According to the Encyclopedia of Earth, the CFA climate of South Carolina region is typical of muggy summers with increased thunderstorms and mild winters with precipitation triggered by mid latitude cyclones. Meanwhile, the mediterranean climates found along the coast of southern California receive rain primarily during winter season from the mid-latitude cyclone and experience extreme summer aridity caused by the sinking air of the subtropical highs . In these regions the average temperature of the warmest month is above 22°C (72°F), where the average temperature of the coldest month is below 18°C (64°F) but above -3°C (27°F). Also, rainfall is equally spread out through the first quarter of the seasonal year, but can be drastically different, increased in the east coast regions during the last quarter of the same year along the east coast of the continent. Considering that comparison, the western United States has dramatic, specific different climates from the eastern United States, divided into the north & south regions, from Virginia to points south, the Southeast region of the United States is hot and dry seasons of the summer but mild during the winter. with that said, snow may occur during the winter months while the precipitation is considered overall moderate year round. Some important consideration when discussing the effects of the El Nino/ENSO cycle is the effects on the the lives and societies of the North American continent. These effects have caused dramatic and extreme weather patterns that has tweaked the average weather patterns of the past, due primarily to increase draught along the west coast, like we are seeing in California, and increased rainfall along the east coast, or increase snow fall like we saw with the recent few years of wicked winter storms in the Northeast regions. Also, among the effects of el Nino have been the increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US, triggering devastating and destructive floods like we are seeing in texas right now. Many scientist observing the dramatic changes in the oceans' surface temperature have noticed an increase of the temperature to about 8 degrees higher in the west, with cooler temperatures off South America. These changes have been due to the arrival of cold water from the deeper depths of the ocean. these deeper waters are rich in nutrients allowing a throbbing marine ecosystem and increased productivity. During El Niño the trade winds relax in the central and western Pacific leading to a depression of the thermo cline in the eastern Pacific, and an elevation of the thermo cline in the west. This reduces the efficiency of upwelling to cool the surface and cut off the supply of nutrient rich thermo cline water to the euphoric zone. The result was a rise in sea surface temperature and a drastic decline in primary productivity, the latter of which adversely affected higher tropic levels of the food chain, including commercial fisheries in this region. The weakening of easterly trade winds during El Niño is evident as well. Rainfall follows the warm water eastward. The eastward displacement of the atmospheric heat source overlaying the warmest water results in large changes in the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn force changes in weather in regions far removed from the tropical Pacific.


Aviation weather, the full text of the classic FAA guide. Retrieved from
Cessna, A, 2009. Heliocentric Model. Universe Today retrieved from
Hess, D. (2014) McKnight’s Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Elements of Geography". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. Date Viewed.
The Development of Modern Society; Astronomy, retrieved from
The Encyclopedia of Earth, Moist Mid-latitude Climates with Mild Winters - C Climate Type, retrieved from
United States Environment and Protection Agency (EPA). Agriculture and food supply; retreived from

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