Earth Science Glossary

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Addendum to Glossary

 

 

 

If you lost your glossary then you will need to print this one for use in the classroom.  You must write the entire definition - do not skip words.  Also, some words have 2 definitions.  As a result, you must think about the definition that is appropriate based on the unit that you are studying.  If you cannot find a word then check the addendum above.

 

ablation

(n) - the process by which snow and ice is lost from a glacier

abrasion

(n) - a form of physical weathering caused by friction between rock particles

absolute age

(n) - the age of rock layers in years

absolute magnitude

(n) - the luminosity of stars as if thery were seen from the same

distance from Earth

absorption

(n) - the process by which energy is transformed into other kinds

accumulation

(n) - the collection of an object

advancing glacier

(n) - a glacier that is growing; moving toward lower elevations and lower latitudes

aggregate

(n) - a mass of rock particles

air mass

(n)- a large body of air in the troposphere that takes on the characteristics of pressure, moisture, temp. of that area

alluvium

(n) - the deposits made by a stream or a river

alpine glacier

(n) - a glacier formed at high elevations

altitude

(n) - the height of a celestial object above the horizon

Andes Mountains

(n) - a mountain chain located along the west coast of South America

anenometer

(n) - an instrument used to measure wind speed

angle of insolation

(n) - the angle at which sunlight strikes Earth's surface

anticyclone

(n) - a high pressure center where air moves outward from the center

apogee

(n) - the farthest point of the moon in its orbit around the Earth

apparent magnitude

(n) - the luminosity of stars as seen by observers on Earth

apparent motion

(n) - perceived movement of celestial objects as seen from Earth

arc

(n) - portion of a circle through which the celestial objects rise in the east and set in the west

arete

(n) - a narrow ridge of rock formed on a mountain from 2 intersecting circues

arid

(adj) - dry

asthenosphere

(n) - the upper part of the mantle with which crust rests on

astronomical unit

(n) - the mean distance of the Earth from the sun - 150,000,000 km

average daily temperature

(n) sum of daily temperatures divided by the quantity of temperatures

average monthly temperature

(n) sum of monthly temperatures divided by the quantity of temperatures

barograph

(n) - a barometer that records continuous changes in atmospheric pressure

barometric pressure

(n) - the weight of the overlying atmosphere pushing down on a given unit of area

barrier beach

(n) - a narrow sand ridge rising slightly above high-tide level

beach

(n) - the narrow portion of the shore between the low and high tide lines

bedrock

(n) - an area's mostly unweathered rock beneath soil and vegetation

biome

(n) - a region that contains a particular vegetation and fauna

calorie

(n) - a unit of heat energy defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temp. of one gram of water one degree Celsius

calorimeter

(n) - an instrument used in studies of heat

capillarity

(n) - the upward movement of water due to the attractive force between water molecules and sediments

cast

celestial body

(n) - a secondary rock or mineral matter that fills in a natural mold

(n) - a planet, moon, star located in space

cementation

(n) - the process by which sediments are glued together

channel

(n) - the portion of a stream or river surrounded by bedrock

chemical properties

(n) - the chemical characteristics of an object

circle

(n) - an ellipse with an eccentricity of 0

cirque

(n) - a bowl-shaped depression scoured from the start of a glacier

classification

(n) - the organization of objects, ideas or information into groupings

clastic

(adj) - characteristic of fragments/sediments derived from pre-existing rocks

cleavage

(n) - the tendency of a mineral to break along planes of weakness

climate

(n) - the long term weather of an area

climate ratio

(n) - evaporation divided by potential evaporation

clinometer

(n) - an instrument used for determining the determining angles and slopes

cloud base

(n) - the height at which the bottom of a cloud forms

colloid

(n) - a particle with a size of less than 0.00024 mm

compaction

(n) - the process by which sediments are pressed together

composite volcano

(n) - a volcano that is composed of alternating layers of lava and pyroclastic deposits

condensation

(n) - the act of water vapor changing to a liquid

conduction

(n) - the transfer of heat energy from atom to atom

conservation of energy

(n) - energy is neither created nor destroyed; it remains in existence

constellation

(n) - a group of stars

continental climate

(n) - the climate of an inland area where winters are cold and summers are hot

continental drift

(n) - the idea that continents move over the surface of the Earth

continental glacier

(n) - a glacier formed at high latitudes over continents

contingency

(n) - a chance, accident or possibility

contour interval

(n) - the difference in elevation indicated by 2 consecutive contour lines

continental shelf

(n) - part of continental margin connects continent to continental slope

contour line

(n) - a line that connects points of the same elevation

convection

(n) - the transfer of heat energy by circulatory movements in a fluid

convection cell

(n) - the path of heat energy in a fluid

convergence

(n) - the process by which two plates move together

converging plate

(n) - the area where two plates are coming together

boundary

coordinate system

(n) - a grid in which each location is defined by the intersecting of 2 lines

correlation

(n) - the act of matching

crystal

(n) - a solid with a definite internal arrangement of atoms

cutbank

(n) - the steep, overhanging side of a meander or curve

cutoff

(n) - a new, short channel created when the river cuts through the neck of a horsheshoe bend

cyclic

(adj) - characteristic of recurring, repeating

cyclone

(n) - a low pressure center where air moves toward the center

daughter isotope

(n) - the happy, stable decay product

deficit

(n) - a shortage of water in a water budget

delta

(n) - the deposit of sediments at the mouth of a river

dependant variable

(n) - a variable found along the y-axis of a graph

deposition

(n) - the process by which sediments are placed onto a surface

desert

(n) - a region with an arid climate and little precipitation

dew

(n) - water condensed onto objects near the ground

dewpoint temperature

(n) - the temperature at which the air becomes saturated with water vapor and relative humidity is 100%

direct relationship

(n) - an association where for every increase in x, there is an increase in y

discharge

(n) - the amount of water that passes a certain point in a stream in a specific amount of time

discontinuity

(n) - lack of regularity

displacement

(n) - the relative movement of an object

distributary

(n) - an out flowing branch of a river that is located near the mouth

diurnal

(adj) - daily

divergence

(n) - the act of moving apart

diverging plate boundary

(n) - the area where plates separate from one another

dormant volcano

(n) - a volcano that is not currently erupting but has in the past and may still erupt in the future

down cutting

(n) - the process by which running water will weather and erode the floor of the channel making the river deeper

drumlin

(n) - a teardrop-shaped deposit of sediments re-shaped by a glacier pointing in the direction of glacial movement

dwarf star

(n) - a star that has a luminosity less than 1

dynamic equilibrium

(n) - a condition of the balancing out of opposing forces or actions

earthquake

(n) - a natural shaking of lithosphere when rocks are displaced

due to a sudden release of energy

eccentricity

(n) - the degree of flatness of a celestial object's orbit

electromagnetic spectrum

(n) - the various forms of energy of different wavelengths that comprise sunlight or insolation;

ellipse

(n) - a flattened, circular path have 2 foci and a major axis

emergence

(n) - the act of moving upward

epicenter

(n) - the point of origin of an earthquake at Earth's surface located directly above the focus

epoch

(n) - a subdivision of a period

equator

(n) - the parallel on Earth midway between the geographic North and South poles; 0 degrees

equinox

(n) - times when the sun's rays are perpendicular to the equator; March and Sept. 21st

era

(n) - the second largest division of geologic time

erosion

(n) - the removal of sediments by wind/running water/gravity/ice

erosional surface

(n) - the top layer of rock that has been weathered and moved by wind, ice, gravity or running water

erratic

(n) - a large misplaced boulder whose composition does not match with the composition of the bedrock below it

evaporation

(n) - the act of a liquid changing into a gas

event

(n) - the name used to describe the occurrence of a change in the environment

extinct volcano

(n) - a volcano that is no longer active

extrapolate

(v) - to estimate; infer

extrusive

(adj) - outside

fault

(n) - a crack among rock layers caused by an earthquake

fauna

(n) - the entire animal population of an area

felsic

(adj) - having abundant light-colored minerals

field

(n) - any part of the universe that has some measurable value of a given quantity

finger lake

(n) - an long, narrow lake occupying a glacial trough damned by morraine

flora

(n) - the entire plant population of an area

fluid

(n) - liquid

focal depth

(n)- the distance of an earthquake's point of origin below Earth's surface

focus

(n) - either of two fixed points located on the major axis of an ellipse; the place where an earthquake originates below Earth's surface

foliation

(n) - the segregation of minerals in a metamorphic rock giving it a layered appearance

fossiliferous

(adj) - containing plenty of fossils

fracture

(n) - the way a mineral breaks along uneven surfaces

frame of reference

(n) - a structure of views of which an individual evaluates data

freezing

(n) - the change in state of a liquid to a solid by removal of heat

front

(n) - the boundary between two air masses of different characteristics

frost

(n) - a covering of ice produced when air temp. falls below freezing

galaxy

geocentric model

(n) - the large grouping of millions or billions of stars

(n) - a representation of the solar system with the earth near the center

geographic pole

gas giants

(n) - the North or South pole of Earth

(n) - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune

geologic map

(n) - a map which contains the distribution and nature of rock units

geomorphology

(n) - the study of the description, nature and origin of landforms

glacial trough

(n) - a steep, deep-sided u-shaped valley leading from the cirque of a glacier

glacier

(n) - a large mass of ice found at high elevations or high latitudes

gneissic texture

(n) - the separation of minerals due to density differences in a metamorphic rock

gradient

(n) - the rate of change from place to place within a field

greenhouse effect

(n) - the process by which Earth absorbs short wave radiation from the sun and reradiates long wave radiation into the atmosphere

groin

(n) - an artificial structure perpendicular to the shoreline

groundwater

(n) - water found in the ground

guyot

(n) - a flat-topped seamount

H-R Diagram

(n) - a classification of stars based on luminosity and temp.

hachured contour line

(n) - a contour line that represents a hole in the ground

half-life

(n) - the amount of time it takes for 1/2 of the radioactive isotope to decay into its decay product

hardness

heliocentric model

(n) - the resistance of a mineral to being scratched

(n) - a true model of the solar system with sun near center

horizon

(n) - an imaginary line between the air and the land

horn

(n) - a 3 sided peak on a mountain formed from intersecting cirques

hot spot

(n) - the site of volcanic activity

humid

(adj) - moist

hurricane

(n) - a large, cyclonic storm that forms over tropical waters

igneous

(adj) - characteristic of having solidified from magma or lava

igneous rock

(n) - a rock made of molten material that has solidified

impermeable

(adj) - characteristic of not allowing water to pass through

independant variable

(n) - a variable found along the x-axis of a graph

index fossil

(n) - a fossil that is widespread and existed for a short period of time

indirect relationship

(n) - an association where for every increase in x, there is a decrease in y; or vice versa

inference

(n) - something that is thought out but not directly observed; an interpretation

infiltration

(n) - the process by which water enters a substance

inlet

(n) - a short, narrow waterway through a barrier island leading to a bay

inorganic

(adj) - not made by plants, animals or humans

insolation

(n) - incoming solar radiation; sunlight

intensity

(n) - strength

intermittent stream

(n) - a body of water that flows occassionally

intrusive

(adj) - inside

island

(n) - a tract of land smaller than a continent surrounded by water

isobar

(n) - a line that connects points of the same pressure

isoline

(n) - a line that connects points of the same value

isopach

(n) - a line that connects points of the same thickness of sedimentary layers

isotherm

(n) - a line that connects points of the same temperature

jet stream

(n) - a concentrated curving band of high speed, easterly winds usually at the top of the Earth's troposphere

kettle

(n) - a depression in the ground formed by a chunk of the glacier that melted after being buried with sediments

lagoon

(n) - a shallow body of fresh water cut off from a lake

landscape

(n) - the general shape of Earth's surface

latent heat

(n) - heat absorbed or radiated during a phase change

lateral erosion

(n) - the process by which moving water in a river will erode the sides of the channel wall

latitude

(n) - the angular distance north or south of the equator

lava

(n) - molten material that has cooled at Earth's surface

leeward

(adj) - the side of a hill, etc that is sheltered from the wind

light year

(n) - the distance that light travels in 1 year - 10 trillion km

lithification

(n) - the process by which sediments are compacted and cemented together

lithosphere

(n) - the upper layer of the Earth called the crust made of rock

longitude

(n) - the angular distance east or west of the Prime Meridian

longshore current

(n) - an ocean current produced by the approach of waves to a coast at an angle

luminosity

(n) - the brightness of a celestial object

luster

(n) - the reflection of light from a mineral's surface

mafic

(adj) - having abundant dark-colored minerals

magma

(n) - molten material that has cooled below Earth's surface

magnetic declination

(n) - the acute angle between the directions of the magnetic north and geographic north

main sequence

(n) - most stars fall into this range on the H-R Diagram

major axis

(n) - the longer line of an ellipse containing foci

mantle

(n) - the semi-solid layer of the Earth between the crust and the outer core

mantle plume

(n) - the center of vertically rising convection cells in mantle

marine climate

(n) - a coastal climate moderated by the effects of a large body of water; warm winters and cool summers

mass

(n) - the amount of matter in an object

meanders

(n) bends or curves in a river channel

melting

(n) - the act of a solid changing to a liquid

meridian

(n) - an imaginary semicircle drawn around Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole

metamorphic rock

(n) - a pre-existing rock that has been changed into a new rock in the solid state by heat and pressure

mid-Atlantic ridge

(n) - a mountain range found along the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

mid-ocean ridge

(n) - an underwater mountain range located where 2 plates are separating

mineral

(n) - an inorganic, naturally-occurring substance

model

(n) - any way of representing the properties of an object, event or system

Moho

(n) - the boundary between the Earth's crust and the mantle

mold

(n) - an impression made in the surrounding rock material by an organic structure

monsoon

(n) - a seasonal change in winds in eastern and southern Asia

moraine

(n) - a ridge of unsorted sediments deposited by a glacier

mountain

(n) - a landscape region with high elevation & steep slope

oblate spheroid

(n) - the shape of earth where it is slightly flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator

observation

(n) - information obtained directly from the senses

ocean current

(n) - a continuous horizontal flow of water at or near the ocean's surface driven by prevailing winds

orbit

(n) - the path of a satellite or celestial object around a center

organic

(adj) - characteristic of living things

original horizontality

(n) - the formation of rock layers were initially deposited laterally

orographic effect

(n) - the effect that mountains have on weather and climate; windward side = rainy; leeward side = dry

outwash

(n) - sand and silt deposited along the front of a glacier by the meltwater streams of a glacier

P (primary) wave

(n) - a compressional wave of energy released by an earthquake that moves side to side

paleontologist

(n) - a person who studies pre-existing life forms found in rock layers

Pangea

(n) - a supercontinent that existed 200- 300 millions of years ago

parallel

(n) - an imaginary line drawn around Earth parallel to equator

parent isotope

(n) - the unhappy, unstable radioactive isotope

perigee

(n) - the closest approach of the moon in its orbit around the

Earth

period

(n) - a subdivision of an era

permeability

(n) - the degree to which a porous material will allow fluids to pass through it

petrification

(n) - a process of fossilization by which organic matter is replaced by a dissolved minerals found in infiltrating water

plain

(n) - an area of land of low elevation

planet

(n) - the largest of non-star celestial objects that revolve around a star

plateau

(n) - an area of land of medium elevation & horizontal rock layers

plate tectonics

(n) - the theory that Earth's surface is covered by a dozen plates that converge and diverge

Polaris

(n) - a star located directly above the North Pole; also known as the North star

pore space

(n) - the amount of space among sediments

porphyry

(n) - a large mineral surrounded by an abundance of small minerals

precipitation (fromsolution)

(n) - a process by which a substance settles out of a saturated solution

predictable

(adj) - characteristic of being foretold

probablility

(n) - the chance of something happening

property

(n) - a characteristic

psychrometer

(n) - an instrument used to measure the amount of water vapor in air

quadrangle

(n) - the area of land shown by the U.S. Geological Survey

radiative balance

(n) - the amount of energy that is absorbed is the same as the amount of energy emitted

radioactive dating

(n) - the use of radioactive isotopes to determine the absolute age of rocks and geologic events

radioactive decay

(n) - the process by which unstable radioactive isotopes change into their stable decay products

radioisotope

(n) - a radioactive isotope of an element

rain gauge

(n) - an instrument used to measure liquid precipitation

rainshadow effect

(n) - a very dry region on the leeward side of a mountain

rate of change

(n) - how much a measurable aspect of environment is altered over a given time

real motion

(n) - the actual motion of Earth rotating at 15 degrees per minute

recrystallization

(n) - the process by which old minerals are changed into new minerals by heat and pressure

reflection

(n) - the process by which waves leave the surface of a material at the same angle at which they arrived

refraction

(n) - a change in direction and velocity of a wave as it passes from a material of one density into a material of a different density

relative age

(n) - the age of a rock or event in relation to the age of other rocks or events

relief

(n) - changes in elevation from one place to another

re-radiation

(n) - the emission of energy that was absorbed by an object, transformed and sent back out into the atmosphere

retreating glacier

(n) - a glacier that is shrinking or receding

revolution

(n) - the movement of an object around another object

rift valley

(n) - a low-lying area of land along the center of the ridge formed from 2 plates separating

rift zone

(n) - a crevice created when two plates separate

rotation

(n) - the movement of an object on its axis

runoff

(n) - water that flows along Earth's surface and not being absorbed into the ground

S (secondary) wave

(n) - a shear wave of energy released by an earthquake that moves perpendicular to the direction of motion

San Andreas Fault

(n) - a transform plate boundary along the west coast of California

sand bar

(n) - a ridge of sand built up to or near the surface of water by currents

schistose foliation

(n) - a strongly foliated metamorphic rock involving mica minerals in parallel layers

seafloor spreading

(n) - the process where 2 oceanic plates are separating from one another

seamount

(n) - an elevation of the seafloor that is flat-topped or peaked

sediment

(n) - a particle formed from the weathering of a pre-existing rock

sedimentary rock

(n) - a rock made of sediments that were deposited near Earth's surface by processes of precipitation, compaction and cementation

sedimentation

(n) - the process by which rocks are weathered, eroded and deposited as sediments in layers

seismogram

(n) - a sheet of paper that a seismograph records the information onto

seismograph

(n) - an instrument used to detect and record seismic or earthquake waves

slaty foliation

(n) - a parallel foliation of fine-grained minerals in a metamorphic rock

solstice

(n) - times when the sun's rays are perpendicular to 23 1/2 north and 23 1/2 south; June 21st and Dec 21st

soluble

(adj) - characteristic of being dissolved

sorting

(n) - the separation of sediments based on size, density and shape

source region

(n) - the area where an object comes from

specific gravity

(n) - the ratio of a substance's density to the density of water

spectrum

(n) - see electromagnetic spectrum

sphere

(n) - a round object whose distant from the center to the surface is the same for all points on the surface

storm surge

(n) - an abnormal rise in sea level along a coast due to a storm approaching

storm track

(n) - the general path storms take due to planetary/prevailing winds

stratification

(n) - the layering of rocks, ice, snow or water

streak

(n) - the color of a mineral's powder when scratched on a streak plate

stream drainage patterns

(n) - the shape of the stream courses in an area as viewed from sky

striations

(n) - parallel scratches on the bedrock created by the movement of a glacier

subduction

(n) - the process by which one plate moves under another plate at a converging boundary

subduction

(n) - the process by which one plate moves under another plate

submergence

(n) - the act of moving downward

subsidence

(n) - the downward settling of the Earth's crust

supergiant star

(n) - a star that is very large and luminous

superposition

(n) - the principle that the bottom rock layer is the oldest

surplus

(n) - excess water in a water budget

synoptic weather map

(n) - a map that shows summary of the total weather picture

tarn

(n) - a small, deep glacial lake located in a cirque and fed by runoff from the surrounding slopes

temperature range

(n) - the minimum and maximum temperature values

terminal moraine

(n) - a ridge of unsorted sediments deposited by a glacier along its front

terrestrial

(adj) - relating to rocks and soil

texture

(n) - the size, shape and arrangement of the minerals in a rock

thermograph

(n) - a self-registering thermometer

till

(n) - an ridge of unsorted sediments deposited by a glacier

time scale

(n) - a graduated line marked by events

tombolo

(n) - a bar of sand that connects an island with the mainland

topographic profile

(n) - a side view of the land surface

topography

(n) - the shape of the land surface

tornado

(n) - a narrow, cyclonic storm with very high wind speeds

trace fossil

(n) - a sedimentary structure consisting of a fossilized track, trail, burrow or tube resulting from the life activities of a former organism

trade winds

(n) - prevailing tropical winds; blowing northeast in Northern Hemisphere and southeast in Southern Hemisphere

transfrom plate boundary

(n) - the area where 2 plates are shifting alongside one

moving in opposite directions or in the same direction

tsunami

(n) - a large wave produced from an earthquake underwater

unconformity

(n) - a wiggly line that represents an erosional surface or a gap in time

uniformitarianism

(n) - the principle that the processes that acted on the Earth in the past continue to do so today

uplift

(n) - the upward movement of the Earth's crust

valley glacier

(n) a glacier formed at high elevations

vaporization

(n) - the act of changing a liquid to gas

veneer

(n) - a thin covering

vertical sorting

(n) - the process by which the largest, roundest and densest sediments are deposited first

vesicular

(adj) - characteristic of containing cavities or pore spaces

volume

(n) - the amount of space that an object occupies

waning

(adj) - the term used to describe the dimming of the moon as it moves from full to new moon phase

water retained

(n) - the amount of water held back by the sediments

watershed

(n) - area of land drained by a river (its tributaries & distributaries)

water vapor

(n) - the gaseous state of water

wave height

(n) - the height of a wave from trough to crest

wavelength

(n) - the length of a wave from crest to crest or trough to trough

waxing

(adj) - the term used to describe the brightening of the moon as it moves from its new to full moon phase

weathering

(n) - the process by which a rock is broken into smaller pieces

weight

(n) - the effect of gravity on mass

wet bulb depression

(n) - the change in temperature of the wet bulb thermometer

wind

(n) - the movement of air horizontally due to differences in air pressure

wind (weather) vane

(n) - an instrument used to illustrate direction of wind flow

windward

(n) - the side of a hill, etc subjected to wind

zenith

(n) - a point directly overhead