Big Sustainability

Planetary Sciences


First published on November 6, 2017

Planetary sciences concerns the geology, oceanography and meteorology of planets. Most of what is know in these sciences concerns the Earth. However, they are applicable to other planets both in the solar system and beyond.


Geology concerns the materials on and below a planet’s surface. There are complex interactions between both deep layers of the Earth and its surface.

Layers of Earth shown from core to surface oceans and continent.

Interior of the Earth. Photo credit: USGS.

The current condition of surface rocks can also tell us about a planet’s distant past history. How rocks have formed can tell us about past processed far below the process. How rocks on the surface have been weathered and worn can tell us about the past climate. Sometimes, each layer of a rock represents a past climate era.

Large, worn, layered rock above grit and small rocks

Cross-bedding on Mars (credit: NASA)


Although oceans are literally sandwiched between the realms of geology and meteorology, the oceans can have a tremendous influence on the atmosphere and climate. Chemical reactions in oceans can remove CO2, and life in the oceans can add oxygen to the atmosphere.

Warm and cool currents looping around oceans and continents

Warm and cool ocean currents. Photo credit: NOAA.


The atmosphere has a tremendous impact upon the conditions for life. Plants require CO2 and animals require oxygen for the basic purposes of their metabolism. Rain provides vital supplies of water, the vital solvent of life.

Downward flow of air at 30°

Vertical air flow by latitude and Hadley Cell. Photo credit: NOAA.

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This quiz covers basic concepts about energy.


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