16.3. Earth-System Change – Review Questions

  • What are the main “spheres” of the climate system? Describe each, and how they interact with one another.



  • Draw a diagram to illustrate the spheres (geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere/cryosphere, lithosphere) and how they interact with one another.

  • What are greenhouse gases and what influence do they have on climate? What are the most important greenhouse gases?


  • What is the greenhouse effect?


  • What is albedo? How does it differ between ice and rocky surfaces on the crust? How does that affect climate?



  • How can volcanoes influence climate?


  • How does the biosphere influence climate?


  • How does the level of CO2 in the atmosphere currently compare to the levels of CO2 over the past 400,000 years?


  • What are some examples of forms of carbon found in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere?


  • What are two examples of positive and negative climate feedback, and give examples of each.



  • Why are climate models challenging to create? What are some limitations of climate models? What have climate models told us about what is coming in terms of climate change in the future?


  • What are some examples of short-term climate changes? Long-term climate changes? Describe the changes in the various climate system “spheres” that occur in association with these changes.


  • What are some major sources of CO2 emissions? Think about all the things you see and do in a day; what things emit, or have emitted, CO2 that you interact with daily. What things could you do to decrease your CO2 emissions?


  • Which industrial sectors are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions? How could we decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by these sectors?


  • How has the amount of sea ice changed over the past 40 years? How does the amount of sea ice relate to changes in ocean water temperature?


Extra review questions that may be covered in lecture (depending on your professor) that are not completely covered in the the textbook readings:

  • What are some examples of gradients that are important in climate systems? In the ocean? In the atmosphere?


  • Describe the two layers of the atmosphere that are nearest the surface of the Earth (it may help to draw a cross-section diagram). What gases are found in these layers? What kinds of air patterns are observed in these layers?





  • Why is the sky blue?


  • Draw a diagram showing the hydrosphere, with arrows to show the movement of water through the hydrosphere.





  • Describe several reservoirs where freshwater and saline water are found in the Earth’s climate system.


  • Describe seasonal interactions that occur between the cryosphere and the hydrosphere.


  • Describe how topography, specifically mountains, can influence climate systems?


  • What is the difference between isostacy and eustacy?


  • Describe how global annual average temperatures have changed over the past 150 years using the “hockey stick” diagram. Draw a sketch of the diagram (don’t forget to label the x and y axes!).


  • How is the pattern in the hockey stick diagram over the past 150 years different than other times with high global annual average temperatures over the course of the Holocene epoch?


  • Over the past 10 years, which countries/regions have had the largest CO2 emissions?


  • How are increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere influencing ocean pH?


  • What are some of the potential implications for life in the ocean if the CO2 concentration continues to rise?




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Physical Geology Workbook Copyright © 2019 by Joyce M. McBeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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