Cover image for The earth system
The earth system
Kump, Lee R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 351 pages, 16 pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 28 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QH331 .K798 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



This work offers a systems theory approach and utilizes an Earth history perspective. A text-specific Website features several computer modules developed as teaching aids.



This is not a traditional Earth science textbook. Such books treat individual components of the Earth system--the solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans--separately, with little consideration of the interplay among them or the important interactions with living organisms (the stuff of ecology texts). And, although they are the focus of this book, the modern environmental problems of global warming, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity are treated in a fundamentally different way here than in most texts. Here we recognize that these problems have analogues from Earth history: The geological past is the key to the present and to the future. Content Chapter 1, "Global Change," is an overview of these important issues--the observational data that convince us that serious problems exist and the events in Earth's history that illuminate how the Earth system responds under stress. The rest of the book is organized into three major sections. Chapters 2 through 9 are devoted to an exploration of how Earth "works." They develop the notion that processes active on Earth's surface are functioning together to regulate climate, the circulation of the ocean and atmosphere, and the recycling of the elements. The biota play an important role in all of these processes. Chapters 10 through 15 take the reader through the history of Earth, highlighting those events that provide lessons for the future. The final four chapters focus on the future of the Earth system, addressing the modern problems of global change and the prospect of life on other planets in the context of what was presented in the first two sections. Revisions to the First Edition In the four years since the first edition of this book came out, a lot has changed. Atmospheric CO2has increased by about 7 parts per million, freon-11 concentrations have decreased by 6 parts per trillion, and global surface temperatures have continued their inexorable but ragged rise. For this reason alone--just to keep up with the new data on global change--a book like this one needs to be regularly updated. However, it is not just the data that are changing. Ideas have been evolving as well during the past four years. New geologic evidence indicates that "Snowball Earth" episodes actually occurred not just once but several times during Earth's history. The case has been made that CH4, rather than (or in addition to) CO2, was the main greenhouse gas that helped to keep the early Earth warm despite reduced solar luminosity. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a new report that for the first time states unambiguously that human activities are responsible for at least part of the observed surface temperature increase. And NASA's generous support for the new discipline of "astrobiology" has made us even more aware of the tight connections between the evolving Earth and its biota. We have tried to reflect these and other changes in the revised edition of our book. We have added two new chapters: Chapter 6 (on global climate models) and Chapter 9 (on the biota, ecosystems, and biodiversity). We've also expanded our discussion of early Earth, now devoting two chapters to the topic: Chapter 10, on the origin of Earth and of life, and Chapter 11, on the effect life has had on the development of the atmosphere. Some of this involved simply reorganizing material that had previously been included in other chapters; however, a significant amount of new material has been added. Chapter 9 recognizes the importance of numerical modeling in the establishment of policy for a changing world. Chapter 9 highlights the role that the biota plays in the Earth system. Chapters 10 and 11 draw on the "universal" tree of life derived from sequencing of ribosomal RNA that places humans and fungi as closer relatives than different forms of bacteria. The order of Chapters 11 and 12 (Chapters 8 and 9 in the first edition) has been switched to reflect the increased importance of the O2/CH4story for Precambrian paleoclimates. Organization and Pedagogy As in the first edition, we have employed a number of pedagogical features to assist in the learning process. Each chapter begins with "Key Questions" (objective questions students should be able to answer after they have read the chapter) and a "Chapter Overview" (a broad preview of the chapter to come). Within each chapter are boxed essays that provide interesting asides, more detailed or quantitative treatments of material in the text, or recent advances in scientific understanding. A "Chapter Summary" is provided in outline form at the end of each chapter to aid in reviewing the most important concepts. "Suggested Readings" include both general readings and advanced readings for students (and instructors) interested in further information about the subject matter. These are followed by "Key Terms" lists, which consist of boldfaced terms that are introduced in the chapter and that appear in the "Glossary" in the back of the book. "Review Questions" focus students' review on important concepts and require only brief answers, whereas "Critical-Thinking Questions" are thought questions or analytical exercises that require students to synthesize concepts presented in the chapter. In designing this second edition, we have tried to organize our topics more logically and categorize special topics into "boxes" of different types, with the designations A Closer Look, which offers a closer examination of topics discussed in the book; Important Concepts, with in-depth presentations of fundamental concepts from the natural sciences essential to our understanding of the Earth system; and Thinking Quantitatively, which emphasizes how mathematics is used to better understand the workings of the Earth system. Instructors may choose whether to make any or all of these boxes assigned reading. We have also corrected errors pointed out to us by our students and by other faculty using the book, and we've brought the data graphs up to date. We hope that these changes will help make the book easier to use in a variety of different courses, as well as being more accessible and informative to students. Chapter Sequencing We anticipate that this book will be used in a variety of ways. We teach a general education class at The Pennsylvania State University that covers approximately three-quarters of the book during one semester. Several instructors teach this course, but not all of us choose to cover the same chapters. An instructor who is most interested in climate issues, for example, might use Chapters 1-6, 8 12, 14-16, and 19. One who is most interested in biodiversity might choose Chapters 1, 2, 8-11, 13, ant 18. The course can also be tailored to emphasize either Earth history (Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 9-15) or modern global environmental problems (Chapters 1-6, 8, 9, and 16-19"' By providing more material than can easily be covered ii a one-semester course, we provide the flexibility to emphasize topics or topic areas that are of interest to different instructors and different groups of students. Excerpted from The Earth System by Lee R. Kump, James F. Kasting, Robert G. Crane All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction to Global Change
2 Daisyworld: An Introduction to Systems
3 Global Energy Balance: The Greenhouse Effect
4 The Atmospheric Circulation System
5 The Circulation of the Oceans
6 Circulation of the Solid Earth: Plate tedtonics
7 Recycling of the Elements: The Carbon Cycle
8 Long-Term Climate Regulation
9 The Chemical Environment: Evolution of the Atmosphere
10 Biodiversity through Earth History
11 Pleistocene Glaciation
12 Short-Term Climate Variability
13 Global Warming
14 Ozone Depletion
15 Human Threats to Biodiversity
16 Climate Stability on Earth and Earthlike Planets
Appendix A Units and Unit Conversions
Appendix B Temperature Conversions
Appendix C Periodic Table
Appendix D Useful Facts

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