Introduction to The Hydrosphere



Anyone who has traveled at all realizes that not all parts of the earth are the same

Both surface features and the rocks below the surface

It's also clear that the earth is not ever-present and unchanging

Lots of examples of small (and large) scale changes we can observe

Multnomah Falls rockfall

Yosemite Valley: Glacier Point rockfall, Merced River 1997 floods

Applegate River at Hwy. 199

There are 2 processes: Construction and Destruction

The examples mentioned above are primarily destructive

Happen at a faster rate so we recognize them

The constructive processes are also exciting

Volcanoes, earthquakes, tectonics in general

They also seem to happen fast, but...

See Strickler's 2nd Law of GeoFantasy

More on the constructive processes in Physical Geology

Hydrosphere is the study of water and how it interacts with the atmosphere and the surface of the earth

This makes is somewhat easier to study than the constructive processes covered in Physical Geology

In many cases geology deals with events which happen in places we just can't get to

Also, the time frame for most geological events is far longer than most of us can comprehend

Hydrosphere deals with surface processes

Things which generally occur on and above the earth's crust

Where we can see (and study) them

We will cover quite a bit of territory this term, including...

Water and Magic

Water and Life

Origins of Water and the Water Cycle

Energy Transfer in the Atmosphere

Weathering and Erosion


Streamflow, Energy, and the Transportation of Sediments



Water and the Environment

Hydrosphere is a field oriented science

The field IS our science!

Hope to have several field trips during the term

DIGRESS TO: who will be invited along

Possibility of top student(s) joining my RCC trips


Earth Science, Laws, and the Scientific Method

There are no real "laws" in any of the earth sciences

Not like the fundamental sciences which rely on a whole herd of laws to help them make sense

And keep them boring and predictable

The earth sciences are far from predictable

You never really know what you're going to get

All we have are a few general guidelines to help clarify the mess

Probably the best is Uniformity - "the present is the key to the past"

If a process is active today, it probably worked the same across geologic time

Gravity, water running downhill, that kind of thing

The concept of uniformity states that there are natural laws that have worked continuously and unchangingly throughout geologic time

There are others which we will discuss at other times

And the heavyweights!

Strickler's Laws of GeoFantasy

Scientific experimentation is somewhat different between geology and the fundamental sciences

In physics and chemistry, the scientific method can be applied

Hypotheses and experimentation to prove (or disprove) the hypothesis

My version of the S.M. may be a bit different, and include a couple additional steps

Wild & Crazy Idea ---> Hypothesis ---> Theory ---> Law ---> Dogma ---> Stagnation

Click here for a more detailed discussion of my version of the scientific method

One last thing:

We will be constantly changing our perspective throughout the course

From looking at the "big picture" to a closer examination of "the details"

DIGRESS TO: trumpet to trombone

DISCUSS : regional vs. local