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1.3: The Four Earth Systems

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    Your text defines a system as any ordered, interrelated set of things and their attributes, linked by flows of energy and matter, as distance from the surrounding environment outside of the system. Read the definitions of open system and closed system carefully, then list three examples of open and closed systems below, including lists of the inputs and outputs for an open system, and the cycle of material for a closed system.

    Open System
    Closed System

    Feedback loops help to regulate natural systems. Most systems maintain a structure of steady state equilibrium over time. That is not to say that they are always steady, but rather that the average state is that of equilibrium. This is a phenomenon known as dynamic equilibrium. An example of dynamic equilibrium might be the average daytime September temperature in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ‘average’ daytime temperature might be 78 degrees (F), but the temperature on any given day is somewhat higher or lower than that.

    Figure 1.4.1 Earth Systems

    This topic is centered around the four earth systems, and the interaction of each system with the others. The graphic below shows a Venn diagram as a way to visualize the interrelationship between the four earth 'spheres'. We will revisit this diagram throughout this course as we focus on the different ways that the regions of Physical Geography interact with each other.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Read the definitions of each earth system carefully, then write down definitions for the following four earth systems in your own words.

    1. Atmosphere
    2. Lithosphere
    3. Hydrosphere
    4. Biosphere

    This page titled 1.3: The Four Earth Systems is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by K. Allison Lenkeit-Meezan.

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