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2: Introduction and Geology

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    • 2.1: The Earth - The Ground Beneath Your Feet
      We will be dealing almost exclusively with the Earth’s continental surfaces. There are profound geological differences between the continents and the ocean basins, in terms of origin, age, history, and composition. Here I’ll present, very briefly, some basic things about geology.
    • 2.2: Minerals
      The technical definition of a mineral is elegant: a naturally occurring crystalline solid. That definition calls for a bit of commentary, though.
    • 2.3: Rocks
      Rocks, in the form of what is called bedrock, are exposed at the Earth’s surface over wide areas, and they everywhere underlie the unconsolidated surficial 79 materials, called regolith, you will learn about later in this chapter.
    • 2.4: Bedrock
      By bedrock I mean solid rock, exposed at the Earth’s surface or buried at shallow depths. A great many geologists spend most of their professional lives studying the bedrock of the Earth’s continents.
    • 2.5: Weathering
      Weathering is the term used for the chemical decomposition and physical disintegration of bedrock at and just below the earth’s surface.
    • 2.6: The Mineral Particles of the Earth's Surface Materials
      It seems a good idea, at this point, to describe the most common kinds of mineral particles in the ground under your feet—the materials that in the sections to follow are called regolith, sediment, and soil (regolith being the most inclusive term, as you will see).
    • 2.7: Regolith
      The term regolith is used for the layer or mantle of fragmental and unconsolidated rock and mineral material, whether residual or transported, that rests on bedrock. One might quibble that the definition excludes fragmental material that happens to be locally cemented by surficial processes butis otherwise closely related to nearby unconsolidated material.
    • 2.8: Sediment
      When regolith is mobilized or entrained, by flowing water, or by the wind, or by moving glacier ice, it is called sediment, because, as the term implies (the Latin verb sedere means to sit), it eventually comes to rest again as a deposit. Here I will touch upon only a few aspects of sediments. You will hear much more about sediment movement, and sediment deposits, in later chapters, especially the chapters on rivers, on glaciers, and on coasts.
    • 2.9: Soils
      Along with oxygen and water, soils are essential to human existence. Almost all of our food comes, directly or indirectly, from crops grown in the soil.

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    2: Introduction and Geology is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by John Southard (MIT OpenCourseware) via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.