Increasingly confused by all the "spheres" and agreed relationships between them. As a result, I am looking for a singular answer that clearly states at the very least what the top-level and secondary domains of Earth Science are and if possible, the domains relationships.

Spheres I have run across include, but are not limited to: biosphere, atmosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, cryosphere, exosphere, and more.

Diagram Request: While not required, a visual, such as a venn diagram would likely be of use.

  • $\begingroup$ thats a nice diagram, what is the source? $\endgroup$ – David LeBauer Apr 30 '14 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Good graphic. Pretty much covers what is critical zone. $\endgroup$ – david valentine Apr 30 '14 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @David: Not sure, or I would have linked to the source; found the image on Google Images, but the image is posted to a domain that pulls images from other sites; the image itself is on Nature.com here, but after doing a quick search, I was unable to figure out where it is used in context. Never mind, just found the source doing another search: The Soil Biota $\endgroup$ – blunders Apr 30 '14 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ This is lithosphere in the sense of "rock sphere". It should be noted that this includes the subclasses of lithosphere (as in elastic properties) and astenosphere (as in plastic properties). $\endgroup$ – tobias47n9e Apr 30 '14 at 18:20

Regarding subdomains - I expect that there may be hundreds or thousands of subdomain *spheres.

For example, I've studied soil for many years and had never heard of the "drillosphere", "porosphere", "aggregatusphere", or "detritusphere".

“drilosphere” (the portion of the soil volume influenced by secretions of earthworms), the porosphere (the total pore space), detritusphere (dead plant and soil biota), aggregatusphere (the sum of aggregates) and the rhizosphere.

from fig 4 in the same Nature Education article that provided the macro-view venn diagram in @blunders' answer.
(source: nature.com)

  • $\begingroup$ +1 @David: Thanks for confirming that it appears it's correct that there is no agreed taxonomy. Honestly, seems a bit odd to me, and like the community is just making up terms left and right without any real reason to do so. $\endgroup$ – blunders May 1 '14 at 2:03

Originally, the image below provided a (potentially incomplete) example within the question, but appears to be more of an answer. So I've moved it from the question to here:

enter image description here

(Image Source)

  • $\begingroup$ Humans change just about every one of these relationships. More and more -- Earth science accounts for human intervention. $\endgroup$ – badgley May 1 '14 at 5:24

Here's a list of AGU (American Geophysical Union) sections. Each section is composed of committees with specialized sub-disciplines.

Atmospheric and Space Electricity, Near Surface Geophysics, Atmospheric sciences, Nonlinear Geophysics, Biogeosciences, Ocean Sciences, Cryospheric Sciences, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, Earth and Planetary Surface Processes, Planetary science, Earth and Space Science Informatics, Seismology, Geodesy, Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences, Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism, Space Physics and Aeronomy, Global Environmental Change, Studies of the Earth's Deep Interior, Hydrology, Tectonophysics, Mineral and Rock Physics, Volcanology, Geochemistry, Petrology, Natural Hazards

Reference: AGU Sections/Focus Groups

Is there anything that doesn't fit within one of these top-level categories?

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, no that's not really of any use; for example, "Atmospheric and Space Electricity" is not even a purely Earth Science domain; meaning it's unlikely to be a top-level or secondary domain in Earth Science. Just reads to me as a list of what AGU's staff find of interest. $\endgroup$ – blunders May 1 '14 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @blunders Not staff interests at all. The membership--62,000 scientists from 144 countries--decides on these sections, adding and subtracting as the discipline changes. Space electricity is studied for its effect on Earth. Seems like you may be surprised that the study of solar flares is also considered Earth science. Do you know of a more authoritative association? $\endgroup$ – kwknowles May 7 '14 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ +1 Thanks for the clarification, if it's not clear, I'm not an "expert" in Earth Science. So, not sure, what the answer is though might be worth noting in your answer "AGU is a membership of 62,000 scientists from 144 countries." $\endgroup$ – blunders May 7 '14 at 16:12

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