Definitions

geophysics

geophysics

[jee-oh-fiz-iks]
geophysics, study of the structure, composition, and dynamic changes of the earth, its atmosphere, hydrosphere and magnetosphere, based on the principles of physics. The term was probably first used in Germany, where it appeared in scientific writings of the mid-19th cent. Geophysics, which embraces the concepts, data, and methods of various other sciences, is very broad in scope. For example, geology, meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and seismology all enter into geophysical studies, with many of them overlapping (e.g., meteorology and oceanography in the study of possible global warming). Most techniques for locating subsurface petroleum, mineral deposits, and water supplies are reliant upon applied geophysics, including the use of seismic and electrical measurements at shallow depths and gravimetric, magnetic, and radiometric surveys at ground stations and in airplanes. Information is then correlated with visible surface features, subsurface conditions are inferred, and boreholes are drilled to determine the extent and richness of promising areas. Geophysics also is used to understand the interactions of the atmosphere and hydrosphere, including how certain anomalies in the ocean's circulation affect the atmosphere. Magnetosphere studies in geophysics concentrate on the magnetic field around the earth. Other geophysical studies are more specific, i.e. selenophysics, or the physics of the moon. Recent flyby spacecraft have accumulated extensive physical data, allowing geophysicists to theorize, by analogy to geophysical earth studies, about the underlying structures, atmospheres, and magnetospheres of other planets and satellites in the solar system.

Major branch of earth science that applies the principles and methods of physics to the study of the Earth. Geophysics deals with such geologic phenomena as the temperature distribution of the Earth's interior; the source, configuration, and variations of the geomagnetic field; and the large-scale features of the terrestrial crust, such as rifts, continental sutures, and oceanic ridges. Modern geophysical research also examines phenomena of the outer parts of the Earth's atmosphere and even the physical properties of other planets and their satellites. Seealso marine geophysics.

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Geophysics, a major discipline of Earth sciences, is the study of the Earth by quantitative physical methods, especially by seismic, electromagnetic, and radioactivity methods. It calls heavily upon other fields of science such as math, physics, and computer science. History of geophysics has been motivated by theoretical and practical issues. The term of geophysics was probably first used in Germany, where it appeared in scientific writings of the mid-19th century. The word geophysics was first used by Fröbel as "geophysik" in 1834. The theories and techniques of geophysics are employed extensively in the planetary sciences in general.

The field of geophysics includes the branches of:

* Atmospheric electricity and terrestrial magnetism (including ionosphere, Van Allen belts, telluric currents, Radiant energy, etc.)
* Meteorology and Climatology, which both involve studies of the weather.
* Aeronomy, the study of the physical structure and chemistry of the atmosphere.

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