Climate Change

Earth Systems Overview Module


This module should take you about one to one and one-half hours to complete. You can stop at any time and pick up where you left off. There is no quiz at the end! Please be sure you have completed the preparations below before you begin working through the module.

The goal for this module is to provide an overview of the Earth system, which also serves as our climate system. To understand climate change, we need to begin with the Earth and its components – land (or rock), life, water, and air- our lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.

We’ll begin with developing an understanding of systems science and then apply that to Earth’s systems, tying these concepts to your own site as we progress.

With this foundation we will briefly describe some major drivers of Earth’s climate patterns, in particular the coupling of the ocean and atmosphere, and challenge you to consider how these patterns may influence the climate of your region.

Learning Objectives for Module

  • Describe the Earth’s system in terms of 5 spheres and provide an example of how the spheres are connected.
  • Describe how scientists approach the discipline of Earth System Science.
  • Describe at least three connections between global, regional and local changes in climate (drawn from anywhere in the world).
  • State one example of how your site is connected to each of the five spheres.
  • For each of the five spheres, describe one way in which changes in the sphere are now or may in the future have an affect on your site or region.

Before you start

elementary-school-supplies-smBefore beginning this module, find a photograph that shows part of your park or interpretative site that you can use in this activity. This should be a landscape shot that you might consider to be representative of what makes your interpretative site special. Note: if you do not work at a site per se, please use a photo of the area in which you live or work. It will be best if you can enlarge this image to about 8.5 X 11. You will also need a piece of tracing paper or a sheet of plastic that can be used as an overlay upon which you will be writing responses to exercises in the module. Alternatively you can sketch the main things in your photo, and use that sketch in your responses.

Set this photograph aside for use later in the module.

You may want to download now the reading, Multiple Modes of Inquiry in Earth Science  note: this is an external link, please be sure to return to this page once you've done the download. Set this article aside for use later in the module.