CHAPTER 4 Introducing Earth LESSON 1 The Earth System THE EARTH AS A SYSTEM The Earth system involves a constant flow of matter through different parts. The constant flow, or cycling, of matter through the earth system is driven by energy. Energy is the ability to do work. The energy that drives the Earth system has two main sources: heat from the sun and heat flowing out of Earth as it cools. PARTS OF THE EARTH SYSTEM The Earth contains air, water, land and life. Each of these forms its own “sphere.” Atmosphere Hydrosphere Geosphere Biosphere ATMOSPHERE The Earth’s outermost layer is a mixture of gasses. Primarily nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and argon (1%). Trace amounts of carbon dioxide, neon, helium, methane, krypton, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, xenon, ozone, iodine, and carbon monoxide. Lower altitudes also have quantities of water vapor. The atmosphere we have today is very different from the Earth’s early atmosphere. When the planet first cooled down 4.4 billion years ago, volcanos spewed out steam, carbon dioxide and ammonia, and it was 100 times as dense as today’s atmosphere.