Despite our propensity to consider Earth as static, it is in reality a dynamic and also ever-changing planet. Wind, water, and ice erode and also shape the land. Volcanic activity and earthquakes alter the landscape in a dramatic and often violent manner. And on a much longer timescale, the activity of earth’s plates slowly reconfigures oceans and continents.

You are watching: Forces that shape the earth's surface


Each among these processes plays a role in the Arctic and Antarctica. We’ll talk about each in general and specifically in the polar regions.


EROSION

Wind, water, and also ice room the three agents of erosion, or the transporting away that rock, sediment, and soil. Erosion is distinguished from weathering — the physics or chemical break down of the minerals in rock. However, weathering and also erosion can occur simultaneously. Erosion is a organic process, though it is frequently increased by humans’ use of the land. Deforestation, overgrazing, construction, and also road building often expose soil and also sediments and also lead to enhanced erosion. Excessive erosion leads to lose of soil, ecosystem damage, and a buildup of sediments in water sources. Building terraces and also planting trees can assist reduce erosion.

GLACIERS

In the Arctic and sub-Arctic, glacial erosion has shaped much of the landscape. Glaciers mostly erode with plucking and abrasion. Plucking occurs as a glacier flows over bedrock, softening and lifting block of rock that are carried into the ice. The intense push at the basic of the glacier reasons some the the ice to melt, forming a slim layer of subglacial water. This water flows right into cracks in the bedrock. As the water refreezes, the ice acts as a lever loosening the absent by lifting it. The broken rock is thus incorporated right into the glacier’s load and is brought along together the glacier slowly moves.


Abrasion happens when the glacier’s ice and also rock pieces act as sandpaper, crushing the rock into carefully grained absent flour and smoothing the absent below. Meltwater streams of numerous glaciers are grayish in shade due come high amounts of absent flour.
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Mt. Erebus lava lake in 1983. Picture courtesy of Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory.


Mt. Erebus is likewise notable for its persistent low-level eruptive task (with virtually daily eruptions). While the volcano has had actually some background of violent activity, most eruptions room passive lava flows similar to the volcanoes that Hawaii.

EARTHQUAKES

Seismic task (earthquakes) is most often linked with tectonic key boundaries. As plates progressively move, your jagged edge stick and suddenly slip, bring about an earthquake.

The Gakkel Ridge underneath the Arctic s experiences little earthquakes that accompany the volcanic task found in the area. Antarctica, i m sorry lies in the facility of a tectonic plate, does no experience many earthquakes. However, seismic activity is linked with eruptions that Mt. Erebus.


RELATED RESOURCES

Use these resources to learn an ext about erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics and how these agents of change affect the polar regions.

All about GlaciersLearn just how glaciers form, move, and also shape the landscape.

Katabatic WindsBasic information about the winds the Antarctica.

National Geographic: forces of NatureExplore volcanoes and also earthquakes in this internet site. Don’t miss the interactive activities that enable you to virtually erupt volcanoes and trigger earthquakes!

Polar Discovery: Arctic Seafloor ExpeditionDuring summer 2007, a team that scientists provided autonomous underwater vehicles to check out the Gakkel Ridge. The Polar discovery web site papers the expedition and provides elevator information, images, and video.

Mt. Erebus Volcano ObservatoryProvides general information around Mt. Erebus, ongoing research, video, and also a photo gallery.


National Science education Standards: science Content Standards

The whole National Science education Standards file can be check out online or download for complimentary from the nationwide Academies Press net site. The following excerpt was taken from chapter 6.

A research of changes in the Earth’s surface ar aligns through the earth and an are Science, and also the scientific research in an individual and society Perspectives content requirements of the National Science education and learning Standards:

K-4 planet and room Science: changes in the Earth and also Sky

The surface ar of the earth changes. Some changes are due to slow processes, such together erosion and also weathering, and also some changes are as result of rapid processes, such together landslides, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes.

5-8 planet and room Science: structure of the earth System

The solid earth is layered v a lithosphere; hot, convecting mantle; and dense, metallic core.Lithospheric bowl on the scales of continents and oceans constantly move at rates of centimeters per year in solution to activities in the mantle. Significant geological events, such together earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and also mountain building, an outcome from these plate motions.Land creates are the result of a combination of constructive and also destructive forces. Constructive forces encompass crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition the sediment, while devastating forces include weathering and erosion.

5-8 planet and room Science: earth History

The earth processes we view today, including erosion, motion of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are comparable to those that emerged in the past.Fossils carry out important evidence of how life and also environmental conditions have changed.

K-4 science in personal and society Perspectives: alters in Environments

Changes in settings can be organic or affected by humans. Some changes are good, some room bad, and also some room neither great nor bad.Some environmental changes occur slowly, and also others occur rapidly.

5-8 science in personal and social Perspectives: organic Hazards

Internal and also external processes of the earth system cause natural hazards, events that change or damage human and wildlife habitats, damage property, and also harm or kill humans.

See more: What Organelles Are Part Of The Endomembrane System, Endomembrane System


This article was created by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For much more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, principal Investigator, with any type of questions about the contents of this site.