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91 Cards in this Set

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  • Back


seasonal variability in climate

biosphere subcycle

terrestrial & marine realms, inorganic & organic pathways; fast cycling

lithosphere subcycle

long term storage and tectonic re-cycling; slow cycling


substances essential to life


the part of the earth that supports life; including the oceans, atmosphere, land surface and soils

organic carbon

associated with compounds of biologic systems (C-C & C-H bonds)

inorganic carbon

associated with compounds of inorganic systems

steady state

no change in state of the system with time


temporary repositories for mass that flows through them; size depends on imbalances between inflow and outflow

residence time

average time that an element remains in a reservoir at steady state


a loss of electrons and a gain in valance


earths earliest photosynthesizer; blue-green algae (3.5 Ga)


columnar/conical shaped sedimentary structures with laminations; formed by colonies of cyanobacteria

branded iron formations (BIF's)

laminated chemical precipitate of ancient seawater, formed in epicontinental settings when seas were high or rifted basins; alternating layers of Fe & Si rich

red beds

reddish coloured sandstones deposited in continental riverine environments; red colour derives from FeO3 (rust)


have same proton number but different neutron numbers and different masses; serve as fingerprint for the processes that may have acted on those materials


aka primary producers; organisms that grow by using a source of energy to reduced CO2


highly vascularized organ in giant tube worms; contain special cells parked full of chemoautotrophic sulphur bacteria


grow by using organic matter produced by other organisms; secondary producers


closely related organisms that can potentially interbreed and produce fertile offspring


all members of a single species that live in a given area


assemblage of two or more groups of interacting species (plants, animals, fungi, etc.)


region with a characteristic plant community


a community of plants, animals, fungi and microbes couple with the environment (coral reef, boreal forest, arctic, desert, etc.)


diffuse boundary between ecosystems; contains an assemblage of species not found in either adjacent ecosystems


microscopic algae that grow in polar regions

food chain

charts which organisms feed on which

food web

interconnected food chains that can be ordered at trophic levels


the total combined weight of organic material in each trophic level; decreases by 90-99% for each level


a relationship where two 2 species benefit from living together


describes an animals lifestyle


disturbance of an ecosystem generates a predictable sequence of responses


the number of species in a given area

simpsons diversity index

measures the likelihood that 2 individuals drawn from the same community will be of different species

time stability hypothesis

environment stability like that seen in the tropics leads to high diversity

An Gorta Mor

implications for low diversity


famine, disease and social breakdown


the descent with modification (through genetic mutation) of pre existing life forms

natural selection

unequal survival & reproduction of organisms; preservation of favourable traits


characteristics that enhance an organisms survival/ reproductive success

logistic growth

population increases rapidly when numbers are low and birth rate decreases, death rate increases until birthrate equals carrying capacity


systematic organization of living or fossil organisms into a hierarchy

cambrian explosion

most remarkable burst of evolution; all phyla evolved

mass extinction

when 25% or more families disappear


(cross ankles) group of archosaurs; crocodiles evolved from these


appear and disappear all at the same time making it easy to tell what time period it is


similar to stromatolites, made of layers of algae

hernantian stage

cold terminal end of the ordovician

iridium anomaly

rare metal found only in meteorites and deep down in the earth; found in 75 locations world wide

deccan basalts

gases released changed climate; played a role in the extinction of dinosaurs


icy balls of water, ammonia, methane, CO2, rocks and metals

oort cloud

spherical reservoir of comets that extend more than one light year from the sun; may be disturbed by passing stars


composed of minerals and metals; orbit between Mars & Jupiter


"iron loving" elements like iridium are concentrated on the interiors of planets and asteroids; (evidence for the K-T extinction)


ear stones in fish; used for dating temperature in the past

milankovich forcing

periodic fluctuations in the earths orbital parameters causing ice sheet oscillations

fourier transform analysis

affects how the sun hits the earth at any given time

ice albedo (+) feedback

ice sheet growth causes albedo to increase and planetary temperatures to decrease therefore encouraging more ice sheet growth


occurs high in stratosphere; organic haze that absorbs radiation and re-emits the infrared radiation to space (cools earths surface)


a rock that has fallen off of a glacier and into mud; best evidence for glaciation


oldest science we know of; observations of objects in the sky and their behaviour

red shift

waves coming at you; high frequency

blue shift

waves away from you; low frequency


first period of cosmic time; defined by the time it took light to travel the plank length (1.616x10^-35m)


ranges from 5.390x10^-44 s and 4.6 billion yrs; longest aeon in cosmic time; universe has been expanding the whole time

open universe

universe that will keep expanding forever; increasing or constant rate

flat universe

finite radius; decreasing rates decrease to 0 and reverse itself collapsing in a cosmocrunch


continuous creation of space between objects that are not gravitationally bound; space between galactic clusters

weak force

stabilizes neutrons

strong force

keeps particles together

visible universe

what we can see with the hubble telescope

microwave radiation

temperature going to be the same no matter where you look, equal distribution of energy and matter throughout our universe


massive particles consisting of only N or S poles; should have formed in great numbers but not seen today

black hole

collapsed star; very dense circle of matter

Titus-Bode law

planetary distances from central body are not random; a planet like earth is likely to exist in all planetary systems (0.8x10^21)

fluctuating stars

red giant phase when our sun puffs up and engulfs mars, plasma will destroy earth (in about 5 billion years)

white dwarves

starts that lose half their mass to space and collapse into carbon cored stars the size of the earth

supernova explosion

catastrophic collapse of a massive layered star; materials "crunching" down, creating heat and expanding


1 km toxic mud balls made of water, methane, and ammonia


composed of one or more chains of amino acids (transport molecules, enzymes, and hormones)


an assemblage of weather statistics/ conditions experienced at a location over some reference time frame (usually 30 years)


whole life; most things we observe today have been around for thousands of years (interval of time since the last glaciation)

stochastic resonance

flipper and switch of climate


the principle that processes operating today also operated in the past; present is the key to the past

proxy data

data that cannot be obtained by direct measurement but can be inferred from other evidence

ex) oxygen isotope data for temperature


the study of pollen and organic micro-fossils; materials recovered from lakes and bogs


dating by counting tree rings


obtaining climate info from isotope values of annual growth rings


rim of land between the black sea and mediterranean sea

positive NAO index

cause for wet winters in Europe and cold, dry winters in Canada & Greenland; shows strong subtropical high pressure center

negative NAO index

shows weak subtropical high pressure centre and weak Icelandic low; opposite of (+) NAO