Physical Climate System Atmospheric Physics/Dynamics

Ocean Dynamics

Ocean Dynamics

1-1_Tropospheric Chemistry_|-1

FIGURE 2.2 ''Bretherton Diagram'' illustrating the complexity of air, sea, and land reservoirs and their dynamic chemical, geological, physical, and biological interactions in the Earth system (Part III: Our Dynamic Planet). Adapted from Earth System Sciences Committee (1988).

1-1_Tropospheric Chemistry_|-1

Biogeochemical Cycles

FIGURE 2.2 ''Bretherton Diagram'' illustrating the complexity of air, sea, and land reservoirs and their dynamic chemical, geological, physical, and biological interactions in the Earth system (Part III: Our Dynamic Planet). Adapted from Earth System Sciences Committee (1988).

''Bretherton Diagram'' in the late 1980s (Fig. 2.2). As much an inspiration as roadmap, the ''Bretherton Diagram'' has become has become a conceptual framework for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and other global activities that are studying the Earth system for the benefit of humankind.

How is humankind related to the nature of the Earth system?

gradients and hierarchies

Concepts of time and space are central to science. Consider the impact of dropping a stone in a pond, which creates ripples that expand across time and space. The magnitude of this disturbance and its distance of propagation depend largely on the size of the initial impact (i.e., the size of the stone). In this context, each separate ripple can be related to any other individual ripple at different times and distances away from the initial impact (Fig. 2.3).

Time, space, and matter represent the underlying axes for relating events, entities, and phenomena in the universe. Commonly, these continua contain extremely large and small numbers that can be represented simply by the ''power of ten,'' across exponential scales where ''1'' is in the center of each axis as the decimal point and zeros shift to the left and right across different orders of mag-

FIGURE 2.3 Time and space relationships following an initial impact or change in the system, like ripples propagating across a pond after a frog jumps in. Adapted from Hawking (1988).

nitude (from less than 0.001 or 10~3 to 10~2, 10"1, 100, 101, 102, and beyond 1000 or 103).

With units of space, an ant and the Earth's diameter can be related from millimeters to thousands of kilometers, across nine orders of magnitude. Similarly, with units of time, human lifespans over decades can be related to the Earth's age over billions of years (Fig. 1.6), across eight orders of magnitude. These examples demonstrate one of the most valuable exercises in science—the "back-of-the-envelope'' calculation for estimating the relative scale of an impact without actually making the measurements. This process of estimation serves in the process of interpreting the dynamics between human and Earth system events, entities, and phenomena.

Consider the biological impacts from ultraviolet radiation, which is reaching the Earth's surface with greater strength because of the depleted stratospheric ozone. Given that ultraviolet radiation can cause genetic mutations within cells, impacts are direct and potentially much more significant with short-lived single-celled organisms where the entire individual is irradiated than in larger long-lived organisms where cells within tissues will be affected.

Like telescopes and microscopes, focusing across levels of complexity and

TABLE 2.1 Taxonomic Hierarchy


Blue whale


























organization, hierarchies provide another useful tool for interpreting relationships among events, entities, and phenomena. One of the most famous hierarchies was formalized during the18th century by Carolus Linnaeus in his 10-volume Systema Naturae, which provided the foundation for taxonomic classification (Table 2.1). In this example, the taxonomic hierarchy provides a simple framework for identifying both the uniqueness and commonality of whales and humans.

Throughout this book are figures elaborating the time, space, and matter dimensions of various events, entities, and phenomena. Details in these figures go beyond their descriptions and provide opportunities for integrating information. Consider what is being introduced or compared and why this information is being presented.

• How are entities related?

• Where did events originate?

• What are the underlying causes and effects of phenomena in the Earth system?

• Are there past trends that reflect how phenomena may propagate over time or space in the future?

Asking questions and developing a curious eye about the world, whether from studying figures or walking through the woods, is fundamental to interpreting the complexities of the Earth system and their relevance to human civilization.


Antarctica exposes individuals to Earth system phenomena as well as a unique international system for maintaining an entire continent and its surrounding seas for peaceful purposes only. For all Antarctic issues, the decision-making forum is the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) as established by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty (Fig. 2.4) (Chapter 5: International Stewardship).

The essence of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) is continuous consultation.

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