The life of spheres

Know you know

Our spheres

Everything in Earth's system can be placed into one of four major subsystems land, water, living things, or air. These four subsystems are called spheres. Specifically, they are the geosphere (land), hydrosphere (water), biosphere (living things), and atmosphere (air).


What they do

The geosphere contains all of the cold, hard solid land of the planet's crust (surface), the semi-solid land underneath the crust, and the liquid land near the center of the planet. The surface of the geosphere is very uneven. There are high mountain ranges like the Rockies and Andes , huge plains or flat areas like those in Texas, Iowa, and Brazil , and deep valleys along the ocean floor . The solid, semi-solid, and liquid land of the geosphere form layers that are physically and chemically different.


What they do

The atmosphere contains all the air in Earth's system. It extands from less than 1 m below the planet's surface to more than 10,000 km above the planet's surface.The upper portion of the atmosphere protects the organisms of the biosphere from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. It also absorbs and emits heat. It also absorbs and emits heat.


What they do

The biosphere contains all the planet's living things. This sphere includes all of the microorganisms, plants, and animals of Earth. Within the biosphere, living things form ecological communities based on the physical surroundings of an area. These communities are referred to as biomes. Deserts, grasslands, and tropical rainforests are three of the many types of biomes that exist within the biosphere.


What they do

The hydrosphere contains all the solid, liquid, and gaseous water of the planet. It ranges from 10 to 20 kilometers in thickness. The hydrosphere extends from Earth's surface downward several kilometers into the lithosphere and upward about 12 kilometers into the atmosphere. A small portion of the water in the hydrosphere is fresh (non-salty). This water flows as precipitation from the atmosphere down to Earth's surface, as rivers and streams along Earth's surface, and as groundwater beneath Earth's surface. Most of Earth's fresh water, however, is frozen.


What they do

is those portions of earth's surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost). Thus, there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere. The cryosphere is an integral part of the global climae system with important linkages and feedbacks generated through its influence on surface energy and moisture fluxes, clouds, precipitation, hydrology, atmospheric and oceanic circulation.