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What is Geology?

What is geology ? Geology is the study of the Earth. Like so many scientific words, “geology” is constructed from root words dating back to ancient times: geo comes from the Creek word meaning “the Earth”; it is a prefix used in other related fields, too, such as geography, geodesy, and geophysics. The alogy suffix comes from the Creek logos, meaning “discussion,” and is roughly translated as “the study of.”

Sandstone Geology at Clashach Cove
Sandstone Geology at Clashach Cove

How old is the science of geology?

Although the science of geology as we know it today is a relatively young field, insightful observations of Earth processes were made as far back as the ancient Greeks. Some of these early ideas were handed down through the ages. For example, Herodotus (c. 484-425? B.LE.) had rather modern insights about the formation of the Nile River delta and the important role sediment (deposited by flooding) played in producing the fertile Nile Valley. The Greek historian also applied a primitive form of a principle known as uniformitarianism, the idea that existing processes are sufficient to explain all geological changes that have occurred over time. But many other “geological” observations by the ancient Greeks seem fanciful today. Por example, Aristotle (384-322 H.C.E.), the famous philosopher and tutor to Alexander the Great, believed that the heat from volcanic eruptions was produced by underground fires. He also believed that air moving through caverns became heated by friction, causing these fires.

What are some subdivisions of geology?

Geology is a vast field, stretching from paleontology to mineralogy. It is easy to see why, since there are so many features and processes taking place on the Earth and beyond. The following lists some important subdivisions of geology:

Economic geology-the study of how rocks are used, mined, bought, and sold, such as in the search for metals. In other words, economic geologists explore our natural resources and their development.

Environmental geology-the study of the environmental effects produced by changes in geology, such as the determination river flow and its connection to flooding, and conversely, how the geology is affected by environmental problems, such as pollution and urban development.

Geochemistry-the study of the chemical composition of rocks and minerals; geochemists use this information to determine more about the internal structure of materials.

Geomorpholoqy-the study of landform development, such as how a river forms and develops over time.

Geophysics-the physics of the Earth, including such fields as seismology (including interpretation of the Earth’s interior), and the effects of the Earth’s magnetic and electric fields.

Glacial Geoloqy-how ice sheets and glaciers affect each other and the geology of an area.

Hydrology-how water, such as groundwater flow in a karst terrain or how pollution moves underground, affects the geology of an area.

Limno qeology-the study of ancient and modern lakes.

Marine geology-the study of the geology of the ocean floor and/or coastline, especially with regard to how they change over time.

Paleontoloqy-the study of ancient life in the form of fossils, including specializations in invertebrates, vertebrates, plants, and dinosaurs.

Petroleum geology-the study of how petroleum products are formed, found, and extracted.

Planetology-the study of the planets and satellites of our solar system, especially with regard to their formation and how they compare to the Earth.

Volcanology-the study of volcanoes and volcanic phenomena.