What is geophysics?

We explain what geophysics is, its object of study, application and other characteristics. Also, what are its branches.

  1. What is geophysics?

Geophysics is one of the main branches of Earth Sciences, which undertakes the geological study of our planet from a physical point of view . That is, it deals with the study of all phenomena linked to the earth’s structure, the physical conditions of the planet or the history of its formation and evolution.

It is an eminently experimental discipline , which uses quantitative methods for the analysis of seismic waves and other natural phenomena , such as gravity , electromagnetism and terrestrial radioactivity, among other aspects of our planet. Its objective is to achieve a more complete understanding of the physical systems that occur within and around it.

  1. Characteristics of geophysics

Geophysics is an exact science , which uses the scientific method . He usually goes to other disciplines in search of knowledge and tools to carry out his studies. However, mostly the specific objects of study of geophysics are unattainable and invisible , thus preventing a direct analysis by scientists, for example the interior of the planet.

That is why they study phenomena such as seismic waves that, indirectly, speak of the geophysical nature of the Earth. In other cases they take observations of related disciplines to establish similarities with their own, such as astrophysics and astronomy , because when studying other planets of the solar system , relevant data can be obtained for the study of ours.

  1. Object of study of geophysics

geophysics aurora borealis magnetosphere atmosphere radiation
Geophysics studies atmospheric phenomena such as the northern lights .

Geophysics is interested in the study and understanding of the physical system of the planet, emphasizing its geological considerations, such as its interior composition, but also attending to its exterior: the atmosphere and hydrosphere , for example, and their respective processes of exchange of matter and energy . In broad strokes we can define their fields of study as:

  • Study of variations of the gravity earth.
  • Study of the earth’s crust and the seismic phenomena inside.
  • Study of the atmospheric physics and especially the bombardment of solar radiation against magnetosphere.
  • Study of the flow of electricity in the geosphere and atmosphere.
  • Study of the thermal properties of the Earth, as well as the displacement of heat inside.
  • The interconnection fields of all the previous points.
  1. Geophysics Application

Geophysics offers the human being a wide range of possible applications of his knowledge, especially those related to the seismological nature: the possibility of preventing, identifying and studying earthquakes and earthquakes .

In that sense, understanding the tectonic dynamics of the lithosphere and its cycles is a key knowledge for the seismic tracking services of the world. It is also useful for different branches of geological engineering and mineralogy , the latter with an important economic impact in many latitudes of the planet.

  1. Branches of geophysics

Geophysics consists of two distinct branches, which are:

Internal geophysics . Interested in the study of the interior of the planet Earth, it also includes the following fields of knowledge, among others:

  • Seismology , or the study of tectonic movements and seismic waves in the subsoil.
  • Geothermometry , or the study of the propagation of heat inside the planet.
  • Geodynamics , or the study of the interaction of tectonic forces and the deformations they cause on the earth’s lithosphere and mantle.
  • Tectonophysics , or the study of tectonic dynamics and continental drift .
  • Volcanology , or the study of volcanoes , lava and magma.

Geophysics external . Interested in the study of the outside of the planet, that is, the earth’s environment. It includes the following fields of knowledge, among others:

  • Geomagnetism , or the study of the Earth’s magnetic field (magnetosphere).
  • Paleomagnetism , or the historical study of the magnetosphere.
  • Gravimetry , or the study of the gravitational varieties of the planet.
  • Oceanology , or the study of the oceans at all possible scales.
  • Aeronomy , or the study of the upper layers of the atmosphere.
  • Climatology , or the study of the meteorological and climatic dynamics of the planet.

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