Common Geology Terms

There's a good chance you know some geology terms, even if you've never studied the subject. Words from the geology dictionary frequently pop up in news reports when natural disasters take place. It's good to have a working knowledge of the glossary of geology, even if you're not a scientist, so that you'll know what people are talking about when they discuss major geological events.

  • Climate: This refers to the weather factors in a certain area. Temperature, rain, wind and sunshine are part of an area's climate. The climate affects soil formation, plant growth and the types of animals and plants that can live in an area.
  • Fault: This is a crack in the Earth's surface found in a place where two tectonic plates meet. The Earth's crust is actually a series of giant plates that floats on an underground sea of magma. Earthquakes frequently originate near a fault when the plates slip or grind against each other.
  • Geology: This is the study of the lithosphere, the ground and all that's beneath it in our planet. Geologists work to understand the complex natural forces that shape our world, as well as our impact on the Earth.
  • Glaciers: These slow-moving rivers of ice and snow are found in the coldest parts of the world. As glaciers move, they carve through stone and cut valleys into mountains. Glaciers are one of the most powerful erosive forces on Earth.
  • Magma: This is molten rock material from inside the hot core of the earth. It reaches the surface as lava, and cools to become igneous rock. Volcanic eruptions release large amounts of magma, which is heated to a temperature of more than 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Minerals: These are non-organic compounds found in rock. Some, like quartz and garnet, are used for making jewelry and machines. Other minerals provide nutrients that plants and animals need to live.
  • Sedimentary rock: This is rock formed by grains and minerals that have been moved by weather or ice to a location, then compressed into layered rock. By studying the composition of sedimentary rock, we can learn about conditions on our planet in the distant past.
  • Soil: Ever wonder what dirt is made of? It's actually rock that has been ground, by the weather, into a powdered form that contains minerals and nutrients. Soil holds living and dead plants, insects and animals. The nutrients in soil allow plants to grow. We study soil so that we can provide ideal conditions for growing food crops, trees and decorative plants.
  • Topography: This is the study of the shape of an area. Hills, plains and mountains affect weather, soil development and the way the water flows in an area. 
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