Four Spheres of Earth

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Everything present on Earth can be categorized into major subsystems, which are water, air, living things, and land. These are termed as spheres. To be more precise, they are known as:

  • Water: Hydrosphere

  • Air: Atmosphere

  • Living things: Biosphere

  • Land: Lithosphere or Geosphere

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In the following segment students will get a more precise idea about each of the subsystems and how do Earth’s spheres interact with one another? 


How Do Spheres Interact with Each Other: Earth’s Subsystems


1. Hydrosphere

The hydrosphere of the Earth is an umbrella term for every waterbody like oceans, lakes, rivers, moisture, and underground aquifers. It can be any state of water– solid, liquid, and gaseous. Experts suggest that the entire hydrosphere range around 1.3 billion cubic kilometers.


Oceans comprise above 97% of the water on Earth, and the remaining portion is freshwater. Again from this freshwater portion, two-thirds remain frozen in the mountains and poles. You must note that although water covers a considerable part of the planet, but holds only 0.023% of Earth’s mass.


Our Earth’s environment is not static, and hence water modifies its form according to the different stages of the hydrological cycle. First, water is collected through rains; then it goes underground, again rises up in the way of springs, and flows into rivers, lakes, seas, etc. Also, from these streams, water gets evaporated, and the cycle continues.


2. Atmosphere

Earth’s atmosphere comprises all the gases on Earth and that are held by its gravitational pull. Air contains 97% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and the left portion includes carbon dioxide, argon, and other gases.


The atmosphere can be further classified into four different zones, namely – troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.

  • Troposphere: 

Troposphere consists of three-quarters of atmospheric mass, having a distance of around 8 to 14.5 kilometers.

  • Stratosphere: 

Above the troposphere, lies the stratosphere, which is at a distance of 50 kilometers above the surface of Earth.

  • Mesosphere: 

Mesosphere rises to 85 kilometers above the planet.

  • Thermosphere: 

This one is at a distance of 600 kilometers from the surface of Earth.


3. Biosphere

The biosphere consists of all living beings, starting from animals, plants to single-celled organisms. It can also be said that the biosphere comprises biomes. Now, if you are wondering what is meant by biomes, here is the answer -


A biome is a community where animals and plants of the same nature dwell together, for example, desert and coral reef.


Animals and plants which dwell on land, precisely terrestrial life has a zone ranging from 3 meters to 30 meters. Next, aquatic life exists around 200 meters below sea level.


However, an interesting fact is that some organisms can live beyond these distance ranges. For instance, few birds can fly at a distance above 7000 meters from the surface of Earth. Besides, microorganisms can survive far away from these levels as well.


Did you know?

In the Marianas Trench, the Mariana snailfish is found to live below 6000 meters.


1. Lithosphere

The lithosphere also referred to as the geosphere encompasses Earth’s rocks. For instance, boulders of Mount Everest, Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea’s lava, Miami Beach’s sands, etc. are considered lithosphere components.


Moreover, this subsystem of Earth can be classified into 12 significant and some minor plates. They are as follows:

  1. Eurasian

  2. Indo-Australian

  3. Philippine

  4. Antarctic

  5. Pacific

  6. Cocos

  7. Juan de Fuca

  8. North American

  9. Caribbean

  10. South American

  11. Scotia

  12. African

These tectonic plates are in constant motion, and the result of friction between them leads to the formation of mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.


Next, let’s proceed with how do all the spheres interact with each other.


How Do Earth’s Spheres Interact with Each Other?

All four spheres have their own identities, but they interact with one another. Scientific researches suggest that if there is an event in one subsystem, it affects the other ones as well. Many types of interactions are possible on Earth, and some of them are between any of the subsystems and the event.

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In the above figure, you can see double-headed arrows that denote effects and cause of interactions that are applicable in both directions. For instance, a volcanic eruption has a direct and indirect impact on the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.


Did you know?

Mount Saint Helens in Washington erupted on the 18th of May, 1980, and had effects on the environment. This helped researchers to delve deep into the matter of the impact on the different subsystems of Earth.


Besides event and sphere interactions, several interactions occur among the spheres only. These take place in the form of chain reactions. Here is an example:

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Volcano >> Lithosphere >> Atmosphere >> hydrosphere >> biosphere


You can see in the above image and reaction that a volcano is an event releasing a substantial amount of rough material. These materials (as nuclei) help in water droplet formation. After a volcano erupts, the amount of rainfall increases. It helps in facilitating the growth of plants.


Apart from this interaction, some complex ones can also take place. Look at an example:


After a volcanic eruption, enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide are released, which mixes with water to produce sulfurous and sulphuric acids. These acids come down to Earth with rainfall and have adverse effects on the growth of plants. It also decreases the level of pH in water, affecting zooplankton and phytoplankton growth. Moreover, if photosynthesis occurs in less percentage, carbon dioxide concentrations will increase, resulting in global warming.


The above discussion offered must have cleared your concepts related to how do Earth’s spheres interact with each other. For more such topics, download the Vedantu app today and get access to online tutorials and study materials.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How Do Earth’s Subsystems Affect Each Other?

Ans. Our Earth consists of subsystems namely – hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. As interactions occur between them, it boosts geological processes, influences the environment, and has effects on living beings.

2. How Do Human Beings Impact Earth’s Spheres?

Ans. When you pile up or dump waste in landfills, it affects the geosphere. The same goes for the hydrosphere as well. Moreover, due to the cutting of trees or overfishing, the diversity of living beings gets hampered.

3. How Thick is the Lithosphere and What are the Components of the Lithosphere?

Ans. Continental lithosphere has a thickness of around 40 kilometers to 280 kilometers while the thickness of oceanic lithosphere is about 50 to 140 kilometers. Lithosphere comprises three-component layers namely – core, mantle, and crust.