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Science
Earth Sciences

On this page:

Numbers
Types of Rock
Layers of the Atmosphere
Named Winds
The Beaufort Scale
Sea Areas
Climate Treaties
Other

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Earth Sciences

This page covers everything about the earth and its history.  It includes geology and meteorology (but see also Minerals).

Numbers

Age of the Earth (and the rest of the solar system) Click to show or hide the answer
Life on Earth began about Click to show or hide the answer
Circumference of the Earth at the Equator Click to show or hide the answer
Mean diameter of the earth Click to show or hide the answer
Mean radius of the earth Click to show or hide the answer
Approximate radius of the (solid) inner core Click to show or hide the answer
Approximate thickness of the (liquid) outer core Click to show or hide the answer
Approximate thickness of the mantle Click to show or hide the answer
Depth of the crust (thinnest in the ocean beds) Click to show or hide the answer
Speed at which the Earth moves relative to the sun Click to show or hide the answer
For 1,000 feet rise in altitude: temperature drops by Click to show or hide the answer
Sea water (of typical salinity) freezes at approximately Click to show or hide the answer
Approximate altitude at which atmospheric pressure is about half that at sea level Click to show or hide the answer
Fog and mist: visibility boundary (less is fog, more is mist) Click to show or hide the answer
760 millimetres of Mercury Click to show or hide the answer
Depth of snow equal to 1 inch of rain Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of the Equator Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of the North and South Poles Click to show or hide the answer
Longitude of Greenwich (the Prime Meridian) Click to show or hide the answer
Longitude of the International Date Line (mainly) Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of the Tropics (Cancer is North, Capricorn is South) Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of the Arctic/Antarctic circles Click to show or hide the answer

Notice that the latitudes of the tropic and the polar circles (in each hemisphere) add up to 90°.

Latitude of Lizard Point, the most southerly point of Great Britain Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of London Click to show or hide the answer
Latitude of Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of Great Britain Click to show or hide the answer
Degrees of longitude in a 1–hour time zone (360 / 24) Click to show or hide the answer
Percentage of the earth's surface covered by water Click to show or hide the answer
Number of points of the compass, in European tradition Click to show or hide the answer

Types of Rock

Type of rock formed when lava cools: e.g. granite, basalt, peridotite Click to show or hide the answer
Rocks that have been restructured by heat or pressure: e.g. gneiss, slate, marble, schist, quartzite Click to show or hide the answer
Rocks formed by the deposition of the remains of other rocks or other materials, or by precipitation from solution: e.g. limestone, chalk, sandstone, shale Click to show or hide the answer

Layers of the Atmosphere

From ground level, to between 7 and 11 milesWhere weather takes place; heated at lower levels by the ground, which absorbs heat from the sun, but temperature decreases with altitude. Thinner at the poles Click to show or hide the answer
10–25 milesHeated from above by absorption of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which causes temperature to rise with altitude ; includes the Ozone Layer Click to show or hide the answer
25–50 milesTemperature decreases with increasing altitude Click to show or hide the answer
50–430 milesCharacterised by ionisation caused by ultraviolet radiation – includes most of the Ionosphere (which extends down into the upper Mesosphere). Temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation by the small amount of residual oxygen still present Click to show or hide the answer
Above 430 milesWhere the atmosphere thins out into space. Lower limit varies from about 300 miles to 600 miles; upper limit is about 6,000 miles Click to show or hide the answer
47–600 milesThe region that's ionised by solar radiation (the solar wind); starts in the upper Mesosphere, coincides with the Thermosphere. Divided into three layers, of increasing ionisation: the D–region (47–60 miles), the E–region (60–95 miles), and the F–region (95–600 miles) Click to show or hide the answer

Named Winds (and Storms)

Northerly katabatic (downslope) wind of the Adriatic and neighbouring countries – name comes from the same root as the Greek word for the north wind Click to show or hide the answer
Hot, dry wind in the southern Australian desert in summer Click to show or hide the answer
Strong, often persistent and dry south–easterly wind that blows from spring to late summer; believed to clear Cape Town of pollution and 'pestilence' Click to show or hide the answer
Warm dry wind in the Rockies Click to show or hide the answer
Cool sea breeze of summer afternoons in Western Australia Click to show or hide the answer
Warm wind from the Sahara to the Mediterranean coast of Africa Click to show or hide the answer
The British Isles' only named wind: a strong north–easterly that blows down the south–west slope of Cross Fell, Cumbria (the highest summit in the Pennines) Click to show or hide the answer
Wind that brings warm weather to Egypt and Sudan in spring (March–April) Click to show or hide the answer
Easterly wind that blows in the Western Mediterranean Click to show or hide the answer
Cold, dry wind in the Mediterranean provinces of France and up the Rhone valley Click to show or hide the answer
Seasonal winds on and around the Indian subcontinent; name comes from an Arabic word meaning "season" Click to show or hide the answer
The strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees Click to show or hide the answer
The warm, dry wind that blows onto the Mediterranean from North Africa, sometimes reaching southern Italy Click to show or hide the answer

Name given to the first UK storm to be officially named by the Met Office (which hit northern Scotland in 2015) Click to show or hide the answer
Name of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans (among other places) in 2005 Click to show or hide the answer

The Beaufort Scale

The following definitions are those used by the UK Meteorological Office, which describes the Beaufort scale as "an empirical measure for describing wind intensity based on observed sea conditions".

Rather oddly, given this information, the Met Office also gives a scale of "seastates", which does not exactly correspond to the wind forces.

The most important thing for quizzers is to be able to relate the wind force numbers to their descriptions. Other information in the table below may come up occasionally, but I include it here mainly as background information.

The wave heights are maximums (or maxima, if you prefer), in metres.

Force Knots mph Description Wave height Seastate Description
0 1 1 Click to show or hide the answer 0 0 Calm (glassy)
1 3 3 Click to show or hide the answer 0.1 1 Calm (rippled)
2 6 7 Click to show or hide the answer 0.3 2 Smooth (wavelets)
3 10 11 Click to show or hide the answer 1.0 3 Slight
4 16 18 Click to show or hide the answer 1.5
4 Moderate
5 21 24 Click to show or hide the answer 2.5
6 27 31 Click to show or hide the answer 4 5 Rough
7 33 40 Click to show or hide the answer 5.5
6 Very rough
8 40 46 Click to show or hide the answer 7.5
7 High
9 47 54 Click to show or hide the answer 10
10 55 63 Click to show or hide the answer 12.5 8 Very high
11 63 72 Click to show or hide the answer 16
12 64+ 73+ Click to show or hide the answer   9 Phenomenal

Sea Areas

"The Shipping Forecast, issued by the Meteorological Office" is a familiar and much–loved friend to many listeners of the BBC's Radio 4 – of whom I am one.

Some aspects of the Shipping Forecast – essentially those that refer to the broadcast rather than the weather, including the full list of areas in the order that they're read out – are covered on my Radio page.

Areas around the British coast: Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Lundy, Irish Sea, Malin, Hebrides, Fair Isle
Similarly for Ireland: Lundy, Fastnet, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea

Number of sea areas Click to show or hide the answer
North and South Utsire are off the coast of Click to show or hide the answer
Fisher is off the coast of Click to show or hide the answer
German Bight is off the coast of Germany and
Areas in the North Sea, with no coast Click to show or hide the answer
Areas in the Atlantic, with no coast Click to show or hide the answer
Most northerly area, and most westerly (and last to be mentioned) Click to show or hide the answer
Most southerly Click to show or hide the answer
The only shipping area that's named after a person (the founder of the Meteorological Office) Click to show or hide the answer
Renamed FitzRoy in 2002 to avoid confusion with the Spanish area of the same name Click to show or hide the answer
Introduced 1955 when Dogger was split in two Click to show or hide the answer
German Bight was known, until 1956, as Click to show or hide the answer
Merged with Hebrides around 1982 Click to show or hide the answer
Introduced 1984 to co–ordinate with Norwegian forecasts – formerly part of Viking Click to show or hide the answer

There's more information, including an interactive map (check out the red areas for gale warnings) here on the Met Office's web site.

Climate Treaties

1997: established legally–binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008–2012 Click to show or hide the answer
2012: amended the Kyoto Protocol to cover the period 2013–2020 (but never came into force) Click to show or hide the answer
2015: governs emission reductions from 2020; came into force on 4 November 2016 Click to show or hide the answer

Other

Caused by the reaction of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide with water molecules in the atmosphere Click to show or hide the answer
Area of high atmospheric pressure Click to show or hide the answer
The Greenwich Meridian crosses the Equator in (i.e. 0° latitude & 0° longitude) Click to show or hide the answer
Scientific name for the Northern Lights Click to show or hide the answer
Scientific name for the Southern Lights Click to show or hide the answer
Libyan city, where the highest ever temperature in the shade – 134°C – was recorded in 1922 Click to show or hide the answer
Those parts of the Earth and its atmosphere that are able to support life Click to show or hide the answer
Enlarged shadow seen against cloud when the sun is low – named after the highest of the Harz Mountains in northern Germany where it is frequently seen Click to show or hide the answer
Chalk and limestone consist essentially of (chemical compound) Click to show or hide the answer
The highest type of cloud – name is from Latin for a lock of hair – colloquially known as "mare's tails" Click to show or hide the answer
Measured in oktas (an okta is one eighth of the sky) Click to show or hide the answer
Lignite, bituminous and anthracite are the three types of Click to show or hide the answer
Rock fragment between 65mm and 256mm diameter (i.e. larger than a pebble but smaller than a boulder) Click to show or hide the answer
The effect of the earth's rotation on winds, currents, and other objects on the surface; also a cause of the earth's magnetic field Click to show or hide the answer
Cloud type normally associated with thunderstorms Click to show or hide the answer
An area of low atmospheric pressure; also the name used for a hurricane in the Indian and South Pacific oceans (cf. Typhoon) Click to show or hide the answer
Early June to mid–August: the period when Sirius rises with the Sun, characterised by hot, stifling weather; known since Roman times as the Click to show or hide the answer
Name given by sailors to the belt of low pressure around the Equator – characterised by light winds and calms, but occasional sudden storms – caused by the meeting of trade winds Click to show or hide the answer
Tectonic plate (see Sets) on which Great Britain is situated Click to show or hide the answer
Calm centre of a hurricane Click to show or hide the answer
Group of minerals said to make up 60% of the Earth's crust Click to show or hide the answer
Theory that the earth adapts itself in order to survive, in the same was as a living organism – formulated in the 1960s by the English independent research scientist James Lovelock, and named after the Greek supreme goddess of Earth Click to show or hide the answer
About 135 million years ago, Pangaea split into Click to show or hide the answer
Mica, feldspar, quartz: varieties of Click to show or hide the answer
The best–known result of thermohaline circulation Click to show or hide the answer
Campbell–Stokes Recorder measures Click to show or hide the answer
Cold Northerly current on the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru Click to show or hide the answer
Amount of water vapour in the atmosphere Click to show or hide the answer
Oceans, lakes, atmospheric water vapour, etc.: generic name Click to show or hide the answer
Milankovitch Hypothesis is concerned with Click to show or hide the answer
Jack o'Lantern, Will o'the Wisp (mysterious lights that appear at dusk or twilight, especially over marshy or boggy ground): scientific name Click to show or hide the answer
The plasma in the earth's atmosphere (mesosphere and thermosphere) which affects radio propagation and thus reflects radio waves back to earth Click to show or hide the answer
The main constituent (80%) of the earth's core; about 34% of the earth's total weight Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal pressure Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal depth (of water) Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal sunshine hours Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal rainfall Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal depth of cloud cover Click to show or hide the answer
Lines of equal temperature Click to show or hide the answer
Coldest month of the year in Britain Click to show or hide the answer
Warmest month of the year in Britain Click to show or hide the answer
High–velocity winds at altitudes of 30,000 to 50,000 feet (6 to 10 miles) Click to show or hide the answer
Layer in the ionosphere, altitude about 56 to 90 miles, that deflect radio waves and thus makes round–the–world transmissions possible; named after the US and British physicists who independently predicted its existence in 1902; detected 1924 by Sir Edward Appleton; now called the E region Click to show or hide the answer
Ribbon, rocket, streak and sheet are types of Click to show or hide the answer
A fulgurite is an irregular, branching, often foamy hollow tube of silica glass, formed by the melting of quartz sand at very high temperatures, as a result of
Crust and solid outermost layer of mantle (down to approx 100km) Click to show or hide the answer
The volume of space surrounding a planet, controlled by the planet's magnetic field Click to show or hide the answer
Semi–molten (plastic) layer between the outer core and the crust Click to show or hide the answer
Boundary between the Mesosphere and the Thermosphere (altitude about 50 miles) Click to show or hide the answer
Tunguska, Siberia, 1908 Click to show or hide the answer
Ambitious American attempt (1961) to drill through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovičić discontinuity, providing an Earth Science complement to the Space Race – from Guadalupe Island, off Baja California (Mexico – note: not Guadaloupe) Click to show or hide the answer
The boundary between the crust and the mantle, marked by a rapid increase in the speed of earthquake waves Click to show or hide the answer
Magma Click to show or hide the answer
Average length of one minute of arc on a great circle Click to show or hide the answer
Tides with the least variation (highest low waters, lowest high waters) – occurring when the influences of the sun and moon are in opposition to one another Click to show or hide the answer
Second most abundant element in the earth's core (80% of which is iron) Click to show or hide the answer
Rain cloud (from the Latin for a cloud or rainstorm) Click to show or hide the answer
Popular name for the Southern Oscillation, a warm Pacific current periodically (average once every 5 years) causing unpredictable worldwide weather conditions Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
78% of the Earth's atmosphere is Click to show or hide the answer
Amphidromic points (there are three in the North Sea) Click to show or hide the answer
Points on the Earth's surface where all lines of longitude meet Click to show or hide the answer
Formed when a cold front overtakes a warm front; represented on a map by alternating semicircles (representing the warm front) and triangles (cold front) Click to show or hide the answer
Abyssal, Bathyl, Hadal: zones of Click to show or hide the answer
21% of Earth's atmosphere (most of the 22% that isn't nitrogen) is Click to show or hide the answer
Second only to iron in the earth itself, by weight (28%)
The part of the stratosphere that absorbs ultra–violet rays Click to show or hide the answer
Supercontinent that existed about 250 million years ago (and split into continents): postulated in 1912 by the German geophysicist Alfred Wegener; the name originated in 1928 at a symposium on his work (Wegener called it "the Urkontinent") Click to show or hide the answer
Soil that's been below 0°C for two years or more Click to show or hide the answer
Nival zone (on a mountain) Click to show or hide the answer
Rain, snow, hail etc.: generic name, to meteorologists Click to show or hide the answer
Term used in cartography for an attempt to reproduce the three–dimensional surface of the earth in two dimensions Click to show or hide the answer
You would find (in ascending order) an understory layer, a canopy layer and an emergent layer in a Click to show or hide the answer
Second most abundant material in the Earth's crust, after feldspar Click to show or hide the answer
Hyet– (e.g. isohyet, hyetograph) Click to show or hide the answer
'Haboob' is a name (originating in Sudan) for a Click to show or hide the answer
The word 'eustatic' refers to worldwide changes in Click to show or hide the answer
The main constituent of the rock that forms the earth's mantle and crust (various compounds, of silicon, oxygen, one or more metals, and sometimes hydrogen) Click to show or hide the answer
The second most abundant element in the Earth's crust (27% – oxygen 49%) Click to show or hide the answer
Prevailing wind direction in the British Isles Click to show or hide the answer
Luminous electrical discharge from lightning conductors, ships' masts etc. in a thunderstorm Click to show or hide the answer
Tectonics: the movement of one plate sliding under another Click to show or hide the answer
The ocean or sea that was formed when Pangaea split to form Laurasia and Gondwanaland – named after the wife of the sea god Oceanus, in Greek mythology Click to show or hide the answer
Imaginary lines linking the furthest points from the Equator where the Sun can be directly overhead (at midday) Click to show or hide the answer
An exceptionally large wave, typically following an earthquake or a volcanic eruption on or below the ocean bed (from a Japanese word meaning 'harbour wave') Click to show or hide the answer
Boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere – where temperature starts to increase with height, instead of decreasing Click to show or hide the answer
The name used for a hurricane in the North Pacific (cf. Cyclone) Click to show or hide the answer
Two belts of charged particles, held in place by the Earth's magnetic field, above the magnetosphere – confirmed in 1958 by the Explorer I and III space missions – named after the US space scientist who suggested that Geiger counters should be taken on those missions Click to show or hide the answer
Aphotic zone (lakes and oceans) Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017