Note to students: If you are looking here for your vocabulary homework, you still need to write the definitions in your own words.
absolute time: measuring the time of an event using a number on the time line.
absolute zero: the coldest that any matter can be. It is -273º Celsius.
adiabatic cooling: air cooling as it rises due to expansion and spreading the heat out.
adiabatic heating: the heating of air caused by pressurization which concentrates the heat.
adiabatic lapse rate: the rate at which dry air cools as you go up in altitude.
agent of erosion: anything that pushes sediment from one location to another.
air pressure: weight of the air above you.
albedo: a ratio between the amount of sunlight that comes in as compared to the amount of sunlight that is reflected.
Alberta clipper: a strong but fast moving low pressure system.
alpine glacier: a “river of ice” that flows down through mountain valleys.
angle of insolation: the angle at which sunlight strikes the ground.
anticyclone: high pressure system with an outward and clockwise air flow.
apparent motion: the way an object in space appears to move caused by the motion of the Earth.
aquitard: a layer of low permeability that acts as a cap.
artesian well: a source of water where the water comes out of the ground under natural pressure.
asthenosphere: the upper mantle in which convection takes place.
atmosphere: the layer of air that surrounds the Earth.
benchmark: a spot on the surface of the Earth where an exact elevation was measured.
bioclastic: “fragments of life” rock made up of broken shells.
capacity (humidity): the amount of water vapor that the air can hold.
capillarity: water being drawn upwards against the pull of gravity through tiny pores.
capillary fringe: a zone right on top of the water table where capillary action draws some water upwards.
cementation: process of “gluing” sediments together.
chemical weathering: breaking down of rock material by the reaction of some chemical.
Chinook: a warm dry air that descends on the leeward side of a mountain.
cinder cone: a volcanic mountain made from cinders.
cinder: small pieces of volcanic rock thrown from a volcano.
clastic: a sedimentary rock made up of bits and pieces of any other rock.
cleavage: property of a mineral causing it to split along flat surfaces.
climate: the typical type of weather that an area has.
cloud base height: altitude at which clouds will form. Air temperature and dew point temperature are equal.
cold front: the leading edge of an incoming cold air mass.
compaction: to compress under great pressure.
composite cone: volcanic mountain made from alternating lava flows and cinder eruptions.
conchoidal fracture: breaking into bold shaped depressions.
conduction: heat transfer between two materials that are touching.
cone of depression: a section of the water table that is drawn down as the water is pumped out.
contact metamorphism: a metamorphic change in rock caused by contact with extreme heat.
continental air mass: a dry air mass.
continental drift: the theory that the Earth’s land masses are slowly moving around.
continental glacier: a large ice sheet that covers entire continents.
contour interval: the amount of elevation change from one contour line to the next.
convection cell: a complete loop caused by rising and sinking air.
convection current: the movement of air caused by the density differences in hot and cold air.
convection: a heat transfer method that is caused by hot air rising and cold air sinking.
converges: air currents come together caused by the sucking action of a low pressure system.
Coriolis Effect: wind and ocean currents are deflected to their right in the Northern Hemisphere caused by the Earth’s rotation.
correlation: matching one layer of rock with another layer of rock in a distant location.
cross-beds: slanted layers of sorted sediments that are deposited in river deltas or meanders.
crust: the outer rock layer of the Earth on which we live.
crustal activity: any movement of the crust such as earthquakes, mountain building, and volcanoes.
cubic cleavage: breaking into cubes where each of the corners meet at 90 degrees.
cyclic: a pattern that repeats over and over again.
cyclone: a low pressure system that has an inward and counter clockwise air flow.
density: the amount of matter that is packed into each cube of space.
dew point lapse rate: the rate at which the temperature of humid air cools as you go up in elevation.
dew point: the temperature at which humidity becomes 100% and condensation forms.
direct relationship: relationship between two numbers where as one number increases, the other number also increases. Graphs of direct relationships will slant upwards to the right.
discharge: the amount of water flowing through a stream.
divergent plate boundary: place where two plates are spreading apart.
divergent: when currents of air flow away from each other caused by high pressure.
downhill creep: the movement of soil sliding downhill slowly over many years.
dynamic equilibrium: a system in which two opposite processes balance each other so that there is no overall change.
elastic rebound theory: theory that says that before an earthquake, the rocks will stretch as far as they can and then suddenly snap.
ellipse: a squashed circle. The locus of points that are equidistant from two foci.
epicenter: the spot on the surface of the Earth closest to the source of the earthquake.
erosion: the transportation of sediments from one location to another.
erratic: a boulder transported by a glacier.
evaporites: sedimentary rock formed by minerals deposited after the evaporation of water.
evapotranspiration: the combination of evaporation and transpiration.
evolution: the gradual changing pattern of organisms.
exfoliation: the flaking of the outer surface of a rock.
extinction: the final ending of a species.
extrapolate: to take a set of data and extend it into the future.
extrusive: igneous rock formed on the surface of the Earth.
field: a section of the Earth where a measurement can be taken at any point.
flood plain: the wide flat section of land next to a river.
foci: plural of focus.
focus (ellipse): one of the two central points of an ellipse.
focus: spot within the Earth where an earthquake begins.
foliation: a flaky or banded texture pattern in metamorphic rocks.
fossil: the preserved remains or evidence of life.
fracture: not breaking into geometric shapes.
front: the leading edge of an incoming air mass.
frost action: the breaking of rock material caused by the extreme pressure of freezing water.
geocentric theory: theory that the Earth is the center of the Universe.
Geographic North Pole: a place on the Earth where the axis of rotation meets the ground.
gibbous: a phase of the moon in between half and full. Gibbous means egg-shaped.
glassy (luster): shining like a broken piece of glass also known as vitreous.
glassy (texture): a smooth texture in igneous rocks caused by very rapid cooling.
gnomonic projection: a map projection made by placing a flat piece of paper against a point on the surface of a globe.
GPS: global positioning system. It is a network of satellites that gives an exact position on the surface of the Earth.
graded bedding: layers of sorted sediments stacked on top of each other.
gradient: how quickly a value changes across a map.
great circle: a circle around the Earth that has the core of the Earth at its center.
greenhouse effect: the trapping of heat in the atmosphere by gases such as carbon dioxide.
hardness: a mineral’s resistance to scratching.
heliocentric theory: theory that the Sun is the center of the Universe.
horizontal sorting: sediments are sorted from side to side as water gradually slows down.
hot spot: a volcanically active spot that is not on the edge of a plate.
hurricane: a large organized storm with heavy rains and strong winds.
hydrologic cycle: see water cycle.
hydrosphere: the water portion of the Earth. It includes the oceans, lakes, ice caps and ground water.
index fossil: the fossil of a creature that existed for a short time, but lived over a wide area.
inference: using information to come to a conclusion or to make a prediction.
infiltration: water seeping down through soils.
interpolate: to use two data points to infer a middle value.
intrusive: rocks solidified while still inside the Earth.
inverse relationship: relationship between two numbers where as one number increases, the other number decreases. Graphs of direct relationships will slant downwards to the right.
isoline: a line connecting points of equal value.
isotope: a variety of an element with different numbers of neutrons.
latitude: the degrees north or south of the equator. Latitude lines run side-to-side and they are all parallel to each other.
lava: melted rock material that has reached the surface of the Earth.
leeward: the side of a mountain away from the wind.
light-year: the distance light travels in a year.
lithification: process of turning into solid rock.
lithosphere: the solid rock portion of the Earth. It includes the crust and the upper mantle.
longitude: degrees east or west of the Prime Meridian.
luminosity: the amount of light that a star emits.
lunar eclipse: the moon gets darker when the Earth gets in between the Sun and the moon.
luster: the way a mineral shines or does not shine.
magnetic declination: a measure of how wrong a magnetic compass will be in a certain area of the world.
Magnetic North Pole: a place in extreme northern Canada where all magnetic compasses point to.
main sequence: a typical star. Stars spend most of their lifetimes as main sequence stars.
mantle: the deeper layer inside the Earth made of partly melted rock material.
map projection: a drawing representing a section of the Earth.
marine air mass: a humid air mass formed over the water.
mass extinction: the extinction of a larger than normal number of species.
meander: a bend in a stream.
meniscus: the downward dip in the surface of water inside a graduated cylinder.
Mercalli Scale: a rating scale that measures the effects of an earthquake.
meridian: line of longitude. It runs from the North Pole to the South Pole. All meridians intersect at the poles.
metallic luster: shining like a polished piece of metal.
meteor shower: a period when many meteors streak into the atmosphere at once.
meteor: a streak of light caused by a small particle from space burning up in the atmosphere.
meteorite: a large meteor that survives the fiery entry through the atmosphere to strike the ground.
meteoroids: any small particle flying through space.
meteorology: the study of the atmosphere, primarily the study of weather.
minute of arc: one/60 th of a degree of angle.
Moho discontinuity: sudden change in the speed of seismic waves when they cross the Moho.
Moho: the boundary between the crust and the asthenosphere.
Mohs scale of hardness: a rating system from 1 to 10 for measuring a mineral’s hardness.
monominerallic: a rock made up of only one mineral.
mountain barrier effect: mountains acting as a barrier for rain.
non-renewable: resources that are gone forever once they are used.
nor’ easter: a low pressure storm where the most intense portion has winds coming out of the northeast.
nucleus (comet): the icy core of a comet.
occluded front: a combination of a cold front and a warm front.
oort cloud: a region at the far end of the solar system where most of the comets come from.
ore: raw rock material from which resources are extracted.
orographic effect: air being forced to rise and cool as it crosses a mountain range. Moisture will be forced out of the air as it rises.
outcrop: an exposed section of bedrock.
oxbow lake: a meander that was cut off of a stream.
oxidation: a chemical process where oxygen reacts with a mineral.
parallax: the apparent shifting of an object’s position caused by our movement from one location to another.
parallelism: the axis of rotation continues to point to the same spot in space as the Earth moves around the Sun.
parsec: the distance an object will be if it appears to shift by 1 second of arc.
penumbra: the lighter shadow in an eclipse.
percent deviation: calculation of how incorrect a measurement is.
period of revolution: the amount of time it takes for a planet to travel around the Sun.
permeability: the ability of water to travel through a material.
physical weathering: breaking down of rock material by physical force.
plane of earth's orbit: the flat surface which the Earth travels on as it orbits the Sun.
planet: a large body that orbits the Sun.
plate boundary: the edge of a solid slab of crust.
plate tectonics: the study of the motions of the plates and within the astheno sphere.
plutonic: an igneous feature formed inside the Earth.
polar air mass: a cold air mass.
polyminerallic: a rock made up of more than one mineral.
pores: the empty spaces between the sediments in the soil.
porosity: a measure of how much empty space there is between sediments in a soil.
porphyry: coarse-textured crystals surrounded by a fine-grained matrix.
potential energy: the energy that comes from an object’s height.
pressure unloading: the expansion of a rock caused by the release of pressure when a rock gets exposed at the surface of the Earth.
prevailing wind: the typical direction that the wind will come from in an area.
Prime Meridian: the starting point for longitude. It is a line that goes from the North Pole through Greenwich , England to the South Pole.
psychrometer: a device with two thermometers used for measuring dew point and humidity.
pulsar: the rapidly spinning core of an exploded star.
P-wave: the primary wave from an earthquake that travels fastest and reaches distant seismic stations first.
radioisotope: a variety of an element that is unstable and will decay.
rate: how quickly a value changes in time.
recharge basin: a large pit dug in the ground to give rain water easy access back into the aquifer.
red giant: a large cool star.
regional metamorphism: a metamorphic change in rock caused by extreme heat and pressure.
relative humidity: the amount of moisture in the air compared to the amount of moisture the air can hold.
relative time: placing events in order of which came first and which came second.
relief: the amount of elevation change in an area. It is “how bumpy an area is”.
residual soil: soil that stays above the bedrock that formed it.
resinous (waxy): shining like a piece of plastic.
retrograde motion: moving backwards.
revolution: an orbit around a star or a planet.
rhombohedral cleavage: breaking into slanted cubes where the corners do not meet at 90 degrees.
Richter Scale: a rating scale that measures how much energy was released during an earthquake.
Ring of Fire: the nickname given to the Pacific rim because of all the seismic activity.
root action: a type of physical weathering caused by roots breaking apart rocks.
rotational period: the amount of time it takes for a planet to spin.
scale: the ratio between an object on a map and an object in the real world.
sea breeze: wind that comes from the sea during the day.
second of arc: one/60 th of a minute of arc.
seismic wave: vibration from an earthquake that travels through the Earth.
shadow zone: an area on the opposite side of the Earth from an earthquake where no seismic waves are detected. It is a zone that is 102 degrees to 140 degrees away from the earthquake.
shield volcano: a very wide, gently sloping volcanic mountain made from lava flows.
sidereal day: a 360 degree turn around an axis. Using a distant star to mark the passage of one day. 23 hours, 56 minutes.
solar day: marking the passage of one day based on the position of the Sun. 24 hours.
solar eclipse: the Sun appears to get dark as the moon gets in between the Earth and Sun.
source region: the area that an air mass comes from.
specific heat: a measure of how much energy it takes to heat up one gram of a material.
spectrum: the different colors of light including those we can’t see.
spring tide: a tide where high tide is very high and low tide is very low.
spring: a place where ground water flows out of the ground.
star trail: the streaking of a star in a photograph caused by Earth’s rotation.
star: a large ball of gases that glows from energy created by fusion.
stationary front: a place where two air masses meet, but neither one is advancing on the other.
storm surge: a dome of high water level underneath a strong low pressure system.
streak: the color of powdered mineral.
sublimation: a phase change from solid directly into gas skipping the liquid phase. It can also be from gas to liquid.
supernova: a violent explosion at the end of a star’s life.
superposition: a principle that is used in relative time that places the oldest layer of rock at the bottom.
suspension: small particles that are carried within flowing water.
S-wave: the secondary wave from an earthquake that travels slower and reaches distant seismic stations second.
synodic month: a month marked from one full moon to the next full moon.
terrestrial planet: a small rocky Earth-like planet.
The Principle of Original Horizontality: sedimentary rocks are normally made flat and horizontal.
till: unsorted sediments of greatly varying sizes that are deposited by glaciers.
time zone: a section of the Earth approximately 15º in longitude wide where all the clocks are set to the same time.
time-temperature lag: time difference between the strongest sunlight and the hottest time.
topographic map: a map showing the shape of the land using contour lines.
topography: the shape of the land.
tornado: a strong, compact storm with high winds.
trace fossil: the preserved indirect evidence of life such as footprints and burrows.
transform plate boundary: place where two plates are sliding past each other.
transpiration: the process of water vapor leaving the leaves of plants.
transported soil: soil that was formed in one location and transported to a different location.
tropical air mass: a warm air mass.
tropical depression: an organized low pressure system with heavy rain and winds less than 38 mph.
tropical storm: an organized low pressure system with heavy rain and winds between 39 mph and 73 mph.
troposphere: the lowest layer of the atmosphere in which all weather takes place.
tsunami: a large ocean wave caused by an earthquake.
unconformity: a buried erosional surface. It represents a gap in the rock history.
u-shaped valley: a wide valley carved out by glaciers.
vertical sorting: separating of sediments in size order with the biggest and heaviest at the bottom and the smallest and lightest at the top.
vesicle: a bubble in an igneous rock.
vitreous (glassy): shining like a broken piece of glass.
volcanic time marker: a layer of volcanic dust that gets deposited almost instantly over a very wide area.
volcanic: an igneous feature formed on the surface of the Earth.
v-shaped valley: valley carved by flowing water.
warm front: the leading edge of an incoming warm air mass.
water cycle: a description of how water recycles itself around the planet.
water displacement method: finding the volume of an object by measuring the volume of the water it pushes out of a container.
water dissolution: a type of chemical weathering caused by watering dissolving soluble minerals.
waxing: phases of the moon where it is getting brighter from night to night.
weather: the current condition of the atmosphere.
white dwarf: a small, but hot star.
windward: the side of a mountain that gets hit by wind.
zone of aeration: area above the capillary fringe where the pores are filled with air.
Ten years of