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Geology is the science that studies the Earth, its history and all processes that are shaping it. Geology belongs to the field of Earth sciences. Geologists also study the processes of erosion and deposition of sediments.
Within the science of geology are many different disciplines. In many cases they have considerable overlap. Below a few examples.
- Structural geology studies tectonic processes that shape the Earth
- Paleontology studies fossils
- Petrology studies rocks and their genesis
- Geochemistry studies the chemical processes in and around the Earth
- Geophysics looks at the physical processes that play a role in primarily tectonics
- Geomorphology looks at landforms in relation to the geological history
- Sedimentology is the science of the formation of sediments
- Stratigraphy studies the sequence of sediments to reconstruct the depositional environment
Stratigraphy is an important part of geology because this discipline has produced the very important geological time scale, with as many absolute datings as possible. By examining the stratigraphy of an area, the sequence of the layers can be determined and an environment reconstruction can be made on the basis of the type of rocks, sedimentary structures and possible traces and fossils.
Relative dating is widely used in stratigraphy. Without disturbance, the younger layer lies on top of the older layer. It is assumed that the layers extend more or less horizontally across a given area. By correlating, layers in multiple exposures can be linked to each other thus to get a picture of the stratigraphy of a larger area. The characteristics of the layers, and for example the occurrence of guide fossils ( biostratigraphy), can be used to recognize specific layers.
Geochronology is the making of a geological time scale on the basis of absolute dating. With radiometric dating it is possible to determine the absolute age of certain rocks relatively accurate.
Geologists play a very important role in finding important minerals for human kind such as oil and gas, coal, rock salt, and various ores. Even building materials such as limestone and sand are covered by geology. Besides visual observations in the field, geologists use various methods to investigate the subsurface. Seismics are used to examine the structure of the subsurface with sound waves. Data from drilled holes is used to complement the seismic data to identify the layers. Geology is necessary for man to be able to extract all the needed raw materials from the Earth.
Geologists also play a major role to investigate hazards of geological related natural disasters. Think of earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and landslides. Geologists try to estimate and predict disasters if possible. The latter is a major challenge. Often they only succeed to broadly identify dangerous areas. Because of the complexity it is not yet possible to accurately predict earthquakes for example. Predicting volcanic eruptions shortly in advance goes a lot better, and quickly predict if an earthquake can cause a tsunami goes pretty well. However, it is still very difficult to get warnings to everyone on time.
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