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2.12: Earth's Outer Layers

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Gases, water, rock and living organisms are all found at Earth's surface. These materials are also found above or below the surface. They interact with each other and in doing so alter each other. For example, the hydrosphere may cause some of the lithosphere to wash away.


Earth is made of layers. Since Earth is round, the layers all have the ending sphere ( Figure below ).

Some of the different parts of the Earth are the:

  • Atmosphere : the thin layer of air, mostly nitrogen and oxygen, that surrounds the Earth.
  • Hydrosphere : all the water on Earth.
  • Biosphere : all the living organisms on Earth.
  • Lithosphere : the solid rock part of Earth, including mountains, valleys, continents, and all of the rock beneath the oceans.

Earth has four layers: atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere.

All of Earth’s layers interact. Therefore, Earth’s surface is constantly undergoing changes.


  • atmosphere : The mixture of gases that surrounds a planet such as Earth.
  • biosphere : All living organisms on Earth.
  • hydrosphere : All the water on Earth.
  • lithosphere : Solid, brittle rock; Earth's outermost rocky layer


  • Earth is made of layers. The names end in sphere becuase Earth is round.
  • Some of the layers are: atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.
  • The lithosphere is the brittle crust and uppermost mantle.

Interactive Practice

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

Big Idea 3: Earth's Systems Interact at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnpF0ndXk-8 (5:50)

  1. What are the four major systems of Earth?
  2. What is the geosphere?
  3. What is the atmosphere?
  4. What is the hydrosphere?
  5. What is the biosphere?
  6. Where does Earth's energy come from?
  7. How does Earth gain mass?
  8. How does Earth lose mass?
  9. What are ecosystems?
  10. What is the function of ecosystems?


  1. What is the atmosphere?
  2. What is the lithosphere?
  3. Where is the hydrosphere?

Image Attributions


Difficulty Level:



6 , 7

Date Created:

Jan 04, 2013

Last Modified:

Aug 24, 2014

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