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Surface processes

Surface processes on Earth

weathering erosion deposition

Image excerpted from ashlf.com, weathering and erosion.


uag-earthsci.blogspot.com, Physical weathering

chemical weathering

resistance and weathering rates

sedimentary rocks and weathering

See the learning standards for next section.


Erosion and deposition

river and stream erosion

River deposition into an ocean or lake

Meandering streams, erosion, and deposition

glacial erosion and glacial deposition

Wind erosion, Great Dust Bowl, Abrasion, Dune Migration,

Wind abrasion, e.g. Great Dust Bowl

Wind abrasion colorful

wind depositing sediment

Wind depositing sediment

7.MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how Earth’s surface has changed over scales that range from local to global in size.

8.MS-ESS2-1. Use a model to illustrate that energy from Earth’s interior drives convection that cycles Earth’s crust, leading to melting, crystallization, weathering, and deformation
of large rock formations, including generation of ocean sea floor at ridges, submergence of ocean sea floor at trenches, mountain building, and active volcanic chains.

HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s hydrosphere can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

HS-ESS2-5. Describe how the chemical and physical properties of water are important in
mechanical and chemical mechanisms that affect Earth materials and surface



water stored in soil

porosity of soil

permeability and flooding

HS-ESS2-6. Use a model to describe cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil, and biosphere and how increases in carbon dioxide concentrations due to human activity have resulted in atmospheric and climate changes.

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

ESH-PE.1.1.1 Describe how various factors affect the weathering of rock, and explain the observations that provide evidence.

SH-PE.1.1.1f Determine the major physical components of soil (e.g., amounts of sand, silt, clay and humus) in different locations by separating samples based on settling rates of different particles’ sizes in water.

Enduring Understanding 2C
Earth’s landscapes emerge from the interactions among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and human activity. Earth’s surface has changed over time, both in surface landforms, which affect local climates, and in continent–ocean distribution, which affects global climates. …Over a very long period of time, a mixture of weathering products and organic material produces soil that supports plant growth and human habitation.


Mass movements

Avalanches, soil motion due to excess water; soil creep; mud flows, and soil liquification; rock slides/landslides.

Soil creep

Soil Creep

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

ESM-PE.1.1.1 Observe and explain, using observable features in the environment, the dominant physical weathering and erosional processes that take place in a given location.
ESM-PE.1.1.1a Describe and contrast the processes of weathering, erosion and deposition in different environments.
ESM-PE.1.1.1b Give examples of features produced by physical and chemical weathering (e.g., rounded rocks, crumbling on rock, potholes, lichens) and features produced by erosion, deposition and weathering processes (e.g., gullies, talus at the base of cliffs, slumps and landslides, point bars, delta deposits)



Coriolis effect

convection in the atmosphere

Regional wind systems, El Nino and La Nina


7.MS-PS3-6(MA). Use a model to explain how thermal energy is transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones by convection, conduction, and radiation.

8.MS-ESS2-5. Interpret basic weather data to identify patterns in air mass interactions and the relationship of those patterns to local weather.

8.MS-ESS2-6. Describe how interactions involving the ocean affect weather and climate on a regional scale, including the influence of the ocean temperature as mediated by
energy input from the Sun and energy loss due to evaporation or redistribution via
ocean currents.

Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS2-6. Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. [Emphasis is on how patterns vary by latitude, altitude, and geographic land distribution. Emphasis of atmospheric circulation is on the sunlight-driven latitudinal banding, the Coriolis effect, and resulting prevailing winds.]

SAT Subject Test in Physics: Circular motion, such as uniform circular motion and centripetal force.

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

ESH-PE.1.2.2 Explain local wind patterns (e.g., land/sea breezes, mountain/valley breezes) in terms of convection, identifying pressure differences, direction of wind, and areas of uneven heating.
ESH-PE.1.2.3 Construct representations of Earth’s systems where convection occurs, identifying areas of uneven heating and the movement of matter.

ESH-PE.1.4.2 Describe, in terms of temperature, pressure and moisture conditions, the formation of severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, hurricanes and thunderstorms.
ESH-PE.1.4.2a Construct an illustration of a mature thunderstorm that shows how air movement inside the storm leads to the formation of hail and tornadoes.
ESH-PE.1.4.2b Describe how, within storm systems, thermal energy is converted into both mechanical energy (wind) and electrical energy, and link these phenomena to the law of conservation of energy.



Glacier Plucking Rocks smaller

Ice ages

HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s hydrosphere can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems over different time scales result in changes in climate. Analyze and interpret data to explain that long-term changes in Earth’s tilt and orbit result in cycles of
climate change such as Ice Ages.

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

ESH-PE.1.1.2 Construct representations that illustrate landscape features produced by erosional and depositional processes.
ESH-PE.1.1.2b Interpret and compare a visual representation of a glacial valley and a visual representation of a stream valley.

ESH-PE.2.4.2 Determine which data should be considered evidence of climate change in both the geologic and historic past.
ESH-PE.2.4.2a Analyze tree-ring data to find changes in annual rainfall in a particular location.
ESH-PE.2.4.2b Infer, based on ice core and the glacial record, climatic conditions that have existed in the past.
ESH-PE.2.4.2c Infer, based on the fossil and rock records, climatic conditions that have existed in the past.


Surface water movement/the water cycle

Earth Science, Glencoe, Textbook Chapter 9, Surface Water

Learning Standards for this topic:

College Board Standards for College Success: Science

Objective ES.4.1 – Water Cycle: Students understand water cycles at various rates and at various scales within Earth’s systems.

ESH-PE.4.1.2 Analyze water budget data for a watershed to find patterns and significant data.

ESM-PE.4.1.1 Construct a representation of the water (hydrologic) cycle that identifies the following: component processes, reservoirs and the direction of water movement. Representation should include evaporation, evapotranspiration, precipitation, sublimation, surface runoff as overland flow, streams and rivers, infiltration into the ground, groundwater discharge and temporary storage of water — in solid form as snow and ice; in liquid form in lakes, oceans and organisms; and in gaseous form in the atmosphere.

ESH-PE.5.2.1 Calculate recurrence interval of floods, earthquakes or other natural hazards. Develop a graphical representation of event frequency.
ESH-PE.5.2.2 Contrast and explain the factors and processes that control the risk of flooding in the two drainage basins, using flood frequency for two drainage basins along with other important basin characteristics (e.g., land use, climate, topography,
engineering of the river channel).

Essential Knowledge: Water (hydrologic) reservoirs are parts of Earth’s systems that store matter and energy. The major reservoirs of water are oceans (97 percent), ice caps and glaciers (2 percent), and ground/surface water and atmosphere (less than 1 percent).  Groundwater — water found in open pore spaces between soil and sediment particles, and within fractures in rock — provides the major source of freshwater used by human society.


Permeability – how easily a soil will let water pass through it.

porosity, soil saturation, how saturation affects groundwater and the water table

when rain water sinks into the ground/infiltration


permeable and impermeable layers

Flow of groundwater, springs, flooding


River and stream erosion


stream systems
watersheds and divides
stream load
material carried in solution
particles carried in suspension
bed load
stream velocity and carrying capacity
flood monitoring and flood control systems
stream development
lakes and freshwater wetlands
Stream development
Lakes and freshwater wetlands

Learning Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

College Board Standards for College Success: Science


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