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absorption The act or process of absorbing or the condition of being absorbed.
atmosphere The gaseous mass or envelope surrounding a celestial body, especially the one surrounding the earth, and retained by the celestial body’s gravitational field.
biosphere The part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life.
carbon A naturally abundant nonmetallic element that occurs in many inorganic and in all organic compounds, exists freely as graphite and diamond and as a constituent of coal, limestone, and petroleum, and is capable of chemical self-bonding to form an enormous number of chemically, biologically, and commercially important molecules. Atomic number 6; atomic weight 12.011; sublimation point above 3,500°C; boiling point 4,827°C; specific gravity of amorphous carbon 1.8 to 2.1, of diamond 3.15 to 3.53, of graphite 1.9 to 2.3; valence 2, 3, 4.
carbon cycle The combined processes, including photosynthesis, decomposition, and respiration, by which carbon as a component of various compounds cycles between its major reservoirs.
cementation The act, process, or result of cementing.
clearcutting To log an area by removing all of the trees at one time.
consumption The act of taking in food; eating or drinking up.
decomposition Breakdown or decay of organic materials.
dissolution Decomposition into fragments or parts; disintegration.
electron A stable subatomic particle in the lepton family having a rest mass of 9.1066 × 10-28 grams and a unit negative electric charge of approximately 1.602 × 10-19 coulombs.
excretion The act or process of discharging waste matter from the blood, tissues, or organs.
emit To expel, give off or send out.
flux rate The rate of flow of fluid, particles, or energy through a given surface.
fossil fuel A hydrocarbon deposit, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, derived from living matter of a previous geologic time and used for fuel.
geosphere The solid part of the earth consisting of the crust and outer mantle.
greenhouse effect The phenomenon whereby the earth's atmosphere traps solar radiation, caused by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass through but absorb heat radiated back from the earth's surface.
Gt, or Gt(C), or Gt(C)/year A unit of mass equal to one billion metric tons. Gt(C) is Gigatons of Carbon; Gt(C)/year is used to indicate the flux of a number of gigatons of carbon in a year.
hydrosphere The waters of the earth’s surface as distinguished from those of the lithosphere and the atmosphere.
inorganic Of or relating to compounds not containing hydrocarbon groups.
isotope Isotopes are any of the several different forms of an element each having different atomic mass (mass number). Isotopes of an element have nuclei with the same number of protons (the same atomic number) but different numbers of neutrons. Therefore, isotopes have different mass numbers, which give the total number of nucleons-the number of protons plus neutrons.
keeling curve Named after Dr. Charles David Keeling, it is the oscillating line result from graphing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
marine Of or relating to the sea.
neutron An electrically neutral subatomic particle in the baryon family, having a mass 1,839 times that of the electron, stable when bound in an atomic nucleus, and having a mean lifetime of approximately 1.0 × 103 seconds as a free particle. It and the proton form nearly the entire mass of atomic nuclei.
organic Of or designating carbon compounds.
photosynthesis The process in green plants and certain other organisms by which carbohydrates are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water using light as an energy source. Most forms of photosynthesis release oxygen as a byproduct.
plankton The collection of small or microscopic organisms, including algae and protozoans, that float or drift in great numbers in fresh or salt water, especially at or near the surface, and serve as food for fish and other larger organisms.
proton A stable, positively charged subatomic particle in the baryon family having a mass 1,836 times that of the electron.
radioactive Of, exhibiting, or caused by radioactivity.
reservoir A location within the carbon cycle where carbon resides.
respiration The act or process by which an organism, such as an animal or plant, exchanges gases with its environment.
sedimentary rock Rocks formed by the deposition of sediment.
stable Not easily decomposed or otherwise modified chemically.
stalactite An icicle-shaped mineral deposit, usually calcite or aragonite, hanging from the roof of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.
terrestrial Living or growing on land; not aquatic.
urban sprawl The unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of urban development into areas adjoining the edge of a city.
volcanism Volcanic force or activity.
watershed The region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water.
weathering To discolor, disintegrate, wear, or otherwise affect adversely by exposure.
© 2005-2008 Earth System Science Education, Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University