Discovering geology

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Discovering Geology introduces a range of geoscience topics to school-age students and learners of all ages. Explore these pages to discover the fascinating processes and properties that shape our dynamic planet.

Earth has been cooling since it formed 4.6 billion years ago. Over that time its surface has changed constantly, driven by the movement of magma deep within the Earth and aided by the processes of erosion, deposition and weathering. New oceans have appeared as tectonic plates move apart, great mountain ranges have formed as tectonic plates crash together, valleys have been created as glaciers move and the wind has carried sediment particles over great distances to form new landscapes.

Discovering Geology explores the processes that have shaped current and past landscapes and how our planet’s diverse range of rocks and minerals formed. We also investigate how rocks and fossils can be used to explain the changing climates of the past and why learning from the past is the key to understanding our sustainable future.

Throughout Discovering Geology, we link topics with the scientific research and monitoring work that we carry out at the British Geological Survey. From investigating natural hazards to understanding past environments, our research aims to offer geoscientific solutions for a safer, more sustainable and prosperous planet.

Start discovering geology:

Iceberg P912184

Climate change

Climate is the pattern of weather of an area averaged over many years. We can only show whether climate change has occurred after decades of careful measurements and analysis.

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Rocks and minerals

Find out more about the differences between rocks and minerals and how they are formed.

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Wood River, Chiloquin, South Oregon.

Geological processes

Planet Earth is dynamic with a surface that is always changing.

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Climate change

Our climate is intimately connected to the evolution of life, to the erosion and formation of rocks, and even to the generation of mountains.

Thawing permafrost in Herschel Island, 2013. Source: Boris Radosavljevic.

The carbon story

The carbon cycle describes the process in which carbon atoms continually travel from the atmosphere to the Earth, where they get stored in rocks, oceans and organisms, and then released back into the atmosphere.

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The greenhouse effect: some of the infrared radiation passes through the atmosphere, but most is absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by greenhouse gas molecules and clouds. The effect of this is to warm the Earth's surface and the lower atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect

Burning fossil fuels puts more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, which acts as an insulating blanket around the Earth, trapping more of the Sun’s heat.

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Skaftafellsjökull Glacier

What causes the Earth’s climate to change?

Geological records demonstrate that there have been a number of large variations in Earth’s climate.

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Earth hazards

Two scientists installing a seismometer in Surrey, UK

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are among the most deadly natural hazards. They strike without warning and many earthquake zones coincide with areas of high population density.

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Plymouth, Montserrat. Mud flow deposits at clocktower.

Volcanoes

There are more than 1500 active volcanoes on Earth. Around 50-70 volcanoes erupt every year. There are 82 volcanoes in Europe, 32 of these are in Iceland, one of the UK’s closest ‘volcanic neighbours’.

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Debris flow on A83

Understanding landslides

What is a landslide? Why do landslides happen? How to classify a landslide. Landslides in the UK and around the world.

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Rocks and minerals

feature_rocks_minerals

Rocks and minerals

Find out more about the differences between rocks and minerals and how they are formed.

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Landforms and processes

BGS scientist collecting samples from Mt Holt for cosmogenic dating to help determine the rate of thinning of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet since the Last Glacial Maximum.

Landforms

Landforms are features on the Earth’s surface that make up the terrain.

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Wood River, Chiloquin, South Oregon.

Erosion

Erosion involves the movement of rock fragments through gravity, wind, rain, rivers, oceans and glaciers.

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Alluvial fans at Andes Mountain. Photo by Eurico Zimbres.

Deposition

Deposition is the laying down of sediment carried by wind, water, or ice.

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Fossils and geological time

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