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Explore the fundamentals of global change and earth systems.

Virtual Classroom

The AGCI classroom is a place to learn about the Earth, how it changes over time, how the air, water, land, and life systems interact, and how humans have become an agent of change on a global scale. You can explore our ever-changing Earth through the six so-called “spheres” that make up the Earth System.

Earth system spheres

The Earth system is the complex network of properties and processes--geographic, physical, chemical, and biological--that interact to shape the world in which we live. The six spheres of the Earth system are the atmosphere (air), geosphere (land and solid earth), hydrosphere (water), cryosphere (ice), biosphere (life), and a subset of the biosphere: the anthroposphere (human life). 

Five principles of global environmental change

  1. Earth's natural systems undergo continual change.
  2. Earth's systems are linked through interactive processes.
  3. Recently, humans have become a key agent of change.
  4. Local changes have global consequences.
  5. Global environmental change impacts all life.

View this diagram to illustrate the interconnectivity and complexity of the Earth system.

  • FtHM is an NSF-supported pilot website that highlights clips from AGCI’s video archive in an accessible way, offering students and other learners a unique straight-from-the-source glimpse into science.

How We Study Global Change