What is geophysics?

Geophysics is the application of physics to study the Earth, oceans, atmosphere and near-Earth space. It is a broad subject that encompasses many of the major sciences – physics, astronomy, planetary science, geology, environmental science, oceanography, and meteorology. Many different scientists from different disciplines class themselves as geophysicists, including seismologists, meteorologists, glaciologists, geomagnetists and geodesists.

The RAS has put together a short booklet which highlights what geophysics is, what geophysicists do and why geophysics is so important as a discipline. It is called “Going Underground: Why Geophysics Matters“. This PDF resource is free to download and use for teaching and outreach purposes.

Geophysical observations are fundamental to our understanding of the Earth and how it works…

Geophysical observations are fundamental to our understanding of the Earth and how it works for and against us. For example, motion in the Earth’s deep core gives rise to our magnetic field, which protects us from harmful solar radiation. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, on the other hand, have the ability destroy on a terrible scale. Geophysics is also fundamental to the needs of society – it is essential for exploring for energy, water, and mineral resources, monitoring environmental impact and change and assessing natural and manmade hazards. It is used in subsurface investigations for engineering and archaeology, as well as in forensic science, such as nuclear test ban treaty verification.

Geophysicists go on to develop in a broad range of careers, including those in natural resource exploration, satellite based Earth observation, natural hazard mitigation, archaeological studies, conservation and climate studies, government policy and military applications.




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