National Academies Press: OpenBook

Solid-Earth Sciences and Society (1993)

Chapter: Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

SOLID-EARTH SCIENCES AND SOCIETY

Committee on Status and Research Objectives in the Solid-Earth Sciences: A Critical Assessment

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1993

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Support for this study was provided by the W. M. Keck Foundation, the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences' Arthur L. Day Fund and Maurice Ewing Earth and Planetary Science Fund.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Status and Research Opportunities in the Solid-Earth Sciences.

Solid-Earth Sciences and Society/Committee on the Status and Research Opportunities in the Solid-Earth Sciences, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, National Research Council. p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-309-04739-0

1. Earth sciences—United States. I. Title.

QE47.A1N38 1993

550'.973—dc20 92-41781

CIP

Cover art by Y. David Chung. Cover design by Rumen Buzatov. Chung and Buzatov are graduates of the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C. In 1988, Chung won the Mayor's Art Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist and has exhibited widely throughout the country, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City.

The cover includes many artistic depictions, both ancient and modern, of the solid-earth sciences. At the center is a subduction zone—high mountains, deep-sea trenches, and volcanic activity. The frog dropping a ball into the mouth of a dragon is part of an ancient Chinese seismometer that indicated earthquake direction. The Mariner spacecraft, used to study Mars, represents our new abilities to view the Earth and other planets on different scales. On the spine is an Armillary sphere used in Renaissance Europe as a way of depicting the Earth at the center of the universe. On the back cover are representations of a mid-ocean ridge, an offshore oil derrick, the center section of an early Mayan calendar, and plate movements off the east coast of Africa.

Copyright 1993 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

2101 CONSTITUTION AVENUE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20418

OFFICE OF THE CHAIRMAN

Breakthroughs in scientific understanding during the past quarter century as well as innovative technologies for gathering and organizing large amounts of information are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in the earth sciences at an accelerating pace. Basic research has increased our understanding of the origin and internal workings of our planet, of the processes that modify our landscape, and of the evolution of life during times of quite different global environments. A new approach to studying earth processes, in which the earth is viewed as an integrated, dynamic system rather than a collection of isolated components, has emerged.

Solid-Earth Sciences and Society explores these important new directions in earth sciences research and examines how they can enhance society's ability to make wise decisions on resource development, waste disposal, environmental protection, natural hazards reduction, and land use. The report, which reflects a long-term effort by a diverse expert committee, presents a vision of this rapidly changing field: its scope and goals, its emerging research issues, and its scientific contributions and applications.

We have reached a critical time in the solid-earth sciences. Many in the professional community are shifting their focus from exploring for and developing resources to addressing environmental and social problems on global as well as regional scales. Others are working to maintain the research base and acquire the new knowledge upon which the applications are built. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society recommends priorities for future research and discusses the scientific challenges facing our society. It should prove helpful to the research community, to practitioners, to educators, to students, and to all of us with an interest in the earth sciences.

We are particularly indebted to the W. M. Keck Foundation, without whose support this would not have been possible.

Frank Press

Chairman

THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL IS THE PRINCIPLE OPERATING AGENCY OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AND THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING

TO SERVE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

Prologue

The GOAL is:

to understand the past, present, and future behavior of the whole earth system. From the environments where life evolves on the surface to the interaction between the crust and its fluid envelopes (atmosphere and hydrosphere), this interest extends through the mantle and the outer core to the inner core. A major challenge is to use this understanding to maintain an environment in which the biosphere and humankind will continue to flourish.

SOCIETAL CHALLENGES FOR EARTH SCIENCES

The solid-earth sciences are essential to:

  • provide sufficient resources—e.g., water, minerals, and fuels;

  • cope with hazards—e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, and floods;

  • avoid perturbing geological environments—e.g., soil erosion, water contamination, improper mining practices, and waste disposal; and

  • learn how to anticipate and adjust to environmental and global changes.

RESEARCH FRAMEWORK

The information needed to achieve the goal of the solid-earth sciences and to meet the societal challenges derives from research that can be described conveniently in a matrix of four objectives and five research areas. Research opportunities can be located within the elements of this matrix, and from these have been selected research topics of top-priority and high-priority.

Objectives

The following four objectives are derived from the challenges facing society in which fundamental understanding of the solid-earth sciences plays a primary role:

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×
  • Understand the processes involved in the global earth system, with particular attention to the linkages and interactions between its parts (the geospheres)

  • Sustain a sufficient supply of natural resources

  • Mitigate geological hazards

  • Minimize and adjust to global and environmental change

Research Areas

The following research areas provide promise of achieving the scientific goal:

  • Global paleoenvironments and biological evolution

  • Global geochemical and biogeochemical cycles

  • Fluids in and on the Earth

  • Dynamics of the crust (oceanic and continental)

  • Dynamics of the core and mantle

EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE

The goal represents an integrated approach to the study of the earth system, requiring interdisciplinary investigations of the geology, physics, chemistry, and biology of the whole Earth, because all parts of the Earth are interconnected through geological, geophysical, and geochemical processes, some of which are monitored by biological activity near the surface.

Attainment of the specific objectives may be greatly enhanced by more complete understanding of processes occurring on a global scale. Boundaries between basic and applied solid-earth sciences are artificial.

This process-oriented, integrated global approach should be incorporated into revised earth science curricula in universities and schools. There are also educational opportunities in redefined engineering geology.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

COMMITTEE ON STATUS AND RESEARCH OBJECTIVES IN THE SOLID-EARTH SCIENCES: A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT

PETER J. WYLLIE (Chairman),

California Institute of Technology

PHILIP H. ABELSON,

American Association for the Advancement of Science

SAMUEL S. ADAMS,

Minerals Consultant, Lincoln, New Hampshire

CLARENCE R. ALLEN,

California Institute of Technology

G. ARTHUR BARBER,

Minerals Consultant, Denver, Colorado

ROBIN BRETT,

U.S. Geological Survey

ROBERT A. BERNER,

Yale University

JOHN D. BREDEHOEFT,

U.S. Geological Survey

ROBERT G. COLEMAN,

Stanford University

BRUCE R. DOE,

U.S. Geological Survey

CHARLES L. DRAKE,

Dartmouth College

LARRY W. FINGER,

Carnegie Institution of Washington

WILLIAM L. FISHER,

Texas Bureau of Economic Geology

ALEXANDER F. H. GOETZ,

University of Colorado

ALLEN W. HATHEWAY,

University of Missouri at Rolla

JOHN D. HAUN,

Barlow & Haun, Inc.

JAMES F. HAYS,

National Science Foundation

WILLIAM J. HINZE,

Purdue University

RAYMOND JEANLOZ,

University of California, Berkeley

MARVIN E. KAUFFMAN,

National Science Foundation

JUDITH T. PARRISH,

University of Arizona

CHARLES T. PREWITT,

Carnegie Institution of Washington

LEE R. RUSSELL,

ARCO Oil and Gas Company

STANLEY A. SCHUMM,

Colorado State University

BRIAN J. SKINNER,

Yale University

STEVEN M. STANLEY,

The Johns Hopkins University

DONALD L. TURCOTTE,

Cornell University

KARL K. TUREKIAN,

Yale University

ROBERT E. WALLACE,

U.S. Geological Survey

DANIEL F. WEILL,

National Science Foundation

ROBERT E. ZARTMAN,

U.S. Geological Survey

Staff

LALLY A. ANDERSON, Staff Assistant

KEVIN C. BURKE, Scholar-in-Residence

CATHERINE MAcMULLEN, Consultant

THOMAS M. USSELMAN, Senior Staff Scientist

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES

WILLIAM L. FISHER (Chairman),

University of Texas at Austin

SAMUEL S. ADAMS,

Minerals Consultant, Lincoln, New Hampshire

MARK P. CLOOS,

University of Texas at Austin

NEVILLE G. W. COOK,

University of California, Berkeley

JOEL DARMSTADTER,

Resources for the Future

DONALD J. DEPAOLO,

University of California, Berkeley

GORDON P. EATON,

Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory

W. GARY ERNST,

Stanford University

NORMAN H. FOSTER,

Independent Petroleum Geologist, Denver

FREEMAN GILBERT,

University of California, San Diego

PERRY R. HAGENSTEIN,

Resource Issues, Inc.

HARRISON C. JAMISON,

Consultant, Sunriver, Oregon

THOMAS H. JORDAN,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

ANDREW H. KNOLL,

Harvard University

PHILIP E. LAMOREAUX,

P. E. LaMoreaux and Associates, Inc.

SUSAN LANDON,

Thomasson Partner Associates, Denver

CHARLES J. MANKIN,

Oklahoma Geological Survey

CAREL OTTE, JR.,

Unocal Corporation (retired)

FRANK M. RICHTER,

University of Chicago

Staff

THOMAS M. USSELMAN, Acting Staff Director

KEVIN C. BURKE, Scholar-in-Residence

WILLIAM E. BENSON, Senior Program Officer

BRUCE B. HANSHAW, Staff Officer

LORRAINE WOLF, Staff Officer

LALLY A. ANDERSON, Staff Assistant

CHARLENE ANDERSON, Administrative Secretary

JUDITH ESTEP, Administrative Secretary

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES

M. GORDON WOLMAN (Chairman),

The Johns Hopkins University

PATRICK R. ATKINS,

Aluminum Company of America

PETER S. EAGLESON,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

EDWARD A. FRIEMAN,

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

HELEN M. INGRAM,

University of Arizona

W. BARCLAY KAMB,

California Institute of Technology

GENE E. LIKENS,

New York Botanical Garden

SYUKURO MANABE,

NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

JACK E. OLIVER,

Cornell University

FRANK L. PARKER,

Vanderbilt University

DUNCAN T. PATTEN,

Arizona State University

RAYMOND A. PRICE,

Queen's University at Kingston

MAXINE L. SAVITZ,

Allied Signal Aerospace Company

LARRY L. SMARR,

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

STEVEN M. STANLEY,

The Johns Hopkins University

WARREN WASHINGTON,

National Center for Atmospheric Research

EDITH BROWN WEISS,

Georgetown University Law Center

IRVIN L. WHITE,

Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories

Staff

STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director

STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director

JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative Officer

CARLITA PERRY, Administrative Associate

ROBIN LEWIS, Senior Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

Contents

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

1

   

PRESENT STATE OF THE SOLID-EARTH SCIENCES

 

2

   

PRIORITIES

 

3

   

Priority Themes: Objectives and Research Areas

 

3

   

Selection of High-Priority Research Opportunities

 

3

   

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

 

4

   

Personnel Requirements

 

4

   

Education Requirements

 

4

   

Facilities and Equipment

 

5

   

Data Gathering and Handling

 

5

   

Funding for Priority Themes

 

8

   

Global Collaboration

 

8

   

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

9

   

Education Recommendations

 

9

   

Research Recommendations

 

9

   

General Recommendations

 

11

1

 

GLOBAL OVERVIEW

 

13

   

ESSAY ON THE EARTH SCIENCES

 

13

   

Living on Earth

 

13

   

Understanding the Earth

 

15

   

Predicting the Earth's Future

 

15

   

THE EARTH AND ITS COMPONENTS

 

16

   

UNIFYING FORCES IN THE GEOLOGICAL SCIENCES

 

18

   

Plate Tectonics

 

18

   

Images of the Earth

 

19

   

Variations in the Earth's Orbit

 

20

   

Humankind as a Geological Agent

 

20

   

GOALS OF THE EARTH SCIENCES: RESEARCH FRAMEWORK

 

20

   

Goal, Objectives, and Research Themes

 

21

   

Research Framework

 

22

   

Priority Theme Selection

 

23

   

PRIORITY THEMES: RESEARCH AREAS

 

26

   

Priority Theme A-I: Global Paleoenvironments and Biological Evolution

 

25

   

Priority Theme A-II: Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles

 

26

   

Priority Theme A-III: Fluids in and on the Earth

 

28

   

Priority Theme A-IV: Crustal Dynamics: Ocean and Continents

 

29

   

Priority Theme A-V: Core and Mantle Dynamics

 

32

   

PRIORITY THEMES: OBJECTIVES

 

34

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×
   

Priority Theme B: Sustaining Resource Supplies

 

34

   

Priority Theme C: Preventing Damage from Geological Hazards

 

36

   

Priority Theme D: Assessing, Mitigating, and Remediating Effects of Environmental and Global Change

 

37

   

RESEARCH SUPPORT

 

39

   

Federal Funding

 

39

   

Industry Support of University Research

 

39

   

INSTRUMENTATION, COMPUTATIONAL CAPACITY, AND DATA MANAGEMENT

 

41

   

Facilities and Instruments

 

41

   

Data Handling

 

42

   

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

 

43

   

INTERNATIONAL SCOPE

 

44

   

ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT

 

45

2

 

UNDERSTANDING OUR PLANET

 

47

   

ESSAY: THE DYNAMIC EARTH

 

47

   

ORIGIN OF THE EARTH

 

50

   

Comparative Planetology

 

51

   

Early Earth Evolution and Great Impacts

 

52

   

STRUCTURE AND DYNAMICS OF THE SOLID EARTH

 

53

   

Seismic Determinations of Earth Structure

 

53

   

Mantle Convection

 

56

   

Core Dynamics and Geomagnetism

 

57

   

Core-Mantle Boundary

 

58

   

EARTHQUAKES: CONSEQUENCES OF A DYNAMIC MANTLE

 

58

   

Geographic Distribution

 

58

   

Understanding Earthquakes

 

60

   

Earth Deformation

 

60

   

VOLCANIC ACTIVITY: CONSEQUENCE OF CONVECTING MANTLE

 

61

   

Geographic Distribution, Style, and Scale of Eruptions

 

62

   

Flow and Storage of Magma

 

62

   

Volcanic Eruptions

 

63

   

OCEAN BASIN PROCESSES

 

66

   

Ocean Spreading Centers,

 

66

   

Intraplate Volcanism: Hot Spots and Oceanic Plateaus

 

67

   

Plate Kinematics

 

69

   

Ocean Convergent Plate Boundaries: Island Arcs

 

69

   

CONTINENTAL STRUCTURE AND EVOLUTION

 

71

   

Seismic Imaging of the Crust

 

71

   

Mountain Building: Metamorphism and Deformation of Continents

 

73

   

Extensional Deformation of Continental Lithosphere

 

74

   

Evolution of the Continents

 

75

   

Sedimentary Basins

 

78

   

Continental Collision

 

78

   

Growth of the Continents Through Time

 

80

   

GEOCHEMICAL CYCLES

 

81

   

INTERACTION BETWEEN THE SOLID EARTH AND ITS FLUID ENVELOPES

 

83

   

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

 

84

   

Research Area II: Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles

 

84

   

Research Area III: Fluids in and on the Earth

 

86

   

Research Area IV: Dynamics of the Crust and Lithosphere

 

86

   

Research Area V: Dynamics of the Core and Mantle

 

87

   

FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, AND DATA BASES

 

88

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

89

Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

3

 

THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT AND ITS EVOLUTION

 

91

   

ESSAY

 

91

   

THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT: A GEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

94

   

The Changing Land Surface

 

94

   

Beneath the Sea

 

100

   

CHANGE IN THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT

 

103

   

Cyclical Change in the Global Environment

 

103

   

Secular Change in the Global System

 

115

   

History of Life

 

120

   

Catastrophes in Earth History

 

127

   

MODELING THE EARTH SYSTEM

 

128

   

An Incomplete Record

 

128

   

Intellectual Frontiers

 

129

   

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

 

132

   

Research Area I. Paleoenvironment and Biological Evolution

 

133

   

Research Area II. Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles

 

134

   

Research Area III. Fluids in and on the Earth

 

135

   

Research Area IV. Crustal Dynamics: Ocean and Continent

 

135

   

Facilities, Equipment, and Data Bases

 

135

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

136

4

 

RESOURCES OF THE SOLID EARTH

 

137

   

ESSAY: NATURAL EXPLOITATION

 

137

   

ROCK-FLUID INTERACTIONS

 

140

   

WATER RESOURCES

 

141

   

Water Quality

 

143

   

Water Supply and Use

 

145

   

Influencing the Water Cycle

 

148

   

MINERAL RESOURCES

 

149

   

Understanding Mineral Deposits

 

152

   

Crustal Processes and Ore Deposits

 

153

   

Genetic Studies of Ore Deposits

 

155

   

Models in the Study of Mineral Deposits

 

156

   

Mineral Exploration and Exploitation

 

158

   

ENERGY RESOURCES

 

162

   

Petroleum Resources

 

163

   

Coal: An Abundant Fuel Resource

 

172

   

Sources of Energy from the Internal Engine

 

175

   

RESOURCE DEPENDENCY

 

177

   

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

 

178

   

Water Resources

 

178

   

Mineral Resources

 

180

   

Energy Resources

 

181

   

Facilities, Equipment, and Data Bases

 

182

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

183

5

 

HAZARDS, LAND USE, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE

 

185

   

ESSAY: A FRACTION OF THE EARTH'S SURFACE

 

185

   

GEOMORPHIC HAZARDS

 

189

   

Landslides and Debris Flows

 

191

   

Land Subsidence

 

195

   

Floods

 

196

   

Coastal Fluctuation

 

196

   

TECTONIC HAZARDS

 

197

   

Earthquakes

 

197

   

Tsunami Hazards

 

208

   

Volcanic Hazards

 

210

   

HAZARDS OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL ORIGIN

 

213

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×
   

PROBLEMS RELATED TO POPULATION CONCENTRATION

 

214

   

Engineered Structures

 

215

   

Use of Earth Materials

 

216

   

Tunnels and Underground Openings

 

216

   

Health Risks from Geological Material

 

217

   

Agriculture

 

219

   

Soil Development and Soil Degradation

 

220

   

Waste Management

 

220

   

Contaminated Water, Air Pollution, and Acid Rain

 

222

   

GLOBAL CHANGE

 

223

   

Understanding Global Change

 

224

   

Mitigation and Remediation

 

224

   

Three Roles for the Solid-Earth Scientist

 

225

   

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

 

225

   

Objective C: To Mitigate Geological Hazards

 

226

   

Objective D: To Minimize Perturbations from and Adjust to Global and Environmental Change

 

230

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

231

6

 

ENSURING EXCELLENCE AND THE NATIONAL WELL-BEING

 

233

   

ESSAY

 

233

   

ROLES, NUMBERS, AND BACKGROUNDS OF SOLID-EARTH SCIENTISTS

 

237

   

Solid-Earth Sciences and National Security

 

237

   

Demographic Characteristics of Solid-Earth Scientists

 

238

   

Future Demand for Solid-Earth Scientists

 

240

   

EDUCATION IN THE SOLID-EARTH SCIENCES

 

242

   

Formal Education in the Solid-Earth Sciences

 

244

   

Public Awareness of the Earth Sciences

 

247

   

Coping with the Supply of Solid-Earth Scientists

 

247

   

INSTRUMENTATION AND FACILITIES

 

248

   

Global Positioning System

 

248

   

Digital Seismology

 

249

   

Instrumentation in Earth Science Laboratories

 

249

   

DATA GATHERING AND HANDLING

 

252

   

The Digital Data Revolution

 

253

   

Improving Data Management

 

254

   

GLOBAL COLLABORATION

 

255

   

International Collaborative Activities

 

255

   

U.S. Collaborative Activities

 

258

   

Other Nations' Activities

 

261

   

Proposed Programs

 

262

   

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

263

   

Education in the Solid-Earth Sciences

 

263

   

Instrumentation and Facilities

 

264

   

Data Gathering and Handling

 

264

   

Global Collaboration

 

266

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

267

7

 

RESEARCH PRIORITIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

 

269

   

INTRODUCTION

 

269

   

SETTING RESEARCH PRIORITIES

 

270

   

Planning and Decision Making

 

270

   

Individual and Group Research

 

271

   

Peer Review and Evaluation

 

272

   

Evaluation Criteria and Prioritization

 

273

   

PREVIOUS RECOMMENDATIONS AND INITIATIVES

 

274

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×
   

GOALS, RESEARCH AREAS, OBJECTIVES, AND RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

 

276

   

PRIORITY THEMES AND RESEARCH SELECTIONS

 

277

   

Selection of Top- and High-Priority Research

 

277

   

Priority Theme I: Global Palcoenvironments and Biological Evolution

 

283

   

Priority Theme II: Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles

 

286

   

Priority Theme III: Fluids in and on the Earth

 

287

   

Priority Theme IV: Crustal Dynamics—Ocean and Continents

 

290

   

Priority Theme V: Core and Mantle Dynamics

 

293

   

Priority Theme B: To Sustain Sufficient Natural Resources

 

295

   

Priority Theme C: To Mitigate Geological Hazards

 

299

   

Priority Theme D: To Minimize and Adjust to the Effects of Global and Environmental Changes

 

300

   

RESEARCH IMPLEMENTATION: FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, AND DATA NEEDS

 

302

   

Space-Based Instruments and Programs

 

303

   

Aircraft-Based Instruments and Programs

 

305

   

Land-Surface-Based Instruments and Programs

 

305

   

Sea-Surface-Based Instruments and Facilities

 

306

   

Laboratory Instrumentation and Facilities

 

307

   

Data Collection and Storage

 

307

   

FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF PRIORITY RESEARCH

 

309

   

Current Agency Expenditures

 

309

   

Industry Support of University Research

 

309

   

Suggestions for Future Funding

 

311

   

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

311

   

Education Recommendations

 

311

   

Research Recommendations

 

312

   

General Recommendations

 

314

   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

317

APPENDIX A

   

319

APPENDIX B

   

330

 

 

INDEX

 

340

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
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Preface

The Committee on Status and Research Objectives in the Solid-Earth Sciences was charged by the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources with preparing a comprehensive and critical review of the current state of the science, to identify opportunities for research during coming decades, and to consider the issue of establishing priorities. The study was supported by a major grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, together with grants from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation of New York, and the National Academy of Sciences' Arthur L. Day Fund and Maurice Ewing Earth and Planetary Science Fund. In addition, the following scientific societies provided support: American Association of Petroleum Geologists; American Institute of Professional Geologists; American Geological Institute; Association of American Geographers; Association of American State Geologists; Association of Earth Sciences Editors; Geological Society of America; Society of Economic Geologists, Inc.; Society for Sedimentary Geology/SEPM; and Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. No funds for the study were specifically requested from federal agencies.

COMMITTEE PROCESS

The committee began its work with a series of meetings during the summer of 1988 to plan its approach and to initiate the study. There was a conscious decision to organize the report around two principal themes: (1) basic understanding of solid-earth processes and their interaction with other parts of the earth system and (2) societal issues in which the solid-earth sciences provided significant information in the decision-making process. There was no attempt to organize the study on a disciplinary basis or to review the appropriateness of specific federal agency programs.

The committee formed 21 panels to help synthesize the vast body of earth science knowledge on specific societal issues or related to a few subdisciplines. The panels and their membership are included in Appendix B;

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over 150 earth scientists were involved in this process. The panels, through several individual meetings, produced draft reports that provided a major input to the report. Because of differences in approach and content among the panel reports, there are no plans to issue those draft materials.

In addition to input provided by individual committee members and drafts from the panels, the committee was aware of the findings and conclusions of the many recent reports produced by the National Research Council, by various federal agencies, and by other consortia and planning groups. These are listed as a bibliography at the end of the appropriate chapters. These materials provided a second major input to the committee's deliberations. As many of the committee and panel members had participated in preparing one or more of these previous reports and long-range plans, this experience helped to put the discussions and the possibilities in a broad and informed perspective.

Input from other members of the earth science community was sought in several ways. A questionnaire about priorities in the earth sciences was distributed to the councils of 40 national societies representing the spectrum of the pure and applied earth sciences. A written solicitation for suggestions was published in EOS, and a letter was widely circulated to individual scientists from society membership lists and through chairmen of earth science and selected engineering departments in North American universities. Eighty-three responses were received. Presentations of the work of the committee were made at three national meetings: a lecture at the Geological Society of America in 1989, and focused symposia at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in 1990 and the American Geophysical Union's meeting in spring 1990. Open discussion sessions were held at the latter two symposia. When writing was under way, many individual earth scientists were approached to provide a paragraph or page on specific topics that were not covered adequately through the other input processes.

The committee held a series of meetings and workshops to consider the various inputs and to design the report. Several editorial subgroups were formed; these subgroups held several meetings and prepared drafts of the specific chapters, largely from the source materials. The draft chapters were circulated to the full committee for comment. Based on the comments, revisions were made and redistributed to the committee. At a final workshop, the committee discussed the report as a whole and reached consensus on the various priorities.

The committee's overall approach was to determine the most important earth processes and then to consider what methods and facilities would be most effective in providing answers to the process-oriented problems. The committee recognized that in a field as diverse as the solid-earth sciences research must advance on a broad front. In preparation for, and during the final workshop in October 1991, the committee members reviewed a draft of the report and selected a top-priority research topic in each of eight areas, together with supporting research programs and the infrastructure required for implementation of the programs.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT

This report covers the workings of the whole Earth, concentrating on solid-earth processes and their influence on and interactions with human society. The table below illustrates the report's structure, which consists of seven chapters following the Executive Summary. A global overview of the present status of the solid-earth sciences is presented in the first chapter. The second chapter deals with the processes on Earth that are driven by internally generated heat; it includes some discussion of plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, the origin and history of the continents, and where research is going in all those areas. The third chapter complements the second by addressing two processes driven by the solar energy that falls on the surface—erosion and deposition—and portrays how they have operated since the beginning of earth history. It also tells the story of life on Earth and of its evolution as revealed by fossil

Chapter

Executive Summary

 

1

Essay

Global Overview

 

2

Essay

Understanding Our Active Planet

Research Opportunities

3

Essay

The Global Environment and Its Evolution (near-surface processes)

Research Opportunities

4

Essay

Resources of the Solid-Earth (water, minerals, fuels)

Research Opportunities

5

Essay

Hazards, Land Use, and Environmental Change

Research Opportunities

6

Essay

Ensuring Excellence and the National Well-Being

Recommendations

7

Research Priorities and Recommendations

Recommendations

Appendix A

Data Base of Federal Programs and Their Budgets

 

organisms, including such issues as catastrophic extinction. The fourth chapter treats resources—land, water, and mineral deposits, including metals, oil, gas, and coal—in light of the two previous chapters. The fifth chapter deals with hazardous phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and unstable land surfaces. It also describes how human beings interact with the Earth, changing its environment both locally, as in urban pollution, and globally, as in the composition and temperature of the ocean or atmosphere. The sixth chapter looks at how the solid-earth sciences are practiced, where research is going, what demographic changes are happening, the nature of changes in instrumentation and data handling, and the international role of the solid-earth sciences. The seventh chapter summarizes the goals of the solid-earth sciences, the research opportunities, the facilities required, and the priorities and ends with a list of recommendations.

Each chapter is introduced by an essay. At the ends of Chapters 2 through 5, specific research opportunities related to the topics addressed are summarized in a research framework. At the ends of Chapter 6 and 7, recommendations are listed. These front and back portions of each chapter are shaded in the table, and highlighted in the report. Appendix A

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
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gives information on the budgets of federal government research programs.

There are several different ways to sample the report:

  • The Executive Summary conveys the essentials.

  • The Executive Summary and Chapter 1 give a global overview of the whole volume.

  • The shaded essays provide the essence of each chapter without the detail.

  • The shaded research opportunities outline important research without the detailed background.

  • Chapter 7 gives a detailed discussion of opportunities and priorities.

  • The bodies of Chapters 2 through 6 provide a more technical treatment of the fields.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1993. Solid-Earth Sciences and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1990.
×

SOLID-EARTH

SCIENCES AND SOCIETY

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As environmental problems move upward on the public agenda, our knowledge of the earth's systems and how to sustain the habitability of our world becomes more critical. This volume reports on the state of earth science and outlines a research agenda, with priorities keyed to the real-world challenges facing human society.

The product of four years of development with input from more than 200 earth-science specialists, the volume offers a wealth of historical background and current information on

  • Plate tectonics, volcanism, and other heat-generated earth processes.
  • Evolution of our global environment and of life itself, as revealed in the fossil record.
  • Human exploitation of water, fossil fuels, and minerals.
  • Interaction between human populations and the earth's surface, discussing the role we play in earth's systems and the dangers we face from natural hazards such as earthquakes and landslides.

This volume offers a comprehensive look at how earth science is currently practiced and what should be done to train professionals and adequately equip them to find the answers necessary to manage more effectively the earth's systems.

This well-organized and practical book will be of immediate interest to solid-earth scientists, researchers, and college and high school faculty, as well as policymakers in the environmental arena.

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