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  • Standard Area - TECH: Learning Standards for Technology
    (see MST standards under Previous Standard Versions)
            • Introduction - MST4.C.ES.PS2.Introduction:

              Earth may be considered a huge machine driven by two engines, one internal and one external. These heat engines convert heat energy into mechanical energy.

              Earth's external heat engine is powered primarily by solar energy and influenced by gravity. Nearly all the energy for circulating the atmosphere and oceans is supplied by the Sun. As insolation strikes the atmosphere, a small percentage is directly absorbed, especially by gases such as ozone, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Clouds and Earth's surface reflect some energy back to space, and Earth's surface absorbs some energy. Energy is transferred between Earth's surface and the atmosphere by radiation, conduction, evaporation, and convection. Temperature variations within the atmosphere cause differences in density that cause atmospheric circulation, which is affected by Earth's rotation. The interaction of these processes results in the complex atmospheric occurrence known as weather.

              Average temperatures on Earth are the result of the total amount of insolation absorbed by Earth's surface and its atmosphere and the amount of long-wave energy radiated back into space. However, throughout geologic time, ice ages occurred in the middle latitudes. In addition, average temperatures may have been significantly warmer at times in the geologic past. This suggests that Earth had climate changes that were most likely associated with long periods of imbalances of its heat budget.

              Earth's internal heat engine is powered by heat from the decay of radioactive materials and residual heat from Earth's formation. Differences in density resulting from heat flow within Earth's interior caused the changes explained by the theory of plate tectonics: movement of the lithospheric plates; earthquakes; volcanoes; and the deformation and metamorphism of rocks during the formation of young mountains.

              Precipitation resulting from the external heat engine's weather systems supplies moisture to Earth's surface that contributes to the weathering of rocks. Running water erodes mountains that were originally uplifted by Earth's internal heat engine and transports sediments to other locations, where they are deposited and may undergo the processes that transform them into sedimentary rocks.

              Global climate is determined by the interaction of solar energy with Earth's surface and atmosphere. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover and Earth rotation, and the positions of mountain ranges and oceans.

              • Major Understandings - MST4.C.ES.PS2.2a:
                Insolation (solar radiation) heats Earth's surface and atmosphere unequally due to variations in:
                • the intensity caused by differences in atmospheric transparency and angle of incidence which vary with time of day, latitude, and season
                • characteristics of the materials absorbing the energy such as color, texture, transparency, state of matter, and specific heat
                • duration, which varies with seasons and latitude.
              • Major Understandings - MST4.C.ES.PS2.2b:
                The transfer of heat energy within the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and Earth's surface occurs as the result of radiation, convection, and conduction.
                • Heating of Earth's surface and atmosphere by the Sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.
              • Major Understandings - MST4.C.ES.PS2.2c:
                A location's climate is influenced by latitude, proximity to large bodies of water, ocean currents, prevailing winds, vegetative cover, elevation, and mountain ranges.
              • Major Understandings - MST4.C.ES.PS2.2d:
                Temperature and precipitation patterns are altered by:
                • natural events such as El Nino and volcanic eruptions
                • human influences including deforestation, urbanization, and the production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
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