Earth, our home planet, is a beautiful blue and white ball when seen from space. The third planet from the Sun, it is the largest of the inner planets. Earth is the only planet known to support life and to have liquid water at the surface. Earth has a substantial atmosphere and magnetic field, both of which are critical for sustaining life on Earth. Earth is the innermost planet in the solar system with a natural satellite – our Moon. Explore our beautiful home planet – unique in our solar system - through the links in this section.

The massive 9.0 magnitude <a href="/earth/geology/quake_1.html&edu=high">earthquake</a> off of Honshu, Japan on <a href="/headline_universe/march112011earthquaketsunami.html&edu=high">11 March 2011</a> generated a <a href="/earth/tsunami1.html&edu=high">tsunami</a> that exceeded 10 meters on the coast near the epicenter.  This image shows model projections for the tsunami wave height in cm which are in good agreement with the observed waves. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were lost, and their families, as we remember this event.<p><small><em><a href="">NOAA Tsunami Wave Height Projections image</a></em></small></p><p>You don't normally see <a href="/space_weather/space_weather.html&edu=high">space weather</a> forecasted on the evening news, but it does impact life on <a href="/earth/earth.html&edu=high">Earth</a> in many ways. What are the threats posed from all of these natural disasters and how can we work to mitigate those threats beforehand? </p>
<p>Check out the materials about natural disasters in <a href="/earth/natural_hazards/when_nature_strikes.html&edu=high">NBC Learn Videos</a>, and their earth system science connections built up by the related secondary classroom activities.</p><p><small><em>NBC Learn</em></small></p>Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that <a href="/earth/polar/cryosphere_permafrost1.html&edu=high">permafrost</a> in the <a href="/earth/polar/polar_north.html&edu=high">Arctic</a> is extremely sensitive to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight releases carbon gases trapped in the permafrost, including <a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&edu=high">climate-warming</a> <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&edu=high">carbon dioxide</a>, to the <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/overview.html&edu=high">atmosphere</a> much faster than previously thought.<p><small><em>George Kling, The University of Michigan</em></small></p>An image of Hurricane Sandy taken by the GOES-13 satellite on October 28.  This category 1 <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/hurricane.html&edu=high">hurricane</a> was huge, spanning a horizontal distance of about one-third the US continental landmass.  The storm came onshore in New Jersey, and gradually moved northeast.  The storm disrupted the lives of tens of millions in the eastern US, doing billions of dollars in damage, resulting in over 30 deaths.  Visit the National Hurricane Center's webpage on <a href="">Hurricane Sandy</a> for details.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NASA</em></small></p>As permafrost thaws, the land, atmosphere, water resources, ecosystems, and human communities are affected. Coastal areas and hillsides are vulnerable to erosion by thawing of permafrost.  Thawing permafrost also causes a positive feedback to global warming, as carbon trapped within the once-frozen soils is released as <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/methane.html&edu=high">methane</a>, a powerful <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&edu=high">greenhouse gas</a>.
Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/permafrost_methane_intro.html&edu=high">Thawing Permafrost and Methane</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of the    USGS</em></small></p>This is an artist's conception of the
  Earth and the inner and outer <a
  href="/glossary/radiation_belts.html&edu=high">radiation belts</a> that surround it. The Earth's radiation belts are just one part of
  the system called the <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/overview.html&edu=high">magnetosphere</a>. The radiation belts of the Earth are made up of <a
  and heavier atomic ions. These particles get trapped in the <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/earth_magnetic_field.html&edu=high">magnetic field of the Earth</a>. 
These belts were <a
  href="/earth/Magnetosphere/radiation_belts_discovery.html&edu=high">discovered</a> by James Van Allen in 1958, and so they are known as Van Allen
  Belts.<p><small><em>Courtesy of Windows to the Universe</em></small></p>

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