Mr. D'Anna Regents Earth Science
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Main Ideas

These are the "big picture" questions from our class discussions.  Once you can explain the answers to these questions in your own words, go to the review book for that topic and quiz yourself to see if you can translate what you know into the regents exam language, "Albanyese." 

One of the overlying themes of the year will be "Why do you believe what you believe?"

In the first two weeks, we will go over:

  • Observations versus inferences

  • What is the nature of change?

  • What are the differences between the three main types of change (linear, cyclic, and hidden)?

  • How is energy related to changes?

OUR STAGE we'll cover:

  • How big is Earth?  How can we measure it?  How did Eratosthenes figure out how big the Earth is?

  • How do we know Earth is round?  Is it perfectly round?  Why not?

  • How do we locate positions on Earth?  What is the need for a coordinate system?  Be able to locate positions on a map using latitude and longitude.  What is a minute of latitude or longitude?  Be able to precisely determine the latitude and longitude of cities on the NYS map on p.3 of the ESRT.

  • Why do we have time zones?  What happens to local time as you travel east/west?  What is the difference between local time and solar time?  What is the international date line?  

  • What is Earth made of?  What are the names for each different layer of the Earth (p.14 & 10 of the ESRT)?  How are the different layers of Earth organized?

  • What is the elemental composition of each layer?

  • Density and Percent Deviation calculations!


  • What is a mineral?  How are minerals identified?  What is responsible for each mineral having its own set of unique characteristics (think really small)?

  • What atoms are common to most minerals?

  • What are the physical properties used to identify minerals?  How are they tested?  Be able to use a dichotomous key.

  • Define Rock

  • How are rocks classified?  What makes a rock igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic?  What clues in rocks help us determine which category a rock belongs to?

  • What is the difference between an igneous intrusive rock and an extrusive rock?  

  • What is the difference between a felsic rock and a mafic one?  How could a rock become a mixture of felsic and mafic material?  What minerals are in a felsic rock and what minerals are in a mafic rock?  

  • Understand how to split the "Scheme for identifying igneous rocks" chart on p.6 of the ESRT into intrusive and extrusive rocks (top/bottom) and by mineral composition (left/right).

  • What does it mean for a rock to be classtic?  How are clasts (sediment) glued together to form rock?  Describe the process of cementation.  What is the significance of clast (sediment) size?  

  • What processes could create a non-clastic sedimentary rock?  Understand how to use the "Scheme for identifying sedimentary rocks" chart on p.7 of your ESRT.  

  • Where are sedimentary rocks found on the Earth?  What clues to past environments can sedimentary rocks provide?

  • What could cause mineral grains in a rock to recrystallize?  What is the difference between regional and contact metamorphism? What are the 3 methods by which a rock could recrystallize.  What is foliation?  Where are metamorphic rocks found on the Earth?  

  • Use p.7 of the ESRT, "Scheme for identifying metamorphic rocks" chart.

  • Why are fossils found only in sedimentary rocks?




  • Why are rocks "unhappy" at the surface of the Earth?  Why do rocks break down at the Earth's surface?

  • What is the difference between weathering & erosion? 

  • What are the differences between physical & chemical weathering?

  • Be able to describe the physical processes: Abrasion, Ice Wedging, Root Wedging,  and Exfoliation.

  • Be able to describe the chemical processes:  Oxidation, Hydrolysis, and Carbonation.

  • How are surface area, particle size and rate of weathering related?

  • How come the relationship between weathering and erosion can be described as a "positive feedback loop" or a self-feeding system?

  • What is the product of weathering?  Describe the various horizons created in a well developed soil.  What is the difference between transported and residual soils?  Which is more common?  Which type of soil would be here on Long Island?

  • What kind of weathering will dominate in a warm, moist climate?  What kind of weathering will dominate in a cold, moist climate?

  • How is mineral hardness and chemical stability related to the lack of Feldspars and the abundance of quartz in sand?


  • What is the difference between rock falls, landslides, mudflows, and creep?

  • What force keeps rocks from moving down slope?  Why do rocks stay on a hillside sometimes and other moments they fall?

  • What can work to increase the force of friction or decrease the force of friction?


  • What is a glacier?  Where do glaciers form?  Understand that the Earth goes through natural cycles of ice ages and interglacial periods. 

  • What is responsible for glacial movement? (gravity vs. friction)  What conditions are needed for a glacier to advance? retreat? or remain "stationary"?  What is happening if a glacier is in a state of dynamic equilibrium?

  • How does a glacier change the land?  (U-shaped valleys, polished rocks, and striations) What is till? What are moraines, drumlins, kettles, erratics, and outwash?  What is the difference between sediment deposited by ice compared to those deposited by running water?


  • What is the relationship between stream velocity (speed) and slope?  What is the relationship between stream velocity and particle size carried by the stream?  What are the ways materials are carried by running water? (solution, suspension, bed load, and floating)

  • How are youthful, mature, and old age streams different?  What are the characteristics of each?

  • What is the relationship between erosion and deposition in a meandering stream?  Where is the flow fastest? slowest?  Where is the stream the deepest?


  • What is an earthquake?  Why do they occur?  Where do they occur?  Why does the lithosphere snap (behave brittle), when the asthenosphere bends and stretches (behaves plastic, like putty)?  

  • What is the anatomy of an EQ?  Describe the relationship between fault, focus, and epicenter.

  • What are the properties of compressional waves and shear waves?  How does that relate to the P- and S- waves of an earthquake?  Why doesn't every seismograph station "hear" each earthquake?  What is a shadow zone and why do they exist?  Why do some stations only hear P-waves and not S-waves?

  • How can we determine the distance a seismograph station is from the epicenter of an EQ?  (think thunder and lightning)  Be sure you can use p.11 of the ESRT to be able to determine distance to the epicenter and calculate origin time (arrival time - travel time)

  • Why is p.10 of the ESRT titled "Inferred Properties of Earth's Interion" instead of "Observed Properties of Earth's Interior"?  What kind of information are we basing our inferrences?


  • What are the three major categories of plate boundaries?  Describe the relative motion of the plates for each.  How are those boundaries located?  

  • What is the evidence for the theory of Plate Tectonics?  Explain oil in Alaska; Glacial striations found in tropical landscapes; shape of the continents; fossils of mesosourus; current habitat of the manatea; and geologic correlations of rocks on opposite sides of the Atlantic ocean.

  • What is Sea Floor Spreading?  Where is the ocean floor the youngest / oldest?  Why are the continental rocks so much older than the basalts of the ocean floor?

  • What is subduction?  Where does it happen?  What kind of EQ's occur there?  Why must it happen?  

  • What drives the whole process?  What force is strong enough to move entire continents?

  • Describe Wagner's idea of continental drift and explain how it is different from today's most widely accepted theory of plate tectonics? 


  • What is the difference between Relative dating and Absolute dating?  What are the techniques of each?

  • What is the Law of superposition, original horizontallity, cross-cutting, and inclusion?

  • What is radio-activity?

  • How does the ratio of parent to daughter isotopes determine the absolute age of the rock?

  • Which radio-active isotope would be best to date recent events, which would be best to be used for dating ancient events?  Why?

  • What is the law of fuanal succession?  What was the dominant life form on Earth during the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic?

  • How old is the Earth?  How do we know?

Ancient Astronomy: 

  • How has our model of the solar system developed over time?  What is Ptolemy's geo-centric model?  How did he explain the retrograde motion of planets?

  • What is the helio-centric model?  How did Kepler improve on the helio-centric model?  What are kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion? 

  • How is Newton's law of universal gravity related to orbital motion?  What was the significance of Galileo's observations of the moon and Jupiter? 

  • How do we calculate eccentricity?  What shape has the lowest eccentricity? 

  • What is a constellation? 

  • How can we prove Earth's rotation?  What is a Foucault's pendulum?  What is the coriolis effect?  Why do stars rise in the east and set in the west?  Why is polaris' position fixed in the sky?  Describe circumpolar motion.

  • How can we prove Earth's revolution?  What is stellar parallax? 

  • Why do we have season's?  What is the angle of insolation?

Modern Astronomy:

  • What is our cosmic address?

  • Define Solar System, Galaxy, and Universe. 

  • How do scientists study stars?

  • What is the H-R diagram?  What is the life cycle of a star? 

  • Why have the majority of scientists come to accept the Big Bang Theory?  What is the evidence for an expanding universe?  Red Shift? Blue Shift?  












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