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The Earths Internal Heat

Week 3,session 4

The Interior of the Earth

Earth's interior is made up of a series
of layers that sit below the
surfacecrust. In order of depth,
these layers include the solid, but
flowing mantle, the liquid outercore
and the solid ironinnercore, which
helps create Earth's protective
magnetic field.

If you think about a volcano, you
know Earth must be hot inside. The
heat inside Earth moves continents,
builds mountains and causes
earthquakes. Where does all this
heat inside Earth come from?

Earth was hot when it

A lot of Earths heat is leftover from when our
planet formed, four-and-a-half billion years
ago. Earth is thought to have arisen from a
cloud of gas and dust in space. Solid particles,
called planetesimals condensed out of the
cloud. Theyre thought to have stuck together
and created the early Earth. Bombarding
planetesimals heated Earth to a molten state.
So Earthstarted outwith a lot of heat.

Planetesimalis a rock-type object
formed in the early solar system from
collisions with other objects in the
solar system. The collisions
eventually formed larger objects that
led to the formation of planets.

Earth makes some of its

own heat.
Earth has been losing heat since it
formed, billions of years ago. But its
producing almost as much heat as
its losing. The process by which
Earth makes heat is called
radioactive decay.

. It involves the disintegration of

natural radioactive elements inside
Earth like uranium, for example.
Uranium is a special kind of element
because when it decays, heat is
produced. Its this heat that keeps
Earth from cooling off completely.

Many of the rocks in Earths crust

and interior undergo this process
ofradioactive decay. This process
produces subatomic particles that zip
away, and later collide with
surrounding material inside the
Earth. Their energy of motion is
converted to heat.

How hot is it inside

No one has come close to exploring
Earths interior directly. So not all
geophysicists agree on how hot it is at
Earths core. But the rate of travel of
waves from earthquakes called seismic
waves tells scientists a lot about what
materials make up the planet.
From this evidence, Earths core
temperature is estimated to be around
5,000 to 7,000 degrees Celsius.

What are Seismic waves?

Seismic wavesare waves ofenergy
that travel through theEarth's
layers, and are a result of
magma movement, largelandslides
and large man-madeexplosionsthat
give out low-frequency acoustic

What are the 2 Sources of Earths

Internal Energy?
1. Radioactive Decay
2. Conversion of Gravitational Energy

Radioactive Decay
Radioactive decayis the spontaneous breakdown of an
atomic nucleus resulting in the release of energy and
matter from the nucleus.
Some elements like Uranium, Thorium, and Potassium
have unstable isotopes that we say are radioactive.
The energy of motion (kinetic energy) of these particles is
converted to heat by the collision of these particles with
the surrounding matter.
Although elements like 235U (Uranium), 232U, 232Th
(Thorium), and 40K (potassium) are not very abundant in
the Earth, They are sufficiently plentiful that large amounts
of heat are generated in the Earth.

Conversion of Gravitational
Gravity is the force of attraction between two
the force of attraction by which terrestrial
bodies tend to fall toward the center of the

The force of gravity acts between the Sun,

Earth, and Moon to create tidal forces, which
cause the Earth to bulge in the direction of
the Moon. This bulging is kinetic energy,
which is converted to heat in the Earth.

Gravity has other energy effects near

the surface of the Earth. All objects at
the Earth's surface are continually
being pulled toward the center of the
Earth by the force of gravity.
When an object moves closer to the
center of the Earth by falling, slipping,
sliding, or sinking, kinetic energy is

1. What are the two sources of heat in
the Earths internal?
2. What is Radioactive decay?
3. What are Seismic waves?