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"What we perceive as colors in the sky is actually different wavelengths of visible light. Blue light has a shorter wavelength then red light. As visible light travels through the atmosphere, it is scattered by air molecules and tiny impurities (such as dust particles) that are suspended in the air. The blue wavelengths are scattered in all directions. This is why no matter in which direction you look the sky appears blue on a clear day. If enough of the blue light is scattered, little or no blue light remains in the sunbeam that reaches your eyes. The predominant visible wavelength that is left is red and the sky turns orange or red, particularly in the direction of the sun. The clouds also reflect and absorb the sunlight, reducing the total amount of light that reaches the Earth's surface. This makes the sky appear gray, or even black, if enough light is reflected and absorbed by the clouds."- Art DeGaetano, Ask a Scientist! Read More

Most of the major issues we face in the 21st century--climate change, energy, soil, fresh water, natural hazards, and mineral resources--are directly related to humans' relationship to planet Earth. Earth science is the discipline that explores how that planet, the solid earth, oceans, and atmosphere work, both today and in the past.

Before we can improve the quality of life of everyone on this planet, we must first understand how this very complicated natural system operates, and how human behavior is now perturbing the natural balance.

The Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell embraces this mission through teaching, world class research, and service and outreach. With the faculty in both the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and with collaboration across disciplines, we teach all of Cornell's classes concerning climate and weather, oceanography, earthquakes, biogeochemical cycles, solid earth materials and deformation, and a variety of natural resources to name just a few. Our undergraduate curriculum is available to students in Arts and Sciences as well as Engineering and CALS. We serve both the Cornell, New York, and international communities through our affiliations with the Cornell Energy Institute, the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC), the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions (CICSS), the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) and its Museum of the Earth, and the Shoals Marine Lab, as well as via a myriad of public lectures on topics ranging from recent earthquakes to climate change to shale gas. Several of our faculty are Fellows of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. 

Cornell earth and atmospheric scientists are engaged around the world as international leaders in a wide range of disciplines in areas of South America, China, Tibet, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the Middle East. They have also served in leadership roles in such high profile efforts such as the Geological Society of America and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).   

If you are a student, you should know that career opportunities in many earth science disciplines are booming: our graduates can be found serving in prominent roles of major corporations and on the faculty of many leading universities. Check out the pages under this website's Academics tab for comprehensive information about our undergraduate and graduate programs!