An Introduction to an ESS Analysis
Earth system science is conducted by examining each event to sphere, sphere to event, and sphere to sphere interaction. This approach is referred to as an "Earth system science analysis" or an "ESS analysis."

An ESS analysis is done in three steps, which include looking at

Because you will be performing ESS analyses in this course, you should read through the following information to learn how to do each step of the ESS analysis. The purpose of this introduction is to get you thinking about the types of interactions that can occur. The forest fires that occurred in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming in 1988 is used as the event for this introduction. As you go through the step-by-step process, you may wish to post your ideas for each of the steps in your online discussion to share with your thinking classmates.

When posting your analysis ideas, abbreviate the event with the letter "E" and abbreviate each sphere using the first letter of its name (atmosphere = A; biosphere = B; etc). Use a single-headed arrow (>) to indicate the direction of effects. For example, the effects of the event on the hydrosphere should be written as "E >H". Some facilitators may also suggest you use a concept mapping tool to show relationships.


Scenario: Wildland fires burned over one-third of the land in Yellowstone National Park in 1988. Those fires fueled an ongoing debate about how the U.S. manages the resources in its national parks.


Basic ESS Analysis             Typical Student ESS Response


Another example with diagrams