The structure of the Earth

Cross section of the earth

The Earth is made up of four distinct layers:

  • The inner core is in the centre and is the hottest part of the Earth. It is solid and made up of iron and nickel with temperatures of up to 5,500°C. With its immense heat energy, the inner core is like the engine room of the Earth.
  • The outer core is the layer surrounding the inner core. It is a liquid layer, also made up of iron and nickel. It is still extremely hot, with temperatures similar to the inner core.
  • The mantle is the widest section of the Earth. It has a diameter of approximately 2,900 km. The mantle is made up of semi-molten rock called magma. In the upper parts of the mantle the rock is hard, but lower down the rock is soft and beginning to melt.
  • The crust is the outer layer of the earth. It is a thin layer between 0-60 km thick. The crust is the solid rock layer upon which we live.

There are two different types of crust: continental crust, which carries land, and oceanic crust, which carries water.

The diagram below shows the structure of the earth. In geography, taking a slice through a structure to see inside is called a cross section.

Cross section of the Earth's core and structure